Joan SwirskyI came from a family with strong values. Right was right and wrong was wrong; good was good and bad was bad. By the time I was 10 years old, I knew – as surely as Elizabeth Smart knew from her Mormon upbringing – what was right and what was wrong.
Friday, March 14, 2003
And for many years now, I have been a psychotherapist and what I have learned from my patients’ complicated lives is that appearances don’t count.
I had another patient who married her psychoanalyst. But before that, as a teenager, she spent endless nights at crap tables in Las Vegas, loving every minute. And as a “grown-up married woman,” as she described herself, she said that her “happiest memories in life” were of “dressing up and being there when the highest stakes were on the line.”
It wasn’t enough for her to hand him five dollars; she also invited him to earn more money by fixing the roof of her home, which he did one sunny afternoon in 2001.
That’s the truth, but let’s start to imagine what happened next. The charismatic Mitchell bumped in to the nubile Elizabeth. They talked. He was charming. She was smitten. And although his work was done, they both managed to communicate with each other outside the home over a period of time.
She may have had doubts, but she finally agreed to an “escape” that left her sympathetic in the eyes of her family but, at the same time, free to live the exciting life she craved.
“Oh, that’s the girl who ran away,” she said. And when finally exposed, she asked first, not about her parents or her siblings, but about what would happen to the people with whom she had spent the last nine months.
And what about the door that was unlocked, the one that other forensic experts insisted the intruder had both entered and exited? Who unlocked that door? Certainly not Elizabeth Smart’s parents!
And what about Elizabeth’s demeanor after she was “found”? Why didn’t the “experts” concentrate on her obviously well-fed, away-from-home sabbatical? Her serenity? The relief one might have expected from a “hostage’?
My bet is that she will fit in once more to the Smart household. But when given the chance to escape again, she will fly the coop – with joy – but this time without the entire world speculating, erroneously, on her motives.
Good luck, Elizabeth!
Joan Swirsky is a New York-based journalist and author. She may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.