GEORGE places his tape recorder on DR. SELMAN’s ottoman.
GEORGE: This is a brand-new tape recorder.
DR. SELMAN: Wow.
GEORGE: When I brought this home yesterday, I started feeling and caressing it and smelling it. I even had sexual thoughts about it. I thought, “Damn I want to have sex with this tape recorder.” Then I said, “Well, maybe I’ll just lick it.”
DR. SELMAN: Where does this come from?
GEORGE: I don’t know. I don’t know if this is something about technology and the modern world—but, who knows, maybe 2,000 years ago, someone, you know, they’d get a bowl, like a real nice bowl, and they’d have the same …. [To HILLY] Have you ever had a sensual reaction—even a borderline sexual thing—about a material object? Maybe that Oscar de la Renta coat you got for Christmas?
HILLY: Maybe clothing. I don’t know. I know it’s weird.
DR. SELMAN [laughing]: Why on earth would anybody think this is weird!
GEORGE: Well, it would be great to have some sort of insight.HILLY: What’s even weirder is that I can imagine, or I would have an easier time imagining it, if it were some really fantastic modern, sleek digital recorder. But it’s the same great big …. It’s almost like an eight-track tape.
GEORGE: Fifty dollars from Radio Shack! But can we stick with fashion? Because this is one thing I give you a hard time about: fashion. I make these outrageous statements about how it’s this ridiculous industry. If you could just say something in defense of it—because it’s important to you, obviously, and it would help me appreciate it. Because I like to think what I do for a living is superior, and maybe I’m misguided here.
HILLY: I agree with you, but you don’t look as good as most of the people I work with.
HILLY: I mean fashionable. I think you look wonderful as far as—
GEORGE: What I’m asking you, is there something about the business in general—
HILLY: Now is not a good time. I’m very jaded right now. I think everything is a big joke.
DR. SELMAN: George, why are you bringing this up?
GEORGE: Just because I just would like—this is what she does for a living, and I have this attitude. Didn’t you write a paper about Geoffrey Beene?
HILLY: That was when I was naïve, and before I knew the reality of all of these hideous monsters who are a part of the industry. Now I just think of it as amusing way to make a paycheck, a good way to get a discount on pretty objects and—
DR. SELMAN: That’s it?
DR. SELMAN: How’d you make out with the medications, George?
GEORGE: Um, I took that one pill [Abilify] here, and then I stopped taking it.
DR. SELMAN: That was the only pill you took?
GEORGE: I had every intention of doing it. I think one factor is, I read an article in The Times about Judy Collins, who had a history of depression, and she’s no longer on antidepressants—there are alternatives. And a couple weeks ago, I started swimming again. But the truth is that I had some real ups and downs today. I mean I was up until 4 a.m. working—
DR. SELMAN: Well, was there any particular problem you had with the one dose that you did take?
GEORGE: No, it was fear and just reading this article. Maybe it’s an irrational prejudice I have against antidepressants.
DR. SELMAN: It wasn’t an antidepressant.
GEORGE: Mood stabilizer.
DR. SELMAN: But you have no problem drinking or smoking pot, dropping acid or—
GEORGE: I haven’t taken acid in—
DR. SELMAN: —taking Adderall, Klonopin—
GEORGE: I haven’t taken acid since 1990, and it was a quarter of a hit.
DR. SELMAN: The point is that other substances don’t frighten you off.
GEORGE: Right, but those usually last two to six hours or something. They’re not 24 hours a day, and they feel good. They’re fun. Don’t turn you into a zombie.
DR. SELMAN: You don’t know how it would make you feel, because you never stay on it. You might take it and it would make you feel good.
GEORGE: Well, I told you I was on Wellbutrin for a couple weeks and thought I was going crazy. I apologize, because you said you’d didn’t want to give me those samples if I wasn’t going to stay on them. I didn’t really give it a shot. Hilly wanted me to take them. I guess we should talk about last night. I couldn’t go to sleep last night, because I had about 13 cigarettes and I was trying and trying. And it was 4 in the morning and I woke Hilly up, because she had confiscated my Ambiens. And what happened?
HILLY: I didn’t remember where I had hidden them.
DR. SELMAN: Do you know why she confiscated the Ambien? People don’t usually get their Ambien confiscated unless there was a problem with it.
GEORGE: I had a pretty good week. Got a big check. You know what’s funny, though? Maybe you’re familiar with this sort of phenomena—I don’t know if it’s fear of success, but any time when everything comes together, when I’m like, “Wow, I’m guaranteed a good couple days now, this is such good news, things really worked out, didn’t they? No more worries, easy street!”—some people might call this happiness. But after a few hours of these positive thoughts, because I’m not used to it, I start thinking, “Wow, something equally awful or worse is right around the corner.” Anyway, now I’m back to normal, feeling insignificant and mediocre.
DR. SELMAN: So I take it then that your behavior has improved? Last time you were in, you had thrown things around the apartment, you were really angry, you weren’t sleeping, you left the apartment and checked into a hotel. Do you remember all that?
HILLY: He kept on checking into hotels. He did that a few more times.
GEORGE: I think it was the money that solved everything. I got a real nice check this week.
HILLY: He bought me a Valentine’s present yesterday.
GEORGE: Hilly, you promised me you were going to speak in paragraphs this time. Talk.
DR. SELMAN: I think the implication of what she just said is that today is March 9.
GEORGE: It was also a birthday card—and I crossed out “Birthday” and wrote “Valentine.” Yeah, I went on a shopping spree. Tell me that was funny, the card.
HILLY: It was sweet.
DR. SELMAN: Do you have any feelings about him not giving you a Valentine’s Day gift on Valentine’s Day?
HILLY: Well, I was upset when it happened, but my mother warned me.
GEORGE: I got you something for Valentine’s Day; I just didn’t get you a card. I got you those red heart-shaped lights. And I’d already gotten you so many presents from—anyway, my shopping spree. I treated myself to that new tape recorder—isn’t it a beauty? Don’t you like the microphone pop-up? And then I got myself a bottle of Chivas and a bag of ice.
DR. SELMAN: What was the ice for, the hangover the next day?
GEORGE: And I got Hilly a bottle of Sancerre. Got myself a bottle of Pinot. I spent like $300 in less than an hour.
DR. SELMAN: On booze.
GEORGE: And the tape recorder. Also got some fancy stationery for me to write thank-you letters on.
HILLY: That’s sweet!
DR. SELMAN: So how are you guys doing in your relationship?
HILLY: I think we’ve been doing really well. George has been really sweet recently; he’s told me that I’m lots of fun to live with and …. But I still have this problem—I don’t know what it is, but when I get home, for example, and George is at his desk, he can’t stop even for a second, just to say hello. He projects so much aggression onto me, I feel like I have to tiptoe into my room and quietly put my things down and then tiptoe back. And then I start feeling nervous that he’s conscious of me trying to be quiet, and that that’s starting to irritate him. So then he starts expressing irritation at that—I mean, it’s crazy. Last night we watched this movie, and it was so wonderful, my heart was just breaking because George was crying during it, and his sensitivity to it—
GEORGE: The Elephant Man.
HILLY: It really meant so much to me. And then all of a sudden he suggested we take a break for a little bit.
GEORGE: Because I could sense that you were getting jittery. You were shaking your foot and twiddling your hands—like you’re doing right now. So I thought I would take a break, I took a bath, and when I got out she was all caught up in a CSI episode.
HILLY: An hour and half had gone by! I went into my room and I decided, Well, hey, I think I’m going to watch a little TV. So I was 25 minutes into the show, and it was good, it’s been a long time since I’ve watched a good drama like that on TV.
GEORGE: I finally broke down and got cable after going without for two and a half years. Big mistake.
HILLY: So he threw a little bit of a fit, he said, “No, this is ridiculous, I know you’re going to go to sleep right after you finish watching it!”
GEORGE: It was the fact you wanted to watch that over The Elephant Man.
DR. SELMAN: Do you realize that before, you said that you wanted for her to speak in entire paragraphs—yet whenever she does, you interrupt her?
HILLY: I get the feeling most of the time that you want to have complete control over everything that I not only say and do, but what I think, too.
GEORGE: Oh, that’s bad. Well, maybe you need to fight back a little.
HILLY: I don’t like fighting.
DR. SELMAN: Well, you sound angry.
HILLY: I’m angry because I don’t like to fight and I feel like I’m getting a lot of aggression and conflict here, and I want to avoid it, because I deal with that most of the day and I hate it. I just want to live a peaceful life and be happy. I’m willing to give in when it comes to certain things. I know that living together peacefully and harmoniously requires making certain sacrifices.
DR. SELMAN: Sounds like it isn’t always peaceful and harmonious.
HILLY: Well, no, it’s not. Listen, this when I voice my concerns. A good 90 percent—I’ve never been as happy as I am living with George.
GEORGE: When it’s good, it’s good.
HILLY: But it’s things like that—when I just looked over right now, you had your eyes shut, almost like you were in disgust, like you couldn’t wait until I stopped speaking.
GEORGE: No, no, no. No. No, I was actually doing visualization or—
DR. SELMAN: Is that true?
GEORGE: I swear to God. I feel no anger, I was just trying not to interrupt again and I was closing my eyes to relax, it was sort of like a breathing exercise.
DR. SELMAN: You think he wanted you to stop, he couldn’t wait—
HILLY: He can’t stand the sound—it’s like a knife stabbing his heart.
GEORGE: No. Nope. Maybe another time, but not—
DR. SELMAN: I don’t understand—why do you think that?
HILLY: Because he had that pained expression on his face.
GEORGE: It wasn’t! I swear to God. I was—
DR. SELMAN [to HILLY]: You think it was the content of what you’re saying, or the very fact that you were saying anything at all?
GEORGE: I just didn’t want to interrupt! So I was taking myself out of it—that’s why I moved over on the couch a little more. I’m not in pain at all.
DR. SELMAN: You do look a little pained.
GEORGE: I do now! But I didn’t 30 seconds ago. I was thoroughly enjoying what you were saying. But here’s what I want: I want a townhouse, or let’s say a two-bedroom apartment. I need to have my own little area. I’m the problem here. She walks on eggshells. But if I had my own space—this is a real problem.
DR. SELMAN: Your anger level.
GEORGE: Especially in the apartment. I get easily irritated. I just like to imagine that one day we’ll have a bigger place.
DR. SELMAN: Yes, but you have to live in the place you’re living. Everybody’s got to live the life they’re in. You can’t fantasize about some other life.
GEORGE: But that really is the cause of a lot of our problems. It’s not that I’m irritated by Hilly—I would be with anyone I had to live with, in basically a prison-cell-sized apartment.
HILLY: Well, I’ve always had a severe repulsion, or severe personal problems, or issues with many things. But since I met you—and you alone, uniquely, are exempt from things. For example, hair in the sink. That’s been something for my entire life that makes me just gag. But when I see your precious little hairs in the sink, I just think, Ohh—
DR. SELMAN: Oh-oh-oh! That was a dig.
GEORGE: It was actually kind of stomach-turning.
HILLY: I’m serious, though!
DR. SELMAN: George is losing his hair? Is that what you’re saying?
HILLY: Noooooo. Jeez, you read into things.
GEORGE [to DR. SELMAN]: You’re like my friend when we were at Mars Bar the other night. Had to announce, “Hey, you got a bald spot! Everybody—he’s got a bald spot!” Couldn’t believe it. People just love to mess with your buzz at 4 in the morning.
HILLY: No, they’re like little hairs from shaving or something.
GEORGE: Do you want to go on?
HILLY: Dirty socks. Well, he stopped leaving the Omega-3 fatty-fish-oil gel-cap skins all over the place. Oh, the Metamucil sludge at the bottom of glasses—that’s weird. What’s worse is when he uses that glass with the sludge as an ashtray.
DR. SELMAN: I have a question. Were you aware that George was not taking the medications that I gave him?
HILLY: He said at the moment he took the first pill, it felt right, but he changed his mind.
DR. SELMAN: Do you have an opinion about that?
HILLY: I said, “I agree with you and I support that.” And I actually applaud his stamina, the fact that he’s stood by his opinion of antidepressants and mood stabilizers for so long, and I respect that. I think there are better ways for him to cure the issues he has.
DR. SELMAN: It strikes me, though, as I’ve said before, that drugs are such a big part of your life, yet you would be so opposed to taking a pharmaceutical drug—although you’re not even opposed to that, because you take Ambien, Klonopin, Adderall.
GEORGE: I took Adderall for that week in San Francisco. That’s a good drug, that’s a good, fun, pleasurable drug—it’s speed.
HILLY: Not to condone any drug, but isn’t there a difference between using a drug recreationally, as opposed to using a drug that you feel you depend on for day-to-day peace of mind?
DR. SELMAN: What do you call cigarettes? [To GEORGE] I mean, you do them every day.
HILLY: But he doesn’t—he might talk about them, but he doesn’t.
GEORGE: Then swimming for 45 minutes is a drug, too. I just wish we could talk about some other ways—sorry to interrupt. I just don’t think I’m going to be taking mood stabilizers anytime soon.
DR. SELMAN: And Hilly, you’re fine with it, so—you’re the one who has to put up with his ill behavior. And so you’re a part of it.
HILLY: I think I’m kind of like Britney Spears, the day that she shaved her head. I think I really just feel unworthy of getting positive affection and affirmation from anyone.
GEORGE: Last night she called me Stephen Glass. Remember that? Why?
HILLY: Because what happens is, whenever I get upset about anything—and like I said before, I despise conflict—George is always apologizing for anything. I don’t want to hear it. [Imitating a whiny brat] “Are you mad at me? Do you still like me? Are you mad at me?” How many times can he ask that over and over? It’s the most irritating thing in the whole world. That’s just ridiculous.
DR. SELMAN: What’s ridiculous about it?
HILLY: Of course I still like him!
DR. SELMAN: But you’ve also said that you don’t think you deserve any better. You felt like Britney Spears.
HILLY: I think it’s like Stockholm syndrome. It’s from working for people for years who have abused and criticized me—it’s kind of programmed me into thinking that I deserve it. And that anything that’s the opposite isn’t normal. And that’s why I haven’t been able to develop in my professional life, either. It’s why I can’t become a boss—because I don’t feel worthy of it. I feel like I’m the person who always has to cater to other people.
GEORGE: It’s so strange, because there are times when you seem so powerful and confident and in control, and you don’t even realize it. I think you should do yoga, cut down to one glass of wine a night—
DR. SELMAN: So you like George’s abusive behavior because it fits in with your Stockholm syndrome?
GEORGE: Abusive behavior? Give me a break. Am I abusing you? I fuss at you, I’m controlling. I’m not fucking with your mind, am I?
HILLY: Right. No, I don’t think so. I think a lot of people probably wouldn’t necessarily put up with it.
GEORGE: That’s true. You’re the first to put up with it.
HILLY: I’m tolerant, but also I love him so much.
DR. SELMAN: What is it that you love about him?!
HILLY: Because he’s this sweet angel.
DR. SELMAN: She’s in collusion with you to keep you the way you are.
HILLY: No, not to keep him the way he is forever.
GEORGE: She doesn’t understand she has the power to turn things around. All you would have to do is to put your foot down more often and crack the whip a little. And then you got me.
HILLY: I don’t want to!
GEORGE: No, it’s fun to do that. It’s fun to turn the tables.
HILLY: I don’t want to be the boss.
GEORGE: It just takes that first time, and you stick with it, and you really don’t let up and you don’t let me off the hook.
DR. SELMAN: That would be interesting.
GEORGE: Then you’ll say to yourself, “Wow, that kind of worked,” and then it gets easier every time. I think I do probably take advantage of you—I don’t restrain myself, like I’ll go into your room in the middle of the night, wake you up—I really feel like I have license to do whatever I want.
HILLY: I know if I did something like that to you, forget it ….
DR. SELMAN: You feel like you could do anything you want?
HILLY: No, he does—every night he walks into my room in the middle of the night, because he’s still awake, and he wakes me up. And usually I think it’s sweet and I really like it. But recently I’ve started to realize that it affects my mood during the day, because I’m getting this break in my sleep.
DR. SELMAN: But—he wakes you up for what purpose?
HILLY: I don’t know—just to give me a hug or ask me if I want a glass of water. I think he’s a little lonely at that point. He’s been alone and awake for hours.
GEORGE: Last night, I had this little debate in my head. I thought, “Well, I should let her get her rest, but, on the other hand, I know I can totally get away with it—so let’s just go in there.”
DR. SELMAN: I think if somebody woke me up in the middle of the night, I’d be pissed.
HILLY: Well, I’d rather him do it—I’d want him to know that he can do that, if he needs to. If something bad is happening, I’m there, and I don’t want him to think that he has to suffer not being able to sleep. You know, I love him and I—
DR. SELMAN: But how is waking you up going to help him sleep?
HILLY: Well, it’s about the boy who cried wolf—he has been kind of taking advantage recently. And I didn’t realize it was a problem until this week, when I would go to work and people would comment on the way that I looked: “Were you out all night?” And I’d say, “No, I went to bed at 11 o’clock last night.” Last night I turned violent.
GEORGE: You had a temper tantrum. She was looking for the Ambiens that she’d confiscated.
HILLY: It was awful. I threw stuff. Clothes. And a chair. Newspapers.
DR. SELMAN: Was any damage done?
GEORGE: She kept snapping at me—“Shhh!”
HILLY: Well, you wouldn’t stop talking! “I’m sorry, Hilly.” No, you’re not! You’re not sorry, otherwise you wouldn’t have woken me up! And that’s the truth.
DR. SELMAN: Aren’t you concerned the neighbors are going to call the cops?
GEORGE: I needed an Ambien. The wine wasn’t working, and I needed that little nudge, that little Ambien. The first time, she tore the room apart and couldn’t find them. And then I went back in a couple hours later, and she did find them. I would like to keep taking them. They work.
HILLY: Have you scheduled your operation?
GEORGE: I’m waiting for them to call me. I’ve had the CAT scan, the chest X-ray. I did the sleep-disorder test.
DR. SELMAN: What are you going to have done?
GEORGE: My nasal passages widened and the uvula trimmed. Once I get this operation, I won’t have to take Ambien anymore—I’ll be set free. Listen to me. [GEORGE tries to breathe through his nose.]
DR. SELMAN: You do sound pretty congested.
GEORGE: Can’t breathe in the apartment. I bring this Vicks inhaler with me everywhere. [GEORGE takes a snort of the Vicks inhaler.] Ahhhhh ….
HILLY: It’s so sad, though. The poor thing. To think that he’s sitting there, all alone, late at night, and he can’t breathe and he can’t sleep and he’s so tired.
GEORGE: Anyway, do you want to bring up anything else about me that’s driving you crazy?
HILLY: Yes. Us not talking about the idea, the concept of an engagement ring—because time is running out. We’re getting closer. I’m not talking about marriage, but just talking about it.
Because you said when you’re 40 … and your 39th is coming up. I’m not saying I want to be married when you’re 40, but I still want that—a ring. And you know, you can take it back if things don’t work out—it’s fine. But it’s just something I want you to know that I still think about, every single day.
DR. SELMAN: Even Howard Stern is engaged.
HILLY: And it doesn’t have to be anything fancy. It doesn’t have to have a diamond in it.
GEORGE: Oh, Jesus.
HILLY: Your friends tell me all the time [HILLY imitates a drunken meathead]: “Why don’t you give George an ultimatum? Why do you let him get away with so much?”
DR. SELMAN: He said that he wants you to stand up and make demands of him. So what’s wrong with that?
HILLY: I don’t expect an answer or anything, and I don’t want to give him an ultimatum—I just want you to know it’s something I still think about.
GEORGE: Can you give someone an engagement ring and not get married for 20 years?
HILLY: Yes! You never have to get married.
GEORGE: This is good, because my first thought was, “Well, I’ll do it as a gesture.” But then I thought, ‘Wait, an engagement ring—that means you’re getting married within a year.”
HILLY: No, no.
GEORGE: You give the engagement ring and then, by the next summer, you have your little wedding-Web-site crap.
HILLY: Shut it. Shut it. Because you know, if you were to propose to me and I decided to accept one day, I wouldn’t want anyone to witness it. I’d want it to be an extremely private thing.
DR. SELMAN: Why is that?
HILLY: I’ve just never wanted a big wedding. I don’t like people looking and stuff.
GEORGE: Sixty percent of me is receptive to all of this. Thirty percent wants to live alone, work and, I don’t know—maybe you could live in the same building or down the street.
HILLY: I’m not going to. I’m not going to, so you need to pony up and make a decision.
DR. SELMAN: You’re giving him a deadline?
HILLY: No, but we’ve been discussing this over the years.
GEORGE [stroking the tape recorder]: Such a beauty …. Anyway, um, we’ve been “discussing this”?
DR. SELMAN: It does come up from time to time.
HILLY: I mean, it would mean a lot to me if even you were to, when you got a great big bonus check, and you were to take even a few hundred dollars and put it aside to work toward something—
GEORGE: When I get a check, I have to put money toward getting a ring?
HILLY: I’m not saying you have to.
GEORGE: Can’t I put money toward getting you a plane ticket to Jamaica to go to this friend of mine’s wedding this summer?
HILLY [angrily]: I don’t want to go celebrate someone else’s wedding! I mean, we’ve been dating a lot longer than they have.
HILLY: I don’t mean it like that. But come on! It’s going to feel pretty awkward.
GEORGE: What’s wrong?
HILLY: I just want to be engaged!
GEORGE: [moaning]: Oohhhh, God. Help me. Why? Where did this come from?
DR. SELMAN: It feels very real.
GEORGE: Holy shit, I know. I wasn’t expecting this—ahhhhh! Help!
DR. SELMAN: George, you asked her to stand up and take control. So this is what you’re getting.
HILLY: I don’t want a wedding, I don’t want a Web site, I don’t want anything. I’m not going to send out announcements—nothing like that. It’ll just be between you and me—and that’s it. That’s it.
GEORGE: I’m just trying to get through this weekend, seriously.
DR. SELMAN: Hilly, why limit it? Why not—
HILLY: Because I don’t want any of that stuff. I just want it for meeee. I deserve it. I deserve it! I put up with a lot, and I’m probably going to put up with a helluva lot more—and I deserve at least a ring and a promise, even if it’s false.
DR. SELMAN: At least three carats, right?
HILLY: No. I don’t even care. It could be a band; it doesn’t have to have a stone. I talked to people at Graff, I talked to people at Harry Winston, I talked to people at Van Cleef. And Cartier ….
GEORGE: Feeling dizzy.
HILLY: It’s totally normal for you to walk in and buy a ring without a stone, and one day later, maybe, I’ll find a stone myself.
DR. SELMAN: How would that look for George?
HILLY: It doesn’t matter; it’s the thought that counts.
GEORGE: Doesn’t she sound kind of shrill?
HILLY: Well, I’m running out of patience!
GEORGE: But don’t you think this is what she will be like after she gets it?
HILLY: Once I get it, everything will change and I’ll be happy.
GEORGE: Turn into a battle-ax. I can picture you just laughing at me all the time ….
HILLY: I would never!
DR. SELMAN: You just turned the tables on her. You wanted her to be more assertive, and now you’re shirking from it—now you see her as a monster.
GEORGE: And I’ll be walking around in pajamas, following her around, and she’ll be mocking me ….
HILLY: Oh, shut up. Honestly. That’s just irritating and it’s insulting. So just get over your little fantasies about a bad wife. First of all, you haven’t even proposed. Secondly, I have not accepted anything. I’m just inviting you to ask me the question. And you’re not getting any younger.
GEORGE: I have to go to the bathroom.
DR. SELMAN: Why are you running out of the room?
GEORGE: I have to really go. Just had a diet Sunkist. Have to go to the bathroom.
HILLY: I was talking to my mom on the phone, and I said something to her about how sweet it had been the night before, when George woke me up in the middle of the night and told me how fun it is to live with me. I said, “Isn’t that sweet, mom?” And she said [HILLY adopts a Texan accent], “Well, I guess it’s better than getting poked in the eye!” And I said, “What do you mean?” And she said, “You tell him he’s got to ante up!” And I realize: Yeah, she’s right.
GEORGE: That was a good one. Talked to this guy once—wise-man kind of authority figure—and he told me that when you get older, you’re really happy to have a good piss. What were we talking about?
HILLY: Why do you have to say stuff like that?
GEORGE: Sorry. That’s a nice bathroom you have there. Never been in there.
DR. SELMAN: Drug reps told me it’s the nicest bathroom of all the doctors.
[To be continued.]