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A Few Screws Loose

Why so many seemingly sane men can’t stay away from that enticing breed of New York City woman: the maniac.

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My husband likes to say, “All women are crazy,” after which I usually throw something at him, after which he smiles smugly and says, “See?” But I am not the kind of crazy he is talking about; though I am off-balance and in therapy, I like commitment and have never thrown a guy out of my house after sex. Bona fide crazy girls are beautiful nymphos who toy with men’s minds by showing up at their doorsteps in the middle of the night demanding sex, then never calling again. They are actresses, models, or dancers, have at least one substance problem, and like to break things when they get mad. And an inordinate number seem to live in New York. Though men get chagrined when they look back on them, many otherwise smart guys fall for them continually, wasting years of their lives, because when crazy comes wrapped in beautiful, it’s hard to look the other way.

Jake, my husband, was a craze-magnet before he met me, maybe because he’s so maternal. “I once got set up with a French woman by a mutual friend,” he tells me as we’re getting ready for bed one night. I grit my teeth, trying to maintain journalistic objectivity. “She called me up and said, ‘Let’s forget about the date. Just come to my house.’ She lived in a townhouse on the Upper East Side, and she opened the door in nothing but a tiny pair of panties. She was fashion-model gorgeous. Without really looking at me, she turns around and goes upstairs. It was the middle of the summer, but she had a roaring fire going and she was chopping up her soon-to-be-ex-husband’s antique furniture with a hatchet and tossing it in. She told me to help myself to a glass of wine and said afterwards we could make love.”

When I recover a few days later, I take my friend Dan, 33, an ad exec, to the Rihga for a drink. “Why do men go for these women?” I ask tremblingly.

“You’re willing to forgive a lot if a girl is attractive,” he says, “and, beyond that, willing to have sex with you. And a lot of guys think, If she’s crazy, then she’s crazy in bed.

And that’s just it, he says. Many crazy women are crazy in the sack. They love sex, they have it in public, and they’re willing to do things that so-called nice girls wouldn’t do. Dan met a woman who asked him to pee on her on the first date and another who liked to choke him.

What makes them so appealing isn’t so much their drive as the ease with which a guy can convince himself he’s the one who brought it on. According to Hampton Stevens, a writer in his mid-thirties, “there’s this self-delusion that lets you tell yourself, She’s crazy—but only because I make her that way. You think, I met her on a Wednesday night at a club, she took me home and sucked my dick, but she usually never does stuff like that.

Once the guy realizes it may not be his raging attractiveness that made the girl put out, he sets himself to the impossible task of winning her fidelity. “It’s the contrapositive of the Groucho thing,” says Stevens. “The fact that they won’t have you in their club makes you want to be a member more. You think, If I can get her to come back to me, it will put an end to my abandonment-by-Mother issues.

Of course, these women are impossible to win—bored by any guy who would have them twice. They have a love-hate relationship with their own beauty, using it to manipulate men and then getting angry when it works. “The beauty is what drives them crazy,” says Stevens, “because they’ve been valued for sex their whole lives. They’re psychologically raped by society from the age of 14 on.”

This is why so many of them have rage problems. Stevens had one girlfriend hurl a set of keys at his head as they were fighting over who had packed the Walkman for a trip. “This was a well-educated woman who was handling herself in the upper reaches of New York society,” he says ruefully.

Of course, any guy who gripes about crazy exes has to face up to the fact that it takes one to know one. Dan met a woman at a Hell’s Kitchen bar late at night who, after sleeping with him, picked up a hammer on his windowsill and said, “I should bash this into your skull right now.” But given the circumstances of their meeting, he had it coming. “You tend to meet them when you’re at your weakest,” he admits. “If you’re at some dive bar in Hell’s Kitchen at 4:30 a.m., whatever woman you’re hitting on at that moment is not going to be the most balanced, clean-living, healthy person. That girl went home at one.”

So maybe when guys call girls crazy, they’re just projecting. “It turns her rejection of him into her problem,” says my friend Thad, 30, an architect. “The guy can’t control her and she has this power over him. What he means is that he can’t understand her.” In other words, when a man is horny and elusive, he’s just a guy, but when a woman is, she can be only one thing: crazy.

Whoever causes the craziness, the men I spoke to say drama-filled relationships are sexy for only so long. According to Thad, who recently had a woman flee his apartment screaming after his cat entered the room, “you date these women a lot when you’re younger because you don’t have a lot going on. They make life more exciting. It’s like being in Body Heat.”

Stevens says that these days, his ideal woman is nice and calm. “I recently met this beautiful opera singer and we made a date to go to the movies. That day, she calls up and says she doesn’t know if she’s going to be able to go, she just needs some time alone. I thought, This is drama, and God bless you for it, but I’m in my mid-thirties and I just want to see a movie. I want someone who can laugh and have fun. It’s like going to a frat party when you’re 27. Why do it? You’ve already puked in that bathroom.”


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