Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Vampires in America

Vampires in America -
Have you been bitten?
By Kathleen Mary Andersen

reprinted from Opinion Magazine, 2004

Vampires are alive and well in America. Believe it. They are here. You could be one of them and not even know it. They could be your co worker, your boss; they could be your in law, your neighbor or, yes the worst you can imagine - you could be in love with one. Don’t laugh, I am not kidding. Before you conjure up images of Bella Lagosi or you run out in your yard looking for a wooden stake, let’s take a look at the vampires I am referring to. Vampires exist in corporate America. Vampires have always existed in business, but lately, it seems that business cannot survive in the millennium unless it hires vampires. Unfortunately, for us, vampires make wonderful bosses. They feed and are motivated by one goal - company profit. They never look in the mirror because as you know a vampire will never see a reflection of who they really are. You might remember how it starts. At first your job is enjoyable. You are new, you don’t have many obligations.
Ground work. This is the ground work that is needed to take you in. Gradually your enthusiasm is converted into the pressure called "company loyalty". Do it for the company so they say. "Hey", I ask, what about for the pay!" In today’s weakened economy and high jobless rate, fueled by global competition most companies are forced into one purpose and one purpose alone -- to make money and make money now. The dark foreboding castle on the cliff of yesterday where Dracula lived has been replaced with a store front. After all, this modern day vampire has to survive and it does with your hard work. The corporate vampire boss is caught up in titles, promises of future promotions and power and so they don’t mind selling your soul "to the company store" as Tennessee Ernie Ford sang in "Sixteen Tons". Vampires in corporate America are an epidemic. If you don’t take the bite, you are in today’s terms, "history".
Circle of Victims. Now let’s go home circle and family vampire. Yes, each time you move, you risk living right next door to a vampire. In all the years I moved around the country, I canremember a few times my neighbor turned out to be a vampire. Who knew? It’s only after you are bitten that you realize what has happened. The neighborhood vampire is the kind person and often times the first person to greet you to their social circle. They welcome you with open arms, introduce you to everyone on the block, and entice you by bringing over a plant, some home-baked cookies or even a wonderful casserole. You see, vampires really do have charm and panache. It always starts with kindness. Once you have your defenses down, they pry on every detail of your life and your background so they can focus in for the kill.
When I was younger, I had a beautiful woman who became my neighbor. She was charming, funny, and couldn’t do enough to help me feel at home in the neighborhood. Her husband was always out of town on business. She must have seen me coming. I was a trusting soul. Little did I know I was being courted by a vampire. For this she-devil didn’t really want my friendship; she wanted what I had, and what I had was a husband who was home all the time. Hers was out of the country, so mine would do in the meantime. It took me about six months to finally catch on, and I eventually did. It was a painful lesson of the bite from a neighborhood vampire. I later found out she ran off with another neighbor’s husband. Perhaps I was the lucky one to escape her clutches.
Neighbors who are vampires are not always promiscuous women looking for love with your spouse. They can be the vampire of words. The queen of the neighborhood gossip mill. These are insecure people who live in your neighborhood and get their sustenance for survival on "gossip". In order for them to get it, they must inch their way into your life and find out every small detail, so they can collate the information to their priority and pass it along to others in the neighborhood. Gossip is power, and those who know the most about the personal lives of others hold the audience in the palms of their hands. We trust these people, for often these vampires are friendly, willing to offer you help when you need it, making us drop our guard, and going along for the ride. It’s when you laugh at something they might have told you about someone else in the neighborhood that it becomes a horror of realization that "you" are the brunt of her jokes when your back is turned.
Gossip vampires don’t take pity on you. Talking about others is their drug. If someone talks incessantly about others, the odds are they are talking about you as well. If you know someone like this, think again. You may have a mark on the side of your neck! The guidelines of the neighbor vampire are synonymous with those of the co worker vampire. Anyone who has ever worked in an office knows that those friendly, smiling souls who seem so concerned with how you are each day may just be a vampire in disguise. It gives them power to keep a bag of tidbits about everyone and offer you one when you need it, those days when it’s more enjoyable to hear about someone's else’s problems than deal with your own. After all, it makes us feel just a little better when you know someone else’s life is more screwed up than yours.
Other neighborhood vampires, but sometimes called the "not so dangerous" vampires, could be the down to earth - guy next door. It might start out that Charlie wants to shoot the breeze about the recent baseball game or talk about his recent tune-up. With all vampires, it always starts out as subtle and easy. That is part of the ritual, and that is usually why we cannot see them coming. Maybe there is some common sense that to the idea that fictional vampires first flutter into your life as small bats. Chatting over the fence becomes borrowing a hammer or a screw driver, minor things that aren’t an inconvenience. And they return them so that you keep your guard down at all times. It all appears harmless. The next thing you know, they come over one day and ask if they can borrow your lawn mower, skill saw but, hopefully, not your car or your wife. Maybe this is all starting to make sense.
Home Circle of Vampires. Let’s come a little closer into our home circle and family. The rules of neighborhood vampires apply also to in-law vampires. Family gossip and relatives who borrow things fall into the same category, and we all have them in our life at one time or another. Unfortunately, in-law vampires we inherit so are harder to get rid of than our neighbor. They come with the territory called love. They can attach themselves into your personal life as painfully as a carbuncle on the side of your neck. It’s the material for mother-in- law jokes. Your vulnerability to protect yourself from these vampires isonly weakened by your mate’s attachment to their advice. When anything in your relationship goes wrong, they run to this vampire and feed the fire with more information that the vampire needs to use against you. You in exchange become a victim.
Dating Vampires. I was inspired to write this article as I had a friend who had an encounter with the worst vampire in not just America, but the entire universe! He is what is called the "love" vampire. It is a bite that you might not recover from. In coming to understand the persona of the vampire of famous novels, they don’t necessarily fly in the window and bite their victims on the neck. Vampires are charming, good looking creatures that smolder with sexuality. In real life, that is what happened to her. Her vampire didn’t flutter his wings and land at the foot of her bed. This one knocked on the door and waltzed into her life and before she knew it, he captured her soul. She knew her life would never be the same no matter how long he is gone. The bite of a love vampire can be terminal.
When she first saw this vampire, she looked into his eyes and was mesmerized by a lucid, azure pool. It was the eyes of a tormented soul who she thought was crying for love and affection. She fell right in. She was hypnotized. That is what vampires sometimes do. Little did she know that some vampires can present themselves as Prince Charming one moment and turn into Ivan the Terrible when they get you. Emotional vampires are skilled and educated. They are charismatic, and know you better than you might know yourself. These vampires are born with the ability to look over a situation quickly and summarize the weakness right at the beginning. Membership in Mensa does not qualify someone from recognizing a vampire. Think I’m kidding? Love vampires are also known as emotional vampires, and they are the subject of many studies and analysis of psychologists. They can be male or female and once they steal your heart, the rest is history. This vampire whisked her off my feet within weeks, he succeeded in killing her off from her friends and relatives and she was his. This was after, of course, he got rid of the last victim…his wife.
She was there at the castle, stunned like a deer in the headlights, she threw away any practicality. Vampires are like chameleons because they can change quicker than you can say abracadabra. Either way, once she was there wrapped in the cape it is not easy to escape. It’s a game and the vampire then moves on to the next victim, sometimes before the body is even cold. This story just doesn’t apply to female victims. It can happen to a man as well. Do you know anyone who has met a sweet woman, only to find out later that Snow White and the wicked witch are really one in the same once they have you? Those first little things they do for you because they "love" you vanish faster than a rabbit in a magic act. Not only that, you find the situation reversed, and you are doing double the duty to keep them happy. The comments of "I love your shirt, your dress, how you look" changes into "you aren’t going out of the house dressed like that, are you"?
The emotional vampire lives on what they can take from your emotions. It’s about control; and vampires, whether it is in real life or in that fictional account of Count Dracula, live on control. Control over you. They are people who have no self esteem or control over their own life, so they must feed on yours. In reality, we are all emotional vampires in one way or another. To fall victim, do we have be insecure to fall into this trap, or was are we sometimes just not educated to recognize human psychology when it bites you in the neck? Love vampires play on our emotions but capture our essence and sometimes our soul. Isn’t that what the underlying theme of all the vampire movies are about?
The lesson here is not just to recognize a vampire in your life but to stop yourself from being a vampire. It’s a chain of creation from one bite to another. It’s easy to become bitter, lose your self esteem, become like them after you’ve had the very life sucked out of you. Perhaps vampires are children of vampires. Their childhood forces them to go through life looking for what is missing in themselves. Don’t despair, there is hope. Understanding that this is what human nature is about is one step to a healthier future. Protecting yourself by not taking part intheir activities can be more potent than a necklace of garlic around your neck.
No matter how old we are, we must get to the stage that we can laugh at the lessons we have learned when dealing with vampires. The evil Count Dracula of the past can be replaced in the future by the funny George Hamilton Dracula as in the movie First Bite. Make no mistake, take a look around you, vampires are alive and well in America.