Before my parents made me go to therapy, Wednesdays were the most special day of the week.
Not because of “hump day,” which is now the basis of the most annoying Geico ad ever (that one with the camels), but because it was a half day at my school.
We got out for lunch, and our parents would pick us up and take us to the Burger King on Broadway, two blocks away. All of us. If your mom or dad didn’t take you to Burger King on Wednesday, there was something wrong there. Call Child Protective Services.
Wednesdays were all about flame-broiled burgers, the smell of ketchup, and flinging french fries and floppy pickle slices at your classmates over the dusty, fake plants in between booths. All hosted by 1970s cartoon-version Burger King, whose two-dimensional smile and royal getup were way preferable to the child-molester-clown persona of that live-action creep, Ronald McDonald.
The reason the school let us go early every week was so the teachers could spend all Wednesday afternoon talking about us.
Who was wearing too much eyeshadow for a 10-year-old and terrorizing the losers, who hadn’t turned in his book report on Island of the Blue Dolphins, should they take away the class troublemaker’s slide whistle that he keeps blowing during Social Studies, what to do about Melvin the extreme math nerd whose Aspergers wasn’t yet called that and who kept disrupting everything by shout-reciting the entire number Pi from the center area.
…And, apparently, who needed therapy.
My 4th grade Cluster Advisor — what my progressive school called a homeroom teacher — told my parents that I was unhappy, and should “see someone.”
Her evidence that I was unhappy was my lower lip, which I liked to stick out and fold over, so it looked like a giant fish lip. (Or, I guess, like a giant, sad pout.) This was a party trick of sorts. No hands required, I could just stick it out and, boop, flip it over with nothing but the lip’s own strength. Lip power.
I told my parents I wasn’t unhappy, and no, I did not need to go to a psychologist.
My dad said, “That face you make with your lip looks unhappy. If you’re not unhappy, why do you do it — because it feels good?”
That question disgusted me. My dad, a shrink himself, always wanted to talk about feelings. I did not.
“No,” I said, gagging like I smelled poop. “It doesn’t ‘feel good.'”
So they took me to a shrink.
Her name was Dorothy Bleck (almost her real name), and she was a big waste of my time.
Every Wednesday, when everyone else was ordering Whoppers, and having it their way (per the Burger King jingle’s invitation to “Have It Your Way”) I was having it my parents’ way: rollerskating down West End Avenue in the opposite direction of Burger King to an office where the light beam from the window was always filled with floating dust mites. There, I’d sit on the floor for 50 minutes and play Monopoly with what was basically an overpriced babysitter.
Dorothy Bleck would ask me dumb questions about my feelings. I’d shrug, move my thimble down the board and purchase Baltic and Park Place. I think she let me win, which did not make me hate her any less.
I’ve since learned that therapy’s not all bad. And, that McDonald’s is way better than Burger King. I don’t know why “flame-broiled, not fried” is a selling point when a fried patty is so delicious. With those little onion bits.
Have you ever been forced into therapy?
Did your parents ever ruin your life, or at least one day a week of it?
Burger King vs McDonald’s: go.
TELL ME IN THE COMMENTS.
Done commenting? As a reward, you can listen to this interview I did with Adam Clark of The Gently Mad podcast. We talk about New York in the 1970s, blogging, copywriting, and the indignities of flying in coach. Click here to check it out.
I never did therapy as a child, but my older brother did and I was excited. Occasionally I would drive with my mom to Hampstead on Long Island on Saturday mornings to pick him up.
Peter Schwartz says
First therapy session occurred when I was in 1st grade. I guess that’s age 6. Dr. Barrett. Now wish I knew what my issues were, but Mom is dead, and I can’t ask her.
The only thing I remember about my sessions was that he had a dart gun where the darts had suction cups. The best target was the glass on the door because they stuck nicely to the glass and made a cool sound.
And, of course, the only target that was verboten was the glass on the door to his office. I remember shooting a dart at the door and getting reprimanded by Dr. Barrett who said it was against the rules.
57 years later, I can now see the seeds of my life as a JD had already been planted by the time I reached Dr. Barrett. Once, I remember, when I was living at Lex and 26th Street, I sat behind two girls in the van we took to kindergarten. I took the opportunity to crash their heads together. The punishment for this violence was I had to sit upfront with the driver, where I could watch him shift gears.
Later, I would break into houses, write my name on bathroom mirrors with red lipstick and steal whatever change was laying around. I was proud of my work, I guess, so I signed it.
How did I end up NOT going to jail? 35 years ~ of therapy. I’d be rich today if I hadn’t gone to therapy because I paid for every hour out of my own pocket. I’d be rich or in jail.
no no no, we are total opposites (and yet I still love you)
I LOVE THERAPY!!!!
If I had the money I would stay in therapy for the rest of my life.
but I also LOVE massage and you hate, so there you go.
and I love cheese burgers but NO CHEAP ASS CHEESEBURGERS, only organic, preferably glass-fed.
you have to talk about feeling get it all out on the table be honest, confide in someone smart who has no agenda for you, etc.
no all that being said, I can’t afford therapy and will buy copywriting long before I will pay for therapy again. I just think it’s super important to understand how you feel about things in your own life and I believe feelings are very complex, not black and white or easy to understand.
we all need someone in our corner. hopefully lot’s of people.
So when you win a sweepstakes and are awarded free therapy and massages for the rest of your life you will know who to give them too, yes I will keep my fingers crossed and wait for your call!!!
you have my number right? well I’m not hard to find, seriously look me up if you come to Miami next year when NYC is freezing over, I promise not to talk about feelings or make you go to the spa and get foot massages,
Therapy is awesome. My therapist said something that changed how I thought about my marriage when we were super stressed and exhausted after our daughter was born. My husband’s belief that he was working just as hard as me totally infuriated me (because, come on now, really? I just pushed a baby out of me and you’re what…sleep deprived?) So anyway I was seethingly resentful and our counselor said something brilliant that probably saved my marriage. She said, “It’s like you’re both floundering in the deep end and wondering why the other doesn’t save you.” Whoa. Exactly the insight I needed in order to stop being so hard on him AND ME.
Ana Verzone says
Burger King for whoppers and McDonals for fries. Hands down.
And yes I’m a life and health coach and you can quote me on that lol. I have an opinion on almost everything;)
I had to go to therapy at 9 years old because I was so bored in school that when I finished the in-class work id create chaos and then sneak into the theater at recess and do fake plays. Apparently this reaction to boredom was not acceptable.
I was actually really glad because the therapist agreed with my that my mom was an angry control freak and I loved hearing someone else say it, and she for the most part though I reacted normally to a really screwed up situation at home. So I got to have more freedom and independence.
Needless to say my mom stopped taking me to therapy lol.
With ya, sistah!
Halona Black says
I can’t believe I just read this…On a copywriting website. But great storytelling chops though! 🙂
Liz DiAlto says
jokes on you! Belly laughs = massive value in my world 🙂
I got sent to boarding school 300 miles away for 6 months when I was 17, because I was sneaking out at night and yelled a lot. We were watched like hawks, could only speak during certain times of the day, had to count off every time we left or entered a room (to make sure no one ran away), and if someone tattled on you for breaking the rules they would take away your shoelaces and leg-shaving privileges. Oh yeah and we had to wear yellow sweats every day. We’d sit around in groups twice a day and people would vote on how much personal progress they think you are making. The entire time, I was allowed one phone call at Christmas to my family. memories…….
Who ever heard of going to school on Saturdays???
Me. And my brother. And all the unfortunate 1st generation kids who happened to be born to Lithuanian parents.
It started when I was 5.
I was born an American and, sure as hell, my American friends didn’t have to go to school on Saturdays. Saturday for them meant watching cartoons on TV all morning. But not for my brother and me. Oh no. No cartoons for us; we had to go to Lithuanian Saturday school.
I was sophomore in high school. The weekly torture still continued. Only that now my tears were shed on Friday nights while my full-blooded American friends got to go out and party, make out with boys and maybe even score illegal beer while I had to stay home. And do Lithuanian homework!
Ten whole years of torture. Result? I speak, read and write fluent Lithuanian. And learned to be patient. Nothing lasts forever. Not even Saturday school.
I never had therapy as a child, but my older brother did and I was jealous. Occasionally I’d drive with my mother to Hempstead, Long Island on Saturday mornings to pick him up. I found out he got to play cool games and talk about how he came from Planet Z.
FYI It’s Baltic not Baltimore.
I never got sent to therapy, but my parents ruined every Sunday morning by forcing me to go to church. Not that church was bad, it just doesn’t hold a candle to things like LEGO or cartoons to a kid.
PS: re-found you through Adam’s podcast. “Re”found because I hear your name around the interwebs (not from your old teachers talking about you though).
Mom Belgray says
I feel like a participatory villain. Truth: I never liked DB either! It was the opposite in my family: my father didn’t believe in any kind of therapy and made fun of his good friend who “spent so much money to lie on a couch three times a week, and she’s still crazy.”
Laura – I DID get sent to therapy, only we didn’t play Monopoly…we talked about God. I never had more intense anger than I did at the end of Jesus therapy. I would spend the last 5 minutes literally staring at the clock and ignoring the woman with her clip board and pearls.
Can’t wait to listen to your podcast episode!
Pia Larson says
When my parents divorced, they made me go to therapy as if it was my problem. Hey, I knew the drill at 12 years old. They had been arguing for over 5 years already, if they didn’t divorce, I would have made the suggestion myself but they thought I needed to get my feelings out.
Ruined my week every time I was forced to sit (with my mom by my side I may add, if that isn’t awkward), to find something to say to the shrink that shows I wouldn’t be damaged for life by their inevitable split. In fact, he became even more concerned when I very adult-like told him that it was for the best for everyone, including my younger brother.
How dare I have such advanced insight into my psyche. So although it ruined a few weekdays for me for about 6 weeks, it didn’t last long. I out shrunk my shrink and went back to going once a week to McDonalds for my traditional chocolate shake, fries and FRIED burger.