I’ve been thinking about this post for a while, trying to figure out how to tie together some threads that, in my mind, are related, but not sure whether I can communicate that clearly in writing just how they are related. Here goes nothin’.
In recent months, some lovely blogfriends have posted, shall we say, risque photographs of themselves. Well, not exactly of themselves, but of their particular body parts. These photos are, depending upon the blogger depicted, adorable, astonishing, amusing, amazing, terrific, too-much, teasing . . . you know, other “A” and “T” words. I have no problem with people in or out of their undies on their blogs. And that ain’t never happenin’ here.
There are many reasons it ain’t never happenin’ here. The first one that comes to mind is the “fat and forty-something” factor. Most of the blogfriends depicted have been skinny-twenties or flirty-thirties . . . and then there’s Bucky, who’s a genre unto herself. There’s also the “it ain’t me” factor. Even when I was a skinny-twenty, that’s just not something that I would have done. On the internet. (I did email such an image to Jif the day the Kohl’s cashier tried to have me put in the old folks’ home, but I digress.) But the BIGGEST reason (yes, even bigger than my ass) I won’t be joining in this particular type of blogfun is that I’m somebody’s therapist. Quite a few somebodies. And I have seen the pain, the hurt, the confusion, the news coverage, that a therapist in public in her underwear can cause.
In the Spring of 1999, a Baltimore psychologist, 42-year-old Elizabeth Feil, was arrested and charged with such things as “accessory after the fact” and “harboring a fugitive,” after she allegedly helped her prison-inmate/client/boyfriend, Byron Lester Smoot, and one of his associates, escape from the Maryland Correctional Institution. I am not lying. And it gets worse. During the investigation, the police found photographs of Feil, dressed in a black bustier/teddy sort of thing, garter belt and stockings, in Smoot’s cell.
Feil’s husband said that he took the photographs of his wife while they were on vacation. And when the police showed up at his door and told him where they found the photographs, he said he believed that his wife may have had an affair with Smoot while he was behind bars. Resisting the urge to say, “Ya think?”
He also said, “I thought we were deeply in love. You have no idea how devastated I am by this.”
And I must tell you, the husband was not the only one. As you might imagine, the local TV news had a helluva time with this story. How often do you get to put an attractive psychologist on TV in lingerie? And call it legitimate news? Woohoo! So, I saw this chick all over the place, and cringed a little each time, because I am a therapist. Then I got a call from a family member. And this family member told me that her husband (also a family member, of course) was freaking out because his therapist was on the news in her underwear, on accounta she was helping her armed-robber boyfriend/client escape from prison!
Now, this female family member, known for her sensitivity, was having a terrible time not laughing her ass off at the situation in which her husband found himself. Or, more to the point, the situation in which he found his therapist (to recap: on the news, in the garter belt). This female family member quoted her husband as saying, as they lay in bed watching the 11 o’clock news, “OH MY **C*ING G**!!! THAT’S MY *U**ING THERAPIST!!!!” ~!@#$ %^&**** +_)(*&amp;amp;&^%$$#!! …..
He says he wouldn’t have used that kind of language. I wasn’t there. But I did talk to him about the situation, at his wife’s request. He was having a little trouble understanding why such a thing would affect him so strongly. (Incidentally, by his account, and by his wife’s, Feil was a good therapist. ) I assured him that his reaction was absolutely normal and appropriate. The therapist/client relationship is, or can be, an extraordinarily intimate relationship. There is often a profound level of trust present. And part of that trust, although it is not often discussed specifically, is that the client trusts he won’t ever see the therapist half-naked on the news while there’s a statewide police hunt going on for her, with bloodhounds, because she has helped her prison boyfriend escape. That just feels like a betrayal. We like to hold our therapists up to higher standards of non-jackass-ishness than we do other people. We put them up there with clergy, elementary school teachers, moms, where these things are concerned. The public has a right to expect that such people won’t expose themselves.
That experience prompted me to look at my own life. I renewed my personal commitment to never have nekkid or semi-nekkid pictures available to the world. And of course, my commitment not to have sex with clients OR prison inmates, much LESS both in one. And…oh, yea, no helping anyone escape from an actual correctional facility. In fact, nothing that will ever give the media cause to use my name and “tracked by bloodhounds” in the same sentence.
It also prompted me to look at my own therapist. Oh, yes, I have a therapist. I probably always will, in one form or another. I am one who believes it is obscene to be a therapist without ever having been a client. I also believe that for a therapist in solo practice, like I am, it is essential that I have someone other than myself monitoring my crazy-gauges. Anyhow, when I selected the therapist that I had at that time, I was very discriminating. I asked about her education, her experience, whether she worked with other therapists much, her preferred theories of psychotherapy, etc. But I had never asked her if there were any nekkid pictures of her that might end up on the news! And now I felt I must.
“I need to ask you to give me your word that you will not show up on my TV in black lingerie,” I said to her.
“You don’t have to worry about that,” she says. “Black is not my color.” Smartass.
That family member and I are not the only ones who have trouble with the notion of “therapists gone wild.” An entire episode of the poisonously funny “Curb Your Enthusiasm” was dedicated to this sort of thing. I think it was called “The Thong.” The main character, Larry David, and his friend, comedian Richard Lewis, are both seeing this awesome therapist. The BEST either has ever had, and they’ve had plenty. Until one day, when Larry goes to the beach. And sees his therapist there in the sand. IN A FREAKIN’ THONG. (Cue Sisqo: thong th thong thong thong) They both agree, they can no longer sit and pour out their hearts to this thongapist.
So, again, it ain’t happenin’ here. And if you are a therapist, for the love of Freud and Jung, don’t go there. And if you are a client, ask your therapist not to ever do you like that. Oh, you might think you want to see your therapist in his or her underwear. But you don’t. Have I ever steered you wrong? YOU DON’T.