From time to time I have wanted to show you what you are missing if you are not in therapy. And, if Ask Polly gives us any sense of what happens to your mind once you enter therapy, you should be thankful that you are not.
Yet, Polly is still beating the drums for therapy. And her advice is as lame as it has always been. This week it’s lame to the point of being frightening.
If you would like a context, see this week’s Ask Polly column as a question: how well are women’s voices heard? When a woman writes to Polly and explains that she nearly had a nervous breakdown when she heard of a semi-relative’s pregnancy, Polly uses the occasion to opine about what?
Does she discuss the woman’s maternal instinct? Not a chance. Does she talk about the joys of motherhood? No way. Since the letter writer is obsessed with baby issues, Polly launches into a meditation about: DEATH. That’s right: the Grim Reaper.
If you can find a better example of the way therapy warps your mind, I would like to see it.
The letter writer is clear enough about what happened and what is bothering her.
She calls herself “Baby Crazy (Sort of).” The name gives us a hint of what is bothering her.
A few weeks ago, my boyfriend’s brother and his girlfriend of six months announced that they are pregnant. This is unexpected, but theoretically good news.
You can tell that she is a hip millennial: she notes that it’s not just the girlfriend, but the boyfriend’s brother is pregnant too. Is he showing yet?
Baby Crazy takes the news badly. It ought to be good news. It ought to elicit feelings of happiness for the expectant parents. Where is her empathy when she needs it? But, no, Baby Crazy has no way to process the information and has a mini-breakdown:
For whatever reason, this news hit me like a ton of bricks. I spent the next few days after we found out alternating between a shocked silence and crying. It’s sent me into some kind of Stage 5 panic that I’ve never felt before. It’s not some kind of sadness that they don’t live closer or fear of missing out on time with this child — it’s a series of truly negative feelings. I’ve calmed down a lot over time, but every time I think about this child, I get a pit of dread in my stomach.
Anyone with a high school diploma could figure this out. Baby Crazy cannot figure out why she is baby crazy. While she is going on about difficult this is to understand, her chosen name gives it away.
She is a thoroughly liberated woman and does not believe that she has a maternal instinct. She believes that motherhood should be postponed until… whenever. She believes that it’s all a social construct anyway and when the instinct she has been denying breaks through the ideologically driven will to ignore it, she does not know what to do with it. This cannot be me, she tells herself. This cannot be my own wish to have a baby. This cannot be jealousy and envy at someone else’s happiness.
What kind of human being becomes miserable when contemplating someone else’s happiness? Someone who has allowed her normal instincts and desires to be subsumed by a bunch of ideological nonsense. The nonsense is: that sex is primarily about pleasure and that pregnancy is a curse.
Baby Crazy sort of explains herself:
I can’t figure out why this could be, but I know what it’s not. I’m not jealous or resentful; we’ve decided not to get married for a few years, let alone have a kid, and I still know that’s the right decision for me.
Of course, this is mere denial. She does not understand that her decision has temporarily deprived her of something she craves, but cannot accept that she craves it. And, I do not need to tell you that the longer she waits he more difficult it all becomes. She is not making the best use of her most fertile years.
Being as she is in denial, she chooses to blame it on her mother. Or better, on her grief about her mother’s death:
My mother passed away a few months ago, after battling a terminal illness for several years, so I understand that my emotions are still wonky from grief. I expect grief to keep showing up at the strangest of times. But I’ve honestly never experienced something like this — totally irrational panic, fear, and sadness over something that truly has nothing to do with me. Why does this freak me out so much?
As I said, there is nothing especially mysterious about this. If you make a habit of listening to what women say and—here’s the important point—if you are willing to afford them the respect to take them at their word, this woman has just discovered that sex cannot so easily be disconnected from procreation. And she cannot process an idea that runs counter to her most deeply held beliefs and commitments.
In response Polly outdoes herself. She has heard nothing that this woman was saying. Which takes some real effort and shows signs of having had far too much therapy.
Polly opens with the following:
Maybe you’re more anxious about the future of your relationship than you think you are. Maybe you’ve agreed to proceed rationally with your boyfriend, to give it time, but some part of you is panicked and wants to know for sure that everything is going to turn out the way you want it to.
Is there anything about Baby Crazy’s letter that suggested anxiety about her relationship? Polly has cast herself as something of a wild psychoanalyst, a mind reader.
If Polly had attached her thought to the question of procreation, she would have been on target. Of course, Baby Crazy is worried about how her plans to have children will work out. And she is asking herself why she has postponed something that she really, really wants. She might also be asking herself how she can explain her wishes to her boyfriend after she has entered into an agreement with him about postponing parenthood. She cannot change her mind without going back on her word and this is obviously very important to her character.
Of course, Polly misses the point entirely. Since the question is birth and procreation, Polly says that it’s about death:
More than anything else, I think you’re devastated by your mother’s death. Even though she was struggling with her illness for years, and that became a kind of new normal for you, even though you figured that you were prepared for her death and you had accepted it, her actual loss was a blow you could never have prepared yourself for. That’s the way death is.
This is pathetic. Need I say more.