What I’ve Learned from Compulsively Watching True Crime for 20 Years

1. If you absolutely have to go to Washington state, do everything in your power to avoid going to Snohomish County. Nothing good happens in Snohomish County, Washington. Just look at Ann Rule’s body of work – she made an entire career out of writing books about horrific crimes that have been committed in this one small region of the country. (Seriously, she wrote, like, 50 books about terrible, random murders that have all taken place in Snohomish County.) Judging from the Ann Rule canon, which I am deeply familiar with, if you spend enough time in Snohomish County, there’s an extremely good chance that you will be viciously attacked close to your bus stop and battered about the face and head by the light of the Washington moon.

If you’re a sportier type and prone to hiking, you could also get killed on Snoqualmie Pass. Snoqualmie Pass seems to be a mountain that is extremely dangerous not because of its treacherous terrain, but because it attracts psychopaths like moths to a scenic flame. If you absolutely have to go to Washington state and you absolutely have to go hiking, do everything in your power to avoid hiking Snoqualmie Pass – that is, unless you’re in the mood to grapple with a knife-wielding, AWOL soldier who thinks he’s still in Vietnam.

2. If someone seems like a pervert or a killer, he might very well be a pervert or a killer. Humans have a sixth sense for a reason – that little voice in your head is millions of years of evolution telling you that it’s probably a good idea to quicken your pace when passing that gentleman who’s dressed in a soiled trenchcoat and scratched aviators and screaming expletives at no one. Is there a weird dude driving your cab? It’s okay to get out of the cab if you feel like you’re about to get Bone Collectored in it.

3. If you discover that the lock on the window of your ground-floor bedroom is broken and you’re missing a few pairs of underpants and your hairbrush, leave the apartment immediately. There’s clearly a creepy teenager loose in your neighborhood who may very well have masturbated into your sock drawer while wearing one of your hats. Go stay with a friend or a relative until that lock gets fixed and call ADT.

4. Always be extremely punctual when going anywhere and never miss or cancel any plans with anyone. Also, pick up your cell phone every time someone calls you. That way, people will realize pretty quickly if you go missing. They’ll say things like, “Well, I knew that Sarah must have been in the trunk of a sadomasochist’s Kia when she didn’t text me exactly at 11pm like she always does.” What I’m trying to say is, don’t be a fucking flake like me, or else if you do get kidnapped and call someone for help, your lifeline will just be like, “Yeah, sure, Sarah, you’re in the trunk of a sadomasochist’s Kia. It’s always something with you. I’m just going to order without you,” and hang up.

In which Caroline teaches you how to not get murdered.

Since making my foray into the world of cyber dating a few months ago, I’ve developed a few sneaky tricks that I’m confident (read: sure as hell hope) will prevent me from becoming the next ‘decomposing body found in a ditch’ that you read about on CNN.com. The most important of these tricks is the following: always ask your potential date, point-blank, if he is a serial killer. Like this: “I also love Sno-Cones and desperately want to own a pug someday – but I can barely feed myself right now, lol! What are your favorite coffee places in the city? Are you a serial killer?”

Asking this question is crucially important because doing so changes the power dynamic of your cyber relationship. Would a serial killer actually go ahead and kill you if you’d eliminated the vital element of you being surprised about being his next victim? I’ve seen Law & Order, Law & Order: Criminal Intent AND Law & Order: SVU, and the answer to this question is: of course not. Instead, he’d 100% definitely think to himself, “Oh, she’s too clever/brazen to choke to death. I’m just going to take her to see the Tim Burton exhibit at MoMA and buy her a hot dog, instead.” Right? Right!

If you played your cards right after that, you could totally become ‘that one girl that [insert serial killer’s name] managed to have a normal relationship with while he was busy beating the shit out of prostitutes every other night.’ I’ve often wondered what it would feel like to be that girl. My guess? Pretty fucking awesome. I mean, your beau would be getting all of his bad energy out by battering runaways about the face and head. He’d probably be pretty nice to you by the time he got home from his escapades.

Personally, if I suspected that anything like that was going on with my boyfriend, I wouldn’t ask questions. I’d just be like, “Ok, Xavier, it’s totally fine that you’re going out at 2:30am and wearing a balaclava- but make sure you bring me a Caramel Frappucino when you get back home and please try not to wake me up with your hysterical sobbing again tonight.”

Ok…none of that is true. I’d be scared shitless if I suspected that my boyfriend was a killer. There are, however, women for whom this concern isn’t a deterrent – and women who actively seek out murderous sociopaths and fall in love with them. WHAT is THAT about? How the hell does Richard Ramirez, LA’s notorious “Night Stalker,” have a wife and I’m still single?