I’ll Take Therapist for $100

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From what I gather, one of the primary benefits of getting married is the assurance of always having someone who will listen to you, or at least pretend to. When you’re single, you have to make your single friends listen to you, and goodness knows they don’t care. If they were compassionate listeners, they’d be married.

The quest to be listened to is one of mankind’s most fundamental urges, up there with the desire to be loved and the impulse to pull Oreos apart. If no one will hear us, is there any reason to go on talking? No, there isn’t. So shut up.

I kid. One option, if you have no one else to talk to, is to visit a therapist/counselor/psychologist/psychiatrist. (There are differences among these professions, but what is this, a medical journal?) For a while in the Hectic ’90s, it was trendy to see a therapist. Psychiatrists still had the stigma of being only for crazy people, but “therapists” (often psychiatrists whom you referred to as therapists when mentioning them to other people) were OK. If you were seeing a therapist, it meant you had enough going on in your life to not know how to handle it.

I saw a therapist for a couple weeks. Then I overslept, missed a session, and was billed the full amount. In fact, I’d been getting a slight discount because the therapist was a friend of a friend, but for the missed session, I was billed the regular price. So it was costing me more to not show up than to show up. I needed to see another therapist just to work out the problems I was having with this one.

A therapist will go to great lengths to put you at ease and assure you he’s your friend, to join the ranks of all your other friends who charge you $100 an hour. Which is why it’s such a sad situation, really: No one will talk to you out of affection, so you seek out someone who will do it for money. It’s the world’s oldest profession.

Eventually, I realized that no one who makes $100 an hour can possibly relate to anything I have to say. We live in two entirely different worlds. I would say, “I’m so stressed out by my personal relationships,” and he’d be thinking, “If I take the Lexus in for a tune-up, I’ll be stuck driving the Miata all day, and the nanny will have to use her own car to pick up the kids from horseback-riding lessons.”

Speaking of psychological problems, it occurs to me that the person most ill-suited for ordinary society is probably Dr. Alan Grant. This is the character played by Sam Neill in the first and third “Jurassic Park” films, and if anyone’s going to have trouble finding someone to listen to him, it’s this guy. I mean, he was CHASED BY DINOSAURS, for crying out loud. The nightmares, the therapy, the fear of lizards — this guy is screwed up for life. Who can relate to him? Nobody. Here is a conversation I imagine him having:

FRIEND: Alan, I’ve been fired from my job.
DR. ALAN GRANT: That’s terrible. I was CHASED BY DINOSAURS.
OTHER FRIEND: Alan, I have cancer of the face.
DR. ALAN GRANT: Sucks to be you. I was CHASED BY DINOSAURS.
THIRD FRIEND: Alan, it turns out my internal organs are all made out of Silly Putty.
DR. ALAN GRANT: How unpleasant for you. I was CHASED BY DINOSAURS.

He may need to find a therapist who specializes in horror-movie neuroses, whose patients also include the girl from “The Exorcist” (“I can’t even LOOK at pea soup anymore”) and any of the various “Friday the 13th” survivors (“I can’t even LOOK at bad acting anymore”).

We all eventually have to find someone who will listen to us. Sadly, when many of us find such a forum, we squander the opportunity and talk about frivolous things like psychiatrists and dinosaurs. It’s all very tragic.

Now, should I write you a check for that $100, or is cash OK?

This column began as a dialogue between a patient and his psychiatrist, with the joke being that the shrink was extraordinarily rich and therefore couldn't relate to anything the patient said. I had the psychiatrist lighting his cigar with $100 bills, and things like that. It was more a comedy sketch than a column, but hey, sometimes I miss the Garrens (sometimes).

As I was writing it, I remembered another idea I'd had recently, about Dr. Alan Grant not being able to function in society as a result of having been chased by dinosaurs. I realized I could use the same structure -- dialogue between doctor and patient -- but have it be Dr. Grant talking about his dinosaur-related psychoses. I couldn't decide which column I wanted to do, so I did both and changed the structure back into a more traditional one.

The "I was CHASED BY DINOSAURS" thing works better as a stand-up routine, but since I'm a columnist and not a stand-up comedian, here it is in written form. Some parts simply don't work unless they're delivered verbally, so I left those out.

I think this column has a few really good jokes and a lot of filler around them. I can't remember if I knew that then, too, or if I thought it was all gold.

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