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Split Personality: Another Lame Excuse

Ever since cinemas world-wide premiered the movie starring Jim Carrey called 'Me, Myself and Irene - From gentle to mental' last year, a lot of attention has been directed toward the famous idiom 'split personality'. The film's promotion attracted a lot of criticism from people who were directly and indirectly involved with the disease Carrey claimed to suffer in the movie - as his doctors diagnosed him with having a split personality - a schizo. The promoters produced T-shirts with the tag line 'I am schizophrenic - So am I'. And during the premiere the reviewers received a pill bottle containing jellybeans claiming to be the cure for schizophrenia and warning that side effects include genital elephantiasis. That was too much. The producers had purposely made fun of this serious disease. After a series of serious protests, they withdrew the posters and removed the reference to diagnostic terms and schizophrenia in particular. The inaccurate interpretation of the illness had offended and created confusion amongst the people who were living with it. There have been debates related to this subject for many years.

In fact, there are still a lot of people out there who use this condition - split personality - as a joke or as an easy scapegoat. Don't get me wrong, this article is not going to discuss or make horrible jokes about schizophrenia. To upset the schizophrenic society and have them banging on my door in the morning is the last thing I want. This article is about the way people misuse the term to cover their wrong doings and how miserable - pathetic to be precise - situations can develop.

An American couple I know, Anna and her husband, George, had been living in Jakarta for almost a year. They had started their tropical life with the usual expatriate hopes and expectation. Orchids in the garden, an English-speaking driver and lots of house staff running around looking after them making sure not to serve their masters' sliced mango too chilled. Everything was good. Anna's husband had a two-year contract with a huge oil company in Jakarta. Their drilling sites were spread all over the country - but the most profitable was the one in Kalimantan. George was initially based in the Jakarta headquarters. But eventually he was more and more often sent to the site in Kalimantan to supervise their operational costs. Firstly he had to go to the island once a month, then twice and finally he had to spend two weeks at the site every month. Anna wasn't really happy about it. But the stories about giant standing leeches and the skirted head-hunters made her think twice about following her husband to the site.

So a long distance relationship every two weeks it was. When George was home, he was an excellent husband and a great father for their two children. Fresh lobster and Borneo's semiprecious stones were always in his bag after each trip back home. Anna was quite contented.

Until the day when she came home from a doctor visit. She was worried, as her doctor had told her that she was suffering from a genital STD. It went away after a course of antibiotics, taken by both Anna and George, but it always came back again. And again. She was completely bewildered by it.

Anna discovered the unexpected answer of her problem when one early in the morning, while George was at the site, she rang George's room at his base camp. A strange woman answered the call using the local language. At that moment, Anna's world shattered in front of her eyes. Later on she learnt that George had been a frequent customer at one brothel in the small village nearby. It was common to have brothels nearby exploration base camps on the island. Especially when the exploration companies employed a mostly male work force.

"I couldn't stand to be without a woman for two weeks, that's too long. I am very sorry Anna. I wasn't really myself when I was there," explained George when he was confronted.

What was that classic excuse? Yes, he wasn't really himself when he made the inexcusable mistake. As if every time he arrived in the deep jungle he automatically transformed himself into his 'wild' side. The hidden George. Had he been suffering from a split personality? Yup, and a cow can fly. The more likely explanation was that George's other personality had been using his other (smaller) head. It might have talked him into it. Facing the beautiful and available dark-skinned women far from civilisation apparently had coaxed his split evil personality to emerge and carry out the uncivilised act.

My favourite story was from an article in Cosmopolitan magazine, titled 'the worst excuses when he dumps her'. One guy said to his girl friend that he had to leave her because his other personality had fallen in love with somebody else. The really pathetic part was that she bought the story. O please woman, get a life!

Clinton's defence tactic is also a good example: the famous sentence 'I don't remember'. Yea right, the Clinton number two must have been the one who stood up breathlessly against the wall, unzipped his pants and created that legendary art - the blue dress painting.

Claiming to have a split personality, blaming the hidden black goat I would say, might be an easy getaway. Nobody can punish that guilty side. What would you do to punish it? Put half of him in jail? Electrocute one side of his body? Or grill him half done?

It's easy to use an excuse so you're not accountable or responsible for your acts. I'd say that if your husband uses that lame split personality excuse - don't waste your time - pack his bags and ship him off to a mental hospital right away. Because that's where those kind of people belong. They deserve it more than anybody else - even more than the real schizophrenics.

First published in the Jakarta Post.