Response

July 22, 2009

“My counselor told me I was pretty today.”

I use the word “counselor” in place of the word “therapist” or the more innocuous, even playful “shrink” to widen the divide between what I believe I am doing every Wednesday at 2:15 p.m. and what I am actually doing. What I believe I am doing is visiting with an older, wiser party, impartial in judgment and objective in opinion, to act as a guide on my figurative journey toward self-betterment. What I am actually doing — and best to describe this in the most accurate way possible — is getting the crazy knocked out of me.

My boyfriend, Bill, is silent. As he is a naturally reticent guy, I am never sure if Bill is ignoring me, has heard what I’ve said and is mulling over a response, or has simply accepted my statement as is with nothing to offer one way or the other.

Moments are passing and I consider repeating myself, but before I make up my mind, Bill says, “She’s paid to tell you that.”

If I was a balloon, I would burst. If I was a tire, I would run over a nail and flatten. If I was an ice sculpture of a mermaid, I would prematurely melt. If I was a pool, an infant would defecate inside of me.

But I’m just me, so I say, “Thanks.”

I often wonder if it’s the difference between the way men versus women communicate that makes our relationship so unenjoyable or if it’s the fact that Bill is an asshole. While these two explanations are not mutually exclusive, I think in our case it leans more heavily toward the latter as being truth.

“My counselor told me I was pretty today.”

Things Bill could have said instead of what he did say:

“That’s ’cause you are.”
“I bet you loved that.”
“You think she was hitting on you?”

or the always appropriate:

“Really?”

I read a study in a psychology journal once. The conclusion of the study was that for every negative comment one is given, it takes ten positive comments to counteract the effects of the former. This study has stayed fresh in my mind for years because it seems so obvious, so true. But what about comments that are interpreted negatively as opposed to actually negative?

I interpreted Bill’s response to my statement as a jab directed at me. Either he’s telling me I’m naive for believing that a therapist could truly believe I am an attractive person or he’s telling me that I’m not an attractive person. Bill, on the other hand, would most likely disagree with this assessment, defensively say, “It had nothing to do with you. You could have said the shrink told you anything — I would have had the same reaction.”

Which is probably true. What is it within the clockwork churning away inside that takes everything so cripplingly personally?

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