DR. SELMAN: Nice to see you guys!
GEORGE: What’s it been?
DR. SELMAN: Four months.
GEORGE: I don’t know where to begin. I’ve been out two nights in a row really late—not a big surprise, right?—and earlier in the week, I had this new attitude, that I was through with it, that I was over nightclubs and young people.
[GEORGE’s cell phone goes off. It’s a text message that reads, “let’s go get whiskey. i’m thirsty.”]
HILLY: We moved to Roosevelt Island.
GEORGE: It was her idea and the place is spectacular. It’s had a mostly positive effect on our relationship.
DR. SELMAN: Are you able to sleep there?
GEORGE: I was just going to say, that was my big problem, even before Hilly moved in with me. I sleep like a baby in the new apartment. My cat’s allowed in my room, she can walk around, say hi, but she can’t spend the night. I just crack the window, turn the fan on, slap on a Breathe Right, squirt in some nasal sprays and emollient, pop a Singulair, maybe a Zyrtec and I’m fine. No more Klonipins.
DR. SELMAN: And you have a beautiful view?
GEORGE: Sometimes I don’t even leave my room and just stare out the window. We pity Manhattanites, even that hedge fund guy who lives on top of the Time Warner building. We’ve been playing tennis—six courts right outside our door.
HILLY: And we can play until 11:00 at night.
GEORGE: And our apartment—I rarely leave it and that’s becoming a problem.
HILLY: And the kind of people Roosevelt Island attracts—a friend of mine went for a bike ride on Roosevelt Island and it was so strange, because you see completely opposite ends of the spectrum. She rode past a beautiful family of people speaking French, these adorable perfectly-dressed angelic children, and then right beyond them, there was a group of people having a big cookout and my friend heard shouting, a wife or girlfriend yelling at her boyfriend or husband: “All you do is sit around and drink all day and watch the game!” and it was kind of ghetto-like. And you have all the people who are in rehabilitation on the island, tons of wheelchairs, and there’s one nice guy who lives on a gurney—“the Gurney Man.” And then there’s “Party in a Wheelchair,” he’s kind of like Radioman but in a wheelchair, with James Brown blasting. Every time you see him, it’s the same thing, in the middle of the ecological sanctuary, this protected garden like space—beautiful wildflowers, and you’ll see a child flying a kite, and seagulls will fly over—and here comes Party in a Wheelchair, zooming past at Mach speed. The other day I got on the tram, and it was packed, body to body—and it was kind of hot, it was gross—and the doors shut, and I realize there is a guy in a wheelchair on there, and he had one of these machines that says insults, profane insults: `Fuck you! You’re an asshole!’ I can’t remember the other one, but over and over, the entire ride. Finally, the tram landed and everyone was like, “Oh, phew,” and I got on the little red shuttle bus that takes you to our building—he got on there, too, and he kept on playing this thing the entire time.
GEORGE: What song?
HILLY: What? Not a song, it was insults.
GEORGE: Oh right. Sorry, wasn’t listening.
DR. SELMAN: So you moved there in June?
GEORGE: We got off to kind of a rough start, some serious money issues, and a number of fights. But I really think we’re getting along much better. I wouldn’t have said that in July. Hilly’s paying two-thirds of the rent now. I’m in this phase now—from 15 to 21, I was a party boy; then 21 to 23 I started becoming hungry for knowledge, a wannabe intellectual, reading a lot, and then 23 to 30, that was all about work, and 30 until 38, I was hedonistic, and now that’s kind of ending. Now I just want to know more and get more and more smart and enlightened—I sit around and watch educational videos.
DR. SELMAN: You just said that you were out late for the last two nights—how does that fit in with what you just said?
GEORGE: You got a point there. What I always wanted was, not to have to go into an office and sit around and read all day. And I’ve achieved that, but now I’ve turned into kind of a loafer. Today I was at Barnes & Noble, and the book that I chose to borrow to read while drinking my coffee was called Doing Nothing: A History of Loafers, Loungers, Slackers, and Bums in America. It hit me all the sudden: I’ve become one of these people, an idler, a layabout.
HILLY: Yeah, the perfect day was, I came home from work and he had been out the whole night before, and George was sitting on a couch—it was amazing—a seersucker bathrobe on, freshly bathed, and drinking out of my St. Louis crystal flute a Bloody Mary, with a big stalk of celery in it and he was just having the time of his life, and it was like 6:00 in the evening, and it was funny to walk in and see that, he was like Little Lord Fauntleroy. Then there was this other time, he was “doing some work”—he had said, “Okay, I have to devote this whole weekend to work.” So he goes into his room, shuts the door, and you know, “Don’t come in, I’m working, I’m working.” I had some clean laundry to bring him, so I knocked on the door and I didn’t hear anything and walked in, and there he was sitting at his computer, with his headphones on, cracking up— he was watching Chris Rock on YouTube.
DR. SELMAN: This was the same day he was drinking the Bloody Mary’s?
HILLY: No, these incidents were a few weeks apart.
GEORGE: Yesterday I watched William F. Buckley on Charlie Rose, then this funny clip of Bill Murray on the golf course at St. Andrews, being interviewed by someone who knew nothing about golf, watched that four times. Then I decided to learn about windmills and checked out the map of Italy and realized that Milan and Venice are on the same latitude—had no idea. I guess I am proud of having this kind of lifestyle, there is something noble about it, but I also know that it can’t last.
HILLY: I think you’ve had to overcome a lot of hardships along the way, because you were really depressed. Now, thank God, you seem pretty happy. But you’ve got to get moving.
GEORGE: I’m on a sabbatical now, an interim between my rococo period—which was very hedonistic and frothy and frivolous and aimless—and now I’m at the stage where I’m figuring out my next move, and I’m going to move on to realism and seriousness and morality.
DR. SELMAN: You know, one of the symptoms of depression is not functioning?
HILLY: Well no, he functions now. I remember him in the past not functioning, and the difference is, he would sit at home and do nothing all day, and be in the fetal position when I came home. Now when I come home he’s in a pretty good mood.
DR. SELMAN: Yes, in a robe and drinking Bloody Mary’s.
HILLY: No, that was right after we moved in last June, and I thought, Oh God, this is a sign of things to come.
GEORGE: Right, back then I considered it a real accomplishment to finish a video, wrap it up in the Netflix return envelope, drop it off at the mailbox, or ride my bike around the island twice. It’s five miles around. No hills. What else is an accomplishment?
HILLY: You’ve been going to the gym, you’ve been writing e-mails and communicating with people. For a really long time, he’d just been a depressed individual, shut himself off, and didn’t talk to anyone and had these delusions of paranoia about people’s intentions if they sent him an e-mail or left him a message—and now he just seems so much more grounded.
GEORGE: People like me better now.
HILLY: I mean, you’re always going to be crazy, but that’s one of the reasons I love you. But you’re not freaky scary anymore—ha-ha!
GEORGE: Not at all. Another thing about Roosevelt Island, is it’s so quiet. That’s another reason I pity Manhattanites. We’re in this sanctuary, this paradise. You just look over a few hundred yards away at the chaos and all these suckers.
HILLY: I get to work faster now than I did it when we were on 74th Street.
DR. SELMAN: What happened with all the medical issues? Last time you had shingles, you were going to have surgery.
GEORGE: That’s all gone, over. I was just burning the candle at both ends, I wasn’t sleeping more than a few hours a night. Now I go to bed at 3 a.m. and wake up at 11:30.
DR. SELMAN: Why did you guys decide to come back to see me at this particular moment?
GEORGE: There were some rough patches. She has been so supportive and patient, as usual, cooking for me and ironing my clothes and being sexually generous. I haven’t always reciprocated. But I think in the past couple months, things have stabilized. It wouldn’t have been a great idea for us to come in right after we moved.
DR. SELMAN [to HILLY]: You agree?
HILLY: It wouldn’t have been fun.
DR. SELMAN: Sounds like things just got swept under the rug?
GEORGE: Come on, did we have fun last night?
HILLY: Yes, we had fun last night.
DR. SELMAN: What did you do?
GEORGE: We went to this party for Ivanka Trump’s jewelry. And at some point, I turned in to this schmooze monster. I was talking the colleagues and Dori and Zani and Tantivy and Ronni and Jaime and Fabian and wasn’t I just going nuts?
HILLY: It was so fun to see him enjoying himself like that again.
GEORGE: I do feel a little isolated on Roosevelt Island, so when I go out, I want to squeeze as much as I can out of an evening. So then we went to the Rose Bar—75 bucks for four drinks—and then Paddy McGuire’s, then SoHo House, and then the Gold Bar.
DR. SELMAN: How do you afford to spend that kind of money?
GEORGE: We were with people who get all macked out and hooked up with free bottles. Hilly went home around midnight, and I got home at 4:30 am, and today when I called her, she goes, “You got home early, you’re such a good boy, you’re growing up!”
DR. SELMAN: What do you think Hilly? You seem lost in thought.
HILLY: This is boring, it’s the same thing—
GEORGE: We figured out the key to good sex recently. Foreplay. Minimum of ten minutes. Don’t want to talk about it? [to DR. SELMAN] Well, where do you think the relationship is going?
DR. SELMAN: Why don’t you answer that question?
GEORGE: Well, why don’t I ask Hilly the same question.
HILLY: I think we’ve reached a new plateau in our status quo, ha! It’s a much nicer one than before. But we still have issues. I think of this as a work-in-progress, I don’t think this is the way it’s going to be forever. I have this optimistic feeling that maybe in the next month or two, we’ll continue feeling happy, but somehow it will work out.
GEORGE: I think I’m setting my expectations way too low. Like, I derive real satisfaction from things like being a good nose hair trimmer. Really got that down to an art.
DR. SELMAN: You asked where do I think the relationship is going. I threw it back to you, and how did these answers answer the question?
GEORGE: I think she’s saying I need to get my act together.
DR. SELMAN: That’s not what she said. She said that the relationship has reached a new level of status quo.
GEORGE: What’s that mean?
HILLY: It’s a new phase, because I think individually we’re making certain changes, but as a couple, we’re kind of continuing on with the same thing. And I don’t know what exactly your expectations are from this point. I think we should feel happy and relish in this happiness, but I want you to know that this won’t be eternal happiness for me. Because there are a lot of things—
GEORGE: You want to get married.
HILLY: Well, there are a lot of things that we’re not honest about with each other. And when he starts accusing me of being jealous or paranoid–I don’t want to feel that way. I don’t want to wonder. I also don’t want you to think that I’m nagging you when I say, “Well, where were you?” But I am curious, because I love you. What happens if I wake up … It’s like, you would feel this about your cat, if you got home and Baba was gone, wouldn’t you want to know where she was? And if she didn’t come home, and you couldn’t get her on the phone, because she’s a cat and she doesn’t have a phone because she can’t talk—you might get a little sad and worried.
DR. SELMAN: But this is the same stuff that’s been going on.
GEORGE: I had a dream last night that I proposed to you. I think there are a few things in the way. One is my refusal to—
HILLY [excited tone]: How’d you do it, where was it?
GEORGE: Can’t remember and I’m not sure. What. I don’t really know, I think it was—and I worry, because I know that I’ve caused you pain, and I don’t want to make you cry, ever.
HILLY: You bring so much more happiness to my life than anything bad.
GEORGE: Going back to jealousy, can I just say something? This is probably immaturity, but I don’t feel like I have control over this. I think this is something that got set in my personality when I was like six or seven, and that’s girl craziness. But it doesn’t mean you should be jealous. I sometimes feel this need to go to the Beatrice Inn once a week and be around that sort of thing, smell it, and if someone gives me her phone number, I delete those numbers periodically, effectively killing them off.
DR. SELMAN: Do you think if you were married, you would be less jealous?
DR. SELMAN: Why?
HILLY: The first thing off the top of my head is there’s just a stigma—people make comments to me.
DR. SELMAN: Comments?
HILLY: I don’t even want to think about it. I don’t think a single day goes by that at least one person doesn’t ask me, “When are you guys getting married? When is he going to propose? What’s going on?!”
GEORGE: That’s like people irritating me with, “When are you going to write a book?” “Um, never. Fuck off, leave me alone.”
DR. SELMAN: But what does that have to do with jealousy?
HILLY: Clearly people are wondering—because I know I do—about people, women, who have been dating someone for seven years.
GEORGE: Seven year itch!
HILLY: And maybe they think, “Why the hell is she still with him? What a loser. Move on, sister!”
GEORGE: Well, we’re living together. Aren’t we playing tennis all the time?
HILLY: But at the same time, it does irritate me, because I think that these people are sitting around and talking and—his is really silly, but I wonder in the back of my mind—maybe they’re right. Is there something wrong with me?
GEORGE: That’s society talking, mindless conformity, the herd instinct.
HILLY: If I were a different person, would George have proposed by now?
GEORGE: Those are people concerned with appearances and conventions—they’re sheep.
HILLY: I mean, my entire life I have been criticized about my odd behavior and quirkiness, and at this point I can’t help but wonder if that’s not the reason. Especially the longer we’re together, the weirder it makes it seem, because it’s like, the better you get to know me, and you still don’t want to get married!
DR. SELMAN: So what do you think of what she’s saying, George?
GEORGE: I was kind of half listening, I’m sorry. What’s the specific question here?
DR. SELMAN: She’s saying that not a day goes by that someone doesn’t say, “When are you getting married?” That maybe there’s something to it that they are asking her this, and what is wrong with her that she’s staying in this relationship and not getting married and putting up with you. Is that what you said Hilly?
HILLY: Yes—or what is wrong with me that I can’t figure out how to change?
GEORGE: May I ask you a question? The people who say these things—in your mind can you just picture them?
HILLY; They’re losers but—
GEORGE: So you wouldn’t call them wise—
HILLY: But they’re a lot of them.…
DR. SELMAN: Well, she feels this way, so why not just make her happy and do it? Seems like that would solve a lot of issues.
HILLY: We don’t have to get married I mean, how pathetic that we’re having this conversation.
DR. SELMAN: Again.
HILLY: It’s just embarrassing to me—am I that much of a loser?
DR. SELMAN: You’re saying that George’s failure to give you a ring is because you’re a loser?
GEORGE: What? Oh come on, please. You can totally pull off super confident. Last night in the back of the cab you were kind of mocking me—I like that! And what you prefer to do is, let me do whatever I want, and you infantilize me: “Look at the big boy, big boys like to take bubble baths.”
DR. SELMAN: I have a question. How would your life be without Hilly? I don’t see how you could possibly function.
HILLY: Wait, can I say this? I’m sorry to interrupt, but the other day—this is a perfect example—I got home from work and George was at the gym, and it was late, 9 p.m., so I started making dinner. And he walked in, and almost the first thing he said was, “Stop feeding me such big portions and making me fat!” And going on and on and being really angry about it. And I said, “George it’s healthy, it’s vegetables, stir fry.” “Well, stop giving me all this stuff!” So—and I’m not joking—probably eighteen minutes later, he was sitting on the couch and he said “Hilly, is it OK to eat cookies?” In a little boy voice: “Hilly, I’m so hungry.” Finally I said “Don’t do this to me!” and I called him Tubby. Not that I think he’s tubby, and he got so sad and I felt so guilty.
GEORGE: You should call me fat. Fat boy.
HILLY: But you’re not!
GEORGE: I can’t control myself! I like pasta and butter and stuff.
HILLY: Well it’s not fair to put me in that position, because it makes me feel sad.
GEORGE: I want to apologize for that time I wanted you to concentrate on 30 Rock and I said, “Quit sewing like an old lady.”
DR. SELMAN: Well, now I can answer your original question: Where do I think the relationship is going? I think the relationship is going to a place that depends on how long Hilly is willing to hang in there with the status quo. And once she gets fed up with the status quo, I think that things will change. Where they change from there, it’s not clear.
GEORGE: We sure are getting along better, right?
DR. SELMAN: Do you agree with that Hilly?
HILLY: I do. It’s difficult, because you’re obviously not witnessing many things that happen along the way, and I think it’s just our tendency when we come here to focus on the more negative things. Every time we play tennis I feel like our relationship has progressed so rapidly. It’s almost a completely different side of him than I’ve seen—patient and, what’s the word, inspiring. It’s so rare that I feel as good about myself in a situation like that—my nature is normally so competitive, I beat myself up if I’m really bad. But he’s so nice!
DR. SELMAN: Do you beat him in tennis?
HILLY: No, no, I’m horrible! But the thing is, he says, “No, no, you’re good,” and he’s not just b.s.-ing. Yes sure, I’m bad, but he does see good things, and he brings those to my attention. It’s such a nice feeling. There’s a lot of things like that.
GEORGE: What are some other highlights? Remember that thing we did outside in the Hamptons?
HILLY: Stop it. But I just can’t even believe that we were able to function, living like we did on the Upper West Side.
GEORGE: Those trampoline people! We pretty much moved because of them.
HILLY: Anyway, I mean, sure, we talk about the status quo thing, and I’m happy, and I think it’s good that we’re aware of all these things, but I don’t think we should see this as doom or anything. And I think it’s a big step that you even said you had a dream that you proposed to me. And we’ve had this discussion many, many, many, many, many, many times: You’re supposed to propose to me by your birthday. It’s in May. But it doesn’t mean we have to get married. So just make it easier on yourself, just get out of the way, just propose now, and don’t worry. I don’t want to get married anytime soon.
DR. SELMAN: Do you think you could proposed to her in a therapy session?
GEORGE: Oh, that would be good. Maybe on the Circle Line.
HILLY: That’s not really the fantasy I envision, but…
GEORGE: There’s this painting I’ve been studying called The Rake’s Progress by Hogarth and there’s an opera of it by Stravinsky I got at home. It’s about this guy who has this really decadent lifestyle and blows all his money and ends up in Bedlam. I don’t wanna be that guy.
HILLY: This brings up that topic, something I really don’t like the idea of doing, but I keep on coming back to it. We’ve always not been the most social people, when it comes to being social like normal people. Now that we have a bigger place, and all of our friends are a curious about it, I thought, What better time than Halloween—we could have a party and invite everyone to come. Because we live in this former mental institution, and everybody could come as a crazy person.
GEORGE: Wait, I don’t thing mental illness is a laughing matter. What do you mean, dress up as paranoid schizophrenics and lunatics and stuff?
HILLY: No, I mean characters. Like Typhoid Mary. Or you could be a crazy cat or something.
GEORGE: Why not just a Halloween party. It is scary there.
HILLY: We can walk over to the smallpox hospital. There’s a lot of feral cats running around outside of our building. But it could also be a great big pain in the neck and expensive, so let’s not do it.
DR. SELMAN: So it sounds like you’re really getting a lot closer.
GEORGE: I think so.
HILLY: And it’s weird, my relationship with Baba has blossomed and it’s like she’s ten years younger, she’s like a little cat again, she even comes in and hangs out in my room.
DR. SELMAN: You guys have separate rooms. You don’t sleep together?
GEORGE: I have the bigger room, and since you are paying two thirds of the rent, if you want we can switch rooms.
DR. SELMAN: And the whole place is air-conditioned?
HILLY: But the wonderful thing—there are two different systems. There’s one that’s all his in his room. The other one is controlled in my room, but also affects the entire living room. This helps one of our problems—I like to be very cold and he doesn’t. It’s just so practical and normal since we have such different day to day lifestyles, and sleeping patterns, that we would live like this. I think it’s smart. People say we’re like buddies, like roommates.
GEORGE: Well you know all those girls, those yentas—
HILLY: —are going to be spinsters. Well, I think it’s smart and I think it’s foolish for people not to try to accept these things that make their lives better, right?
DR. SELMAN: I agree, there’s all kinds of relationships.
GEORGE: You remember when we were living together before, she woke me up every morning? It was destroying us.
HILLY: It was horrible.
GEORGE: And I was getting up in the middle of the night to check in the hotels, because I wasn’t breathing properly.
DR. SELMAN: Are there any hotels on Roosevelt Island? You’d have to check into the mental hospital.
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