Sex And The Singer On Dat­ing And Ther­apy

Forward Magazine - - Contents - BY JENNY SINGER

I was two hours into a date with a guy who had a cute dog and a de­sire to ex­plain the novel “Lolita” in graphic de­tail, and it was time to go. We were in the mid­dle of Madi­son Park in Man­hat­tan’s Flat­iron Dis­trict, drink­ing wine out of cans he had brought in a bag. As he moved on from Nabokov to an ex­co­ri­a­tion of or­ga­nized re­li­gion, I re­al­ized that if I didn’t stop him I would be late to my next event. I ex­plained that I had to go, and he asked if I wouldn’t mind watch­ing his dog while he went quickly into a cafe to buy him­self a cof­fee. He vol­un­teered to bring me one, but I didn’t want any­thing. The guy dis­ap­peared into Eataly, and the dog and I waited out­side on the pave­ment. Time passed, and I re­al­ized I was late for the event. A while later my date re­turned, empty-handed. “Where’s your cof­fee?” I asked. “Oh,” he said. “I took my ‘ex­presso’ in­doors.” And then, he and the dog de­parted.

Here’s the thing: I dated that man for one year.

How did I get there? How did I end up hu­mor­ing a mansplain­ing, “ex­presso”-drink­ing dog owner for a full year when I know full well that I am a mor­tal whose time on this earth is lim­ited?

When I was 18, I went forth from my land, and from my par­ents’ house, to the land that movies had shown me: New York City. As I pre­pared to move, I be­came the re­cip­i­ent of a strange but con­sis­tent mes­sage: “New York is full of young, sin­gle, Jewish men.” Starry eyed and slightly pant­ing, strangers, neigh­bors, my dad and my den­tist told me, re­peat­edly and un­bid­den, that the streets of New York are paved with syn­a­gogue golden boys.

Like God in Ge­n­e­sis telling Abra­ham to go forth from his birth­place so that he could sire de­scen­dants as plen­ti­ful as the stars in the sky and the sand in the sea, my par­ents and friends as­sured me that New York City has the male-to-fe­male ra­tio of a Brooks Brothers cat­a­log.

Con­trary to what he was promised, Abra­ham gets only two kids, and he al­most kills both of them. Just like Abe, I had been mis­led by grandiose prom­ises. The truth is, there are men in New York City the same way there is money in a bank: Just be­cause you and the money are near each other does not mean that the money is avail­able to you.

I did not have an in­ter­est­ing and ful­fill­ing dat­ing life in col­lege. New York City did give me a much more com­mon gift, though: an anx­i­ety dis­or­der. Who says women can’t have it all? Who says we can’t have boyfriends who went to URJ camps and keep our balanced sero­tonin lev­els? I would do it, I de­cided. God would bless the ones who blessed me, and curse the ones who cursed me, God­damn it. I would grab at the an­kle of op­por­tu­nity and not let it go un­til it blessed me twice over, with a man and a ther­a­pist.

Over the course of my first year af­ter col­lege, I met some of the strangest peo­ple I have ever en­coun­tered: sin­gle male New York­ers, and cer­ti­fied psy­chol­o­gists. New York has the most li­censed psy­chol­o­gists of any state be­sides Cal­i­for­nia. I’m sure you will find it hard to be­lieve that it was dif­fi­cult to find a ther­a­pist in Woody Allen’s fa­vorite city. Be­lieve it. There was wa­ter, wa­ter, ev­ery­where, and not a sin­gle shrink.

Here’s why: Most psy­chol­o­gists in New York ei­ther can­not ac­cept in­sur­ance or don’t need to. Many of those who have to ac­cept in­sur­ance to lure pa­tients are, and I say it re­spect­fully, weirdos. The same eco­nomic

The high sup­ply of women seek­ing re­la­tion­ships makes us an elas­tic com­mod­ity.

Dat­ing and find­ing a ther­a­pist are te­dious, emo­tion­ally scald­ing pro­cesses of meet­ing strangers for trau­ma­tiz­ing con­ver­sa­tions that could lead to long-term well-be­ing or to iden­tity theft.

holds true for het­ero­sex­ual re­la­tion­ships in the five bor­oughs — the high sup­ply of women seek­ing re­la­tion­ships makes us an elas­tic com­mod­ity. There is lit­tle in­cen­tive for ei­ther sin­gle men or pro­fes­sional ther­a­pists to per­form at a high level. That is why ev­ery won­der­ful sin­gle woman you know can tell you sto­ries about dat­ing, es­sen­tially, mur­der­ous clowns, and ev­ery ther­a­pist you know is ex­cited about the new tax plan.

Dat­ing and find­ing a ther­a­pist are strangely sim­i­lar ac­tiv­i­ties — both are te­dious, emo­tion­ally scald­ing pro­cesses of meet­ing strangers for trau­ma­tiz­ing con­ver­sa­tions that could lead to longterm well-be­ing or to iden­tity theft. I started both searches by read­ing pro­files on the in­ter­net. I closely ex­am­ined head­shots of prospec­tive can­di­dates and med­i­tated on the col­leges they had at­tended. I ruled out peo­ple who lived in New Jer­sey. I an­swered their per­sonal ques­tions: “Have you read ‘In­fi­nite Jest’?” “Do you ever hear voices telling you to kill peo­ple?” “Would you like to par­tic­i­pate in the orgy my room­mate is plan­ning?”

My first ther­a­pist was a man who charged a mys­te­ri­ous $20 per ap­point­ment (I have paid more for sal­ads) but did not have ad­vice beyond, “Have you tried self-help books?” First dates and clin­i­cal in­takes be­gin with meet­ing a stranger in a des­ig­nated lo­ca­tion in­con­ve­niently far from your apart­ment. The in­ter­views are strik­ingly sim­i­lar: “How did you end up in New York?” “What did your par­ents do to you as a child that made you this way?” You worry that they hate you. You worry that you will never trust them. You be­gin to re­veal your true self. They say that they be­lieve in dream in­ter­pre­ta­tion. You go home and start over again.

About nine months af­ter my date with fate and an over­caf­feinated dog owner, I des­per­ately made an ap­point­ment with a new ther­a­pist who took my in­sur­ance. She was ma­ter­nal look­ing and Jewish and had a doc­tor­ate, so I ig­nored the many neg­a­tive re­views on her Zoc­doc page. I sat down in her of­fice (which was also a pe­di­atric exam room, for some rea­son), and she said, in a nasal Brook­lyn ac­cent, “Ms. Singer, please de­scribe the thing that is mak­ing you most happy in life right now.” Since al­most noth­ing was mak­ing me happy in life, I burst into hys­ter­i­cal tears. We spent the next two hours to­gether: me weep­ing, her shriek­ing “Miss Singer! I can­not un­der­stand you when you cry like that!” Things calmed down for a while when she gave me a dig­i­tal form to fill out with dozens of que­sprin­ci­ple tions (“List ev­ery in­stance when you felt anx­ious in the past year”; “De­scribe ev­ery sex­ual ex­pe­ri­ence you’ve ever had that was un­sat­is­fac­tory”), but they dis­in­te­grated when I re­al­ized the com­puter pro­gram lim­ited each an­swer to 60 char­ac­ters. (Yes, re­ally.) I left, tak­ing her ad­vice that I should aban­don my as­pi­ra­tions and try teach­ing (“It’s the only way you’ll make your par­ents proud of you!”), and also tak­ing a stack of coupon clip­pings that she pressed me to ac­cept. I walked out of her build­ing in Colum­bus Cir­cle, wip­ing my nose on a piece of wax pa­per I ripped from the san­i­tary sheet cov­er­ing the pe­di­atric exam ta­ble in her “of­fice.” The nar­ra­tive that New York has the best of ev­ery­thing is a mislead­ing one. Most res­tau­rants and stores in the “city that never sleeps” re­ally do close at 10 p.m. and, like ev­ery­where else in Amer­ica, bar­ri­ers to ac­cess pre­vent peo­ple from ob­tain­ing cru­cial help. I have a ther­a­pist now, who, in­cred­i­bly, ac­cepts my in­sur­ance. And I have had many ful­fill­ing re­la­tion­ships and dates since I moved to New York, a few even with peo­ple who were also het­ero­sex­ual.

I’ll keep dat­ing. And I’ll keep try­ing out ther­a­pists. You can join me here next month, when I’ll keep talk­ing about the chal­lenges and triumphs of Jewish dat­ing in the city that some­times sleeps. But I am holding out for the day when New York City has as many ac­ces­si­ble ther­a­pists as there are stars in the sky, and as many el­i­gi­ble men as there are grains of sand in the sea.

To be con­tin­ued.

ANYA ULINICH

Jenny Singer is a New York-based cul­ture writer.

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