Chapter 3: Prudence

Prudence and her friends were caught up in a lively discussion about the possible motives for Amber’s outrageous behavior when she looked at her phone and realized she would be late for work if she didn’t leave immediately. She said goodbye to her friends, grabbed her drink and her mostly uneaten chocolate croissant, and caught the bus right before it left.

It was a quiet evening at the university’s health science library where Prudence worked. Not only was it a break from the cacophony of chatter in the coffee house, it also gave her time to mull over Amber’s outrageous behavior. She chuckled, remembering Rufus’ comment about Amber being raised by wolves. Maybe he was on to something. Maybe her parents were to blame. Maybe they gave into her every whim, thus instilling in her an immense sense of entitlement. But that was no secret; everyone knew how the Stanhopes indulged her. In fact, Amber often bragged about how much money her parents spent on her. Surely, although her parents spoiled her, there had to be some other reason for Amber’s atrocious behavior.

Prudence, who was an empath, knew that Amber was an emotional vampire. Whenever Pru was around her, she felt depleted and drained, and sometimes she had debilitating headaches that could last for more than a day. She made a necklace out of amethyst, labradorite, obsidian, and smoky quartz crystals—all protective stones to counter negative energy—but they didn’t always shield her from Amber’s outrageousness. She did yoga and received Reiki when she was around Amber but again, they just weren’t always effective in deflecting Amber’s negativity. Obviously, Amber was not an everyday drama queen. There had to be another explanation for her behavior.

She looked at the smattering of books that needed to be put back on the shelves. One book caught her eye: Diagnostic and Statistical Manuel of Mental Disorders Five, a guide to psychiatric diagnoses and treatments.     Perhaps she might find a clue there! She leafed through the thick volume and came across something so mind-boggling that she felt compelled to text her friends and ask them to meet her the next day.

Rufus was the first one at Déjà Brew. “So, Pru, what’s up?” he asked. “I juggled my schedule so I can meet with you. So it better be important.” He laughed. “Seriously, I can’t stay very long because I have to tutor some Statistics 1 students at four.”

“Oh, trust me,” Prudence said. “This is well worth your while.”

Lizette and Ellowyne walked into the coffee house. They ordered and sat down with Prudence and Rufus. Lizette was curious about the reason Pru wanted to get together but Ellowyne wanted to know if Penn was coming. Prudence turned toward Rufus, rolled her eyes, and made a face. Turning back to Ellowyne and Lizette, she told them that she didn’t invite him because he seemed reticent to go to the place where he was humiliated and groped by Amber.

“Okay,” Prudence said. “I have something here that might just explain Amber’s horrible behavior. Perhaps it is her secret.” She brought out the big, thick book she’d checked out of the health sciences library.

Her friends were aghast when they saw the title. Lizette asked, “Are you telling us that Amber is mentally ill?”

“Not necessarily,” Pru said. “Look at this classification. Personality disorders.”

Rufus smirked. “That’s assuming Amber HAS a personality,” he quipped to the laughter of his friends.” He paused. “Sorry, I just couldn’t resist. Go on, Pru.”

“According to the DSM-V, there are three clusters of personality disorders,” Prudence said. “Cluster A is called the ‘odd, eccentric cluster. Cluster C is the ‘anxious, fearful’ cluster. Cluster B is the ‘dramatic, emotional, erratic cluster’.”

“Dramatic and emotional—that sounds like Amber,” Ellowyne said.

“Yes! It does.” Prudence went on. “There are four personality disorders in Cluster B. One of those is antisocial personality disorder, in which someone might act out in aggressive ways like hurting animals or other people without remorse. Another is borderline personality disorder.”

Rufus looked at the book. “It says that people with borderline personality disorder ‘tend to experience intense and unstable emotions and moods that shift quickly. Does anyone else think that describes Amber? I do!”

“It also says that people with borderline personality disorder see things as all good or all bad, and some engage in impulsive behaviors like substance abuse, overspending, and binge eating. Other than the overspending—which Amber’s parents can afford—it doesn’t really sound like Amber,” Ellowyne said.

Lizette pointed to the book. “What about this one—narcissistic personality disorder? Amber’s behavior fits a lot of the criteria,” she said. “Powerful sense of entitlement, deserve special treatment, arrogance, fantasizing about their superior intelligence of stunning beauty—that sure sounds like Amber.”

“I agree, Liz, but there’s one more personality disorder that I think sums up Amber even better than these.” Prudence turned the page to reveal the criteria for one more Cluster B disorder. “Here we go.”

Rufus, Ellowyne, and Lizette sat, wide-eyed, looking at the page summarizing histrionic personality disorder.

“Okay, she is inappropriately flirtatious and seductive, and she dresses like a skank,” Rufus said. “Maybe that’s harsh but she hits on Penn and me all the time and, while I can’t speak for him, it’s uncomfortable. And I’m not even sure she’s interested in either of us.”

“But see here,” Prudence said. “Her emotions change rapidly. Like she can be kissing one of the guys but then smacks him in the face.”

“Yup. That sounds just like her,” Rufus said while rubbing his cheek.

“Look at this: ‘uncomfortable unless she is the center of attention,” Ellowyne stated. “That’s Amber for sure. And she acts dramatically, ‘as though performing before an audience’.”

“She also is ‘overly concerned with her physical appearance’ and she acts without thinking,” Lizette said. “She is also ‘self-centered and rarely shows concern for others’.”

“Here are a couple more ” Rufus said. “She is ‘excessively sensitive to criticism’ and ‘constantly seeks reassurance or approval’. I never noticed how often she asks me if I like what she’s wearing. Or her makeup, her hair, or her perfume. One time I told her that her perfume was too strong and she sulked for days. Maybe I should insult her more and she’ll leave me alone!”

Prudence said, “I’m not sure you could be THAT lucky!” Everyone chuckled. Pru went on. “Here’s something else. Someone with histrionic personality disorder has ‘difficulty in maintaining relationships, often seeming fake or shallow’.”

“Sometimes, Amber seems so fake. It’s like she’s made of plastic!” Ellowyne said.

Her friends nodded in agreement.

Prudence put down the book. “So I guess we all know why Amber behaves the way she does. She likely has histrionic personality disorder. But the question is—now that we’ve figured out her secret, what do we do about it?”

She and her friends sat, speechless and stunned. What should they do? Confront her? Ignore her? Empathize with her because they knew why she behaved so badly?

Prudence made a mental note to create some necklaces and bracelets out of protective stones for her friends. Just in case.

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