HILLY: Sorry I’m late.
DR. SELMAN: Great coat!
GEORGE: So, Dr. Selman, you think I might be bipolar. But I gotta tell you, having tried Wellbutrin—it was only for a week, but I know the effect. Today I was in a funk, couldn’t motivate, paralyzed in front of the computer. And I had just half a hit of Yankee Doodle marijuana, and I was up, ready for action.
DR. SELMAN [to HILLY]: George mentioned you passed along some Lamictal samples.
HILLY: Well, yeah. There was a day when Georgie was thinking about taking Effexor, and we found the samples you’d given us, but they’d expired, and I had an appointment with Dr. Lamm. He gave me the Lamictal for George. I didn’t mean to be interfering.
GEORGE: It’s kind of nice, just knowing that they’re there.
DR. SELMAN: If you’re going to take them, you have to take them in a very specific way.
GEORGE [to HILLY]: How’s my Christmas spirit been?
GEORGE: I don’t know if you remember, but she is really into Christmas and presents and carols and—
DR. SELMAN: If you take the drug, you start out with one pill a day for a week, and then you can go to two pills a day—don’t go beyond that. If you develop some kind of rash, stop the pills. This was originally an anti-seizure medication, but the drug has been approved for bipolar disorder and depression.
GEORGE: But do you think, if I just have a half a hit of Northern Lights or Yankee Doodle after being in a funk, it’s like a little nudge toward getting me out of that—
DR. SELMAN: I would venture a guess that the risk of you getting a rash from Lamictal is less than you getting arrested for marijuana possession.
GEORGE: I’m kind of worn out right now. I’ve been going to bed at 6 a.m. and waking up at noon every day, and I had some of the Yankee Doodle this afternoon.
DR. SELMAN: You’re stoned?
GEORGE: No, mildly. Around 1 p.m., I had some before I did my errands.
DR. SELMAN: Why do you call it Yankee Doodle?
GEORGE: ’Cause that’s what it’s called on the little container.
DR. SELMAN: You’ve been more depressed than usual?
GEORGE: I sure was—until I had the Yankee Doodle! Now I feel great. Totally relaxed. I will admit something: I did the Yankee Doodle to cool out, but I almost lost it at Blockbuster. The Blockbuster by our apartment closed, our membership was transferred to 51st and Eighth. I wanted to cancel our membership, so I called Blockbuster and they said, “You have to go to the new location.” So I went down there today, and I just knew something was going to go wrong. I approached the manager very politely, gingerly, and she said I couldn’t cancel my membership without my card. I said loudly, “No, actually I’m going to cancel my membership today, right now.” And she said, “Well, you need your card.” So I said, really obnoxiously, “You know, I don’t have my card. I lost it. It flew away. Now I need to cancel my membership here, right now. Where’s the manager?” She pointed to her nametag. Everyone in the store was watching us. It was kind of scary; there was a police car outside. She ended up calling the 96th Street Blockbuster, found my information, and I got it canceled.
HILLY: Those people at Blockbuster and Duane Reade are diabolical. With the exception of a very few, they’re completely rude.
GEORGE: But they have terrible jobs ….
HILLY: Guess what? That’s their problem.
GEORGE: They haven’t had the same advantages.
HILLY: Look at that movie The Pursuit of Happyness—Will Smith’s character comes from nothing and does what he can to make a better life, and he prevails, and that’s what those people from Blockbuster could do. They’re apathetic people who rely on government money, on tax dollars that we’re forced to pay—
GEORGE: Hilly, watch it. This is crazy.
DR. SELMAN: Why mention the Blockbuster incident?
GEORGE: Because I’d smoked my Yankee Doodle and yet, during a basic confrontation, I almost lost my cool. I was shouting at this woman. I apologized to her later, and I had $10 in my hand I was going to slip her. She was wearing a Santa hat.
DR. SELMAN: So you abused the poor clerk?
HILLY: Oh, come on, you know what that woman should have said—“I’m so sorry, sir, there must have been a misunderstanding. Let me see if I can make a call and work out something special.”
DR. SELMAN: That would have been the nice thing to do.
HILLY: She’s just a lazy, pathetic waste of life!
GEORGE: It’s just a few days before Christmas, and I want to be merciful and charitable.
DR. SELMAN: So how are you feeling, Hilly?
HILLY: Things have been pretty good. Except that—
GEORGE: On Sunday I threatened to blow my head off. But not seriously. Hilly was cleaning up, making all kinds of noise, and she said, “Is it O.K. if I clean the kitchen?” And I said, “Actually, I’d rather blow my head off first.”
HILLY: The night before, he said that it would be helpful if, in the morning, I were to do some things to help him wake up. For example, to get coffee and wave it in front of his nose while he’s asleep, because the scent will help him wake up. And I said, “Maybe if I got up and did some chores,” and he said: “Yes, exactly.” So even though I would have preferred to stay in bed, I went out and got coffee and came back and poured it into a mug and walked into the room and waved it around. Nothing really happened, so I left it in there. A while later, he got up and was sitting on the couch. I’d done one load of laundry, and I said, “George, would it be O.K. if I cleaned the kitchen?” Because I thought that would be another thing that would help him wake up. And he said, “I’d rather blow my head off.”
GEORGE: I knew it was going to be really loud, and I was trying to read the paper—
DR. SELMAN: How would you blow your brains out anyway? You don’t have a gun or anything, do you?
GEORGE: No—it’s like if I’d said, “I’d like to go for a bike ride.” An escape.
DR. SELMAN: How did you feel when he said that?
HILLY: I felt very upset, and I thought, Well, O.K. So I went down to the basement—which is really scary and filled with cockroaches and cobwebs—and stayed down there for two hours, sitting on a straight-back chair with my feet propped on top of the washing machine, reading Centurion magazine. And then I went upstairs and quickly got dressed and left. I understand frustrations. But if you had said, “I’d really rather you not clean the kitchen and, please don’t take this the wrong way, but I think I need to be alone for a while,” I would have said, “O.K., give me 10 minutes, I’m just going to throw on an outfit. I’ll be out of your hair.”
GEORGE: Remember, you were flipping through a magazine—snap, snap, snap! And I said something like, “Why don’t you try reading it?”
DR. SELMAN: You know, some people might say, “Thank you, Hilly, I would really like it if you cleaned the kitchen, I appreciate it.”
GEORGE: I know. It’s just … ahhhh … a morning thing. Another reason has to do with Christmas. She wants to do the 12 days of Christmas, where we give each other presents every night, there’s carols playing nonstop and—
HILLY: In my room!
GEORGE: I’m not finished! She wants me to spend $500 on my big present to her. She wants something from Oscar de la Renta, a dress or something, ha-ha!
[HILLY hands GEORGE a collage she’s made of Oscar de la Renta fall fashions and prices.]
GEORGE: See what I’m talking about—$7,500, $1,800?
HILLY: Those are retail prices minus—I’m anticipating a 60 percent discount at the sample sale.
GEORGE: You’re not dating an investment banker.
HILLY: It could possibly be that you show up and the clothes are actually 80 percent off or 90 percent off! There’s no way to tell. And the thing is, aside from an engagement ring, this is the thing that I covet the most. It’s so far out of my realm. This is a sample sale! I won’t be here. There’s a possibility that you could go and find an Oscar de la Renta dress that normally would have sold for $3,000 that you could buy for $300. [HILLY begins speaking very loudly] If you had any idea—
GEORGE: Oh, God. You see what I have to live with?
HILLY [continuing to speak very loudly]: —how happy that would make me. I mean, I would cry tears of joy, I would love it sooo much.
DR. SELMAN: Here you have the opportunity to make her so happy. Why would you not do it?
GEORGE: Because in the next five weeks we have Christmas, New Year’s, our five-year anniversary, her birthday and Valentine’s Day. Could this be a present for all those?
DR. SELMAN: I remember last year you ran out of the Polo store.
GEORGE: Had a panic attack.
HILLY: Oscar de la Renta—
GEORGE: Stop talking so loudly. Please. Do you hear that?
HILLY: Oscar de la Renta or not Oscar de la Renta, I would just like something filled with thoughtfulness from you. If it’s not something like an engagement ring, then something that’s a token of love, something that makes me feel pretty, something that makes me feel loved, something that makes me feel like you put thought into something that you know I would love. Like—and I have no idea how much they cost—but one of those Cartier love bracelets. It’s a simple gold bracelet, but it’s locked because it means that your love is everlasting. You can’t take it off. Or, I don’t know, you said something about a book. Well, maybe not just one book—but what if you think, Well, gosh, Hilly loves jewelry, why don’t I find some really rare books that are out of print and hard to find, about some jewelers from the 30’s and 40’s and 50’s, and buy a couple of them ….
GEORGE: That sounds more like it. I’ll go down to the Strand.
HILLY: No, you can’t just go down to the Strand for these types of books, and I don’t just want a book on, like, fake jewelry—
GEORGE [to DR. SELMAN]: Do you hear that tone? You know what book she got me recently? It’s called Blame It on the Dog: A Modern History of the Fart.
HILLY: It was a stocking-stuffer; it was a joke!
GEORGE: Here’s my problem. I have to rent a car—she’s flying to North Carolina, and I’m going to drive there a few days after. That’s going to be a thousand dollars, then I have to get 15, 20 presents—
HILLY: I already bought presents from both of us—meaningful, thoughtful presents—for everyone. You’re off the hook! You don’t have to buy presents for anyone! I have Christmas cards ready—
GEORGE: Hear how loudly she’s talking? The tone?
HILLY: It’s like I’m trying to help, but I know you don’t want to talk about it—
GEORGE: O.K.! I’ll get you the dress! But then what happens on the fifth anniversary and then your birthday?
HILLY: It’s not about that, George, it’s about the thought. I told you about the 12 days of Christmas!
HILLY: When I sent you the e-mail, I said it’s not about the cost. I gave you a box of tea. It could be a coupon for a hug—
GEORGE: Why are you yelling at me?
HILLY: It’s just about the fun.
GEORGE: It’s only going to get worse if we get married. Ten times worse.
HILLY: Because it’s my anger and sadness at the thought that you really don’t care.
GEORGE: That I don’t care? Come on. Didn’t I take care of you last night? Carry you to bed practically and bring you juice and gave you massages ….
HILLY: Yes, and that was really sweet!
DR. SELMAN: George, why would you not—first of all, if you’re faced with a choice to make her really happy, the dress or the ring—I would think you would choose the dress. But that said, even if you give her the dress, at this point you’ve basically sucked all the air out of it.
GEORGE: Well, I’m not working at Goldman Sachs, I didn’t get a million-dollar bonus. I paid the rent this month and she postdated a check, then there’s Con Ed—
DR. SELMAN: Hilly, do you think he’s reasonable with the not being able to afford it? I take it you are in on what the finances are? He’s saying that the dress is an unreasonable gift—it’s too much money.
HILLY: This is the thing. [Indicating the collage] This is just a guideline to show you what I might like. I don’t know if any of this stuff is going to be at the sample sale. The act of love for me is the thought of George going there and finding something—
GEORGE: How about a scarf?
HILLY: That’s $75 dollars.
GEORGE: Really? I thought you said I had to spend 500!
HILLY: I don’t know if it’s going to be there. No one can tell me, but you have to go and see. If you can’t find anything, that’s fine—the fact that you went and tried for me is enough.
GEORGE: Didn’t you say it’s at 10 a.m.?
HILLY: That’s the thing about a sample sale, you have to take a Xanax before you go, ’cause they’re lethal. But just go and if you don’t find anything, fine. But maybe you’ll luck out. It could be a scarf, a bag, something, it’s just—
GEORGE [moaning]: Ugh. O.K., I’ll do my best. But this is just nonstop, it’s all you want to talk about for the past couple weeks, it’s Christmas this, Christmas that and presents and —
DR. SELMAN: I take it you’re not into that stuff.
GEORGE: I’m not “Bah, humbug.”
DR. SELMAN: You sure had me fooled.
GEORGE: I just don’t want to think about it all the time. I’m doing my best.
DR. SELMAN: You yelled at the girl wearing a Santa suit.
GEORGE: I didn’t take pleasure in it. Right afterwards, I went to this health-food place, waited in line for 10 minutes for a smoothie—Berry Blast—and this new girl screwed it up. Put way too much ice in there, so it had no flavor, and I said, “Don’t worry about it,” because she was getting trained. There’s the Christmas spirit …. What’s wrong? Are you crying? Why? Come on, I’ll do all that stuff.
HILLY [crying]: I don’t care about that.
GEORGE: What’s the matter? I’ll do it! We’re just talking—it’s O.K. Please, Hilly. Come on, I’m really sorry.
DR. SELMAN: The tissues are right there.
HILLY: I was just trying to make it easy.
GEORGE: I know. But you were screaming at me. I’ll do it, I’ll get the—
HILLY: It seems like it’s such a horrible ….
GEORGE: Look at what this holiday does to people. Can we talk about one positive thing? How much fun are we going to have with your parents? Isn’t it going to be fun?
DR. SELMAN: You started out saying you were depressed; you responded to an offer of Hilly cleaning the kitchen with a suicidal threat. Isn’t it possible—and you verbally abused—
GEORGE: I think I was let off the hook on that one.
DR. SELMAN: —the poor hard-working girl wearing a Santa hat—isn’t it possible that maybe you’re a little bit off when it comes to what she’s talking about? Like maybe there could be a little bit more generosity of spirit here—
GEORGE: Spirit, definitely, but maybe not so much generosity of cash that I don’t have.
HILLY: No, no ….
GEORGE: But let me just stop there. You told me you wanted this present, this dress, and it costs $500. Now I understand what a sample sale is. I don’t want to be accused of being heartless and cruel. It’s a personality difference here. I’m not into this day and the commercial aspects, and you are.
HILLY: Another thing: You’re on the Internet all day—you can look on Craigslist for a piano teacher and, for $50, get me a piano lesson.
DR. SELMAN: Are you planning on getting her anything?
GEORGE: Of course, of course. Look, it’s the 19th. I would love to get you piano lessons. This is one thing that I’m in awe of Hilly about, is she is a classically trained musician, and her father is this renowned bassoonist. You play any piece of music and Hilly knows it cold.
HILLY: You could get me a keyboard and headphones so I could practice. I could pay for piano lessons myself.
GEORGE: I’ll do whatever you want! If you just … I can’t ….
HILLY [voice quavering]: It’s just going to be so depressing to me, when everyone around me in my life is always telling me that I should get an engagement ring, and I’m patient because I understand your qualms and stuff and I appreciate those. But the thought of getting a last-minute, un-heartfelt … just because you’ve run out of time and it’s the day before Christmas Eve and the stores are crowded and you have a panic attack and you end up getting me a T-shirt that says “I’m With Stupid” or ….
GEORGE: O.K., I’ll put more thought into it, but can you have a few less thoughts about Christmas? Because this is getting to be too much. I’ll get you everything you want, O.K.?
DR. SELMAN: George, did you know that she feels this way before this session began?
GEORGE: We have this debate every year. I am surprised at this reaction now. She did say the other day that she wants a ring because she feels old at 31.
DR. SELMAN: Why would you be surprised at this?
GEORGE: I’m surprised that she just started crying. I feel horrible. I thought we were just having a friendly debate.
DR. SELMAN: I’m curious, though. You had no idea that she felt very sad at what she perceives as some sort of withholding, or a lack on your part of generosity. That correct?
HILLY: He’s more than generous with me.
GEORGE: She wants a ring; she wants to be engaged.
DR. SELMAN: So that’s the bottom line?
GEORGE: It’s our fifth-year anniversary, she wants me to get her a dress, she wants presents and, you know, things.
DR. SELMAN: The dress wouldn’t have really made it.
HILLY: The thought behind the dress is that it’s something that I know I could never get myself. It would make me feel very pretty and glamorous and beautiful, like a princess—and that’s what boys are supposed to make the girls they love feel like.
DR. SELMAN: So it’s something you wouldn’t get yourself, just like you wouldn’t get yourself a ring?
DR. SELMAN: But did you know this in advance?
DR. SELMAN: So why would you then put yourself through this, because you just said, “O.K., I’ll do it”?
GEORGE: Well, it’s too late now, but next year let’s try Christmas without presents and maybe just go to church. Do that every other year. We can play the Christmas music. That’s a legitimate thing—no need to exchange presents. That doesn’t make me a freak.
HILLY: But it’s one of my favorite things in the whole world! Has been since I was a little kid.
GEORGE: I’m not kidding you, Dr. Selman, for the month of December this is all she thinks about.
DR. SELMAN: Why would you not just give in to it and get her something, make it look good and you spare yourself all this grief?
GEORGE: Yeah, all right.
DR. SELMAN: Why wouldn’t you?!
GEORGE: I still have four days to do my shopping! I’ve had other things to think about. We live together and it’s the only thing on her mind. O.K., I’m really cheap. But like, those dresses cost thousands of dollars. I’ll take care of that. I did already get you that stuffed animal dog, didn’t I? That was something. Have we been having fun living together?
DR. SELMAN: I feel like we’ve sucked the air out of Christmas.
GEORGE: Well, don’t people have trouble during the holidays?
HILLY: But you have to think about the good parts of it, about how it’s the time of year when you spread good cheer to all of those around you.
GEORGE [sighing]: What’s your favorite Christmas carol? What are some your favorite Christmas movies?
DR. SELMAN: What are some of your Christmas memories that have led to your attitude about Christmas, George?
GEORGE: I don’t have any bad memories. What about you, Hilly?
HILLY [pulling out some photos]: I’ll show you something.
GEORGE [to DR. SELMAN]: Pictures of me—oh ho ho. Pictures of me, circa age 7, that Hilly Photoshopped with a Santa hat and driving a sleigh and smoking a pipe—
DR. SELMAN: Is there pot in that pipe?
HILLY: See, his cat Baba’s a reindeer.
GEORGE: Ha ha ha. That’s funny. [To HILLY] I’m sorry for throwing pizza at you the other night.
[DR. SELMAN laughs looking through the photos.]
HILLY: You can have one if you want.
DR. SELMAN: I’ll take George smoking a pipe. Yankee Doodle in there! You guys are like opposites in some ways. She provides all these emotional, fuzzy moments, and you’re like, you know, “Why don’t I just blow my brains out?”
GEORGE: That’s not me all the time. Don’t I get really sensitive? Cry during movies.
HILLY: He did this thing to me—that my mom always did—because I like to hug him for a long period of time.
GEORGE: I cried during The Love Boat once.
HILLY: And he pushes me off. My mom does it, too: “Get off me!”
DR. SELMAN: Where would you ever find another girlfriend like this?
GEORGE: I know! I agree. And I love her.
DR. SELMAN: Why don’t you show that, then?
HILLY: I just wish that you would enjoy thinking about something that you think would make me happy. The obvious things are materialistic: Oscar de la Renta, a Verdura cuff bracelet, anything from Lanvin. Something thoughtful—if you made me a memory bowl. That would be so heartwarming, and it wouldn’t cost money.
GEORGE: How do you make a memory bowl?
HILLY: You think of all of the heartfelt, funny times we’ve had, and you write them on little pieces of paper, roll them up and put them in a container. Anytime you have an argument or something sad happens, you go to the bowl and you pull one out, and it gives you a warm, fuzzy feeling.
DR. SELMAN: That’s nice.
GEORGE: O.K., I’ll do that, and I’ll get you a fancy present. Will it sweeten the deal at all if, after this session, I take you somewhere of your choice, like Café Luxembourg?
DR. SELMAN: Why don’t you just give her the ring already?
HILLY: Well you know, the other thing you can do—because I investigated it, I went to many stores and I asked them: You can buy the ring without the stone and then later on, when we’re rich and famous, you just put the stone in. But that’s up to you—do it when you want. But I just want you to know that, even though I work for a fantastic and wonderful jewelry company, my ideal ring costs about $60,000, and it’s from Harry Winston. I don’t expect to have that. And even if you did give it to me, I wouldn’t wear it every day, because it would be too flashy. I want something that comes from the heart. I want something that maybe was your Gimma’s or something that you find at an antique store. Something plain. I don’t care about any of that other stuff. I don’t.
[Postscript: For Christmas, George ended up getting Hilly two sweaters on sale at Ann Taylor, two books on fake jewelry, Godiva chocolates and a candle from Bergdorf Goodman.]
[To be continued.]
George and Hilly published 12/11/06
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