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    Bridge Ladies Sometimes I think a meteor could strike the earth and wipe out mankind with the exception of my mother’s Bridge club — Roz, Bea, Bette, Rhoda, and Jackie — five Jewish octogenarians who continue to gather for lunch and Bridge on Mondays as they have for over fifty years. When I set out to learn about the women behind the matching outfits and accessories, I never expected to fall in love with them. This is the story of the ladies, their game, and most of all the ragged path that led me back to my mother.
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If I Had A Hammer

I’ve been in therapy on and off (mostly on) for thirty-five years. None of these charlatans ever seemed to be able to remember the names of the people I spoke about. Most of the time I didn’t care. Who could expect them to remember every clown who made me feel bad?

Now, I’m finally seeing this woman who I think is extremely gifted and has helped me where none have even ventured. And, are you ready for this, she remembers the name of every one I’ve brought up, even if it was a year ago and only once. Reason tells me I should be pleased, impressed, possibly moved.

Here’s what I don’t get: it annoys me. How the hell can she remember every name? Is she taking notes? Does she actually review them. I am dumbfounded by her ability and find it as inexplicable as the magician cutting a woman in half and turning her into a dove. I tell her this, that I think she’s a show off, that I’m not impressed; on the contrary, I find it off-putting, irritating.

I will give a nickel to anyone with a reasonable explanation as to why I can’t stand her for remembering every person I bring up. Or perhaps you have a story of your own insanity. Always welcome here.

67 Responses

  1. Perhaps you let the other clowns get away with too much because you thought that was an unreasonable request. My therapist remembered everything. He cured me the first session. And when I was “done,” he would tell me, and I’d stop seeing him until I needed him again.

    I think the right one is a rare thing—like a soul mate, like a career that fulfills you. I think you should be grateful that you found the right one. I know people who will be in therapy forever with people who never help them a bit.

  2. Betsy, does it seem to you that she’s muscling in on your life too much?

    Maybe greater forgetfulness would be a more comfortable reminder that your therapist is not you and doesn’t want to inhabit your life.

    ?? Just a guess.


  3. Because maybe you don’t yet really get that deep down you could be fascinating to another person. Of course all of us who read this blog understand it along with the shrink. I’d kill for a shrink like that! (But if I had one, I’d be picking fights constantly.)

  4. Because for good or bad, they belong to you, and by remembering them, she’s assigning greater significance to each of them than you want her to.

    And I just finished a sentence with a preposition. Fuck.

  5. Because you imagine that your grievances are Talmudic in depth and complexity, and she masters them like a nine-year-old with a knock-knock joke.

    • They master them at nine? Good to know. My five year old is killin’ me.

      • Mine’s five too, and he’s mastered the form but not the content.

        Him: “Knock-knock.”
        Me: “Who’s there?”
        Him: “Refrigerator!”
        Me: “Refrigerator who?”
        Him: “Refrigerator you glad I didn’t say chair!”
        Him: Bahahahahahaha!

        (And my nickel goes to philangelus, who I suspect is some sort of ringer shipped in by management.)

      • (Let’s just devolve into kid/joke stories, why don’t we.)
        My son learned the interrupting cow one and it’s the only knock knock that doesn’t end with “peanut butter jelly sandwich!!!” – it’s also the one that made his five year old cousin cry.

      • Mine have evolved to one liners. “What, do you need a whambulance?” Reduces them to hysterics every time. They’re taking their cue from the brother who after 5 years in the military is desperately stalking the funny side. He’s also teaching them muay thai so the third grade bullies better choose wisely.

  6. Because you don’t really want to be understood by anyone.

  7. Because when you spoke to the ones who didn’t remember, you perceived them as not caring and that gave you a shield between yourself and them. Whereas her remembering seemingly insignificant details implies to you that she does care, giving you the responsibility to improve and also to prove to her that you’re worthy of her importance.

    Also, never underestimate the power in feeling like you’re not the sickest person in the room. Some therapists give off the vibe that they went into psychotherapy because they were looking for the solutions to their own problems. When you’re with one of those guys, you feel rather secure that you’re not the one with the problem, and it’s a nice feeling to be one rung up the food chain.

    • Some therapists, uh, “give off that vibe” because it’s oozing out of their pores like last night’s vodka binge. And you might as well be throwing your money into a blast furnace. If you ask me.

      • I went through *six* therapists for my kid before I finally found someone who could deal with his issues. The first one wanted to talk to me about her miscarriage. The second insisted I must be a crappy parent, but then couldn’t find anything to change that would make me a good parent. Third one didn’t find a diagnosis at all for six months.

        Fourth one insisted the kid must have ADHD because that was the only thing she knew how to treat, and insisted he must be depressed because he had one symptom of depression out of a list of ten. When I pulled out a list of symptoms of Asperger’s syndrome, he had 19 of 20 (one of which was the one that appeared on the depression list) and she said no, he couldn’t possibly have ASD.

        Therapist #5 listened to me describe the problems and said, “And what do you want me to do?” She lasted three sessions.

        The kid then got diagnosed with Asperger’s and THerapist #6 promised me he knew all about ASD, specialized in it, and would not use talk-based/insight-based therapy. He then proceeded to use talk-based/insight based therapy.

        The new one is using cognitive behavioral therapy and is not there trying to fix herself. She’s actually getting results.

  8. It simply amplify’s the fact that we are sitting on the lessor than couch!

    My therapist did it too, she remembered them all. In my case it was the men in my life, all of the failed relationships. She of course was married to the perfect dentist husband.

    Once though she didn’t. It was the session that I would invite my father to. The one where I had to confront him on the simple fact that he had shoved his dick in my mouth when I was three and four and five, you know the story.

    In this session she named no names from my past, finally she shut up.

    She set up this session in what looked like a corporate meeting room with me sitting at the head of the table, placing my father way down at the other end off to the side, not directly in front of me and not anywhere near close enough to touch.

    In this session I was the one naming names and I remembered them all too–Fucker, Son of a Bitch, Motherfucker and finally, Get Your Dick Out Of My Mouth Asshole.

    Myra was her name, I love do her.

  9. Isn’t it frightening to discover that someone actually LISTENED to and absorbed everything you mentioned?

  10. Why would any one give a shit to remember anything about a shit like you. What a loser.

  11. Have you told her that she’s bugging the fuck out of you? “Cause my therapist always gets all bright-eyed and drooly with excitement when I tell her she’s working my last nerve.

  12. How about this. If she doesn’t retain the names of these people you have mentioned en passant, there is an equality operating, or the illusion of a kind of functional equivalence, because you don’t know the names of her people.

    By retaining your details this way, she is defining the relationship in a way that makes clear the one-wayness of therapy. You tell her your stuff, she listens, she remembers. This is not a two-way share. It’s therapy. When therapists are careless or forgetful it is much more like the ordinariness of conversation with someone else who might know you but doesn’t have any particular vested interest in remembering your minutaie. Maybe it’s hard to tolerate the moments when this is definitely therapy.

  13. You are so entertaining, Betsy. What other agent asks for opinions on their therapy sessions? In high school, I was so excited to come to New York to see a big-time New York psychiatrist. He saw every Broadway show I mentioned, every movie, read every book. And I loved this, I was so impressed. I lay on the couch (my choice), and just about the only thing he ever asked me was, “What then?” When my parents came to my last session before college, he betrayed me, revealing something he had never said to me alone. I’ve been down on shrinks ever since.

    I’m not going to try to top the terrific interpretations here, but I’ll pick a Tarot card for the reason it bothers you:

    Eight of Cups, “Loss,” on this deck. Emotional loss. Eight is Mercury, your intellect, fighting with the cups, your emotions. Your excellent sense of truth makes no logical sense when combined with the hurt from your past. You don’t want to remember the players…why should she?

  14. Maybe you expect her to be unable to help you — even to remember names. But evidently she is helping you. And she can remember names. Anyone who defies my expectations annoys me a bit. When a hack writer achieves sudden depth … I am annoyed. I should be pleasantly surprised. But I am annoyed. “Stay in your place damnit! Fail as I’ve anticipated!” Also when you refer to therapists in general as “charlatans” it makes me think you share my general (not totally correct, but general) view of therapists as opportunistic and unhelpful quacks. And this chick is not. Expectation defied = subtle irritation? I don’t know.

    (Basically anyone who is really skilled at something at which I’m not skilled — remembering names, for example — makes me jealous instead of awed. Raging jealousy. So. I should not map my feelings onto others. I am an ASS.)

  15. My therapist of 12 years remembers everyone, even the name of the guy I briefly rebounded with ten years ago. I try to change the subject when she does this. I think she’s weird and probably crazy, and hope to get cured before this suspicion is confirmed.

  16. We crave recognition but it usually doesn’t happen the way we planned. Then we try to scurry back into anonymity only to find it no longer exists. We’ve been exposed. And no matter how compassionate someone is – therapist, friend, whoever – or how close they come to understanding, it’s clear that they can’t fix it. And it’s no longer about the hateful person or even the act of hurt anymore. It’s how it made us feel. How it still makes us feel. No matter how long and hard we talk it will always be a permanent stain on our lives. The only way to live past it is to let it go. To forgive. And that my friend, is the hardest skill any human will ever have to learn. It pisses us off. You can now commence throwing the rotten fruit!

    • When I say forgive, I don’t necessarily mean the other person. I mean more the act of letting go and not letting past wrongs rule my life anymore – taking away their power over me.

  17. Ok, so I can’t shut up this morning. Part of the light induced mania of summer in the arctic. I love 2 bi-polar people. My job is to tell it like it is. I’ve read about mania and depression but nobody ever seems to talk about the pendulum swinging between externalization of responsibility and the extreme self flagellation. This seems like none of the above. Just because someone is inherently… (whatever good word you want to use) doesn’t mean they can’t piss you off. The people here scrape their dessert plates clean. So maybe I should be flattered they are so enthusiastic about my baking. But want I want to do is grab those little silver spoons from their newly broken grasp. scrape, scrape, scrape… Maybe the therapist is a plate scraper.

  18. Mine therapist: “How’re ya doing this week?”
    Me: “pretty good, except uh, uh . . .
    Mine therapist: “your mother…”
    Me: “My mother. I didn’t call her this week.”
    Mine therapist: “How does that make you feel?”
    Me: Like when my husband would come home. He would….:
    Mine therapist: “Why don’t you use his name?”
    Me: “Forgot”
    Mine therapist: “Edward.”
    Me: “Really? How odd.”
    Mine therapist: “Go on, and what else?”
    Me: “Else? Went to Target. Got my dog, uh,uh,. . .
    Mine therapist: “Pete.”
    Me: “What? No, that was the other dog, the one I had when I was a kid.”
    Mine therapist: “And did you love that dog?”
    Me: “Sure, I bought him three bagsof Pupperoni.”
    Mine therapist: “Are you still hearing voices and seeing people who aren’t there?”
    Me: “How should I know if they aren’t there. You tell me.”
    Mine therapist:” Feeling cocky today.”
    Me: “I eat lots of oatmeal.”
    Mine therapist: “Have you seen Jason of late?”
    Me: “Who?”
    Mine therapist: “your manfriend.”
    Me: “I don’t have a manfriend named Jason.”
    MIne therapist: “But you said that you joined match.com and…
    Me: “What is this anyway? You trying to identify with me? Lady, when it gets to the point that you know more about the essences of my life than I do, I feel, well, gone.”
    Mine therapist: “That’s a natural feeling.”
    Me: “Natural? 120 dollars an hour for two years and you say my feelings are “natural?” Why the hell am I here then?
    Mine therapist: “Don’t you know, Lyn?”
    Me: “Not anymore.”
    Mine therapist: “Our time is up. Why don’t we schedule for next week and you can tell me more about Jason and Mary and Laura and Evan and Bruce and Bennie from Spat’s Deli and Henry the doorman and Lindsy your hairdresser and Philip and Jime your gay next door neighbors and why your marrige broke up and what Betsy his secretary had to do with it…”
    Me: “You got rhythm, I got my gal, who can ask for anything moooooooooooore!

    • I will patronize you for 50/hour Lyn. But first we’d have to rip Ed and Betsy the secretary to bloody shreds. Then love on the dog.

      • Deb:
        Okay, where shall we meet? First the kill then the patronizing…..I’m used to that; actually I need it! The kill, that is.
        Central Park, 3 pm, 2012, three hours before the end of the world. Unfortunately I live on the Gulf Coast and may not make it. Rolly, polly, oily, roily, the end is near and blobs have landed on my soul. Black.

      • You got it, Lyn! Maybe we should take care of BP first?

        I shouldn’t joke about these things. I’m a firm believer in what goes around comes around but feel impatient with the wait sometimes.

  19. I woke up this morning thinking of you and why you hate yourself. This is disturbing to me. So, if you would please stop thinking that your mother was right and that you were an unlovable little girl, that would be better for all concerned because really, Betsy, there comes a time when you gotta cry for never seeing the twinkle in her eye and fuck her for being withholding.

  20. I apologise if this repeats something somone else has commented – I don’t have time right now to read all the other comments.

    You are annoyed by your therapist’s excellent memory because we as human beings rely on other people’s amnesia to allow us to continually reinvent ourselves. We are not quite the same people from one moment to the next, from one event to the next, and quite often would rather forget a particular stance we took or opinion we expressed in the past. It’s very annoying when other people pay too much attention and remember all our incarnations (and remind us of them). It interferes with the narrative we want to create of our own lives.


  21. Possibly the lack of perspective on how she behaves with her other clients has an effect. Would it be comforting to know that she has this knack; remembers the details of all the lives she hears about professionally? Or that she generally has this knack, with all of her acquaintances, and this skill (and its umbrella skill – perhaps a uniformly excellent memory) provided her a slight social advantage, gave her a reputation of being a great listener, pushed her in the direction of becoming a therapist?

    That is to say, there is a possibility that this is more about her.

    On the other hand, perhaps she shows up all of the other people in your life, memory-wise. Perhaps this makes you disappointed in them and, unable to consciously admit your disappointment, you must instead turn on her.
    Alternately, perhaps she simply has a better memory than you do, and forces you to wonder if you have ever listened so well, which wondering never seems to end in your favor.


  22. I guess that’s why you’re in therapy. You got snakes in your head, lady. This isn’t meant as a criticism but you have all these issues. You’re brilliant in so many ways, really. But them snakes just keep wriggling around and scrambling your ego, id, whatever the hell gives you such angst. Your mental health is disconcerting to me as a reader who truly enjoys your posts and your wild creativity and way with words. You really are such a talent. Believe in yourself. You’re brilliant, creative, a terrific writer and from a pic I’ve seen of you, quite the attractive woman. So what the hey. Quit with the Jewish angst and adapt a more goyim attitude and healthy. Sheesh, bend it like Mailer for gosh sakes. Now that was a healthy ego.

    • When did they pass the law that says you can’t be brilliant and creative with issues and snakes? (and the… cups to let all of it out without anonymity)

    • Well said, Anon. A more goyim attitude. I love it. I’m going to start today. (Jewish guilt really sucks.)

      • Try being Catholic! guilt transubstantiated.

      • at least you can have your guilt after you’re tranced. We’ve got it right now. After the huge family Bar Mitzvah recently, my mother can’t give me any space: she has to call to say…would you believe?…how much she likes the copy of “Just Kids” I gave her. Glad she likes it, but just an excuse to bother me. I did not return the call. Jewish Guilt. Fuck.

  23. You’re angry about it because your pain and your experiences are your individuality. Watching your therapist absorb and hang onto them is like watching her absorb you. On top of that, watching her do it with seemingly no effort gives it the feeling of cheapening those experiences. These are the things that you’ve dwelled on for years and she processes them with little to no thought.

  24. Betsy,

    Did you really want all this therapy on a lovely Thursday morning?
    So sorry! I know I just want a cup of tea and my morning paper.

  25. Betsy, I think you need professional help. Wait a minute. You’re getting professional help. Hmmmm.

    Maybe you should just forget “Assholes Past” and move on to “Assholes Present” or even better, “Assholes Future.”

  26. Tell it to your therapist, I got problems of my own. Better yet send me a check for the fifteen minutes it took to read this entry – I read slow.

    Actually you should be pleased that she cares or pretends to care – there’s no difference you know. You don’t know whats going on in her head and since it 50-50, pick she cares, it’s up to you.

  27. you’re successful in therapy and she’s irritating you because you have imposter syndrome?

    lotsa women have it.

  28. All said and done she’s stealing your characters in the end all a writer has.

  29. You people are harsh

  30. You know what’s REALLY annoying? Most of the comments in this thread. That’ll teach you.

  31. I had a therapist who struck me as too keenly titillated by my personal life. She liked it when I talked about some of the people I know who happen to be public figures. I felt like she was sucking me for gossip. Perhaps if you’re mentioning famous authors and editors, these names are sticking with her like juicy details.

  32. That is irritating. One day that woman is going to hand you her manuscript, and the betrayal will send you into therapy for the next thirty-five years. Brace yourself.

  33. I think for the money they make, therapists should remember every name of every person you talk about. What else are they getting paid for, but to LISTEN??

    It makes me wonder if the other therapists who couldn’t remember the names of the people you spoke about weren’t listening as well as they should.

    This topic made me think of a learning experience I had —
    I consulted a lawyer about a situation, several years ago; he asked me to send him the information in a letter: he wrote me back, addressing some of what I had said in the letter but then giving me advice based on different facts from those I had given him. Realized his response to me was probably a “canned” script that’s been used over and over on hapless folks like myself, unsophisticated in these processes. Realized also, that while my main goal was for him to give me substantive help in making the situation right, HIS (modest) goal, meanwhile, was simply to get $200 from me.

    I used to have automatic and unquestioning respect for people in the professions. Now I always have questions. Lots of questions. Just as an attorney should address the facts you gave him, a doctor should not prescribe unnecessary drugs, and a therapist should listen to what you say.

  34. Over-competence is annoying, no matter where it shows up … But god, this really makes me miss my old shrink, who *mostly* remembered the players. He was so lovely, a combo of Grandpa, Santa Claus, & Freud.

  35. Betsy: Who gets the nickel? We’re all hardup writers.

    • Anyone who sends me their address gets a nickel. Except for the one commenter today who is also my client. I’m deducting 15%. Thanks for the amazing range of responses.

  36. I think it’s just a simple matter. You’re used to therapists forgetting names you mention. You’ve gotten comfortable with incompetence.This one has jolted you out of your rut. After thirty-five years of the same old, a little change is a big deal. Even if she did take notes, doesn’t that mean she at least cares enough to do so?

  37. Yet another offering: She’s taking you seriously and that is scary. it’s what you want, it’s what you’re there for — but it’s also terrifying.

  38. Sometimes it takes a long time to find the right therapist. Anyone that has started reading my book on my website understands that I too have been in a great deal of therapy. After feeling as if I were the odd duck out in my family, I learned six years ago that unbeknown to me, my true biological father lived one street away from me my entire life. The only way I figured it out was that I met a woman who was my twin at a book signing…only to find out that she was my first cousin. Crazy I know, but it took me many different therapists to find one that changed my life.I went to bed thinking I had two siblings and woke up with seven. I never would have processed this if my therapist wasn’t there supporting me. You have to find someone who really cares about you and stay with it.

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