It was our fifth couples-therapy session ….
HILLY: So George got back from his vacation, and he was really depressed and irritable. And last weekend, we had a little altercation—remember?
GEORGE: About what?
HILLY: When I cried?
GEORGE: About what?
HILLY: We were having a great time Saturday. I rented a bicycle—he already has one—and we rode through Central Park. We rowed on a little boat, and we had a great day and no drinking, right? And then we were back at your house and we started to watch a movie and …. Well, while we were riding bikes, everything seemed perfectly wonderful—and then I would look over, and he would pass me or something, and he would roll his eyes at me and give me this look of … kind of … disgust. And I just let it pass. I thought: Well, maybe he’s just having an irritable moment, or the crowds are bothering him, or the heat, or he was just tired ….
GEORGE: It wasn’t you!
HILLY: Then, later on, we got off the bikes and we were walking them—he was walking a clear 30 feet ahead of me, and I felt like he was doing it on purpose, and he did it for a couple blocks and didn’t turn around. A couple of times he would say something, but I couldn’t hear him because his voice was going this way and I was behind him, and a couple times I said, “What?” And he got really snappy, snippy snappy.
GEORGE: Will you slow down please? O.K. Go on.
HILLY: And then we got back to your house ….
GEORGE: Didn’t we go paddleboating?
HILLY: You were pretty nice on the paddleboats.
GEORGE: That was fun!
HILLY: That was lots of fun. But then later you couldn’t find the remote, and he got really mad and he said, ‘Goddamn it! Why’s this place always got to be such a mess?’ And he had to kind of look down and gather himself, and it made me cry. I was sad that he just felt so bad. And I didn’t want him to see it; it was just a few tears, but then he turned around and he saw, and he got really mad, and he went into the room and shut the door. I think it scares you when I cry.
HILLY: But then I tried to explain it wasn’t just him, I was having sort of hormonal things and had been kind of sad the past couple days about just whatever. But I felt like I was walking on eggshells—not the whole day, just those moments when he felt really irritable. But then we made up. It wasn’t really a fight. My theory is that ever since he’s been back from vacation, he’s been pretty sad.
GEORGE: O.K. So now I go? O.K., we’ve had some nice times. We went to the Bronx Zoo. We went to this great party, right? Talk about that.
HILLY: That was so much fun. It was this big party on Liberty Island for Imperia vodka. We got to go inside the Statue of Liberty, and it was kind of a private tour.
GEORGE: Right, keep going. That’s it? And you got to meet—
HILLY: I got to meet Duran Duran, which was one of my favorite bands when I was a teenager.
GEORGE: Got your picture taken with Nick Rhodes, and we danced and we were real silly, had a great time, on the ferry?
HILLY: We had so much fun, yes.
GEORGE: And the Bronx Zoo, how was that?
HILLY: It was great—we got up early, and it was incredible, because he had jet lag. It’s nice because we’re on a much similar schedule now.
GEORGE: We went all over the zoo, and what did we see? All the animals, right?
HILLY: Uh-huh. All the animals.
DR. SELMAN: So after whatever happened in the park that day, when you got home, you then cried because you felt bad for George?
HILLY: I felt responsible, like there was something I was doing, or not doing, that made him feel irritable. Like if I had been able to do something better, he wouldn’t maybe feel the need to be so irritable.
GEORGE: So she’s blaming herself. I’ll try to comment on these funks. I happen to kind of be in one right now. I have fantasies about leaving New York. I want to move to London or Rome or Kansas City or just anywhere. Coming back from this vacation paradise, I really felt the contrast. I’m sure it’ll pass, but right now I don’t understand this place, it’s a fight to the death in a hellhole. Just the priorities here. And you know, I’m part of that—I get that. I did a story about 10 years ago about people who’ve been living here a long time and always say they’re getting out—and of course they’re here 10 years later. Now I’m one of these people. Back then, I think I mocked the people I interviewed. I wish I could go back. In the first phase of my “career,” I did a lot of mean stories.
DR. SELMAN: Mean stories?
GEORGE: That was a specialty. I did other kinds of stories, too. And I’ve really stopped doing that, and I think I’ve become much more compassionate. I moved here in 1977—growing up here was one stage. Then I moved back here for good after college in ’91, and since then all I’ve thought about is media, journalism, all thanks to Spy magazine, Tom Wolfe, Hunter S. Thompson, The Observer and all these people. I kind of wish I had a period in my 20’s where I did a year somewhere—you know, Tibet or something. Man in search of himself. Because all I’ve been thinking about is New York media kind of stuff.
DR. SELMAN: Sounds like a lot of negative thinking.
GEORGE: And kind of whiny, too. Yes, we’ve had a great time, those two nights out together. But then there’s always this sort of letdown. Highs and lows.
DR. SELMAN: You have mood swings. Any other symptoms?
GEORGE: Symptoms? I get fixated on this leaving–New York business. Because I know I’m not gonna do it. I’ve never even been to London.
DR. SELMAN: You have anything in the way of anxiety?
GEORGE: No. Actually, this is where things are happening, and this lifestyle is what I’ve always wanted. Get up at noon, get on the e-mail group with my high-school friends—which, aside from being with Hilly, gives me the most pleasure. Didn’t we do something else that was fun recently? We were talking about going to the Philharmonic, because Hilly knows so much about music. She went to music school, played violin and viola.
DR. SELMAN: How is it for you, Hilly, when you cry? What is it that you experience? You said that you felt that George was depressed since he’s gotten back, and irritable. He himself says he’s had mood swings, and he’s back to all these negative thoughts about moving to some other part of the world. How does that impact on you?
HILLY: It’s sadness and fear. Ever since I first met him, he’s been toying with the idea of moving away. At the beginning, honestly, it used to terrify me when he’d say that, because I took him seriously. It seems like you haven’t visited that in a while.
GEORGE: Well, I liked going to the Bronx Zoo. I just sometimes feel like I’ve done it, written about how ridiculous things are here, and I need to go try to crack some other place.
DR. SELMAN: So you’re serious about that?
GEORGE: No, I’m just saying it. Because what’ll happen is, I’ll be walking down the street and I’ll suddenly realize how great this place is.
HILLY: It’s probably a pretty miserable time of year for everyone. Like in February, people feel depressed because it’s been a long winter, and in August, it’s so humid and disgusting and you can’t breathe outside. Right?
GEORGE: Yeah. I called the police on my downstairs neighbors last night, twice—that gave me great pleasure. They were having a party in the backyard, about a dozen of them, barbecuing, laughing. And I shut down their party. They’re illegal subletters. They’re moving out in a couple weeks. I’m probably going to miss them a little. See, that’s negative—that’s negative thinking.
DR. SELMAN: I’m curious. Is Hilly correct when you were biking in Central Park, that you were looking at her in a way that was critical?
DR. SELMAN: Was she accurate with that?
GEORGE: No, what was going on is, we went to the Great Lawn and there were 250,000 people there—it was driving me crazy. And we sat down, and there were two guys having the loudest conversation you could possibly imagine. I swear it wasn’t disgust or annoyance with you, it was just an overwhelming—
DR. SELMAN: So she misinterpreted all of that?
GEORGE: The problem is, I couldn’t—I wouldn’t, or I didn’t have the energy to—make her feel good, more comfortable, and make it clear.
DR. SELMAN: So you had a sense that she felt the way she did—in other words, that you were making her feel bad and not saying anything?
GEORGE: No, I could sense that she was trying to perk me up, cheer me up, and I was resisting that. But I think it did pass, once we got in the paddleboat?
HILLY: I think that’s something we talked about before, the sunburn syndrome. If I can sense that you’re in a bad mood, I probably should back off. Because by being perky and trying to cheer you up, that can make you feel even more miserable.
DR. SELMAN: Why do you feel responsible for his behavior?
HILLY: I think that as long as I’m aware that he’s in a bad mood, it’s only common courtesy not to do anything to worsen it.
DR. SELMAN: Yes, but you said that you felt hurt, that it brought you to tears that you couldn’t make it better …. It would be interesting—how do you think it would be different if, let’s say, George didn’t have these moods? Didn’t have mood swings? How would that affect the relationship?
HILLY: I think it would be great!
DR. SELMAN: Well, in my experience, geographical cures don’t work. But there are medications that people can take to—
GEORGE: This one? [picking up a brochure] Effexor.
DR. SELMAN: That’s one, that’s an antidepressant. There are mood stabilizers.
GEORGE: O.K., let’s try one for a week or two?
DR. SELMAN: The problem with antidepressants is that they usually take a few weeks before they can work. So if you take it for a week or two—
GEORGE: So a month.
HILLY: Can’t you try Prozac?
GEORGE: Ahh! I don’t want to take these things. Hmmm.
HILLY: What about homeopathics, natural remedies?
GEORGE: St. John’s wort?
DR. SELMAN: St. John’s wort does not work, studies have shown. Effexor is a good antidepressant. It might be a reasonable thing to do. Drugs like that tend to work better than Prozac.
GEORGE: But if I start getting in a good mood all the time, does that still count? I mean, you’re taking a drug for it.
DR. SELMAN: So? If you had high blood pressure, would you take medication to lower your blood pressure?
HILLY: When I started taking it, it was the difference—I can imagine when we were sitting there in the park and those two men were talking loudly, in the past that would have brought me to tears, because it would have frustrated me so much. But that day when we were both sitting there listening, I was able to realize that I was still irritated and thought they were absolutely barbaric. But I could kind of separate my emotions from my physical reaction.
GEORGE: That sounds like something conscious, like your outlook on life. You’re saying if I were taking that drug, I would—
HILLY: It doesn’t make you happy; it just keeps you from—
GEORGE: When something like that happens, do you remind yourself that you have this thing in your body, and then it all starts to work? Is it a comforting crutch?
HILLY: In certain situations. For example, when my old boss Theo—the evil one—used to yell at me —
GEORGE: She was horrible.
HILLY: She brought everyone to tears, this crazy witch. Everyone was always amazed at my ability to sit there and just listen to her, and she would be outright insulting to me in front of my colleagues, people I worked with from different companies and magazines. It’s instances like that, where you can contain your physical-emotional reaction, but you can acknowledge these feelings in your brain ….
GEORGE: I remember trying Wellbutrin.
DR. SELMAN: How did you do with that?
GEORGE: It made me too even-keeled. A kind of buzzing inside me, knowing there’s something inside you, working on you. I felt numb. Then I was prescribed Buspar, and that was terrible.
DR. SELMAN: That drug doesn’t get prescribed very much anymore. First of all, it doesn’t work.
GEORGE: It was scary—I thought I would never get myself back to normal.
DR. SELMAN: You might want try a mood stabilizer: no sexual side effects, no weight gain. What happens is, if somebody has a condition called bipolar disorder, which you’ve probably heard of, people with bipolar disorder don’t necessarily do well on antidepressants. And yet if they’re having any kind of symptoms at all, the likelihood is that they’re depressed. I could try you on Effexor ….
GEORGE: You’re not saying I’m bipolar, right?
DR. SELMAN: Well, you know, it’s hard to say. Let me tell you the side effects of Effexor: You feel nauseous, increased sweating, decrease in sexual interest, possibly some weight gain ….
HILLY: It sounds horrible!
DR. SELMAN: These are the same effects you can get from Prozac; you mentioned them yourself.
GEORGE: I think I’d rather be miserable.
[to be continued]
Sonnet-Letter to Tom Cruise
Dear Tom Cruise: I believe you are in love
with Katie Holmes. Though the whole media
establishment—even The New York Times!—
is arrayed in opposition to you,
I accept your assertion of love.
After all, you are the only expert
on the subject of “Whom does Tom Cruise feel
devotion for?” No one else can know. The
possibility exists that you might
lie, but why should I assume that? You’ve done
no harm to me. In fact, you have brought me
joy in many movies (except for A
Few Good Men (1992), which I
found stilted and preachy). Regards, Sparrow