DR. SELMAN: How have you been?
GEORGE: We had a prior commitment this evening. We just went to a party at Erica Jong’s.
HILLY: We have to admit we had a few drinks.
GEORGE: I had one. Hilly had three.
HILLY: I didn’t have three! I had two large glasses of wine.
[GEORGE holds up three fingers.]
DR. SELMAN: Here we go again.
GEORGE: I didn’t think it’d be right to show up here after going to a cocktail party.
HILLY: But it’s not like you didn’t want to go. You were too lazy—
GEORGE: You wanted me to pick you up in a cab because it was raining ….
HILLY: I never said that.
GEORGE: It would have been a half-hour cab ride and I wanted to walk.
HILLY: I never said anything about taking a cab.
GEORGE: We had a nice chat at the party with the guy who does the sci-fi column for The Times Book Review. Hilly and I have been getting into sci-fi lately. Last night we watched Invasion of the Body Snatchers, the second one. Brilliant.
HILLY: It’s funny that he says, “This is something we’ve been getting into.” It’s more like: “I got this movie—sit down and watch it.” And tonight we were talking to this guy and I realized that, oh my God, I’ve been telling George about the movie Fahrenheit 451 since we met, and he’s always brushed it off. And tonight the guy was like, “Oh yeah, that was directed by François Truffaut—you really need to see that!” And George’s ears perked up, and it was the first time in almost five years that we’ve been going out that he thought, “Maybe I should give this a chance.”
GEORGE: O.K., I understand that I have brushed you off on a number of subjects, but in this case—I mean, when we get home tonight, that movie’s going to the top of my Netflix queue. Case closed. What did we do last weekend? We spent the whole weekend together, stayed in Friday and Saturday night. We watched Diner and Tin Men and Ordinary People. Our main activity is sitting around watching movies.
HILLY: Since we last saw you, a lot of stuff has happened. So much stuff has happened. Your mother—
GEORGE: Let’s not discuss that.
HILLY: My brother suffered two more seizures, and I had to go back to Ohio and deal with that and with all this insanity. Jeeker came to town.
DR. SELMAN: Who’s Jeeker?
GEORGE: Jeeker’s this friend of mine. His other nickname is “The Man.” He and I went to high school together. Then in New York, probably from ’95 to 2002, every Friday night we’d meet up at his place, start drinking, go to Paddy McGuire’s, shoot pool until midnight, then we’d keep going, to Milady’s, Gold Rush, Siberia—basically get drunk every Friday night. And he left a couple years ago.
HILLY: He didn’t leave a couple years ago. He suddenly—
GEORGE: There’s no point talking about this. He left town, that’s it. The last couple years have been really different: I’m more tame, I’m not a wild man anymore, Hilly’s moved in. But there’s something missing. There’s been a downturn.
DR. SELMAN: Downturn?
GEORGE: Like I peaked five years ago. I’m talking about work, mainly. You’d think that at 38, after being in this business for 15 years, that I would be at least successful and maybe even beyond successful. I’ve been thinking about this guy Bill Buford, who wrote the book about Mario Batali. That guy must wake up every day and pinch himself and think, “Well, what do I do now? Why don’t I start my own successful restaurant and write a book about it?”
HILLY: But the one thing that he doesn’t do is sit back and not do anything. Not to say that if you wake up in the morning and not do anything, that’s your fault ….
GEORGE: I’m not saying I could ever be close to being successful like that, but—
HILLY: Every single time you go out, people are—
GEORGE: Enough, enough—
HILLY: They’re fawning over you.
GEORGE: Oh, please.
HILLY: People are thrilled to see him. I see people whom I’ve known for 10 years, and they ignore me and pretend not to see me. People run up to him.
GEORGE: Getting attention is really nice and it does give me a little boost, but it would be great if those people would send me a check for 50 bucks.
DR. SELMAN: What happened with your mother?
GEORGE: Well, I’ve blocked a lot of this out. It’s nothing really. I’ve been living in fool’s paradise. Since I was 15, I can remember on one hand how many times I ever had to worry about money. It’s not something to complain about—makes me look like a jerk. I’m not going to get any sympathy here, but it is hard when you haven’t had to worry about it, and all of a sudden it’s all you think about. Last night my Verizon Online was turned off for the third time in two weeks, and I was slamming the keyboard with my fists. And I even threatened to leave this country.
HILLY: “God damn the U.S.A.! God damn the United States of America!”
GEORGE: Had nothing to do with the election.
DR. SELMAN: So you don’t want to talk about your mother?
GEORGE: She basically said I’m 38 years old and—we haven’t paid rent this month and it’s Nov. 10. So I think I might have asked her for some help last month, and she said no. Then, last week, Hilly gave me a check for two-thirds of her share of the rent—and she was supposed to give me a check for the other third, but what did she do instead?
HILLY: I had an accident and I had to go to the emergency room to have my ring cut off my finger. And then I paid to have it fixed. What happened was, one night George did something that irritated me, and in protest I took my promise ring off and I put it on another finger. I woke up the next morning and it was stuck, and my finger started to look really purple. So I went to the emergency room and they had to saw through it. And then there was a big hole in my promise ring.
GEORGE: O.K., I don’t want to start a fight, but you didn’t tell me you were going to use that money to fix the promise ring.
HILLY: I didn’t—you’re right.
GEORGE: Sometimes she withholds information.
DR. SELMAN: Had your mother been helping you out financially?
DR. SELMAN: Why’d she stop?
GEORGE: Because I’m 38. Because it’s been going on for too long.
HILLY: I don’t think she stopped, but it was more along the lines of seeing that—especially since I’ve been living with George and she knows that now there’s two incomes—again, I’m not putting words in her mouth, but from her point of view, she probably thinks that here are two grown adults making—
GEORGE: She’s doing me a favor.
DR. SELMAN: Tough love?
HILLY: I don’t even think it’s that severe. She’s the nicest—
GEORGE: Do you want to talk about any other of my blow-ups?
HILLY: There have been a couple moments of frustration, as there would be with anyone when these things happen. Like me, in the past, I would call my parents in Ohio and say, “Ohhh, I didn’t pay the cable bill,” and maybe they would pay it a couple times. But at a certain point they just wouldn’t do it anymore.
DR. SELMAN: But how do these points get determined? That’s what I don’t understand.
GEORGE: Can we talk about something else? Please?
DR. SELMAN: You did mention that there was some problem back home.
HILLY: Oh, with my family—my brother had an accident. I think I mentioned it here a few months ago, when he had that seizure and I was really upset about it, and blah blah and this and that—not to sound cavalier or anything. But out of the blue my mom called and said my brother was back in the hospital—he actually had two seizures. George actually was so great. We sat there that night and he said, “I think you should go home for the weekend, just to be there.” So I did, and when I talk to my parents, all they do is thank me for having been there. One day in Ohio, my mother was bitching me out about something, and I knew that to deflect attention, if I called George on the phone, she would get excited. So I called George. I said, “George, talk to my mom.” So my mom got excited and she handed the phone back and said, “George is coming to North Carolina for Christmas!”
GEORGE: So Hilly’s parents are moving to North Carolina and we’re going there for Christmas. What’s new in the apartment? What’s an average day like?
HILLY: I’ve been better about being tolerant about your mess. Um. Things are pretty good! But I do think it is a little weird how I leave the apartment every day about 7:30 in the morning, and when I come back at about 7:30 at night, you’re still sitting there. Twelve hours later, I come home and there’s George sitting there with nothing on but his boxers and his feet up on the table and his cat there—and it’s like a steam sauna, there’s so much heat and steam in the apartment. And there’s always a really pungent odor of like burgers or something.
GEORGE: Or gas. She complains about my occasional bouts of gas and wants me to take Gas-X.
HILLY: I don’t want you to take Gas-X! I just don’t want you to like lift your legs when I’m sitting next to you on the couch. It’s disgusting.
GEORGE: At least I’m polite enough—what I do is this sort of scat singing right before I explode. I go, “Ba-da-da-da-ba-da-da-da!” It sort of drowns out the—
HILLY: That’s when people stop having sex. How many times have we had sex in the past week?
GEORGE: We did last night.
HILLY: Well, the first time in days.
GEORGE: That’s what we didn’t do last weekend. We were with each other all weekend—
HILLY: Because you were farting the entire time.
DR. SELMAN: Why do you think it’s O.K. to do that?
GEORGE: Well, I think it’s healthy. I already have my problem with acid reflux. This is really twisted, but I think I do these things to shock her. Our dynamic is that she treats me like I’m 8 years old and I like it. But she starts it. She looks at me and thinks of me at age 3—there’s all these pictures of me as a little kid around the apartment—and she calls me “little Scoopie” and I play right into it. Other times I get real serious and I’ll say, “Look, I’m watching this audio commentary, you know, for Dark City.”
DR. SELMAN: Well, that’s a very positive part of your relationship, that you relate that way.
GEORGE: Back to sex …. And Hilly, don’t get mad at me, O.K., I’m just telling you that I’m adjusting to this, O.K.? But you have to understand one thing about me. Maybe this is the case with every guy, but up until I met you, up until a few years ago—I would often wake up, feel like hell and say, “Oh God, why even bother getting out of bed?” And then I would start to think of the possibility of sex and girls, plural, and all this stuff that could happen that night. And why do I bring this up? Because that’s gone now. I don’t do that anymore. I don’t even bother looking at women on the street. I’m a dork. I’m into sci-fi and heavy metal. I listen to Motörhead all the time, ’cause that’s the only thing that’ll get my blood pumping. It’s pathetic.
DR. SELMAN: You saying that you’ve become somewhat asexual and therefore it’s O.K. to fart in front of Hilly and it doesn’t matter if she’s turned off by it?
GEORGE: Are you really turned off by it? You laugh.
HILLY: It’s funny.
HILLY: The sounds are funny.
DR. SELMAN: Well, you complained about it, Hilly.
HILLY: I know, but it’s weird! Because it makes me start to think that he’s doing it because he’s so comfortable—that, you know, he’s my brother and he wants to gross me out, instead of wanting to get like hot and heavy and yeahhh. So it freaks me out. I don’t want you to get too comfortable doing that stuff. I’m a girl.
DR. SELMAN: You could go to the bathroom instead of—
GEORGE: Yeah, but sometimes you only have a window of like five seconds. It’s a healthy thing to do.
HILLY: Listen, it’s not like he’s some kind of weird, perverted, creepy-like tooter that just toots nonstop. He does it from time to time to provoke me. We’ll be watching a movie, and in the middle of a romantic scene, he’ll go, “Ohhhh, Hilly,” and then I’ll look over and he’ll be like Pffffft!
GEORGE: The timing is impeccable sometimes.
DR. SELMAN: So you think it’s hostile?
HILLY: It’s actually kind of endearing in a really twisted way. But in a way that I think … we just need to monitor.
GEORGE: Can we try to elevate this conversation? Have I been irrational lately?
HILLY: You have gotten angry and you hit some stuff a couple times, and you really get mad at the computer, but I think it’s O.K. Because I have outbursts like that too, and I think it’s natural and it’s fine.
GEORGE: Last night felt like everything was coming back again, and I had this idea that I wanted to do a video blog. I just felt ambitious again. And then the next thing I know, I’m checking my e-mail and it says “Cannot Find Server.” I’ve already made 20 phone calls to Verizon Online. Hours talking to them.
HILLY: But you can’t solve anything by getting so upset that your physical reactions take over your mental capacity. If the only thing you can do is hit a keyboard instead of stepping back, surveying the situation, taking a break, calling and trying to figure out a solution—
DR. SELMAN: And if you break the keyboard, then it costs more money and that will be even more frustrating.
GEORGE: I hit it four times with both fists and it’s still working.
HILLY: Oh, I know something that’s sweet! On Halloween night, unexpectedly, I was upset because there was a lot of stress happening with work and also a lot of stress with George, and I was trying to bottle it up, and finally I broke down and I started crying, and George felt so bad. And he finally watched E.T., my very favorite movie of all time, with me.
GEORGE: And I cried.
HILLY: He did cry.
GEORGE: And you’ve seen E.T. how many times, would you estimate?
GEORGE: No, over a hundred. Like 200.
[To be continued.]
George and Hilly published 09/18/06
George and Hilly published 08/14/06
George and Hilly published 09/11/06
George and Hilly published 08/14/06
George and Hilly published 08/07/06
George and Hilly published 07/31/06
George and Hilly published 07/24/06
George and Hilly published 07/17/06
George and Hilly published 06/26/06
George and Hilly published 06/19/06
George and Hilly published 05/29/06
George and Hilly published 05/15/06
George and Hilly published 05/08/06
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