HILLY: George has been really mad at me. Everything I do seems to frustrate him—even running water, apparently.
DR. SELMAN: How do we define “frustrate”?
HILLY: He’s trying to be as tolerant and patient as possible, but he lets it build up and all of a sudden he just … um … well, he gets upset if I’m trying to clean or iron my clothes—
DR. SELMAN: Is that true, George?
GEORGE: Well, there has been some turbulence, and let me address that—but let’s start off with last night. Took her to Café Luxembourg—$120. Would have been more had she ordered that blueberry sorbet. Then we got home, and that’s when she went into this frenzied state of activity—started off with a shower, then escalated. It’s like there’s never not a sound, whether it’s vacuuming, ironing, polishing the teapot—that was the one that set me off. She was really scrubbing that teapot. Caught her doing that. Then there’s walking around in flip-flops—snap, snap, snap—because she says the sisal rug, what, cuts up your feet?
HILLY: No, there are these little splinters in it that get into my feet, and they stay in there for 12 hours. And it hurts.
GEORGE: Even when she’s “sitting still,” she’s not sitting still—her feet are moving, jittering. [GEORGE demonstrates.] I know I’m sounding unreasonable. She’s been bending over backwards and walking on eggshells, but she’s driving me bananas.
DR. SELMAN: Why do you think you’re being unreasonable?
GEORGE: Because this is all normal stuff. I’m very sensitive to noise. I think I have tinnitus or something where you hear things—
DR. SELMAN: Tinnitus is ringing in the ears.
GEORGE: It’s not that, but something like that, where I hear everything times 10. I’m complaining about her, but just let me get it all out, because I think I might be unable to live with someone—anyone—in a small space, except for a cat. Hilly sometimes has kind of a nervous energy, and that makes me nervous. It happened last night. We’d been out to dinner, I’d had some rum—I don’t know, maybe it was I’d been working all day and I’d had some stimulants throughout the day ….
DR. SELMAN: Some stimulants?
GEORGE: Coffee and cigarettes and maybe a couple nibbles of Ritalin. Like one. Half. A halfie.
DR. SELMAN: How big a Ritalin?
GEORGE: Oh, they’re little white things. It’s like a cup of coffee. So we were watching King Kong, and Hilly was wearing her negligee, and—is this going to embarrass you?
GEORGE: She just looked great. The right part of the top had fallen down—
DR. SELMAN: Which King Kong?
GEORGE: The third one. The Jessica Lange one was better.
DR. SELMAN: The Fay Wray is a classic. So Hilly was reminding you of the Fay Wray character?
GEORGE: No, she was reminding me of a Playboy Playmate from 1973. So we had great, great sex in the middle of the movie. So I’m relaxed—that’s one way to get me less stressed out! Last night I’d gotten her a two-liter Diet Coke, and this morning I wake up to find that she had guzzled half of it. A whole liter of Diet Coke. Reaction? Normal? That’s a lot.
DR. SELMAN: You’re telling me you’re doing Nicorette, coffee, smoking, Ritalin, and you’re worried—
GEORGE: Point taken. O.K., forget that. She’s been sneaking drinks. I went up to her cubbyhole, and she has the remnants of Diet Coke and rum in glasses. So then I’m walking back to my room and I see my wallet, and I just knew there was money missing. What I do normally is bring my wallet into my room. I have to hide my wallet. I looked in there and there was nothing left. I called her up and said, “You took $40,” and she said, “Twenty.” Now tell me the truth—20 or 40?
GEORGE: O.K. Can we try to keep the focus on Hilly this session? I get, I respect the point that I should be on a mood stabilizer and “How long is Hilly going to put up with me?” and the co-dependency thing—but Hilly, can you admit that you have eaten and guzzled other people’s food and drinks over the years?
GEORGE: So you’re notorious for doing that?
HILLY: I don’t know if I would say “notorious,” but ….
GEORGE: Not to give you a hard time, but did you also recently admit that you have driven people crazy over the years?
HILLY: Two people come to mind, who I think are extremely intolerant people: my mother and my host father when I was an exchange student. Who was a Nazi.
DR. SELMAN: You’re saying that Hilly is driving you crazy?
GEORGE: That’s another question I was going to ask: Hilly, am I driving you crazy?
DR. SELMAN: She started out tonight saying she thought that you were being patient.
HILLY: I think you are being patient, but the thing I just don’t understand is why you’re not more anxious to move. Find a place that’s bigger. When I do all these nit-picking things, like trying to clean, it’s in an attempt to make it more comfortable during the time that we’re there together.
GEORGE: You’re right—we agreed we were going to look for apartments, and I backed out of it twice. However, let’s stick with one thing: You don’t need to be polishing and scrubbing a teapot and the silverware.
HILLY: The silver was mine, and I was doing that because it was tarnished. You complained that you’ve been running out of forks and spoons. So I thought if I polished these and washed them—
GEORGE: You’ve been worried all day about the dishes in the sink. She sent me an e-mail about it.
HILLY: Because he said three days ago that I couldn’t do any more cleaning. He doesn’t want to hear running water.
DR. SELMAN: What’s wrong with wanting to clean up?
GEORGE: I just think that all of this activity in general, all this constant movement—I don’t know if it’s Prozac-related or O.C.D. or nervous energy ….
DR. SELMAN: It seems like the stuff you’re complaining about with her seems normal—that she would want to keep the apartment clean.
GEORGE: It’s the constant noise and fidgeting—
DR. SELMAN: Who wants dishes in the sink? That’s not even sanitary.
GEORGE: Constant fidgeting makes me nervous.
DR. SELMAN: She’s not fidgeting now.
GEORGE: You’re seeing her right now, after work, she’s in her nice business outfit—
DR. SELMAN: You’re fidgeting more than she is!
GEORGE: O.K. Fine. I can relax, I can sit still—she can’t sit still in our apartment for more than eight minutes. She gets up at least every eight minutes. Wait, let me finish—you don’t see her at 11 p.m., when she’s doing this, that and the other thing ….
DR. SELMAN: Well, Hilly, is this all true?
HILLY: Well, yes, especially because I’m basically sitting at my desk all day, so by the time I get home, I want to do stuff. Plus I’m not completely settled in.
DR. SELMAN: You’re living in a messy, crammed space.
GEORGE: I’d think after a hard day of work you’d like to unwind, sit still, relax.
DR. SELMAN: Maybe it’s hard for her to relax in a mess.
HILLY: That’s exactly it. I can’t. I sit down and I can’t focus on something because I see something else that draws my attention, like a pile of stuff.
DR. SELMAN: Could you wear something to block out the sound?
GEORGE: I’m not quite getting this across. The other night I had my headphones on, I was transcribing in my office, and she crept in, hid behind the dresser, then jumped out and yelled “Boo!” I almost had a heart attack.
[HILLY and DR. SELMAN laugh.]
GEORGE: Remember how she said she was the teacher’s pet in school? And she was a spoiled tattletale? She really was Rhoda in The Bad Seed. Rhoda was a real sweet and charming girl, but she was a serial killer. You don’t see her at 11:30 p.m. when she’s had her Sancerre. All this nervous energy, and then all of a sudden this woozy—
DR. SELMAN: I hate to tell you this, but she seems relaxed by comparison to you.
GEORGE: Well, I’m talking and we’re having an animated conversation and I’m eating Nicorette and drinking coffee—I want to get all this out.
DR. SELMAN: I think you need to find out how much Ritalin you’re taking. Look at the bottle.
GEORGE: It’s a little tiny white pill, the smallest dosage.
DR. SELMAN: The smallest dosage is the yellow pill.
GEORGE: Where were we? There’s been some turbulence. The other night, it was the same sort of fidgeting, and I just walked out.
HILLY: I asked you if it was O.K. if I ironed—
GEORGE: We were watching this funny satire British TV show, and Hilly was ironing for an hour straight right behind me—
DR. SELMAN: But she asked you if it was O.K.
GEORGE: I thought it would be O.K., but it just didn’t stop, and she did it like she was working out.
HILLY: Wait, I just have to bring this up before I forget it. That same day he told me, “Enough with the cleaning! I don’t want to hear running water!”—and then last night he yelled, “Why haven’t these dishes been washed?!”
GEORGE: Do you think any of this could be Prozac-related? Does that stir up all her energy in any way?
DR. SELMAN: Do you want to talk to Dr. Lamm about this? If it’s even a problem? You know, this is George’s perception.
GEORGE: We did talk to Dr. Lamm about the drinking, and he agreed with me—that when your girlfriend drinks Sancerre every single night, it can be a sexual turnoff.
DR. SELMAN: You just told me you found her so terribly attractive while you were watching TV.
GEORGE: Yes, but it should happen more. So I’m wondering if I should say, “Look, I’m really sorry, but if you have more than two drinks, I can’t have sex.”
HILLY: Well, when I have people constantly criticizing me and shouting at me and not wanting to listen to my opinion about things, then I’m not sexually turned on and I turn to my other lover, the bottle of wine.
GEORGE: Uh, I think you turn to that no matter what.
DR. SELMAN: You say you drink because of his hostility and disinterest?
HILLY: Yes, sure, a lot of the time.
GEORGE: Oh, come on! You’ve averaged five drinks a night for the past I don’t know how many years … and you’ve been on Prozac for 10 years. I don’t mean to be a dick, O.K., but wouldn’t it be productive to talk about this? Because here’s the deal: You want to get engaged, O.K., and all this stuff—I’m totally O.K. with us getting a two-bedroom apartment. As far as getting engaged, there’s no way I can do that if there’s that much alcohol.
DR. SELMAN: Why don’t you both quit drinking?
GEORGE: I’m going get in trouble for saying this, but I think I can drink and be coherent. I can have two drinks and—
DR. SELMAN: I don’t hear any evidence that she’s not coherent.
GEORGE: I hear the white wine in her voice, or that alcohol-Prozac mixture in her voice, around 11 p.m. She sounds drunk, and I don’t want to hear it even after three drinks.
DR. SELMAN: The original complaint was that she fidgets, moves around the apartment and makes noise, is distracting, and you have trouble with that. Now this is something else.
GEORGE: I would also like it if she would take cooking classes.
DR. SELMAN: What does that got to do with it?
GEORGE: That’s important if we’re going to be engaged.
HILLY: I can’t cook if I can’t clean the kitchen, because there’s nowhere to cook.
GEORGE: I don’t want to upset you, but the spaghetti you made me—
DR. SELMAN: O.K., I think we’re a little bit off the topic here—
GEORGE: —was soupy.
HILLY: That’s fine. And it’s O.K. It was from a jar anyway.
GEORGE: I’ll go to cooking classes with you!
DR. SELMAN: Well, if you’re willing to go to cooking classes with her, why don’t you go to A.A. with her?
GEORGE: Um. Want to?
HILLY: No. Yes, sure. I don’t know. I’d rather find a larger apartment.
DR. SELMAN: It just sounds absurd that someone who drinks as much as you would be critical of her for drinking.
GEORGE: Some people, when they stay at home—I may do some binge drinking, but— when they stay at home, they can have one or two drinks. She’s a different kind of drinker, and it makes her go inner. It makes her become less present. I can’t communicate with her.
DR. SELMAN: I would like some input from Hilly. You’ve been primarily silent about all of this. Any thoughts? I don’t hear you saying, “I get home at night and I’m agitated and I’m fidgety and I can’t sit still, and I have to go in and clean dishes or silverware or clean the apartment or rearrange stuff.” And you’re not presenting that to me as a problem. He’s presenting that as a problem that you have that bothers him. You are not presenting it as a problem at all.
HILLY: My problem is, I can’t take care of those anxious feelings. I can’t finish cleaning the floor in the bathroom because the next morning I have to get ready in the bathroom with the door shut, so basically I have to put my handbag and my cosmetics and everything down on the surface that’s not clean, like where people have gone to the bathroom, and it’s disgusting. And I’m not even allowed to mop the floor in there! It’s frustrating. So we’re sitting there watching a movie, and all I can think about is: “Oh gosh, tomorrow morning I can’t wait to put my Chloé linen skirt that was however many hundreds of dollars I bought years ago down on this, like, pubic-hair-covered floor.” It’s disgusting!
GEORGE: Ha ha ha ha ha.
[To be continued.]
George and Hilly published 05/01/06
George and Hilly published 04/17/06
George and Hilly published 04/03/06
George and Hilly published 03/20/06
George and Hilly published 02/6/06
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