I hosted an AMA on my livejournal last month, and finally completed all the questions. You can read it here.
I came across a terrific post called The Cult Test today, and in reading it decided to share my own answers re: my cult experience with Andy. Some people (not many, to be fair) have questioned my classification of what Andy does as “a cult.” I didn’t arrive at that conclusion out of the ether; as I’ve mentioned before, reading Take Back Your Life: Recovering from Cults and Abusive Relationships by Janja Lalich and Madeline Tobias. However, I am not one to put all my faith in a single source, and it’s always good to do a refresher. So here it is, 100 questions to identify a cult, answered about myself, the Bagenders, the DAYDians, and Andy’s current activities (but mostly about me and the Bagenders). I’m shortening the questions themselves, but I highly suggest clicking the links and reading the full text. Judge for yourself.*
*Note: the site uses a lot of this to explain how AA is a cult. I am not going in to that aspect of it; I’m maintaining focus on Andy and what he did/does to his victims.
” But more importantly, so much of what is happening now echoes Andy’s previous preoccupations and patterns of behaviour. Any claims that he has changed are rendered more and more unlikely as time goes by, given this repetition. Putting aside the money issue, why is it that once more Andy is developing a scheme that allows him to lead a large group of people in a fandom-related event? Particularly LARPing, given his history? If he has really changed, why does he still want to do the same things as he always has? Why does he constantly need to feel so important?
If Andy wants us to believe that he has changed, then he has to actually, you know, change.”
I’ve been thinking about this comment and I want to expand on it. I mean, I still want many of the same things I always wanted, the same things that got me in trouble. I don’t mean the cult, I mean the dumbshit fandom Tentmoot fuckupery.
I’m one of those overinvolved people who gets WAY too into whatever they’re into. Although I don’t do fandom these days, I’m just as “fannish” and geeky about what I am into; dancing with the Thriller group, working at my son’s preschool, whatever craft project I’m doing, writing, movies.
I still want to be admired, respected and liked. Sure, who doesn’t, but I have a real capital-N-Need for attention. In my fandom days, I wanted to do big things – like themed parties and creative events. I didn’t know much about how large – scale events are run, but I figured that I had learned from multiple large projects in high school, and had done a good job running the TV station in college. Granted, the high school events pretty much failed and the TV station was so small it was three A/V geeks* fooling around with almost no actual responsibilities, but at the time I thought it was a stellar resume.
I might have been able to pull off events like the Line Party without Andy complicating things, but they probably wouldn’t have been much better. Even Project Elanor probably wouldn’t have gone any more smoothly. Sure, I wouldn’t have had the lies about who was/wasn’t committing to do things, but ultimately I am sure it would have been just as disorganized, chaotic and flaily.
How have I changed? I have a much better idea of what I can actually handle, both in time and stress. I do research on projects before I start, or if I’m improvising, I limit the scope so that if it goes pear-shaped the chaos is manageable. I don’t take leadership roles unless I actually know what I’m doing. I say no to things I don’t know I can commit to. In short, I don’t depend on others to “keep an eye” on me. Maturity means that maybe you aren’t the right person for the job, even if you think you really really are. Maturity means letting other people have the ideas and creativity.
I realize this is a shock, but I need to be special. It’s a blizzard on the internet, but I’m a snowflake too, goddammit. Aside from Andy’s intense attention, I got a lot of that special snowflake high from the events we were putting on. Today I know that I am not well suited to managing a big social/fannish event, not as the head of it. I get my “special” from only taking on what I can handle and doing a fucking kickass job with my contribution. I still throw parties and movie nights, they just don’t need permits, or pages of indoctrination. I put a lot of time perfecting my own work instead of creating perfect events. Best of all, by not dominating or orchestrating everything, other people have taught me a lot through their good ideas, last-minute fixes and esoteric skills.
When I was organizing the big events, I thought I knew what I was doing. When I actually know what I’m doing, I have at least some grasp on how much I don’t know.
Andy hasn’t changed his behavior in any significant way. His plans are every bit as poorly thought out and grandiose, using all the same strategies. 1purp0se is absolutely correct; if Andy had changed, he wouldn’t be rebooting his own failed projects. He wouldn’t have anyone discussing his history if he quit repeating it.
*A/V geeks were, back in the long long ago time, nerds who played with VCRs and projectors. This was before mobile computers existed and when phones literally only made phone calls.
Welcome to my new blog layout!
I’ve decided to separate my general blog and my costume shop from the entire Crazy Train. There’s too much in this story; it crowds me right out. And to hell with that ever being my life again!
I’m still working on a few things – a timeline that isn’t a giant clusterfuck, a good cult survivor resource page, and so on. Currently, the content is here and the redirects will be ready when the actual unveil happens.
So look around, see what’s new.
One thing I haven’t written about yet is the anger that Andy leaves in his wake. Not really, not with the gutting honesty I usually use. The shame, the fear, the sadness…those things are far easier to admit. The rage isn’t funny. And for a long time I have been very careful to keep it out of my posts, because I didn’t want to be vengeful in words or actions. I didn’t want to bolster Andy’s “bitter ex-girlfriend” defenses, or be carried away by a “tsunami of rage” like Jeanine was.
But the rage is a very real and healthy part of being out of the Cult of Andy – and for anyone who has escaped an abuser. It was in discussing this with a former DAYDian that I realized I had a more appropriate resource – my old LiveJournal, which I started within a month of leaving Andy.
When I got out, the urge to start writing again – for myself instead of as part of my therapy – was very strong. I knew it was essential to find my own voice again. Writing had been a central part of me until it was simply drowned out by Andy’s fantasy world, and it was the first place I knew I could rebuild.
It was hard to get started. I had been without computer for years and felt overwhelmed with these MyFace and SpaceBook things. Worse, I was absolutely terrified that either Andy or Jeanine (who was still fully convinced I was an accomplice) would find me. I didn’t want to be connected to my old handle anyway (Orangeblossom), because I didn’t feel at all connected to my former self. Kumquat was a nickname my childhood best friend gave me, and I was pretty sure that it was obscure enough that no one would know. Since that handle was taken, I added “Writer” and tiptoed back into LiveJournal, starting the long, slow process of reconnecting with the world.
Sharing these old posts isn’t just hubris; Diamond has thanked me more than once for showing her. And the fresh pain in those is a lot more helpful to someone just going through it than my calmer, reasoned, post-therapy writing. Even a year ago, they were far too raw and open to share. But after all the forgiveness and reconciliation that’s come; after so many people have told their stories, it’s time.
I haven’t unlocked the whole thing; I’ve kept private things that were too irrelevant – or too intimate – to ever post publicly. You can read through it chronologically starting here. If you would prefer, the posts I feel are most important are below.
June 5, 2007 This is one of the earliest posts where I was trying to separate myself from Andy’s world.
July 1, 20007 This is the first time I talked about being a victim while most people thought I was nothing but a con artist. A lot of pain and sadness there.
August 2, 2007 A description of an incredibly vivid nightmare I had, ultimately repeatedly for several years. My dreams have always been quite literal.
September 27, 2007 Pain and frustration over yet another attempt on Andy’s part to get me back.
November 19, 2007 Still being contacted but less angry, more distanced. Outside of LiveJournal, I was holding down a full-time job and had bought myself a car.
February 18, 2008 Feelings about Jeanine. This is also after Andy sent me a massive pile of Valentine’s Day stuff. This is also a few months into my relationship with my husband. (link fixed)
February 26, 2008 Final direct contact with Andy, when I called him from my now-husband’s phone to tell him I was never coming back.
I realize that Andy’s defenders (and likely Andy himself) will howl about how that was ever so long ago and he has totally changed this time for real. However, the fact that people contacting me, asking for this kind of help (you know, how to deal with Andy treating them the same way he treated me) means they aren’t irrelevant. These are people who got out within the last three years.
Fiction reveals truth that reality obscures. ~~ Ralph Waldo Emerson.
Andy is far from unique. I was reminded of this today as I watched the excellent documentary The Woman Who Wasn’t There, currently streaming on Netflix. The documentary follows the story of Tania Head, who claimed to be a survivor of 9/11. It’s a harrowing story, very well told, and extremely familiar. I strongly suggest anyone who has followed my story (or any of Andy’s) watch this film. It’s particularly good because much of it is Tania, in interviews before she was unmasked. The rest is told by her victims.
After her story fell apart, her victims discussed the amount of research she’d done on them, plotting out exactly how to become what they would respond to. That hit a chord for me all right, especially when there’s so much discussion and speculation on Andy’s motives and trustworthiness. How much of his “call me when you are at your most vulnerable” routine is genuine desire to help, and how much is calculating?
I’ve struggled for some time over providing a certain piece of evidence that it’s all fucking calculated. I do not want to feed his faux-social-justice martyr complex. However, the truth important. And life-sucking manipulating assholes like Tania and Andy have fewer people to suck in when the truth is told. As my therapist and cult-deprogramer Rory taught me, I will do what I can live with – and I can definitely live with people knowing how coldly, deliberately Andy spins his web. As for the fact that this story is about Andy’s birth identity and gender? Look, I didn’t out him to the internet. I defended it and still refuse to tolerate intolerance regarding his current identification. But the fact is, this is what happened in real life, and I am not going to hide his nature.
This is a segment of yet another sprawling story that Andy was writing. Or rather, Maura Labingi, the real-life actual Frodo Baggins, was writing. It was to be a history of the mindhole (Andy’s channeling ability), told from multiple voices and cumulating in…I don’t know, something that got shuffled aside in favor of more immediate drama. One story was about Tolkien – the man, and how he found the Red Book of Westmarch in the trenches of WWI. One was of the tragically romantic curse that was on Merry (or as we knew him, Kalimac Brandagamba). The intensely creepy Maura-talking-to-Elijah-Wood-in-the-costume-trailer story. After several alternating stories, an fourth narrative came into play – that of Amy Player.
This is from the original file, typed by the body (if supposedly not the mind) of Andy Blake in 2002-2003. I also have hard copies, and Diamond was present during that time (although I can’t remember if she read them). I have made no alterations.
The edge of her lip caught vaguely like rubber between the tips of her teeth, a film of waxen colour and heavy, slick-sticky lipgloss piling on the hard ridge for her tongue to worry over. According to the label, it was supposed to be Rampagin’ Raspberry, a cubist parody of a lumpy purple fruit in holographic sunglasses that had glittered until she had picked them off in some waiting room somewhere. It didn’t taste like any berry she’d ever tasted, though, just a lingering whimper of artificial sweetness buried under garlic butter and that goddamned cinnamon gum.
He always tasted like gum. Big Red. She hated it, but she bought it for him. Always had a pack in her purse. He thought it was sweet of her, tipping his head and blushing and giving in to whatever whim he had been about to balk at. She hated the taste, but you couldn’t ask a better price than twenty-five cents a pack to give the impression of fawning, simpering, sighing, Hallmark card and Meg Ryan movie love.
A shift, a sigh, and his arm was over her now, the smell of cinnamon gum and baked ziti gusting too warm and too damp in her face. Twisting her head and wrinkling her nose only brought his arm tighter around him, and she could feel him against her back now, an uncomfortable cluster of joints and limbs and fur and various things that were too sticky to bear thinking about.
His lips against the back of her neck, nuzzling the short curls, and it was too much. She rolled over, curling her shoulders forward. A bit coquettish, a bit demure, but it did wonders for the fontal topography, so to speak, and more importantly, it kept her breasts away from any part of him. He’d had more than dinner and a movie’s worth of pawing already. A smile, half soft, half scolding, “What do you think you’re up to?”
Long lashes hung listlessly over a thin crescent of hazel, the wetness caught to an unnatural blue in the dim light of the screensaver happily building and destroying walls of something half a copyright lawsuit away from Lego across the room. “Mmm. Sheila.”
“Adrian,” Sharper, the name a rebuke to the guitar-fingered hand that had begun to trill down her waist. She sat up now, groping among the bedsheets until she found soft cotton among crisp linen, tugging the t-shirt over her head in a crackle of red hairspray. “Go back to sleep. Your sheila has to check her email.”
Blink. Grunt. A bitter smile twisted just beneath the surface of her lips. Jesus fucking Christ, you could almost see the neurons fizzling in there. “Three ‘n morning.”
He pushed up on one elbow now, but her hand was in the middle of his chest, pushing him down just hard enough to mean it, but swirling her fingertips just lightly enough across the skin that he didn’t protest. “I know, Angelboy, but there’s this girl I’m talking to, and she’s kind of…” Looking down, biting that spot now stripped bare of wax and left purely with the wet parchment texture of the flesh itself. Her voice lowered in a touch of regretful conspiracy, “…well, I think it’ll be bad if she doesn’t talk to me tonight. She’s really on an edge here.”
The neurons were still struggling valiantly to spark, but at least a handful, she assumed, must have managed to cough in unison, because he seemed reasonably amiable – albeit disappointed – as he tucked himself acquiescently deeper into the bedding. “Just make sure you get some sleep, softie.”
“‘Course I will, love.” A quick kiss to a dark head, and she swung her legs out of bed, hopping delicately across the chill of the wooden floor until she could tuck cold toes beneath crossed knees in the familiar nest of the computer chair’s plastic arms.
She had mail. Of course. She always had mail. A quick spatter of clicks across the now-steady rhythm of slumbering breath, and her fingers were reaching halfway across the globe.
They loved her new story. Nothing new there. Mostly the standard one-liner, but there were a few who seemed particularly generous and specific in their praise. Ones to watch. But she’d get to those later. It was hard enough catching up with people across timelines, and she wasn’t about to let all those ass-numbing hours go to waste. Her fingers rattled with expert speed, her face softening and her eyes widening as a door creaked welcome in the chat program’s narrow window.
Wolfie. Tea, cookies, the full BBC recording of Rings. Sheltered exploratory bisexual with incredible artistic gifts and no self-esteem that needs to be nurtured and pampered into properly liberal blossom before she is sucked into conformity by parental cruelty…
Orangeblossom. Web design, fangirl, possibly a free vacation, need more knowledge of financial situation. Confident artist and benevolent mentor, sensitive, previously abused lesbian with wide-ranging but esoteric knowledge, flirty, amazingly perceptive, lots of insider knowledge…
MsAllegro. Web hosting, action figures, autographs. Exploring heteroflexible with transgender and/or lesbian leanings, sassy, liberal, rampantly slashy, definitely thinks all the boys were doing it, and probably the girls too. Needs a little hand-holding, but given an inch, willing to explore a mile…
MissOverdone. Books, videos, antiques, costume pieces. Resolutely heterosexual but tolerant young Christian, loving fiancée, just peeking out of a conservative shell to reveal a brilliant inner slasher with a limitless well of untapped historical knowledge via a previous life lived as a gay sailor in Nelson’s navy…
Rhythmic chatter of keys punctuated with the falsetto click of the mouse. A chameleon courtesan’s glitter posing sweetly in pixels. Gifts and love and praise pouring through the screen in an opiate haze of approval all the sweeter for the skill called in tatting such delicate little frills of deception.
And she didn’t even have to smell gum on their breath.
*Begit, according to my Westron word list, means “acquire” (verified by this post)
A private note from Jeanine (Turimel), reproduced with her permission.
I’m not the best deliverer of compliments (much better at snark), but dammit, Abbey, I don’t think I’ve ever been so proud of another human being (well, besides my kids) as I was of you. I could not IMAGINE any possible way I would ever forgive/believe you, after that extended debacle. So your letter was like a great work of art, or a symphony–one of those things that represents the divine part of human nature (and I’m an atheist too, so I use that word loosely–I think it’s so frigging rare for most people to express anything but base ugliness that we call it “divine” and godly when it happens). One of those things that restores your faith that people just might be a race worth having on this planet’s surface after all.
Don’t get all ego puffy about the praise, though, OK?
Snarkers? I know she got carried away and got a crazy reputation. But if she and I can forgive each other, maybe we can both live down our Wank.
Yesterday was the ten-year anniversary of Project Elanor. It feels like it was so long ago, yet it can’t possibly have been an entire decade. I haven’t written about that project until now because it’s easily the most painful to look back on. Even now I am hesitant, because not everyone involved has forgiven me, and there are many who think I have no right to anything about the garden. I understood that, which is why I have not been back to visit it in all this time.
But there’s something about ten years passing. On the day of the event I was still completely involved in the exhilarating upswing. BitofEarth was becoming extremely popular. I was newly divorced, had filled my (already in foreclosure) house with friends and was seeing the fruition of a project I had put my whole heart into. I was elated, joyous, proud, and truly believed I had stepped out of the dull, gray, boring life I’d fallen into since college. This was the new, improved me, better and happier than ever. That was from the inside.
From the outside…I was an immature, irresponsible, vain, selfish child, obsessed with popularity and with my “secret life” with Andy – although he was still Jordan Wood then. Also, I whined a lot. Although I can see the good qualities in what I was doing, mostly I am ashamed and hideously embarrassed at my behavior, and the overtly stupid decisions we were making. I definitely knew we were in over our heads, but I think I was having too much fun to care.
My memories of that day are patchy. I was in a blind panic once we were actually trying to pull things together – the whole day was like a controlled fall. I wish the memories of the day itself were better, because things were already crumbling. Andy’s behavior was distracting and bizarre, and mine was just embarrassing, to the point that both of us got a “talking to.” It is a horrifying experience to have a personal hero and legitimate celebrity pull you in private and chastise you.
Sean Astin came to the project in good faith. He was an incredibly hard worker, kind, generous, gregarious, inspiring… Honestly, he was everything we all thought he would be and then some. And I wish I still had his respect. But I lost it – and not just because of Andy’s lies and manipulations. When Sean pulled me aside and talked to me, it cut right to my heart. He called me out on the more outrageous parts of my attention-seeking, which was the first step on the long road I described in my last post. He also said good things and inspiring things, but those aren’t what stuck with me. Just the intensity of his eyes and the blunt honesty of his words.
It’s funny; Elanor was easily the most legit and successful thing BitofEarth ever did, but it became known as a scam. Well, maybe not “ha ha” funny. More like gut-wrenching and sad. It was successful enough to spur all the other attempted events, but those failures magnified everything wrong with Elanor. I truly wanted to do a good thing, even if there was selfishness in my motivation. I believed in the project. It hurts me to this day that Myrna, who ran the institute where the garden was built, died thinking she’d been scammed. The garden was real. The work was real. The intent was real. It’s just us who fucked the whole thing up with inexperience and lies.
We had the screening of The Two Towers the night before, where I stood in front of the whole theater and said that we’d raised $3000, and that all the proceeds would go to Reading is Fundamental. I know I said proceeds, because even before the screening I knew we were in the red for the garden. Although I do still have some of the paperwork and receipts from the event (including proof that Parr Lumber was, in fact, paid) there isn’t much left. We spent ourselves empty to cover the last of it. The money wasn’t where the lies were – it was the people. The humble retired gardener that planned the garden – that was the “real” Samwise Gamgee, as channeled by Andy. The interview questions written by “Elijah Wood” (again, just Andy). The frantic, hidden conversations with Andy’s various characters. We were the lie, not the project.
I still am not entirely sure who volunteered for what, since I heard so many excuses over the years from Andy. And I’m sure to some, what I’ve written are excuses. I try to tell the whole truth as I remember it – but bear in mind that I was in a relationship/cult with someone who was actively brainwashing me. I don’t use those words lightly; Andy took distinct and recognizable steps, the ones outlined here, to change my thoughts, even alter my memories. It is more than just being gullible – and it’s why I still talk about it, even though I would quite happily bury the more humiliating aspects of my twenties like everyone else does.
Still. I loved that garden and the project from the moment Andy suggested it. I poured my whole heart into it. Elanor was, for me, the best part of all of BitofEarth – it was the one good, real thing we did. And I’m glad that people loved it and cared for it, and that it made people happy. I don’t take credit for that by any means, but at least some good came of it. For a time I’d planned on going back to see it, but o don’t think it would bring anything but pain to anyone.
“They’re just doing it for the attention!”
It’s a fast way to shut someone down.
It is very difficult to be a person with an exceptionally high need for attention. I’m thirty-six right now, and I’m only barely beginning to forgive myself for my innate nature. Learning to deal with my need for attention in healthy and constructive ways has been one of the most difficult parts of learning to function in day-to-day life, and it’s only in facing myself that I can face the world.
Lessons on this are some of the worst kinds of painful. People like me can use others right the fuck up. It sounds horrible, and many of the people who I have inadvertently “used up” would deny it. Others would nod and agree. Maybe “used up” isn’t as accurate as “exhausted,” or even “drained.” It takes a lot more effort just to hang out with a person like me, even for people who enjoy it. I know this. I exhaust myself at times.
I’ve been told my whole life by many people that I’m “too much.” Too broad, to crass, too wordy, too pushy, too loud, too dramatic, too involved. My mother used to say she had one daughter but counted her twice. I try too hard and feel too strongly. It used to drive me crazy how people would tell me to calm down when I wasn’t upset at all. There was just too much me. As if I take more air from a room as I enter it. And it would hurt, still hurts at times. But it’s a truth, and as with all truths, knowing it is the only way to move forward. It’s something that doesn’t have a diagnosis or a support group (shit, can you imagine?) or a wristband or an advocacy group.
From the inside, it feels like I am too much. I fidget because I cannot contain my energy completely. I speak fast, sometimes become breathless, because there is so much to get out. Sometimes my skin itself feels tight. It’s so damn painful, when you need attention and are unable to get it. Because for people like me, it is a very real need. Not necessarily to be the center of attention, just to have a connection with another person, saying you exist and I hear you.
It’s a common misconception that negative and positive attention are of equal value to people like me. I think it’s pretty rare that attention-seekers actually see them that way. It’s the more subtle variation that negative attention is better than none at all. And often, I think, the negative attention just makes the problem worse, because it can create an even greater need for positive attention to recover from it.
There’s a whole lot less negative attention in my life as I’ve gotten better at gauging my actions. Am I being too loud? Does anyone actually care what I’m saying? Is this topic appropriate for this audience? Have they already gotten the point, but I am still talking? Learning the more intricate layers of “laughing with” vs. “laughing at.” Learning how to gauge people’s responses and recognize when a smile was too forced.
The hardest times were when I was falling into depression, way back before the crazy train. As my energy and will slowly drained, my need for attention soared. I was spending most of my time alone, so the computer was my lifeline. And Andy grabbed the other end of that lifeline. He lavished attention on me, and I drank it in like water in the desert. It was easy to pull me in when just ignoring me for a few hours was enough to make me push aside my uncertainty. So great was my need that, for a while, the best option seemed to be Andy’s intense, extravagant fixation.
This is why I think it’s understandable that my closest friends were unable to help me out. I am sure that I was already hitting the red zone on how much energy it took to deal with me before I started telling them I was talking to hobbits from another dimension through my internet friend. When you aren’t under Andy’s spell, he sets off some visceral alarm bells. I know my friends didn’t like him from the beginning, so once I was wrapped up in him I’m sure it wasn’t too hard for them to let go.
Oddly enough, telling all my friends (in detail!) about the increasingly bizarre and fantastical things Andy was showing me may have made them less inclined to help. Instead of seeing my slow descent into insanity, they saw over-the-top attention getting displays. It’s easier, and far less stressful, to just cut ties from the attention whore. I don’t blame them. It’s hard to know, and long ago stopped mattering.
The thing is, needing attention – even huge amounts of it – is okay. What I had to do was learn to channel it rather than deny it. To meter myself instead of cutting pieces off. To keep a mental tally of how much energy I have asked friends to extend, and to be careful not to just overwhelm them with me. To find outlets – like this one – where I can express that excess. How to sit with the dearth of attention and get through it if those needs just can’t be met. Maybe most important, I had to stop being afraid to just say what I wanted – if I want someone to pay attention to me, I tell them. Hey, I miss you, can you spare a couple hours? Or even, I just need to talk to another adult for a few. It doesn’t have to be much.
This post got a lot more personal than I originally intended. I’d planned to just talk about why needing attention isn’t a bad thing, and even had a few jokes about how people with ADHD maybe literally have a deficit of attention – from others. But it is what it is, just as I am what I am. I can’t change me, but I can change my choices.
It’s really hard to know where to start when I’m blogging about Andy. I know that, currently, most of the traffic coming here is in reaction to my ex-partner putting down roots in a new fandom. But it must be a hell of a thing for people who don’t already know the whole sordid story. And there’s so many volumes of opinions and versions of stories that I don’t like to repeat myself – which is why I point people to the blogs I’ve already written.
This is a particularly difficult one to write. It’s messy, both logically and emotionally. Nothing is ever simple with Andy, who has used me in his backstories (you know, that whole “his son? a sparrow! thing) and dismisses this as “…a really bad relationship that ended six years ago and a fandom scandal from ten years ago.” As if that was all that happened. As if nothing happened between Bit of Earth and now. As if I’m just another bitter ex, carrying out some twisted vendetta. And it gets to me, damn it. I hardly ever think of him unless I start getting hits from sites with “lol” and “wank” in their urls. I don’t want to turn into what Turimel used to be, or to stir up drama for drama’s sake.
I saved a file box of notes, letters, pictures and things that Andy made me over the years. Much like my feelings about this entire experience, it is neatly packed and easily accessible, but I don’t open it very often. At first I kept them for nostalgia’s sake, but later I needed – sometimes still need – to read and touch those letters. And know that not only did it all really happen, it was as fucked up and crazy as I remember it being. Because Andy has achieved almost mythic status in fandom, so naturally it’s easy for the stories to get overblown. And Andy himself showed me just how malleable memories are.
The thing is, it isn’t just gossip. Oh, sure, lots of it is – but that isn’t why I share what I went through either. I talk because other survivors need to hear. Because secrecy is what he hurt us with – Diamond, Little Sam, the ones who have come forward from DAYD – all of us. The secret was the entire point. We had to keep Andy’s abilities secret, and therefore, we could not tell anyone else the truth about anything. Everything had to be screened for outsiders. Can’t tell a story about all the friends you hang out with if, technically, they’re all one fucking person. Always, always pleading that we just not tell, no matter what.
I am not beholden to promises I made to an abuser while still in his power. Because emotional and psychological abuse is every bit as legitimate and damaging as physical abuse. Because families and friends that don’t even use computers have been hurt by Andy’s manipulations, to say the very least. Because wank is funny, but pain is real. And it sucks to have somebody dedicate their life to fucking up the inside of your head.
Also, it is not okay for an almost-thirty year old with a history of emotional manipulation and abuse to invite depressed, suicidal teenagers to call him, and therefore his previous behavior is absolutely relevant. I have no interest in “chasing him off the internet” or “stalking” him, but the only way I feel comfortable, ethically, is to speak up when he is setting off so many red flags.
Now, one might make a fairly compelling argument about Andy’s right to privacy. Certainly, Andy paints himself as an unfairly exposed martyr.
I have never pretended to be any form of saint. I have been very open that I have struggled with mental illness and a lot of personal demons in the past, and that it has left a lot of ugliness in my wake, but that I am treated now and reconciled with anyone who was interested in reconciling with me. Beyond that, my medical history is my own business, and those who would breech the privacy of what they do know, much less those who would speculate and present that as fact may fuck right off. I have also been open that there are still many people who hate me wildly; some fairly, some not.
This is a fairly ingenious defense, as it appeals to the fears pretty much everyone has about their privacy being compromised on the internet. But there’s one problem: Andy doesn’t deserve that level of privacy. And neither do I.
We did bad things, he and I. We lied to many, many people. We fucked up big time. It doesn’t matter in the slightest who was the leader and who the follower for this, because we both lied. In text, over the phone, and in person, to people who loved us and trusted us completely. We lied on the internet. We lied on message boards. We betrayed people’s trust in so many ways. When you lie on that level? You kind of waive your “right to privacy” about things that are relevant to the lies you told. Especially if you appear to be repeating the pattern of behavior.
If Andy was just living his life? Nobody would care. But he not only came back into the public eye; he’s built a massive, insular fandom (that is celebrating its fifth anniversary) and, to say the least, is actively courting followers. He’ll talk openly about his “personal, medical and mental health information” when it serves to make him seem more sympathetic, more victimized, etc., and tells grandiose stories about himself and his life, but when these things he is publicly posting are not true – and he’s called on it, it’s back to “it isn’t your business and anyway, it was forever ago.”
And, at least when we were together, Andy fully understood this. As soon as Bit of Earth exploded, we started making deliberate choices because we knew that this would follow us forever. Of course Andy used his real name and information in his new online life, because it would follow him. Google may forgive, but it doesn’t forget. All of his “future plans” for us took the “bad press” into account, all facts carefully spun to our advantage and the stories ready for those times when someone had read “teh book.”
And after all that…I haven’t even told a fraction of the things he did. Not to me, not to Diamond or Little Sam, not to the ones who aren’t ready to tell their stories. Or the ones who will never be able to talk. So much pain, so much damage, so fucked up. It isn’t even funny; it’s sick and sad like so much of this entire story. And it’s mine to carry – unless I share it.