Charm ?

A very wise friend once told me when I was middle- aged, be cautious of people who charmed me. The Oxford English Dictionary defines charm in part as follows: “…a quality that makes you like or feel attracted to someone or something…” She said those who charm could leave me “a few inches off the ground.” She noted that despite the mild elevation the landing could be quite painful. I have taken those words to heart.

Over 25 years later, James Fallon in his 11/11/11 article in Psychology Today, “The Mind of a Dictator” noted, “They are usually charming, charismatic, and intelligent.” He said of Osama Bin Laden, “He exhibits many traits typical of classic psychopathic dictators–grandiosity, charm, vengeance, vanity, and sadism. “

There’s some real killer instinct out there that is very well hidden. Take heart.

When I was alarmingly naïve as a teenager I remember a girlfriend who charmed the wits out of me. It was about 1962. I lived in Miami. I was relatively foolish. She had a lovely face and an even lovelier voice. We had been dating for a while.

One of my best friends, named Larry, was at our house one day. From what I have been told he died a few years ago. He was very much alive at the time and had a keen sense of humor. As I was way too serious he made a wonderful friend.

I remember in order to drive underage some of my fellow students were particularly desperate. The students obtained fake driver’s licenses from an acquaintance of mine. I will wrongly call the forger Dave for his sake.

We’d be out driving somewhere cut off by a thoughtless/confused driver. Larry usually screamed, “Where did you get your license? Dave?

Anyway, on that particular day I thought it would be fun to go visit my charming girlfriend. We headed for her house in Larry’s MGA, a sports car that almost had a muffler. I’d call it a semi-muffler.

Speeding up her street in concert with the wails of our high throated engine we were fortunate to avoid arrest. Looking up from the seat of a car as we sped by her house was the charmer in the arms of another boy. I still can picture the two of them with pained expressions looking directly into the headlights of Larry’s two seater. It was a huge embarrassment for me, a blow to my fragile adolescent heart.  Somewhere deep in my heart I felt I didn’t measure up. I felt devalued, unloved.

My loyal, comforting mom was enraged when I returned home crestfallen. She called the charmer a Jezebel. She was right. I think the lesson in dealing with charmers was slightly digested, though still very difficult to stomach.


I had another girlfriend while in college. Our relationship was somewhat on again off again in its first six months. In the next 2 ½ years she moved away and we rarely saw each other, though we spoke. Then, she told me by phone she wanted to meet me at her dorm, a long, long drive for me from Gainesville, Fla, where I was a medical student.

It was the fall of 1969. I took an 8 hour drive to get there starting in the late a.m. As I traveled westward some of the most beautiful falls leaves I’d ever seen splendidly enveloped the tree branches along the way. It was a picturesque, very hopeful trip.

I arrived after sunset and went to several doorways in a relatively circular dormitory. The first several doors were locked. Searching for that entrance was surreal. The last one was opened.

I walked in the entrance. She came downstairs to visit.

The conversation was one way. It was about her new boyfriend who she married soon thereafter. It was devastating, particularly after the long trip. Again I felt devalued and unloved.

As I reflect on this one I could say I was set up by a charmer for a “right cross to the head,” a hard landing. On the other hand she did have the sensitivity to tell me the story face to face. At times I had been much less sensitive to her.  Was I charmed? Or, did she actually do right by me? I think in this case she did right by me. People sure are complicated.

That’s ok. Finding Kristine is the most fortunate thing that has ever happened to me. Kristine has been there for me every morning for forty three years. I feel loved. Is there any better feeling?