Our madcap couple has just returned from having spent Thanksgiving with a large piece of the country between them. We join them in the winter twilight of their therapist’s office.
DR. SELMAN: What did you guys do for Thanksgiving?
HILLY: I went to my friend Alex’s parents’ house in Connecticut.
GEORGE: I went to Kansas City. And yesterday morning, my dad was about to drive me to the airport, and he was in the kitchen and spotted something out the window. He lives on top of a hill in the middle of a ranch, and there were three turkeys in a field, and he grabbed his shotgun. We hopped in his car and went down, and he shot one turkey out the window—not easy—and then got out and shot another turkey in the head. Then he was wringing the thing’s neck, twirling it around, and threw it in the back of the car, and it started flapping around, and I started freaking out, jumped out and ran home in the rain. I don’t know if I’m cut out for that kind of thing—providing for my family.
DR. SELMAN: So, Hilly, you missed out on all that fun?
HILLY: Ha ha.
GEORGE: When I came back last night, how would you describe my mood?
HILLY: Really sad and kind of scared.
GEORGE: I was excited coming back and seeing Hilly, but after being there—it was a perfect week, I think I only got depressed twice. Once while watching Short Cuts, because I feared I was like those characters, these horrible people—
DR. SELMAN: You could be like your dad.
GEORGE: That’s the thing, I can’t be like him. I’m in awe of him—he’s got kids and grandkids and a great marriage and writes his newspaper column. Going back to the hunting: Hilly and I were in Blockbuster and—
HILLY: There was this scuffle. A customer, a 6-foot-7 Asian guy, apprehended a shoplifter. The guy said, “I saw you stuff those DVD’s into your bag”—and the guy was pretty disheveled and dirty; didn’t look exactly like he was homeless, but pretty close—and he started denying it. So the Asian guy grabbed him, and it turned into a real fight, and George ran out.
GEORGE: Hilly was in line, and I was closer to the action—like I could be caught in the crossfire if the guy had a gun. You know how I always say, “If the shit goes down, I’m going to be ready”?
DR. SELMAN: I remember you have fantasies about saving people—
GEORGE: Doing something heroic. I could’ve joined the fight. The uncool thing is, I didn’t think of protecting Hilly. I was like, “I’m getting out of here.” Plus I’d made her wait in line to pay for the videos.
DR. SELMAN: What do you think, Hilly?
HILLY: It wasn’t that big a deal. The people who work at Blockbuster are practically criminals themselves, because they’re so stupid and apathetic and rude.
DR. SELMAN: So why do you feel inadequate in that situation?
GEORGE: I’ve always prided myself on—I’ve been in that kind of situation and confronted the force of evil. Two weeks ago, a friend got tickets to see Robert Pollard; before I got there, I had beer, sake, and then at the show I had beer, vodka, vodka, vodka, vodka, vodka, vodka, and we were at the Bowery Ballroom, and someone on the upper level poured liquid on my head. I thought it was an accident. But then it happened a second time, and I had my vodka soda, and I hurled it up at these two hipsters and completely doused them—it was beautiful. And then I gave the two middle fingers and a really mean look. And this girl congratulated me. Then I got another vodka soda and a big cup of
DR. SELMAN: So you need drinks in order to—
GEORGE: Yes, courage. And then I had a sip of my friend’s tequila, and the place started spinning and I fell over into a woman. Went home, threw up and passed out on the couch …. But at Blockbuster, it had the appearance that I wasn’t protecting Hilly, I was saving my own skin; it was like I was pulling a Jackie O.—
HILLY: No—don’t belittle her. Anyway, with the exception of sometimes when you’ve pushed me into moving traffic, for the most part you protect me.
DR. SELMAN: Why weren’t you together for Thanksgiving?
GEORGE: Had to do with money. So back to Kansas City: I stayed with my grandmother and we had a great time, driving around looking at various houses she lived in and—
DR. SELMAN: Was there ever any consideration that you would spend Thanksgiving together?
GEORGE: We postponed it—a ticket for Hilly would have cost like $700.
HILLY: It sucked, but Christmas is right after Thanksgiving, and to me it’s extremely important that, for my parents’ sake, he comes for Christmas.
GEORGE: We might have needed—did we kind of agree that it was O.K. for us to have a few days apart? This is not relevant to our relationship, but I did have the feeling that I got a weeklong furlough in Kansas City—
DR. SELMAN: A weeklong furlough?
GEORGE: Like I’m back in jail, meaning Manhattan Island. Now, I guess the big issue—and it really wasn’t a big issue for me; I didn’t know how to react, I was mildly stunned at first, I don’t know how to react to this—
HILLY: I don’t think it’s brutalizing turkeys; I think it’s more a romantic way of looking at life. Your father’s lifestyle is—
GEORGE: That, actually, was not the issue I was referring to just now. What’s the other thing that happened?
GEORGE: See, it’s a non-issue. Amazing. You’re going to have a field day with this one! Hilly stopped taking birth control and didn’t tell me for six weeks.
DR. SELMAN: No wonder she stayed out of Kansas.
GEORGE: What do you mean? Let me say that again: Hilly stopped taking her birth-control pills and didn’t tell me for six weeks. Reaction?
DR. SELMAN: People in Kansas are friendly until you go to the abortion clinic.
GEORGE: If you really want to—
HILLY: I have no desire to be pregnant right now, and I was not concerned greatly about it being an issue. I had to stop taking it because I had to schedule an appointment with my doctor; she doesn’t believe in prescribing birth control more than four months at a time. And I had to reschedule it because of work, and then one week led to another—
GEORGE: O.K., I’m going to play the role of Dr. Selman now: Hilly, that’s immaterial. The main issue is: Why didn’t you tell George? Right?
HILLY: Because I knew you would have flipped out!
GEORGE [as DR. SELMAN again]: I understand that, Hilly, but don’t you think George would have freaked out more had you gotten pregnant?
HILLY: Well, I’m sick of dealing with George freaking out about every little thing.
GEORGE: I do freak about little things. One example is, every time I come back to the apartment, it’s been rearranged. Furniture has been moved, pictures have been—
DR. SELMAN: Are you guys actually having sex? Because if not, then it doesn’t really matter.
GEORGE: We’ve had sex twice since our last session [three weeks prior]—one time on Queen Noor’s bed at the Ritz. Used a condom. Hilly had the, whatever, presidential suite, for two nights; Queen Noor wasn’t there, but she stayed there once.
DR. SELMAN: Do you usually use a condom?
GEORGE: No, I paint a map of China on her belly.
DR. SELMAN: So why use a condom this time?
GEORGE: Because I thought, “Well, now I need to use birth control. She went off birth control.”
HILLY: He wanted me to buy condoms for him!
DR. SELMAN: I think the thrust here is that George is saying that you didn’t inform him that you were not on birth control, and he was under the assumption that you were.
HILLY: Well, whatever—there are a lot of things George does that he doesn’t inform me about.
DR. SELMAN: But the issue being that if you had sex, then you could conceivably get pregnant.
HILLY: Not if he’s drawing his little cartoons everywhere!
DR. SELMAN: You could still get pregnant that way.
GEORGE: You can. But it’s—listen, I don’t want to dwell on that so much. We didn’t use a condom last night.
DR. SELMAN: What’s the issue then with the birth control?
GEORGE: Well, she’s going to get back on it. Right?
DR. SELMAN: So you’re not on it yet?
HILLY: I started this morning.
DR. SELMAN: What would you have done had you gotten pregnant?
HILLY: I don’t know. I guess I would have had an abortion or discussed it with George, but—
GEORGE: Well, if that had happened, that would have been a terrible—
HILLY: I don’t condone abortion—I never would imagine having one. And immediately it wouldn’t be my first idea. But considering that during that time I was also drinking and smoking cigarettes, it certainly couldn’t have been good for the health of the fetus. If I get pregnant, I want to do it intelligently and become completely healthy. I am pretty firmly against abortion unless it’s an extreme situation.
GEORGE: I’m against it.
DR. SELMAN: Would this have been an extreme situation?
HILLY: No. Aside from—I really did not, I really was not concerned that it was going to happen—
DR. SELMAN: So what’s your concern, George? It sounds like she had the situation well in hand.
GEORGE: I didn’t want to risk her getting pregnant. I can’t even fathom that. I don’t think I’m capable of that kind of responsibility right now. It’s funny, though—when I was in Kansas, I was driving around listening to “Alice’s Restaurant” on NPR, and I thought, “Wow, if I had a mini-Hilly here next to me, I could explain this song to her, and wouldn’t that be nice, and—”
DR. SELMAN: So, in other words, if she had gotten pregnant, you would have been fine?
GEORGE: If she had gotten pregnant—see, I can’t even go there. I can’t imagine—
HILLY: Maybe there’s some subconscious thing going on in my brain that made me intentionally stop taking it, because there’s resentment I harbor that it’s yet another responsibility I have to take on. I made it clear when we started dating that I didn’t really even believe in birth control. I went to three doctors and asked about options, but you made it clear to me that you thought it would be best to be on the pill. My doctor agreed and I knew that I loved you, and so I thought, “Well, let me try this.” I tried it, I got really sick, I had to try different kinds, blah blah—and you know, has it ever come up in conversation? I don’t think so.
GEORGE: I apologize for not being supportive and communicative about those feminine issues—
HILLY: It’s not just a feminine issue. It’s that you don’t have to wear a condom—whoo-hoo!
GEORGE: I understand. I’m apologizing. You have to do this, and I just take it for granted. However, I think there’s another factor that supersedes all of this—that you could have gotten pregnant. [To DR. SELMAN] Don’t you think she should communicate to me whether or not she’s on birth control?
DR. SELMAN [to HILLY]: First of all, I congratulate you—I think what you just said was fabulous. Ha, ha! And really cuts to the heart of a lot of things.
DR. SELMAN: She said she unconsciously went off birth control because of these other reasons—that this is what she has come to think of.
GEORGE: Oh-kay. And you’re congratulating her?
DR. SELMAN: I think she’s being very open and honest. It makes perfect sense to me.
GEORGE: Well, people can be honest about a lot of things, but that doesn’t mean—
DR. SELMAN: And it’s also insightful.
GEORGE: Yes. But someone could argue that it’s also—irresponsible? Or destructive? Or … crazy? I’m not doing that. I’m saying someone else could.
DR. SELMAN: This is a fundamental issue in your relationship that’s not really been—
GEORGE: She’s saying, “I got off birth control unconsciously because I resented your behavior.” I mean, that’s worse behavior.
DR. SELMAN: Well, it’s all her responsibility.
GEORGE: O.K. … O.K.
DR. SELMAN: Then if it’s all her responsibility, then if you just follow the logic that it’s her body and she can do what she wants with it—
GEORGE: Shouldn’t you be saying, “O.K., but Hilly, it might have helped if you had raised this topic before, either here or with George”?
HILLY: Well, it’s hard to talk about something, especially if it’s so serious, when most of the time I get yelled at because I’m not talking enough, and then when I do start talking, you say: “You’re driving me crazy! I’m trying to read!” I don’t mean to deflect from the issue at hand, but you brought up the whole topic of Christmas—which I know you hate, you hate Christmas, you don’t want to go see my parents, whatever—
GEORGE: What? I do, we’re going. We’re going to drive there.
HILLY: I started talking about Christmas, and you said, “I don’t want to talk about this now.” So maybe I find it difficult to talk with you about certain things.
GEORGE: I just think getting pregnant might be a slight overreaction … I mean, an extreme thing to do to—I don’t know—express your resentment. But anyway, our fifth anniversary is coming up. What do you want to do?
HILLY: Have ….
HILLY: Nothing! I think—that I’d rather talk about something else.
GEORGE: How does that common-law stuff work? If you live with someone for how many years, when do the common-law rules start kicking in? Just wondering.
DR. SELMAN: I think you have a ways to go before that. So if it was so great in Kansas, why did you ever leave?
GEORGE: It’s complicated. Yeah, I love New York.
DR. SELMAN: You long to go back to Kansas, but there’s really nothing there for you, is there?
GEORGE: It’s just—New York is tough. Mary-Kate Olsen smiled at me the other night at Bungalow 8. Think she was looking at me. She might have been looking over my shoulder. Anyway, that put a bounce in my step. O.K., Hilly? What else? I brought you back a T-shirt from Kansas City.
HILLY: You got me a T-shirt. Thank you very much.
[to be continued]
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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
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