Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Going inside the mind of Davecat, the man in love with his RealDoll

By Britta Bowles

I never watch TV. Ever. I would rather read a book, run a marathon or even do some horrible mundane chore, like clean toilets. I would prefer to do just about anything else besides spend time watching mindless television programming. But when my fiance mentioned that he had discovered a television show called My Strange Addiction I was immediately intrigued. My fiance knows my interest in abnormal psychology knows no bounds, and that I delight in the weird and strange. A show that details people's bizarre addictions? Yes, please. So we gave it a go. 

Each episode of My Strange Addiction follows the same story line. The viewer meets two individuals with odd "addictions", hears their family and friends' thoughts on their addictive behaviors and watches as they dutifully meet with a psychologist to get a professional opinion on their issues. The show normally concludes with some brief words on whether or not each individual decided to seek further help for their addictions.

The episode my fiance and I watched featured a woman who compulsively picked her scabs (being rather sqeaumish, I had to cover my eyes during the segments that showed her in action) and a gentleman named Davecat who was supposedly "addicted" to his wife. Davecat instantly captured my attention and fascination. Why? Because Davecat's wife, the person he is "addicted" to, is a doll. A RealDoll to be exact.

Davecat shares his life with a 5'1", 85 lb. RealDoll he has named Sidore (pronounced SHE-DOOR-EH). RealDolls are life-size dolls made of silicone that are designed to recreate the appearance, texture and weight of the female form. Their primary function is to serve as sex partners, and Davecat admits that this was the initial motivation behind his purchase of Sidore, however, she quickly became much more to him. She is now one of his best friends, and the love of his life. Davecat says that he loves Sidore in the exact same way and with the same intensity that he loves his human friends and family (minus the sexual aspects of their relationship, of course). To him, their love is very real even though Sidore is a doll that cannot see him, hear him or reciprocate his feelings (Davecat is cognizant of this fact -- he is is not delusional, as some people have suggested).

As I sat glued to the TV screen watching, fascinated, as Davecat lovingly spoke to and gently kissed his doll, I turned to my fiance.

"I've got to interview this guy," I said. "You should," he replied. "This is right up your alley."

And that is how I came to be speaking to Davecat one rainy Sunday afternoon in April via Skype. Due to some technical issues with his laptop’s camera, he can see me, but I can't see him. This disconcerts me slightly so throughout the interview my eyes keep self-consciously drifting to the right hand corner of my screen where my own image is projected back to me. As Davecat responds to my questions, I find myself growing more comfortable. There is something about the rambling nature of his responses and a slight awkwardness in the way he laughs that I find endearing.

What has made Davecat prefer the companionship of an inanimate object over the companionship of a woman? This is what I most want to know. I am not the first person to speculate about the reasons behind his decision to form a relationship with a doll. Various writers and television producers have attempted to explain why Davecat prefers this type of relationship. On the National Geographic television show Taboo the producers speculated that Davecat had Autism, a diagnosis that I find inaccurate since Davecat is talkative, engaging and seems quite good at interpersonal communication. Even more impressively (though perhaps unrelated to this diagnosis) he uses a lot of big words. I'm actually a bit mortified that his vocabularly is more extensive than my own, but I carry on, hoping that he isn't regretting his decision to grant an interview to a writer who has less of a command of the English language than he does. I suddenly realize that I'm being self-conscious again and refocus as Davecat, seemingly unaware of my anxiety, tells me that the producers of the show tested him for Autism but that his results were negative. He doesn't blame them for speculating that he might have the condition. He does see similarities between himself and individuals with Autism. He has a keen eye for detail and prefers interactions with objects over interactions with people, among other things.

"Personally, I've always abhorred clutter and disarray, and I've mentioned publicly on many occasions that I'm not a people person," he says. "But those qualities don't necessarily make me autistic," he concludes. 

My Strange Addiction producers labeled Davecat's love for his doll an "addiction", although I suspect that this was more because they desperately wanted to feature him on their show and not because they actually belive this. Afterall, if Davecat's love for his doll is an "addiction" then so is my love for my fiance or anyone's love for their romantic partner, really. We're all dependent on our partners for love and support. That doesn't make us addicts, it makes us normal human beings. At least that's what I think. 

I decide to take a shot at psychoanalyzing Davecat myself since it seems the writers and TV producers who have already taken a stab at it have failed rather miserably. Davecat is game. He seems just as intrigued by his brain as I am and open to exploring the possibilities. I decide to start from the beginning and ask him some questions about his childhood. Psychologists are always saying that abnormal or dysfunctional behaviors in later life often stem from childhood neglect, abuse or trauma. I wonder about Davecat's parents and how they raised him. Perhaps they were cold, neglectful and didn't show him enough affection as a child? I feel horribly guilty for thinking this, but I am truly curious if this theory holds weight. When I ask him about his childhood and his parents' relationship with himself and each other, he sees right through my question. 

"That's the thing, a lot of people are like 'he must have had some sort of troubled past to turn to a doll for sexual and relationship companionship' but not really. (My childhood) was dramatically undramatic."

I am clearly a horrible armchair psychologist if I'm this transparent. 

Davecat continues and describes a rather uneventful childhood. He was an only child. As a result, he spent much of his time entertaining himself which helped to cultivate his colorful imagination. When he wasn't riding bikes with friends, he would read books or build cities for his G.I. Joes to inhabit. His mother, a creative, imaginative soul and his father, a more practical, analytical person, were very much in love. There was little fighting, as his mother generally disliked conflict. Davecat seems to have inherited something from both of his parents as he is equally as creative as he is logical, a seemingly rare combination. Overall, Davecat's childhood seems pretty normal. 

I move on to another line of questioning. What about past relationships? Surely there will be some sort of traumatic experience there. And there is. Sort of. I say sort of because Davecat has never had a serious intimate relationship with a human woman. He has only had affairs, has always been "the bloke on the side" (his words) instead of the boyfriend or husband. The one relationship he did attempt (if it can even be described as such) ended disastrously. Davecat befriended a woman just out of a bad relationship, and they eventually bought a house together. It seems like a story of unrequited love, with Davecat hoping the relationship would progress into something more than friendship over time. According to Davecat, he eventually discovered that this woman was a compulsive liar, a thief and a coke addict with a history of rehab stints. After the purchase of the house, arguments arose.

"We were getting into...debates, let's say, once a week. I think this is partially because of the coke that she had coursing through her system," Davecat tells me rather sardonically.

"I can't imagine that arguments with cokeheads are very fun," I reply.

"If you have the means, avoid them at all costs," he tells me. I make a mental note never to interview a cokehead.

I have to admit that I find it both sweet and a bit comical that Davecat is so averse to arguments that he can't even say the word argument, prefering the term "debate"  instead. He's clearly inherited the aversion to confrontation his mother possessed. I also notice that he seems to have a predilection for dysfunctional relationships and Davecat admits that Dr. Tim Ring, the psychologist he spoke with for the My Strange Addiction segment, told him the same thing. 

"The one thing I do remember (Dr. Ring) saying is...'you seem to be attracted to or have a thing for damaged people' and I'm like....yea, um, YES!"

"I maybe want to fix them," he continues, "and over the course of me fixing them maybe they'll say 'living with Davecat is a little bit better than not living with Davecat.'"

Davecat eventually gave up on the hope of finding a human woman whom he could rescue and live with happily ever after. He seems completely content with the 12 year relationship he has maintained with Sidore. I can't help but think that for an introvert who is averse to conflict, perhaps this type of relationship is the best option? Davecat certainly thinks so. When I ask him about his overall opinions on relationships with human women, he seems very jaded. Given his past run-ins with cokeheads and women who cheat on their spouses with him, I'm not at all surprised.

"With a (human) person it's like 'if I tell him what he wants to hear then maybe we'll be friends, and I can see what I can get out of him.'"

"That's a very negative view of relationships," I say.

"I don't say negative, I say realistic," he replies, laughingly.

I suppose Davecat's views on relationships could be considered many things by different people, but I personally find them to be strangely pragmatic. He seems to be preoccupied with Return on Investment (ROI). He's every salesperson's worst nightmare: the potential client to whom you must provide statistics that clearly demonstrate rewards greater than the risks. If you can't, no deal. Apparently no one has ever provided Davecat with such evidence because he has no future intention of pursuing a serious relationship with a human woman. I think that his pragmatism seems rooted in fear, and I cautiously ask him about this.

"With you I feel like there's a real fear of intimacy, a fear of rejection, and just perhaps a fear of getting close to people," I say. "And I could totally be wrong," I add quickly, afraid I'll offend him and he'll terminate the interview abruptly, "but I just wanted to see what you thought about that?"

To my relief he responds almost instantaneously.

"I will cop 100% to the fear of rejection, the fear of failure and the fear of abandonment," he replies. "It takes so much time. It takes so much energy and emotion to actually form lasting bonds with people. You find something good and you want to hang on to it like grim death. And just the whole concept of meeting people...it's a gamble. I don't like gambling. I don't like taking chances, really."

I understand where Davecat is coming from. You can't ever lose if you refuse to play the game. As someone who has loved and lost, I understand his desire to avoid romantic relationships entirely. A psychologist would probably encourage Davecat to enter therapy in order to work through his fears so that he can one day have a healthy intimate relationship with a human woman.  Instead he has created a unique relationship that is both personally satisfying and emotionally safe for him. The way I see it, if it works for him and isn't hurting anyone else, why is everyone so quick to label his behavior unhealthy and dysfunctional? When I tell my best friend Angie (who is also engaged to be married) about Davecat's peculiar relationship, she gets it immediately. 

"Maybe he's on to something," she writes me via Google chat. 

And maybe he is. A relationship in which you never have to worry about your partner leaving you? Betraying your trust? Hurting your feelings? I can see the appeal.

Davecat hopes that by granting interviews and making television appearances,  the stigma surrounding relationships like his own will be reduced. He hopes that any human being presently lonely and dissatisfied with human relationships realizes that, like him, they have another option.

Author's note: Davecat recently welcomed a second doll companion into his home. Her name is Elena Vostrikova, and she is from the Russian doll company, Anatomical Doll. Elena is Sidore's girlfriend and Davecat's mistress. The three of them are living quite happily together in Detroit, MI. Davecat hopes to eventually own seven dolls, one from each of the major doll companies. If your curiosity about Davecat wasn't satisfied by this article, you can check out his blog here.