Don't fall victim to vampires! Don't get slashed by a psycho! Don't get stuck, ASK DR. ELDRITCH!
Dear Dr. Eldritch,
I've just started dating again, after a painful breakup over a year ago. I know you don't dispense advice about ordinary relationships, but I believe it's germane to the unusual aspects of my problem.
I'm a kindergarten teacher in a small town, so I must be careful of appearances. I wasn't looking for a relationship, but when "Andrew" moved here to care for his aged parents, we each quickly discovered in the other a kindred spirit. We talk on the phone and exchange emails frequently, but have only gone out together a couple times. We're taking things slowly because every move we make is carefully monitored by the local Gossip Ladies. They've been sympathetic to me as a broken-hearted casualty of a failed romance, but I fear the slightest hint of impropriety could cause these rumor mongers to paint me as the Town Slut.
With that in mind, I suggested that Andrew spend the night. He's sensitive to my concerns about my reputation, and we agreed to wait until the weekend and find a way for him to come in unobserved. Then on Wednesday morning I woke up in my living room, sans pajamas, lying in a huge pile of shredded newspaper. I thought it peculiar, but I wasn't worried until it happened again today. This time there was also a well-chewed cardboard box, and a taste of woodchips in my mouth.
I told Andrew I needed more time, and he seemed disappointed, but agreed to wait. I haven't repeated this bizarre behavior since, but what if he comes over and it happens again? How could I explain it?
This could just be a manifestation of anxiety about this situation, but I'm loath to consult a psychologist. Am I going crazy? Or is it some magic spell? Could my ex-boyfriend have left me with a curse to prevent future relationships? I don't know what's worse, telling Andrew about it, or having him witness one of these late-night episodes. Either way, I'm sure he'd dump me fast enough to get the rumor mill churning. What should I do?
-- Angelina, in a Small Midwest Town
Hmmm. How does a modern woman carry on a romantic relationship with another available consenting adult under the scrutiny of meddling small-town quidnuncs? This is a tricky problem, and one I'm going to ignore, because there are myriad advice columnists who handle such things. Fortunately, there is one facet of your situation which I am the perfect authority to address! I believe I know the cause of your nocturnal hijinks, and it's not neurotic anxieties.
When I say "lycanthrope," you think "werewolf," right? Well, the Lycanthropy Club admits more than just those of the wolfy persuasion, and you've earned your membership card. From your description, I'd guess werehamster. I know; this doesn't have the cachet of a wolf, but it's much easier to manage. You're unlikely to have bloodthirsty rampages that end with an angry torch-carrying mob doing unpleasant things with pitchforks. Instead, the worst thing you'll probably do is spill your water bottle into your food dish.
This mostly means that each night around the full moon, you'll need to set out a stack of newspaper, five pounds of crunchy vegetables and a hanging water bottle. A giant exercise wheel is a nice touch, but not necessary. As the moon rises, your inner hamster will emerge, and you'll spend the night making a nest, eating the veggies, trying to knock over the water bottle and whatever else it is that hamsters do.
And apparently I lied; as I am going to address your relationship question after all. You need to decide whether or not to embrace this part of you. Perhaps you can carry on a long-term relationship with Andrew while keeping your hamster side a secret, but I doubt it. The truth will eventually out, and I recommend that you be the one to choose the time and place. Few relationships can withstand the shock of unexpectedly discovering one's partner in the shape of a giant rodent.
More importantly, can you give up hiding from the community? You see, everyone (unless they're completely dull) has some aspect of their personality that doesn't fall within the narrow parameters of "socially acceptable." When you live in an area that punishes nonconformity (which is virtually AnyTown, USA), you pay a price for being you. Either you repress your true self in order to fit in and feel the pinch of a psyche stuffed into an undersized box, or you suffer the disdain and disrespect of the small-minded mainstream. Either way sucks.
I do know (and this is coming from an ex-vampire-hunter turned supernatural consultant) that repressing is just depressing. Of course, revealing your honest self to the community may lead to censure, ridicule and abuse. Perhaps you'll have to leave town. Coming out as a sexually-liberated werehamster is a rough road to travel, but if you can survive the bumps, you may eventually find acceptance, and if you're lucky, true happiness.
Good luck, and let me know how it comes out!
-- Dr. Eldritch