DR. SELMAN: So what’s up?
GEORGE: You say something first—I always feel guilty about starting off.
HILLY: George has been pretty depressed. He keeps slipping into catatonic states. But last weekend it was my birthday and he took me to D.C. It was really fun, but a bunch of times he slipped into this strange state that I’d never seen him in before. It’s like he’s staring off into the distance, and he doesn’t look sad and he doesn’t look happy. He stays like that for sometimes up to 20 minutes.
DR. SELMAN: Something new?
GEORGE: I don’t know what sets it off. I think one thing—and I don’t want you to take it the wrong way—is that I’ve been spending a lot of time with you, and you alone, for months. It’s like we’re in each other’s world. It’s happened in the past: The personality of the other person I’ve been hanging out with rubs off on me. This trip, though, there were more highlights then lowlights, right?
HILLY: The coolest thing was, I was so excited that you got up so easily each day and were willing to do things.
GEORGE: There was so much activity. That might be part of it, too. The lack of sleep—we did so much stuff, it was exhausting. I imagine that a married man with a family would have gone through those periods too, going to all those museums. Right?
DR. SELMAN: Are you concerned about these states that occur?
GEORGE: A little bit. But I think it could be this time of year. In D.C., we rode on this racecar simulator; it turns you upside down, flips you around. When I walked out, it was like my brain chemistry had changed. In a good way.
HILLY: That’s right! He was in one of his little states before we got into the simulator. And they were playing loud music and you hear loud car noises, and right in the middle of it he said, “I feel better now!”
GEORGE: We were laughing. God, it was great. Then things went downhill—when was it? The next one that set me off was, we were looking at the First Lady exhibit … or at Bobby Van’s?
HILLY: The guy in the next booth at the restaurant who was shaking and you were feeling it—
GEORGE: Not a very good dinner. The steak was so-so. Our dessert was good. It was Hilly’s birthday.
DR. SELMAN: Happy birthday.
HILLY: Thank you!
GEORGE: What else did we do that was fun? I took a bubble bath on Saturday night, and Hilly ordered a bottle of champagne.
HILLY: It was my birthday!
GEORGE: Room service! I got mad at her. Oh, and sex! That’s what got me out of those moods! Our sex life has greatly improved lately. This weekend especially. Wasn’t it?
GEORGE: Also, they had a mirror on the wall at the Hay-Adams. Now do you think that that’s …. You know what I’m talking about, like a mirror? That’s normal, healthy sexual behavior?
DR. SELMAN: It seems perfectly normal compared to some of the other stuff I’ve heard.
GEORGE: I’ve always avoided … um …. I worried that that’s kinda kinky, ’cause I thought that if like you went down that road, maybe you’d have to have a mirror every time or something.
DR. SELMAN: Well, that’s easily done.
GEORGE: Yep! But what if the whole time I’m looking in the mirror? Well, that’s kinda weird, right?
HILLY: Well, who are you looking at—yourself?
GEORGE: Yeah—that would be bad. I mean, no, I think I glimpsed over there a couple times, and I was like, “Hey, this is kinda fun.” Anyway! How do you feel about that?
GEORGE: Ha ha ha ha. The mirror factor.
DR. SELMAN: The last time we met, you were going on a hiatus. So how did tonight’s session come about?
GEORGE: Right. Well, I got some money. I’m much more financially secure. But in the last two weeks, I’ve spent $3,000, just on that weekend, and I bought this plane ticket—I’m going with Hilly to Rome.
HILLY: We’re going February.
DR. SELMAN: I’ll give you some restaurant information. I even know a good bar there for you.
GEORGE: Now, how can you—are you giving us permission to drink? Because you know we’re gonna do it, no matter what. O.K. Last Tuesday I had a spinout night. A bad night. Went out—didn’t want to, but somehow I let myself get seduced. I’ve never experienced so much regret the next day. I really behaved obnoxiously.
DR. SELMAN: What happened?
GEORGE: I just got rowdy with a couple of dudes. I went to this place where I always hang out, and I think I may be banned.
DR. SELMAN: The Bellevue bar?
GEORGE: No, another place. And I tried to get free drinks or something. Let’s just say it was a disaster. But I haven’t gone out since then. So it might have been a blessing in disguise. This time it might’ve really hit home.
HILLY: You tried to go out on Saturday!
GEORGE: Ha ha ha. I suggested it, and you said you didn’t want to and we stayed in, right? And watched Roman Holiday.
DR. SELMAN: What happened on the night out?
GEORGE: Exactly what I said—I made a request for free drinks.
DR. SELMAN: For yourself?
GEORGE: Yes. And a friend of mine. And asked for it maybe three times. That was it!
DR. SELMAN: Why would you be banned for that? Unless there are things which happened that you don’t recall.
GEORGE: No, no, no. I’m not like that. I don’t have blackouts. That’s pretty much it. I was ashamed of my behavior. So … Rome! I was there in 1999; I was just completely happy, stable. And what are those little sandwiches?
GEORGE: Yes! That was all it took. What did we do this weekend? We spent the weekend together. Am I changing the subject?
DR. SELMAN: Now that you mention it.
HILLY: What did we do? I went to work on Saturday. Then I came over to your house. And you were in the state.
GEORGE: I got in the catatonic state?
HILLY: Yes! And finally you got your stuff together and went to Barnes & Noble and bought a book on Rome. Then I went back to your apartment, and you went to the gym, and I worked on my project.
DR. SELMAN: Let me ask you—are you disturbed or troubled by these catatonic states that he gets into?
HILLY: Um, yes. But I think that he worries too much about things that are out of his control. And doesn’t have as much confidence in himself as he should. I think those things contribute to his catatonic states.
GEORGE: Was I like that when you first met me?
GEORGE: See, this is one thing I’ve been thinking of. When Hilly first met me, I was kind of riding high. Making more money and I was sort of Mr. Popular. I had a posse, and I was living in this great apartment, rent-stabilized, two bedrooms, two bathrooms. I had it made—then I got evicted. Wait, that’s not it. I think it’s pretty clear that I’m having a minor midlife crisis. I’m turning 38. And it’s like, whatever happened to being 18? People are calling me “sir”—I go to the deli or Starbucks ….
DR. SELMAN: I think that people can have more than one crisis throughout the middle of their life. It’s sort of a rethinking of the direction in which they’re going in their lives. And often results in change. Which is not necessarily a bad thing.
GEORGE: I always thought that by the time I was this age, I would be doing a lot better. I wonder about this column, too, that it may be a bad idea. If success is measured by the number of—I mean, Hilly, do I seem to be getting invited to more things? I’m not getting flooded with invitations to parties.
HILLY: I don’t think so, no.
GEORGE: I just worry that there’s this whiff of failure wafting off the pages.
DR. SELMAN: It occurs to me that by having the column as your focus, you’ve created a perverse effect—in that, when you first started coming, your stated goal was to maintain the status quo. And now I think the column has tied the two of you together in some way that may be … unintended.
HILLY: Well, that sounds positive, right?
DR. SELMAN: It could be interpreted however you want. I didn’t say it in a judgmental sense of positive or negative.
GEORGE: My point is, this column, the couples therapy, is all I think about now. And so maybe I need to make a real effort to get outside myself, to get away from this a little.
DR. SELMAN: Or not!
GEORGE: Or not! Now I’m confused. One thing I thought—and you may think I’m being ridiculous, but I will do this; it’ll be good for my mood and my image—have someone build me a giant Big Wheel.
DR. SELMAN: A Ferris wheel?
GEORGE: No. A Big Wheel. Big … Wheel. Little kids ride around, and they go like this? An adult-sized one. I would ride it down Broadway to work.
HILLY: There are all kinds of childish things that George loves. Last Easter, when I did the Easter-egg hunt for you and your brother in Palm Beach …. And then the bubble baths—of course! And then, all kinds of little childlike things. Sometimes you talk in a baby voice. Or when you make little baby faces. It’s adorable!
GEORGE: No, what if I really did it? Don’t you think that there’s a chance that this could catch on?
HILLY: No. It’d be gross. Because you’re so low to the ground in a Big Wheel in Manhattan.
GEORGE: So can I make a couple of comments, I mean complaints? Hilly does this thing. This is not so bad, but when she comes over, I’ll go to the grocery store and bring back stuff to drink, Diet Coke and cranberry juice—and she manages to polish a lot of it off pretty fast, which is fine. I’m happy to do that, but she does one thing—she’ll drink 98 percent of the liter of Diet Coke and she’ll leave a little bit. I’ve told you before to just throw it out.
DR. SELMAN: I don’t understand.
GEORGE: She’ll drink something and leave a little in there, but not enough for me to have—
DR. SELMAN: You think she should just pour it out?
GEORGE: It’s something a hippie freeloader would do. Because they’re able to say, “Hey, I didn’t finish it, there’s still some in there!” Anyway. That’s the only complaint I can think of.
DR. SELMAN: The only complaint?
GEORGE: Well, I can think of one more. I went to the grocery store Saturday and got burgers and we ended up at this restaurant, 150 bucks.
HILLY: Yes, but I only had one appetizer, $15, and two glasses of wine.
DR. SELMAN: And the soda at the bottom of the bottle, has he ever—
HILLY: Yes, he has. There have been many late-night e-mails, freak-outs about that. And yelling and phone calls in the middle of the night—it really makes him mad.
GEORGE: Maybe with the Diet Coke, you filled up the glass to the top and there was no more room. Well, just throw the rest away.
DR. SELMAN: You argue over this?
GEORGE: It’s just seeing the inch and half of Diet Coke ….
HILLY: There are a lot of things in your apartment—I don’t understand, it’s one of the most disgusting, vile things to me. It’s when somebody puts a cigarette out in something other than an ashtray, especially when there are ashtrays in the house. You’ve stopped doing that, but why would you want to put your earplugs when you wake up in the morning on the same table as an ashtray and some old food and receipts—why don’t you put them in a clean place? And chewed Nicorette. But it’s fine, I think it’s all cute because it’s you who’s doing it. But people are always going to have those little pet peeves with each other.
DR. SELMAN: We’re really accomplishing a lot today.
GEORGE: Yesterday we had a good day, right?
HILLY: We went to the Whitney and-
GEORGE: What did you think of the Whitney?
HILLY: The fifth floor was pretty cool.
GEORGE: Then we went to the Frick—
DR. SELMAN: What would happen if the column became boring?
GEORGE: What I was just saying was boring?
HILLY: I’ve had people tell me that they think that it’s possible that George, you’re using the column as an emotional shield.
GEORGE: What’s that mean?
HILLY: To make couples therapy so public, and to think about what you’re going to say beforehand, defeats the purpose. Instead of addressing the relationship, you’re turning it into a game or a toy.
DR. SELMAN: I agree with you. That’s kind of my job, to not let that happen.
GEORGE: O.K., well, may I say something? Like I said, these thoughts keep popping up, and I’ve been wanting to bring them up. Because here I am, it’s been 23 years since I’ve been in therapy and—
DR. SELMAN: But if you come in with an agenda, then it’s lacking in spontaneity. Why don’t you just say whatever pops into your mind?
GEORGE: O.K., point taken. O.K. O.K., let’s be spontaneous. O.K.
GEORGE: O.K. Emotional shield? Maybe I’m sort of trapped inside this column. What is that Jean-Paul Sartre play ….
DR. SELMAN: How do you see yourself as trapped?
HILLY: Huis Clos.
GEORGE: No Exit, yeah. There was an X-Files episode like that, too.
DR. SELMAN: So in Washington—it felt like you were a family?
HILLY: Yeah, what was that all about? “Married man”?
DR. SELMAN: Married man.
GEORGE: Well, I’ve been around only Hilly for months, and we’ve been going out for four years now. Spent much more time with you than ever.
DR. SELMAN: Feeling trapped in the relationship.
GEORGE: No, that’s not the right word. There’s one problem here—O.K., we have to talk about Dr. Selman. The last couple sessions, afterward we’ve gone to dinner and talked about you. It’s nothing serious, we still want to come here, everything’s great. But there were a couple things, some constructive criticism? [ To HILLY.] You start.
DR. SELMAN: O.K., go ahead.
HILLY: Sometimes we feel that you don’t care about who we really are. And we think if you did care, you might ask more questions.
GEORGE: The first eight, nine sessions were great, but the last few we’ve found ourselves at dinner having these sort of … feelings.
HILLY: Sometimes I feel you can be too critical without being willing to listen to, or interpret, the positive aspects of our relationship. Sometimes it seems that you are trying to get me to wake up to the fact that George is no good and make me stop liking him as much as I do. We would like you to describe what you think of our relationship in clear, precise language. And it seems like you are always quick to bring up our issues and problems with drinking, but you don’t seem to want to delve into the reasons why we drink like we do. Sometimes it seems like you try to pit us against each other. Sometimes I worry that our three personalities aren’t always communicating effectively. With my previous individual therapist, a woman, I was able to open up more with her, divulge information, because she seemed to like coddle me more.
GEORGE: Should we pause and let Dr. Selman respond to these?
DR. SELMAN: No, keep going.
HILLY: Only a couple more. You seem to take a more direct approach, which I find threatening in life, both personally and professionally, and that’s possibly why I don’t open up as much. Sometimes I get the feeling that you’re fed up with us. Sometimes you have an angry expression on your face. But sometimes it’s the exact opposite, and you warm up and laugh and you’re very engaging. And if we could, we’d like to combine couples therapy with individual therapy here. For example, if one of us discusses a dream we’ve had, it’s because we think it’s relevant to our relationship. We aren’t sure what kind of psychiatrist you are. We don’t understand what your philosophies are. Like George is confused about the photo on the wall of Freud’s office.
GEORGE: Can I add a few things? I just remember the first sessions feeling exhilarated—we’re here to make it work; the act of going to therapy, period, has been good, and you’ve been really good—but sometimes we’re sort of bummed-out after sessions. Remember when you said this relationship works “such as it is”? What does “such as it is” mean?
HILLY: Don’t you mean that we tolerate each other despite the things that we complain about? But because neither of us is like adult enough to make any of the changes, the relationship will just either stay as it is, or completely fall apart?
DR. SELMAN: I think you have in some sense a very good relationship.
GEORGE: How so?
DR. SELMAN: Because of the fact that you’re together for all this time.
GEORGE: That’s great to hear.
DR. SELMAN: And you had certain goals when you came in. Yours, of course, was maintaining the status quo.
GEORGE: Right. Not the best goal, right?
DR. SELMAN: Well, it’s your goal. [ To HILLY.] Your goal I’m less clear about. Again, my sense of it is that things have shifted despite yourselves, and that you’ve probably, to some extent, grown closer together.
GEORGE: Sometimes you’ve made remarks—my being the recipient of some of those comments—which were sort of sarcastic. I started to think that maybe you were trying to get Hilly to wake up to this idea that I am this scoundrel, that she’s better off without me—
DR. SELMAN: I’ve said that?
GEORGE: No, but haven’t I had that perception?
HILLY: Yes. You’ve said that a couple of times. I’ve thought frequently—but I just wasn’t brave enough to say it to you—that you were having those feelings because you can hear yourself talking, and it’s how you’ve started to perceive yourself.
DR. SELMAN: You’re referring to George?
DR. SELMAN: Yes, it does. I think the same thing.
GEORGE: What was that again?
HILLY: That sometimes you’ll hear what you’ve said—
DR. SELMAN: It’s called projection. You project onto me what you think yourself.
GEORGE: Riiiiight. Most of the time, the three of us are really getting along, it’s easy and it’s fun—but then there are these other moments where I can’t figure it out.
DR. SELMAN: Therapy is not fun. People talk about very painful topics.
GEORGE: I’m still wondering about your take on us.
DR. SELMAN: It’s a good relationship because you’ve been together for four years and I think you’re moving closer together. It’s not perfect, and it is what it is.
GEORGE: You don’t like Hilly more than me?
DR. SELMAN: She’s better-looking than you.
GEORGE: Is there anything else we were going to say to Dr. Selman?
HILLY: You wanted to talk about those dreams I had.
DR. SELMAN: Well, it’s been an hour. I don’t know if we have time to get into the dreams.
GEORGE: Can’t you just do the quick version?
DR. SELMAN: Let’s end it with the dream.
HILLY: Which one—the gay Mafia or the cat?
GEORGE: Either one.
HILLY: I was offered a scholarship to go to Poland to study violin and viola with a famous teacher; they promised me I’d be playing exclusive concerts all over Europe. But then I found out they were lying—they were drugging me with a needle in my hand. I became a zombie, and they were going to use me as a music slave. The Polish guy’s daughter was jealous of my hair, so she cut a big chunk of it off. My parents helped me escape from the evildoers. Then the dream took a big turn. It turned out that my friend Bubby was being offered the scholarship, and the gay Mafia was offering it to him. They wanted him to meet them at a hotel in Southampton, and he asked me to go with him for moral support. I fell asleep and I woke up and Bubby was gone and all of his luggage. I was terrified the gay Mafia had killed him. But then Bubby returned and said the gay Mafia kept his wallet, so he canceled all his credit cards. Then we decided to go get something to eat before the next meeting with them. We rode our bikes and we passed Paris Hilton, who was also riding a bike, but had pulled over to ask some pedestrians for directions. I asked Bubby to take me to the Palm in East Hampton for creamed spinach. We returned to the hotel, entered our room, only to find the gay Mafia rooting through all of our belongings. They were being led by Jeffrey Kalinsky, who was fairly civil with me. They even opened up my bottle of cranberry juice to test it, to make sure it wasn’t poison. They were doing lots of drugs. It was scary.
DR. SELMAN: I don’t think I’ve ever remembered a dream in that much detail.
GEORGE: I couldn’t believe it.
DR. SELMAN: I don’t know what it means.
HILLY: They say that Prozac makes you dream vividly, right? But I’ve been dreaming like that my whole life.
GEORGE: So do you think we have changed since you’ve known us? Is it better, or we’ve made a lateral kind of move?
DR. SELMAN: I will not pass judgment one way or another. I just don’t like doing that.
HILLY: Sorry if I hurt your feelings by saying all that stuff.
DR. SELMAN: It’s all right. When you’re in Rome, you know I would really appreciate it if you could go out to the Hotel Eden, make a left and head toward Via Veneto, go up the hill a little bit … it’s like a block away on the left side of the street. There’s a men’s shop that has these great scarves, and I’d love it if you’d get me one. One of these black cashmere scarves. I’ll pay you back. I think it’s 115 euros.
[ To be continued.]
Prior Articles: George and Hilly published 01/23/06 George and Hilly published 01/16/06 George and Hilly published 12/26/05 George and Hilly published 11/14/05 George and Hilly published 11/07/05 George and Hilly published 10/24/05 George and Hilly published 10/17/05 George and Hilly published 10/10/05 George and Hilly published 10/03/05 George ’n’ Hilly, Back in Couples, Turn on the Doc published 09/26/05 But Should We Get Married? Part III published 08/29/05 But Should We Get Married? published 08/15/05 Should I Get Married? My Hilly Joining Me In Couples Session published 08/08/05