Session 3

“You seem perturbed.”

“I am. I spent a small fortune this week, money I don’t even have, buying jewelry for this woman I’m seeing. And she only really kind of hinted at wanting it.”

“Yes, that stuff is quite popular. Miss Lathermore,  our receptionist, just got a bracelet she was showing off to everyone a few days ago. The nurses were oohing and ahhing over it. I don’t really get jewelry. Luckily, Mrs. Ibis has never been that big of a fan.”

“I’ve been thinking… you might be right about me trying to buy affection; I think you’re on to something. What can I do about it?”

“Are you ready to start talking about this relationship you are in?”

“Um… almost. I haven’t introduced her to the boys; I’m not sure the relationship will last long enough. She’s an expensive sort of girl to date.”

“Is she the materialistic sort?”

“Yes, very baldly so. She says that I have what she wants, and she has what I want, so the relationship is pretty much perfect. She thinks love is a big hoax, a scam. Everything, she says, is about tradeoffs.”

“She doesn’t really seem like your type,” he said, musingly. “What do you get out of the relationship? Sex?”

“That’s pretty much it. That, and a more interesting-to-read credit card bill.”

“Do you agree with her, that love is not a real thing?”

“No. Love is real. I mean… she’s younger than me, and very attractive. I’ve never had anything like this happen before. I’m… a gentleman, I guess you’d say. Women feel safe with me, they are safe.”

I laugh, thinking about two other women I had dated. “I’ve known others who wanted me to spend money on them, but I never got anything in return. A least this one has her own sense of honor.”

“You call that ‘honor’? To fuck you in exchange for money?”

I stared at him. “You aren’t a typical therapist,” I say, at last. “Yes. She uses me, and I use her, each with the others’ full knowledge and consent.”

“How many people know about your relationship?”

“No one.”

“Why is it a secret?”

“It’s … not entirely appropriate, given what each of us do.”

“Ah, a work relationship.”

“Sort of, yes… I don’t really like feeling as though I have to buy love, because that is how I feel. What do I do about it?”

Now it was his time to stare. He took off his glasses, rubbing his eyes. “Gambling and spending addictions are among the hardest to overcome, and it sounds like you have a bit of both. If you don’t mind me asking, is the sex addictive?”

“It’s okay. Honestly, she’s a little skinny for my taste.”

He laughed. “Yes, young, thin, and willing, men hate that.”

= = = = =

“I love this hotel, I’ve always wanted to stay a night here,” she says, in between eating grapes on the bed.

“I thought a weekend out of town would be fun. Last night was.”

“Let’s go shopping today.”

She sees the look of reluctance on my face.

“Maybe I can persuade you,” she says.

She does.

Session 2

“Hello, Sir, it’s nice to see you today,” she says to me in a cheerful, professional voice. “Doctor Ibis is running a little behind. If you don’t mind having a seat in the waiting room, he will be with you as soon as possible.”

She smiles at me fleetingly, returning her gaze to her computer screen.

The hint of her perfume reaches me, and it reminds me strongly of our last few hours together, three days previous. I return to the waiting room, where even the depressing sight of four year old Sports Illustrated’s and Ladies Home Journal’s in the waiting room can’t dampen my suddenly elevated mood.

Some minutes later, engrossed in an article on how long the Jimmy Johnson / Cowboy dynasty would last (he’d been fired years before) I hear her say “Sir — the doctor will see you now.”

The door closes.

“So how was your week?”

“Not too bad.”

“Any episodes?”

“No, none at all.”

“Did you do the exercise I set for you last week?”

“Yes, I thought of all the ways I could think of that love is shown, then tried to figure out if I was using the most appropriate ways to show it.”

“And what did you come up with?”

“Here, I wrote it all down, and brought you a copy,” I say, handing him my notes.


WAYS TO SHOW LOVE (OR AFFECTION):

  1. Kind words
  2. Physical affection
  3. Doing things for others
  4. Gifts or presents
  5. Giving people time and attention

WAYS I SHOWED LOVE (OR AFFECTION) THIS WEEK:

  • I called my parents and talked to them for an hour (category 5)
  • I helped my elderly neighbors change their air conditioner filters (category 3)
  • I spent a few hours with category 2, no details
  • A (category 4) gift or two might have been given at the same time as the immediately preceding bullet

It seems to me each one of these was appropriate for the situation. I also guess I didn’t have any kind words for anyone. I might want to work on that.


He put the paper down after reading it. “I see you’ve read ‘The Five Love Languages’,” he said.

“Yes.”

“Are you seeing someone?”

“Yes.”

“You never talk about her.”

“No.”

“The first person you’ve dated since your divorce?”

“No.”

“Why are you reluctant to talk about her?”

“She’d rather I didn’t, I think.”

“How are your parents doing?”

“Great. My dad’s about to retire; my mom retired just this year. They plan to do as much traveling as they can.”

“Do you often help your ‘elderly neighbors’, as you call them?”

“No, I don’t, because I’m horrible at fixing anything. But installing ceiling filters I can do. And they’ve been really good to the boys and me.”

He decides to go back to the earlier subject. “You do know that sex and physical affection are two different things, right?”

“They are not coterminous,” I say, reverting to my own form of professional voice, “but sex is arguably a subset of physical affection.”

“Or can be,” he corrects.

“Or should be,” I assert.

We return to the subject of my parents for the remainder of the session. They had high expectations for me that were never really met…

= = = = =

“How long can you stay?” she asks from the other room.

“I need to be at work early, so, maybe… two or three hours,” I say, unbuttoning my cuffs and sitting down on the chair in her bedroom.

She comes in and lays down on the bed. She looks overpoweringly beautiful.

“You should be with someone your own age,” I say.

“So should you,” she says. “Now get over here.”

Session 1

“So, why do you feel like you have to buy people’s love?”

I hate therapists. They are always asking questions like that.

“Strange question, given that I have to pay you to talk to me,” I say in response. He smiles, faintly, but won’t be deterred. He continues to look at me, fixedly.

“I don’t think I’m that different from many people, many men. My value to people is in what I can do, or provide. No one’s every liked me for my looks; I was never the guy women wanted to meet just seeing me. I had to impress them somehow. With age, though, I’ve gotten less impressive, so, money works better.”

He continues to look in my direction, encouraging me to keep going.

“My mother asked me the same question when I was nineteen. I had just bought a friend of mine an expensive going-back-to-school dinner. ‘Why do you feel the need to do that?’ she asked me. ‘He’s already one of your best friends.'”

“What was your answer?”

“I don’t remember really having an answer.”

“And you still feel the same way?…”

“Yes, and no. I’ve learned that no one gets appreciated by others quite the way they might want. That people with good looks want to be known for their minds. That people with steady loves want flaming inconstant passion instead; that people who play the field want permanence. We’re all insane, really.”

“Do you really think that last part?”

“That we’re all insane? No, I suppose not. Only if you compare our actions with our stated beliefs about what constitutes a good life.”

“Do you have a good life?”

“Yes, absolutely,” I say.

“Which brings me back to the original question: why do you feel you need to buy people’s love?”

Now it’s my turn to look at him. I take a long sip from the water bottle I brought with me.

“If I can help people, I will. It’s not so much buying love as showing it. People did it for me, when I was younger, and when I couldn’t possibly pay them back… Look, I know myself at heart, and I am as selfish as the next guy. All of us work from the same set of motivations, at least in part… I’m not trying to gain anything; I’m not trying to get in women’s pants, and I’m not trying to buy affection or whatever it was you said.”

He looked away from me, clearly unconvinced.

“Do you feel your illness makes you lesser than other people?”

“At times, yes.”

“Are you willing to accept help as easily as you give it?”

I could tell he thought he had me with that question by the slight smile on his face.

“Yes, actually. I don’t mind people doing for me, or giving to me. It’s not a power thing.”

“Hmmm,” he said, frowning slightly. “I think we’re at the end of this session.”

I take my keys and water bottle from off his table and rise to go.

“I want you to think this week about ways people show love,” he said, walking across to open the door. “Determine for yourself if you feel like you are always acting the most appropriate way for how you are feeling.”

“I’ll try,” I say, walking out into the reception area as he closes the door behind me. The receptionist looks up at me from the desk outside, her bright eyes showing even through her glasses, her dark hair shining under the fluorescent lights.

“What time are you coming by tonight?” she whispers.