Hard to Say is This Recording’s weekly advice column. It will appear every Wednesday until the Earth perishes in a fiery blaze, or until North West turns 40. Get no-nonsense answers to all of your most pressing questions by writing to firstname.lastname@example.org.
My friend Ashley has a boyfriend named Johnny. A few nights ago she got a call from him: he was in the hospital. He had woken up there without any knowledge of how he had gotten there other than that he had drinks with a female friend. There was some kind of drug in his system that indicated one of his drinks was spiked; he has no idea by who.
She was comforting, but I was pretty aghast at this entire story and the idea that she believed him without verifying any of the information. Then again, he did not have to call her from the hospital at all or provide any of this, to me, weird story.
What do you think actually happened here, and what should I tell Ashley to do about it?
It is disturbingly serious what Bill Cosby did to all these women. And to offer them a muffin afterwards and send them on their way after the rape is just disgusting. I don’t know how that relates to your question, but I must admit it has been on my mind.
I was reading this Robert Heinlein book about life on the moon the other day. Any crime is punishable by death, if it is bad enough. The idea that rape is a crime worse than murder only makes sense in that it is more difficult to prosecute. I don’t know how that relates to your question either.
Or maybe I do, since your friend’s boyfriend is and isn’t having a reaction that indicates this may have happened to him. If he simply drank too much, the only reason not to say so if he did something so out of character it might be revealed to Ashley by a third party. Then, his excuse is built into the original story.
For a second let’s assume everything he said is true. It is possible to be drugged by someone we know, or drink from someone else’s glass. (This happened in The Princess Bride as I recall.) There would be no reason not to tell Ashley the truth in this scenario, and it would explain most everything in the story.
Unfortunately, pathological exaggerators seek to play up stories, and people often feel humiliated and embarrassed when their drinking leads them to medical care. I don’t know if there is much to be gained by checking up on this story however. You should be only able to find out whether Johnny was a patient at the hospital. If he was, then that is the likely limit of your investigation.
It would be beneficial for you yourself to quiz Johnny about this incident, but Ashley is likely going to have to do this on her own. Here is some advice for follow-up that you can provide here.
* Questions will keep coming up. Do not ask them randomly, as they come to mind, or constantly hint or make suggestions about her doubts. This is easy to deflect. Most people can only tell one lie at a time.
* The key is to really find a specific moment, preferably in public, to talk at length to Johnny about this incident. If he really is a pathological liar, he will want to do this in private.
* Ask a series of noncombative questions, and then suddenly turn nasty, but only for a moment, to gauge his reaction. Then back off — this isn’t Guantanamo.
* If he becomes flustered or upset, this is not the greatest news for him. If he cries, this is not the greatest news for him. If he calmly tries to reassure you, this is the best news for him.
Illustrations by Mia Nguyen.
“The Ship Is Sailing” – Vito Ricci (mp3)