“Why do we keep talking about food?” I asked my therapist, mostly to make sure that she knew the right answer.
“What would you like to discuss?” she replied in the typical shrink-speak of answering questions with questions that is simultaneously stereotype, cliché and the reason people hate therapists.
“Ya know doc, when my parents first separated, I was around eight years old. Somewhere around nine, my mother decided that my new-found scholastic apathy had reached a point where she wanted to send me to a shrink. He played backgammon with me, letting me win all the time but losing my overly precocious respect in the process. Even back then I could tell that he was trying to use the game I used to play with my father every Sunday after church as a proxy for other things. I hated that he kept treating me like a child. Sure, I resented my parents for breaking my world, resented my mother for the all white school she insisted I attend, resented my father for not being around to play backgammon with me, resented my mother for making me see this quack, but in those those moments most of my contempt was reserved for the guy that thought letting me win at backgammon and asking dumb questions was going to help.”
“Refugee, why did you tell me that story?”
I could feel the condescension percolating in my veins. I took as deep a breath as I thought I could take without looking even more pretentious.
“Doc, I told you that story for the exact reasons that you already know: to demonstrate that my disdain for this process is not a novelty of our conversations, to indicate that when you answer questions with questions it retards our progression and wastes our time (time I cannot really afford,) and hopefully to let you know that I need you not to be as predictable as some television character playing the role of therapist in some oughta-be-on-E! network drama.”
“Well, Refugee how do you see this progressing?”
“I need this to be a completely safe place for me to start the work on myself. I need you to understand me and know that I know enough about the therapeutic process that we can maybe skip ahead a few steps. I need for you to push me and challenge me. And for those things to happen, I need you to not be so malleable, to be entirely, painfully honest with me, and to skip that rote, therapy by numbers bullshit that is driving me onto my soapbox right now…
“Doc, I’m not sure this is the right relationship for me. I, I, I just don’t think this is going to work out.”
“Refugee, I understand completely why you think that. Our hour is up, but I would be happy to email you the names of some people that might be better equipped to help you.”
I don’t do break-ups well, so I paused for a moment to let the cartoon word clouds of what we both just said to deflate. “OK, thank you for that and for the time that we have spent together” I finally stated.
“Sure” she replied as she extended her hand towards me.
At the moment when a handshake is supposed to end, this doctor I had just dismissed held on and said “One question before you go – what was the best thing that happened to you this week?”
I didn’t need time to think about it. “Oh, I made this amazing sea salt and peanut hard caramel” I said with the left-side only grin that I get when talking about food. “I used a little bit of bacon fat in addition to the butter so it’s this fantastic combination of sweet with a hint of savory, crunchy and nutty.”
“My mouth waters just thinking about it… bring me some caramel when you come in next week” she said without gloating or affect.
I made her the caramels.