Sunday, June 27, 2010

Case Study #31

Dear Dr. Brian,

If people from Boston are called Bostonians, and those from San Francisco are called San Franciscans, what are the ones from Dallas called? Dallasinians?

Your friend,


Dear Larua,

No, that is not a typo with your name. I must confess that it was originally so, but after carefully analyzing your submission, I feel that a minimal adjustment in the spelling of your name could prove beneficial. It is now a distinctive name, it will advance you slightly in those irritating lists where people are alphabetized, and it’s more fun to type. (Try it on your keyboard.) Therefore, as your physician, I am advising that you change your name immediately. I’ll have Lanae send the legal forms shortly.

Now, to more firmly address your query, it is important that we minutely analyze each element of your email. Even a small alteration in grammar, spelling or wording can change things in an astonishing manner. (To continue my previous thread, an online posting about someone named “Laura” could prove somewhat entertaining, while a posting with a free spirit named “Larua” becomes an instant bookmark, with its tantalizing possible details about tropical islands, or rock groups with fervent groupies, the kind who enjoy flinging their undergarments during concerts and living in communes where everyone helps make real butter.)

So, I must keep an open mind concerning the manner in which I can assist you. An initial observation would be that you have a geographical fixation of some kind. (This is a very real malady, with people over-using Google Earth , especially that “zoom in” feature, resulting in nightmares where troubled souls envision themselves slamming into the planet, suffering uncomfortable body realignments as country and city names whiz by them in a terrifying blur.)

Sadly, because EarthSlamPhobia was mentioned on the Oprah Winfrey show, it has become very popular of late, and some trendy physicians are quick to misdiagnose patients who are actually suffering from something that has not been publicized on talk shows that will be ending in 2011. In a related trend, there is a misperception among the populace that the cure for EarthSlamPhobia is an Intervention.

I’m sure you’ve heard of these ghastly things, where friends and family trick you into attending a dinner party or an outing to the zoo, and then they all gang up on you, demanding that you stop doing something that they don’t care for. These things never work, not only because you instantly hate them for their pushiness and subterfuge, but because your friends and family are not trained specialists. If they were, they would be appearing on TV, not sitting on your couch and bellowing self-help quotes from some odd website they found when Facebook was down and they were bored.

And really, all these platitudes along the lines of “We love you and we are here for you.” What is THAT? Seriously. If they are there for you, then they should have been around when you first mistakenly assumed that Percocet was an antihistamine, discovered that taking the cute little pills made things pretty and you no longer cared about troublesome facets of your life like relatives who intervene, and then began selling household appliances to insure that you kept not caring.

Anyway, I do believe I can eliminate the possibility of you having a geographical neuroses, simply by reviewing the cities you mentioned in your submission. You have listed both coasts, as well as a city smack in the middle of the country. This means you do not discriminate, which is a fine thing in itself, but also eliminates you from qualifying for any of the Mapsco family of maladies. People who suffer from such tend to focus on specific regions, like southern towns where folks speak with too many vowels or Colorado resorts where caretakers snap in the winter and get abusive with axes.

No, your particular diagnosis lies elsewhere. Yet still, my extensive training in the world of the mind and the many ways in which the brain can twist off into surprising roads of discovery leads me to believe that there is something behind the names of the cities you selected. Let’s go there, even if it proves fruitless, and I end up charging you for another session. (Somebody has to pay for the new linoleum in the remodeled break room in our suite of offices.) To wit, your cities:

Boston. Have you ever been there? It’s quite surprising. My first exposure to one of our founding cities occurred in the month of July. Such a time of year is excruciating in the place where I currently live, a little burgh by the name of Dallas. The word “steamy” does not even approach reality, with sweat getting into crevices you never knew you had. Things melt, and tempers flare. (You NEVER want to question the roadway decisions of your fellow citizens. This can result in rude gestures and the use of concealed handguns.)

But I never imagined that Boston could have the same July climate. It’s so far north, I just assumed that the igloos did not melt. Yet indeed they do, with a vengeance that is startling. I was quite amazed to learn that the fresh seafood in the fish market would grill itself as you stood there and perused the options.

And this thing with the pennies on the graves in that one cemetery. I tried to read the historical marker that explained the copper abundance, but I couldn’t keep the sweat out of my eyes long enough to learn the tale. Complicating all this was the horde of belligerent tourists who did not appreciate my non-movement and blindness. They were hurling pennies like The Rapture was around the corner.

But around that corner was the Parker House Hotel, where they make those rolls that apparently cause certain people to change their entire way of life so that they can consume these things on a regular basis. I failed to see what the fuss was all about, mainly because said hotel was very pricey and I couldn’t even afford the appetizers, let alone an entrée featuring the famous bread. Northerners apparently make more money than Southerners. Didn’t we end that pesky war? Poor Scarlet, she rolled around in that turnip field, getting mud on her couture and vowing never to be hungry again, but I’m assuming she wasn’t clutching a menu from the Parker House Hotel.

Finally, did they ever end that mess with the Big Dig? The massive roadwork project where they were building an underground tunnel to China or some such? I understand the need to garner support for the usage of tax-payer dollars. But really, the billboards and the campaign buttons? It’s a road, not the Stairway to Heaven. Especially if you’re just a visitor trying to find the North Church without getting re-routed to Detroit. And it’s a little unsettling to realize that the earth is being moved under my feet.

Speaking of, let’s move on to San Francisco, where I understand that you’ve spent some time whilst trying to keep your sanity and a firm grip on the things that are really important. Therefore, I really shouldn’t pontificate too much and risk corrective commentary, other than to share a formative experience I had whilst a youngster still finding my way.

In the mid-70’s, my mother and her best friend dragged their four collective offspring to this city by the bay. I was much too young to fully comprehend all that we saw, but I do recall seeing men holding hands, and homegrown newspapers seeking rights for people who just wanted to love as they wished. I was in awe, feeling tiny tendrils of validation for my burgeoning awareness of who I might be, but still scared. The rest of the country did not share this vision, or so it seemed to my naïve young mind. Soon I would be back in a land of closed minds and pain. But briefly, I yearned. Hope springs eternal.

Okay, I do recall a few other things. The hills, of course, because how could you miss THOSE? The trolley cars, which are enjoyable until someone’s posterior is shoved in your face while they are pointing out Coit Tower. Or some stranger requests that you take photos of them and their unruly brood as the Gap-clad little hellions swing on poles and wave. I don’t WANT to take pictures of other people. If I did, I would have gone to a different school, training to be a clerk at the DMV or perhaps a processing agent at the police station.

Oh, and the exquisite chocolate from that Italian-sounding place, and all of that business with the Wharf. The rows of houses, with the character of another time, standing proudly after so many years, despite the Starbucks on the corner and everyone muttering into little handheld things of metal and glass. And the people. The wild mix of people.

And finally, we have Dallas on your short list of proper names for residents. There are many ways I could go with my commentary on the local inhabitants. But really, this should be saved for another time. The nexus is you, and how I can assist. Despite my rhetoric, despite my fun with snarkiness and twisted interpretations, there are times when all this falls by the wayside, and you get real.

Searching for an answer that actually means something, I did let a bit of the whimsy back in. The first letter of your three cities is B-S-D. But I’m going to assume that you put a challenge in there, and that I should reverse the order. D-S-B. I only know of your personal situation peripherally, limited detail, but I hope this helps with your journey. DSB = Don’t Stop Believing. Don’t. In whatever your belief and hopes may be.

Best of luck, Laura, spelled correctly, and there really won’t be any paperwork in the mail about the name change. Unless my assistant Lanae has been especially productive, though I seriously doubt that she has. I’ve been waiting for her to change the paper in the copy machine since 1987.

As for the rest of you fine folks, who are used to sarcasm until the end, it’s not going to happen this time. A rare moment of heart, and some time to reflect. Think of the people you love. Tell them that. Again and again. And then maybe one more time. Then go take a walk, somewhere quiet where you can prioritize and breathe. Well, maybe skip the walking bit for now, considering the heat out there and the potential for sweaty crevices. But keep the breathing. And the realization of what’s really important…

Peace In,

Dr. Brian

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Case Study #30

Dear Dr. Brian,

How does one begin the “excessive nose hair” conversation with one’s new boyfriend?




Dear Perp,

First, I’d like to extend to you my deepest sympathies, for even though you may still be in the exciting throes of the first tender days of newfound love, the relationship is clearly over.

No amount of counseling or careful review of women’s magazines can overcome the atrocity of a partner who does not trim adequately. Eventually, you will not be able to leave the house, and the mere sight of him can cause histrionic screaming. Save yourself the time and effort, and make preparations to move on.

Perhaps you may find this assessment to be a bit harsh, overly reactionary and such, possibly even flippant and callous about the level of affection you have for your partner. Sadly, love does not overcome all, despite the many Hallmark movies that vainly try to prove otherwise. And love certainly does not, in the end, overcome a man who could put your eye out during a passionate embrace.

Yes, poor woman, this is not only a matter of unattractive and mortifying nasal protuberances. It is also a matter of personal safety. You could be severely injured at any time, despite the resourcefulness of precautionary measures you may take. You can only persevere for so long. At some point you will have to remove the protective body gear, and your delicate skin will be at tremendous risk.

In theory, of course, if your love for this man is deep enough, the two of you could agree to a romantic arrangement that is devoid of any physical intimacy. You could care for one another from afar, as it were. Perhaps you can reside in opposite ends of the house, with a glass wall firmly separating you from Edward Scissornose. For some playful excitement, you can pretend that one of you has been incarcerated for an unmentionable crime, and proceed to express your physical lust by pawing at one another through the impersonal glass.

I must caution you, though, that this glass must be at least 6 inches thick. Those hairs are incredibly sharp, and can cut through almost all natural and manmade materials, especially the wiry hairs that twist and turn for no apparent reason. You must remain vigilant at all times.

And really, would this be any way to live, having to avoid one another at all costs? This type of distance is usually reserved for the later years in a relationship, where you have grown to hate the sight of each other, both of you reduced to using the children and your credit cards to inflict emotional wounds on each other.

You owe it to yourself to fully enjoy the traditional first years of a partnership, when you actually enjoy being around your supposed soul mate before you finally learn everything there is to know about him, and realize he has very few redeeming qualities and that you were clearly blind in the days of wine and roses.

Now, having rattled on about all that, I suppose it’s only fair that I mention one alternate scenario which should be considered. After all, I do have some personal experience to add to this unfortunate mix. Normally, I refrain from sharing intimate details of my own life, unless required to do so by law or enabled by the over-imbibing of alcoholic spirits.

You see, I am also the victim of misbehaving and stealthy nose hairs. There is a degree of shame with this pronouncement, but I can sense that you are very troubled by your current dilemma. (One sign of your pain is the sentence you scrawled on the back of this letter, in Rustic Kumquat nail polish, which reads “I have dreams of porcupines and darkness.”)

However, despite my own body rebelling against me by producing hairs where hairs shouldn’t be, I am one of the 3% of people with this condition who has actually tried to do something about it. (The remaining 97% do nothing and don’t seem to care. Such behavior also explains other troubling human conditions, like politicians getting elected despite obvious mental issues, and medical practitioners who charge $600 to take your blood pressure.)

But my journey to personal body-hair salvation has been long, and the battle never ends. (In my youth and preliminary professional days, I did not have this problem. Then again, we never have physical problems when we are young. Everyone is beautiful and flexible, lulling us into a false sense of invincibility, a sense that is shattered as we age and things start to malfunction. This is why everyone over 40 is bitter.)

I have tried an endless number of hygiene products and devices through the years. And I have done so with fierce determination. I have shaved and plucked and scoured, trying various chemical concoctions and applying poultices, pillaging the Internet for any mechanical contraption that might offer even minimal release from my private hell.

Alas, I am always disappointed. I can get my nasal canals polished to a shine, devoid of any hint of growth. Two hours later, a hair will spring out of nowhere, stabbing downward with an audible click of spite and meanness. And this will usually happen in an awkward social situation, such as a dinner party, the least beneficial time for a sudden hair appearance, because I don’t have any of my tools with me and therefore any reparative actions are compromised.

I usually end up huddled in someone’s half-bath, surrounded by hideous wallpaper and those annoying hand towels that you can’t really use, yanking at the elusive demon hair in a frenzy of search and destroy. This, of course, is not a pleasant action, and I must lie to my colleagues and explain that my screams were the result of passing a kidney stone. On a social scale, it’s better to have crystallized objects in your digestive system rather than confess to having a nose with its own landscaping.

Anyway, my dear Perv, it is imperative that we determine the mental attitude of your man toward his nose hairs. Has he, like me, struggled in shame to deal with this overwhelming situation, all to little avail despite his good intentions? If so, you must work to save your love, assuming that everything else about him is acceptable and hygienic. If he has no idea what you’re talking about, your love is doomed.

So sit your man down, join him on the couch if it’s safe to do so without risking bodily harm, and gently but firmly ask him. What’s up with the nose hair? If he bursts into tears, and then shows you his “special drawer” in the bathroom, full of implements and creams, then your relationship has a chance. Be supportive and suggest therapy. Perhaps Oprah can do a special before she ends her show and goes off to purchase the 4% of the world that she doesn’t already own.

If your mate refuses to admit there’s a problem, or, even worse, acknowledges the nose hairs and thinks there’s nothing wrong with them, possibly even having given them their own names, then you know what you have to do. Begin taking the necessary legal steps to ensure that you never have to see this person again. (Speaking of legalities, it is my professional duty to advise you of a possible third reaction: He may pick up a salad fork and lunge at you, screaming something about disappointments and poor choices. If that happens, you have an entirely different situation on your hands.)

Let me know how it goes. Lanae at the reception desk has my cell phone number in case things get overly dramatic and intense. Of course, I probably won’t answer it until your check for this session has cleared the bank…


Dr. Brian