If My Therapist Set Me Up On a Date…
A recent article in The New York Times explored the idea of psychologists setting up their patients on dates. Obviously the ethics of this sort action are highly fraught. But I’ve got to admit–I am curious as to who my psychologists would’ve chosen for me.
I use the plural because like any self-loathing writer and Jew, I’ve spent a good chunk of my life in therapy and have spoken to many psychologists and social workers along the way. So rather than simply wonder who my current shrink would pair me with, I’m going back in time to guess at who each therapist/matchmaker would set me up with.
Shrink #1: I was seven and my mother brought me to this social worker because my parents had just divorced. According to my mother, I was throwing tantrums and was less obedient than I had been. I still maintain that I was acting like a seven year old. (Mom–agree to disagree?)
By the time I was seven, I was in a single sex school and camp so I wasn’t dating much. In fact, I hadn’t dated since nursery, which was coed. At four, I didn’t have a type smy type was redheaded Scottie. We played together after playgroup until it became clear that I liked him more than he liked me. (This will become a recurring theme, readers.) That left me with Adam, who was into me but drooled a lot. I decided to remain single. This was the first time that in lieu of suitable option, I decided to be alone than in an unsatisfying relationship.
I never spoke about these two guys in therapy–we mostly played board games that the social worker let me win. She also gave me stickers as an incentive to behave for my mother at home. This is all she would’ve had to go on when considering a proper match for me. I’m guessing I would’ve ended up with another child of divorce, perhaps living with his dad so we could’ve played out some Parent Trap/matchmaking schemes of our own. And since he was probably also really into princess stickers, I imagine he might’ve been confused.
Shrink #2: I was ten when I was reenrolled in therapy for a very real reason–I was afraid to take a shower without someone up on the same floor of the house. I kept imagining that a young man man who had been arrested for murdering a girl in Manalapan, NJ, was on the other side of the shower window. I can’t remember the girl’s name or what she looked like but he most certainly resembled Sideshow Bob. The lesson here–parents, don’t let your young kids watch the evening news or The Simpsons.
This therapist and I mostly played air hockey and talked about gymnastics. By that time, I was deeply obsessed with the sport and all psychologists would have to learn how to communicate with me through it. Dr. B. was the first who would have to become fluent in gymnastics-ese in order to get through to me.
If Dr. B. had been also been tasked with finding me a young boyfriend based off of what he knew about me, what sort of chap would he have set me up with? Perhaps someone for whom hygiene wasn’t terribly important? I’m pretty sure that’s all eleven year old boys. Someone into gymnastics or spandex? Again with the confusion. Or how about a kid also seeing ghosts? So Haley Joel Osment from The Sixth Sense? (Wait, what’s he up to these days? Of legal age? Single?)
Shrink #3: We’ve now fast forwarded to age fourteen. I have no problems showering. My issues revolve around eating, namely, my refusal to do much of it. I just underwent spinal fusion surgery for my scoliosis, a procedure which my mother forced me to do. To punish her, I decided to stop eating. (I was wicked smart.) This, I thought, would drive any Jewish mother insane. And it did. But it also landed me back in a shrink’s office.
Of course, my modified eating habits weren’t purely born of spite and revenge. The surgery greatly altered my body image and I genuinely thought I was fat. And I used my religiosity as an excuse to dress in clothes that concealed my body shape. I did not feel attractive at all. Sex was out of the question. Touching was also off limits. Basically, I was the perfect beard for any closeted gay guy back in those. I’m sure that my astute therapist would’ve recognized that.
Shrink #4: I’m in college and for the first time in my life, I’ve decided to enter therapy without any being dragged into it. I was fairly miserable even though college was supposed to be, like, themostfunever. Except that it wasn’t. I was an anxious, insecure mess who didn’t know what to major in. (I was really upset when I discovered that Penn didn’t have a folklore major anymore. I had really hoped to study all of the stories that formed some of the basis for the spells and lore of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.) I didn’t drink much because I didn’t want to get fat. But I already thought I was fat. I walked around campus, staring at other girls’ thighs, envious that they looked smaller than mine. And then I briefly questioned my sexuality. If I’m constantly staring at other women’s thighs, does that mean I’m a lesbian?
If my psychologist had been in the matchmaking mood, I wonder if she would’ve pushed me to experiment in the direction my anxiety was headed? I was still pretty religious at that point so it wasn’t like I was touching guys anyway. Perhaps she would’ve found me a nice young female college student. At the very least, the experience would’ve created fodder for this site.
Shrinks #5-9: All of my post-college stints in therapy sort of blur together since none of them have lasted terribly long (as an adult no longer covered by her mother’s insurance, I tend to run out of money for this sort of luxury). Also, my problems in my 20s have mostly fallen into one they all address the same two dilemmas–my career/financial woes and my perennial singledom. These are my “evergreen” problems. With the former, they haven’t been particularly helpful since they take my money instead of giving some to me. As for the latter, they’ve done their best to reassure me that someone is out there for me, which made me think that I should paying my friends, who said the same exact things, instead of these lettered folks.
Anyway, if any of these therapists had sought to set me up with a man, I wonder who they would’ve come up with. Would they have placed me with a fellow writer so the two of us can be financially unstable together? (Or does that merely amplify the misery and anxiety?) Or how about an easygoing, stable sort? Wait, that won’t work either. Any guy like that would likely run screaming from a woman like me. (Though I certainly prefer that sort. It’s sort of like when you crave vegetables after a day of eating nothing but cheese and bread. My psyche knows that I need someone a lot less like myself.)
Or would they merely have shrugged their shoulders and repeated some version of the line all single women have heard when asking their coupled friends to set them up–I really wish I knew someone but all of my male patients are married.