Pubdate: Sun, 26 Nov 2006
Source: New York Times Magazine (NY)
Copyright: 2006 The New York Times Company
Section: The Funny Pages, True-Life Tales
Author: Shalom Auslander
Note: Shalom Auslander is the author of "Beware of God."
Bookmark: (Opinion)
Bookmark: (Marijuana)
Bookmark: (Heroin)


I have this problem with anger. I don't get into fights or anything --
it's all painfully self-directed -- but my incessant stream of furious
unconsciousness was beginning to get me down. I decided to find a
shrink, and was lucky enough to find one I liked.

I'm not doing the couch thing," I said.

"You don't have to do the couch thing," he said.

"Good. Because I'm not."

"That's fine."

"Should I do the couch thing?"

It was all going well until he began mentioning a few celebrity
clients of his -- not by name, of course, and only by way of clinical
example: the train wreck of a rock star as an example of insecurity,
the bashful Best Actress as an example of low self-esteem.

Cool, I thought. I'm as crazy as a rock star.

This wasn't just some vulgar depression. Mine weren't Joe Average
issues. I was celebrity crazy. I was Oscar insane. I was Hollywood
unhinged. I was dysfunctional enough to be brilliant. I was manic
enough to be gifted. I was damaged enough to be profound. I was
feeling better already.

It didn't last.

"Do you have anything Monday?" I asked.

"Nothing on Monday, how's Thursday?" he said.

"You didn't have anything last Monday, either."

"Monday's busy. How's Thursday?"

I was the dullest part of his week. How could my problems compare to
Train Wreck's or Insecure Best Actress's? What's a little Jewish guilt
compared with Train Wreck's heroin-fueled sex orgies? Why would he
want to see me on Monday afternoon when he can start the week with
Gorgeous Supermodel Sublimating Her Emotional Needs Into Wanton Sexual

"I can't do Thursday, Doc."

"Gosh, I'm kind of booked up the rest of the week. . . .

What was it, sweeps week? Was it the Emmys? What's got these
celebrities so worked up? Best Actress having a bit of stage fright?
Not so easy when it's live, is it, Precious? Well, every day is live
for me, all right? Every day is live!

And so, each week, I padded. I embellished. I lied.

"Man, the amount of weed I burned through this weekend."

"Mmm hmm."



"Canadian, Doc. Top shelf."

"I'm sure she didn't mean it."



"Were you . . . were you just sleeping?"

"Don't be ridiculous."

To heck with him, I thought. I began to hold out. Lips pursed, arms
crossed, I leaned back on his couch and examined nothing.

No, everything's good. I'm fine, really. Nope, Mother's good,

Long periods of high-priced silence were interrupted by brief periods
of high-priced inanity: "Yeah, you know, Doc, I went with the Nikes. I
liked the Pumas, but they're so 'Look at me, I'm not buying Nikes,'
it's almost worse than buying Nikes in the first place, don't you think?"

At the end of one particularly vacuous session in May, I put off
making another appointment and lied, saying I'd call him the following
week. I was halfway out the office door when he invited me to his
house in the Hamptons for a Sunday barbecue with his family.

"We'd really love to have you."

I . . . I'd never been so moved. I felt both incredibly special and
monumentally foolish, and I accepted his invitation

There were at least 70 people there when I arrived, and more were on
their way. There was a chartered bus. And a band. And a caterer. I
found my shrink out back by the pool, and he took me on a tour of the
house, the walls of which were covered with snapshots: my shrink and
Train Wreck, my shrink and Best Actress, my shrink and Nympho Supermodel.

Maybe it was the four-hour drive. Maybe I'd had too much sun. Maybe
I'd had too many deviled eggs. Whatever the cause, I lost it. I told
him how second-rate I felt, how angry I was that I'd opened myself to
him only to be neglected in favor of some transparent, adolescent
Hollywood personalities. And then he put his arm around me. And he
hugged me. And he told me how honored he was to be treating me, and
how privileged he felt for the opportunity to get to know me, and how
he wouldn't wish fame on anyone. He led me into his office, and he
showed me a book manuscript he'd recently completed about the trouble
with celebrity, and celebrities, and he invited me to be the first to
read it.

It was going to be a long drive back to the city. I sat in my car for
a few moments before setting out, flipping through his manuscript and
feeling foolish once again. He respected me -- not just as a patient
but as a fellow writer. I had to laugh at myself. Why did I take it
all so personally? Why was I so paranoid? And, wait a minute, why --
why -- does he thank Train Wreck at the end of this book? I don't
understand. Train Wreck gets a thanks? For what? Urinating in
humanity's gene pool? Thanks, Train Wreck! You know what I got?
Deviled eggs. And sunburn.
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