INTERVIEW WITH A STALKER

We all want to be loved. It's not so wrong, but some people are willing to go to extremes to get that love. We call these people stalkers. [Scroll down to meet an admitted stalker.]

Roughly 1.4 million people are stalked every year in the U.S. The results of stalking range from the annoying [persistently receiving loads of email or letters] to the intrusive [being secretly watched or followed] to the most severe [kidnapping and/or murder]. Psychiatrists divide stalkers into four different categories:

1. Simple Obsessional stalkers account for 60 percent of stalking cases. They're usually men and their targets are women with whom they had a previous personal, professional or romantic relationship. The stalker associates his victim with his own sense of self-worth. He'll utter expressions like, "You are my life." And he means it.

2. Love Obsessional stalkers are mostly made up of men who develop an obsession or fixation on a stranger, a very casual acquaintance or a celebrity. They account for 30 percent of the stalking population.

3. Erotomania
constitutes eight percent of stalking cases and typically consists of female stalkers who have other mental problems. This type of stalker is love obsessional with a twist -- she actually believes her victim knows and loves her.

4. False Victimization Syndrome
accounts for two percent of stalking cases. It is perhaps the most frustrating and demented. The stalker seeks attention by insisting and fantasizing that their victim is actually stalking them. Meanwhile, they'll adopt the style and personality of their victim in an attempt to be like them, even going so far as buying the same car or same type of house. These people are most often same-sex stalkers (anyone seen Single White Female?).

We found a guy who falls into the Simple Obsessional category. We asked what made him tick -— here are his candid confessions. [For obvious reasons, he's chosen to remain anonymous.]

So, what makes you a stalker?
Stalking, per se, is a crime, and I don't think I've taken it to that level. I just get obsessive a bit with girls I like, and other things -— I'm sort of an intense person. I think love is obsessive in its true form. It's overwhelming. Nowadays, people are more cynical about attraction and such, and single-mindedness can be disconcerting.

How many people have you stalked?
This is difficult to recall. I mean, I've followed cute girls around a bit, just to see what they're about. And I've spent more-than-casual amounts of time at their places of work and the like. But where normal sort of flirtatious behavior becomes actual "stalking" is, again, debatable. Anyway -— a bunch, I guess.

How do you stalk them? Like, what kind of stuff do you do to stalk them?
As above, just, er... [heh] Nonchalantly following them around for a while and watching them at work and play. Perhaps asking people about 'em. Maybe going so far as to find out where they live or work, if I don't know. Then, uh, sometimes placing myself in the way of coming into contact with 'em. Or, at least in the way of seeing 'em, if I'm not comfortable with approaching them.

What's the craziest thing you've done in this context?
I have waited outside of people's houses or other locations where I expect them to be for hours to see what they're doing or to confront them. These sorts of things only really happen in established relationships though -— confirming stories my girlfriend tells if I've a reason to distrust her.

Why do you stalk?
It's an obsession/compulsion at its most -— and just curiosity —- at its least intense. An example of the latter is just wondering what a cute girl does, y'know? Who she hangs out with, if she goes to school, how she goes about her day...It's an interest in people, really, and how they live their lives, coupled with the prospect of some time spent looking upon an attractive lass. Field work. The former is a consuming need for me, generally, to know if I'm being lied to, which happens a great deal, I fear. It's the same thing -— a jealousy, I guess -— that compels people to hire private investigators to follow their spouses. Having no money, however, for such things and preferring to do my own legwork, on a certain level I become the investigator.

When did you start stalking?
I think it began as soon as I noticed girls, which was early for me. It seemed one should take a systematic approach to the thing and find out about the object of one's affections. I compiled dossiers on girls in sixth grade, though I think it began much earlier than that even.

When you started, did you know you were crossing the line?
Once more, the line is too tenuous to know when it's being crossed. I've gotten differing reactions from the same girl at different times about the same thing. And, certainly, different reactions from girl to girl -— some are flattered, some afraid.

If you're not stalking anymore, how did you stop?
Well, I don't do it -— if I do it -— so much nowadays 'cause there's a very charged atmosphere. People fear violence and are very sensitive to what they see as oppressive attention. I don't even walk on the same side of the street as other people at night if I can avoid it -— both men and women -— in my city!

What are your opinions on stalking?
Seriously invading people's privacy and hounding them against their wishes is uncool, without a doubt -— you know, people who JUST WON'T GO AWAY against your specific wishes. But, also, there's a bit of over-sensitivity to harmless interest in someone.

Lastly, what do you do for a living?
I'm on disability for mental illness.

—by Melissa Plaut, NYC