DR. SELMAN: What’s happening?
GEORGE: I sat around in my pajamas all day, e-mailing high-school friends. I have this illusion that I’m actually working, because I am typing and concentrating, but we were just talking nonsense. Whether or not Star Wars is in fact a masterpiece, you know, Beatles versus Stones. The summer of ’87 comes up a lot. Girls. This girl a friend of mine slept with recently—he admitted that this girl’s “kid had a kid.” We refer to him as the Granny Humper. What else? Bongo drums. So I got into a fight with one of them.
DR. SELMAN: This is one of those guys who molested you during boarding school?
GEORGE: No, he was one of the “molestees.” We were talking about drums and analyzing this Motörhead video on YouTube and Bruce noted that the drumming was spectacular, and I said, “Come on, is there any real difference between drummers?” And Bruce, who’s really into the drumming, said some drummers are better than others and how he can keep a basic backbeat going forever, ooom chi boom, ooom chi boom—but he can’t play in a mambo band. So I said I was playing air guitar and air drums the night before—this is when things started to get ugly. Bruce responded with, “Were you clown dancing in your undies? Was Hilly there, the two of you pounding wine?”
GEORGE: So then my other friend Ian wrote “oooch,” which means that I just got dissed. I didn’t take it that way. So I wrote back, “Hey, not everything is a diss.” Then Bruce responded, and Ian again wrote “oooch,” you know, I got dissed again. Then it escalated. I said, “I know you’re giving me the ‘oooch’ and the ‘plink’ to get a rise out of me”—
DR. SELMAN: Can I ask why we’re talking about this?
GEORGE: This happened a couple hours ago. Affected my mood.
DR. SELMAN [to HILLY]: I presume that you had to go to the bathroom, but the timing, was that anything to do with what George was talking about?
HILLY: It was so boring to me.
DR. SELMAN: I was thinking the same thing.
HILLY: I am just so sick of no one being able to just get anything done. I’m so sick of hearing about these e-mail exchanges. If it’s so important, why don’t you cc me?
DR. SELMAN: Does this have any relevance to your relationship?
HILLY: I’m so sick of having to be the person who always takes action, everywhere, all the time. I don’t think I ask for too many things. One thing in the world that I wanted so badly was tickets to the Van Halen concert. I didn’t get them. O.K., guess what, it’s a sign from God, they’re extending the tour—so I said, “George, here’s a great chance. Come on, with your connections you can get tickets. You don’t have to get me anything for Christmas.” He doesn’t do it. I have to do it myself! Okay, you go away on trips, and it’s sweet, because you get me a present after I badger you to get me one. The last two times, you’ve gotten me presents I already have! The first time it was a T-shirt, the second time it was a stuffed animal I already have. Guess what? I’m 33, I have enough stuffed animals. I want grown-up stuff.
DR. SELMAN: This sounds like déjà vu all over again.
HILLY: Christmas is this month—
DR. SELMAN: Ah-ha!
HILLY: —and I want you to know, I don’t care how much money you have or don’t have, but I want a goddamn engagement ring. If you have to give me a Cracker Jack ring, I don’t care, but you have to give it to me. I was just thinking on the way over here—you’re friendly with Kenneth Jay Lane. Well, your mom’s friendly with him. Jesus Christ, he’s one of the most famous costume jewelry designers in the whole world. Get him to make me something fake and say, “Maybe in 10 years, 20 years I can afford to get you something better”—
DR. SELMAN: Get the setting and then get the stone.
HILLY: Exactly. I’ve given him ideas. Like the Van Halen thing, his name is “Diamond Dave.” You can’t give me a ring—but bring me to see Diamond Dave, that’s the next closest thing. Cheesy, but the sentiment counts.
GEORGE: May I try to say something?
HILLY: I don’t want a production in front of people, I just want a goddamn ring to put on my left finger because I’m old and I’m sick and tired of having to answer the questions. And you know, if I don’t get one, I’m moving on.
DR. SELMAN: Boy, that is a threat.
GEORGE: Anyway! She bought Van Halen tickets off eBay for a lot of money, and we hadn’t paid rent, so I said, “You can’t do that.”
DR. SELMAN: So you do have tickets?
HILLY: I’m on a waiting list.
DR. SELMAN: How does this address the ring?
HILLY: I don’t want to be crass, because George does so many thoughtful things for me, and I love 99.8 percent about everything about you, but it’s those other two-tenths of a percentage that—I’m sick of it. What is it, do I not communicate well about what I want? Because that’s what I want, and I don’t care how you get it. I said before, maybe ask a relative, maybe if someone has an old something laying around. I don’t care what it looks like—I mean of course I do—but for right now, it’s just: Get it done.
DR. SELMAN: What do you say, George?
GEORGE [to HILLY]: What would you give me so far this semester as a grade? C-minus?
HILLY: I would give you a B-plus-plus.
GEORGE: That’s pretty good.
DR. SELMAN: Except for one problem.
HILLY: The night before last, it just so happened that we both woke up in our rooms at 4:30 a.m. He must have heard something; he came in to my room. You probably don’t remember, but once again, he ended up leaving and saying, “I hate this life!”
GEORGE: Couldn’t breathe with all the cat hair.
HILLY: Yeah, yeah. That’s the kind of stuff that I deal with—and my reward should be getting a goddamn ring.
GEORGE: It was the cat’s fault.
HILLY: But those outbursts. And you give so much back to me. But it’s that one thing, that dark cloud—and I’m not saying I want to get married right away
GEORGE: The other night I was talking to Vanessa Von Bismarck, who’s a direct descendant of Otto, and she asked, “When are two going to get married?” And her idea was that I get you pregnant first, and then apparently everything else will fall into place.
HILLY: You know what I’m sick of? I hate the stigma of feeling like one of these sucker-punched spinster loser Manhattan hags with a million cats and a stack of New Yorkers. I’m sick of it! I just want it done.
GEORGE: When I was in Kansas City over Thanksgiving, I was drinking with a friend who’d been going out with his girlfriend for 12 years, and they recently separated. I mean, we’ve been together for what, six? I don’t think it’s so unheard of, I don’t know where you got this idea, maybe it’s just a New York thing, that if you go out with someone for a certain number of years—
DR. SELMAN: Hilly’s not even asking to be married!
GEORGE: I’m with you on this. It’s the same old battle—there’s two George’s in my head. There is one who agrees with everything you’re saying. Maybe that’s 75 percent of the identity. But then there’s this other guy, who has hang-ups, issues—
DR. SELMAN: You think both guys don’t have hang-ups and issues?
GEORGE: The other guy, right now he’s reading The Razor’s Edge by Somerset Maugham? The main character, Larry, he’s not sure he wants to settle down yet. He wants to loaf, so he goes to Paris, does nothing, and I think he goes to Tibet, at least he did in the movie—ever see that, with Tyrone Power?
DR. SELMAN: George, why would you—
HILLY: You can loaf and travel all you want, I’ll stay home and you can do whatever you want, go anywhere with whomever you want. I just want a ring.
DR. SELMAN: I was reading about how filibustering has taken new heights in politics.
HILLY: He’s just trying to drag the time—
DR. SELMAN: It’s like you’re filibustering, ignoring the topic, going on and on and not getting anywhere.
GEORGE: I like to stay in the moment. Live fully in the present. Right now, I’d like to think about the next three or four hours. Have some good conversation here, work on some stuff, then go out to dinner and have a nice evening. And in the next phase, there would be sleep and then—
DR. SELMAN: Whose idea was it to come in tonight?
GEORGE: My idea.
DR. SELMAN: Why would you expose yourself to this?
GEORGE: I didn’t know she was going to ambush me with this.
DR. SELMAN: How could you not know this?
GEORGE: I’ve been making to-do lists. Not changing the subject here! It’s amazing, because I’m pretty disorganized. I make these lists—go to Duane Reade, get ear plugs, brush the cat—
DR. SELMAN: You’re saying you’re too disorganized to get her a ring?
GEORGE: Maybe I can’t visualize myself going to get a ring. I don’t know the process. If I had it on paper, a step-by-step—
HILLY: I could make you this step-by-step list. I can even include dates and hours and minutes.
GEORGE: I think it has to do with the future. When people say things like, “What’s your schedule like next week?” I don’t know what to say. Don’t like to live that way.
DR. SELMAN: Are you angry with her for some reason?
GEORGE: Because I haven’t gotten her ring? I just don’t speak that language, I’m afraid.
DR. SELMAN: It’s not just her. You’re saying that if somebody wants you to do something, you won’t do it, just for the very sake that they want you to do it.
GEORGE: Maybe this is the 25 percent, the bad guy—
DR. SELMAN: I think you’ve got a lot of repressed anger, George.
GEORGE: Repressed anger?
DR. SELMAN: A lot of hostility.
GEORGE: Do I seem hostile right now?
DR. SELMAN: Passive-aggressive. She’s asking you for one lousy ring.
GEORGE: Hold on a second. You know that thing leads to marriage—
DR. SELMAN: She didn’t mention the word “marriage.”
GEORGE: That’s the first step, then there’s a wedding, kids—
HILLY: I don’t know about that stuff; it seems like something so beyond anything I could handle. But one reason I feel strongly about this ring—it sets the tone, makes us both start to think about if we’re capable of getting to that point.
GEORGE: That’s all it is? O.K., now I’m understanding it better. So getting engaged has nothing to do with getting married?
DR. SELMAN: Well …
HILLY: Not really.
DR. SELMAN: She didn’t even say engaged. She just said a ring.
HILLY: No, I want a ring that I can refer to as an engagement ring. I don’t want to tell anyone.
GEORGE: You get engaged, that means you’re going to get married in a year.
HILLY: No, it doesn’t! I’d like to have the ring, it will give me a great amount of peace of mind. Who knows, maybe five years down the road, we’ll wake up and say, “Let’s go to Vegas and tie the knot!”
GEORGE: Can we call it something besides an engagement ring?
DR. SELMAN: What would you call it, a pre-engagement ring?
HILLY: I already have one of those.
GEORGE: Can we call it something else that might be more palatable? What’s a promise ring?
HILLY: It means that you will not see anyone else, no evil ho’s. It’s a preamble to an engagement ring. I already have one.
GEORGE: A friendship ring?
HILLY: No, it’s not, it’s a promise ring.
DR. SELMAN: O.K., it would have to be an engagement ring.
GEORGE: You have to understand that this is not something that’s been in my consciousness, ever.
DR. SELMAN: George, she brings it up every time.
GEORGE: I knew this would come up. I was planning on bringing up the two George’s in my head. One of them’s always saying you will never find someone like Hilly, someone who will put up with you. But then this other guy—
DR. SELMAN: What’s the other guy’s name?
GEORGE: Damien. He’s actually pretty persuasive. Most of the time, he’s a little wimpy bitch. Damien always says, “You gotta get out—if you get married, you’re going to have to work in publicity or real estate. You will have to start being responsible and think about others. In other words, you will be fucked.”
DR. SELMAN: How do you think that your life will be any different if you gave her an engagement ring?
GEORGE: This subject only comes up here. She doesn’t bring it up at home, so I don’t think about it.
DR. SELMAN: Is that true?
HILLY: My God, if I even bring up the word Christmas—
GEORGE: Let’s talk about Christmas. We are talking about the ring, we’re making progress—
DR. SELMAN: I don’t know if we’re making progress.
GEORGE: You have to trust me, I’m actually taking this subject seriously. I am! But I can’t do anything about it right now. I have one dollar and 43 cents in the bank until Friday.
HILLY: You can do something creative. You could say, “Okay, I suggest you move the promise ring to your other hand, and we’ll call it even.”
GEORGE: You mean right now?
GEORGE: As usual, before Thanksgiving she started talking about Christmas. I said I would do everything I could to make you happy on Christmas.
HILLY: You can give me a ring. You don’t have to give it to me on Christmas, you don’t have to be with me on Christmas, you can do whatever the hell you want on Christmas. Just give me the ring. I leave on December 23. I want it before I go.
GEORGE: Well, that kind of sweetens the deal, doesn’t it, because I was thinking I might want to stay here and work.
HILLY: Stay. Just give me the ring. You can do anything you want, as long as it doesn’t involve [ed. deleted] women.
GEORGE: Hilly doesn’t like me hanging out with certain types of women.
DR. SELMAN: Here is your opportunity for the heroic gesture.
GEORGE: So Japanese women are okay?
HILLY: They’re fine.
GEORGE: What do you like about Christmas?
HILLY: It’s a nice time to think about making other people happy.
DR. SELMAN: Is that how you feel George, just wanting to do nice things for other people?
GEORGE: I sometimes think I need to minimize my dealings with humanity. Sometimes I think people don’t like me. People like me, right? But you know what, it hit me recently, that not everyone does. I don’t think I’m everyone’s cup of tea. Not always met with applause.
GEORGE: I went out last night, someone had time-release Adderall. That stuff is so great. I went to the Beatrice until four and woke up at 11 and felt great, then around three o’clock, I started to crash. Why does there have to be a crash involved?
DR. SELMAN: What do you imagine would be different about your life if you’re engaged to Hilly?
GEORGE: Damien says if we get engaged, a year later we get married.
DR. SELMAN: Is that true, Hilly, that once you get the ring, you’re going to start pressuring him to get married?
HILLY: I don’t think so. I don’t know. At some point, you have to start to think about the future. It’s a nice idea to think about having kids. I can’t even take care of a cat.
GEORGE: I guess it’s just a question of reprogramming me about what getting engaged means.
HILLY: Normally, people, either you go to a restaurant to make a big production of it, get down on your knee, and then you send out announcements and people send presents—I don’t want any of that. I don’t want anyone involved.
DR. SELMAN: I don’t think you have to worry about that.
HILLY: I want you to maybe take me out for a burrito and give me the ring, and I’ll say, “Cool, great, thanks,” and I won’t tell all my girlfriends—
GEORGE: I know myself pretty well, and when I was in Kansas, I spent a lot of time with my dad and when I look at him—
HILLY: If people want to send us presents, that would be great. We would accept them gladly, but we are not going to send out announcements and have special outfits and a party and cakes. I mean, I’ll make cake for myself, but I’m not inviting anyone to share it with me.
GEORGE: So let’s do a recap.
HILLY: It’s December 5th. You have twenty days.