Prunes and Prism

RULES FOR YOUNG LADIES: Some arch advice on snagging a husband. Exercising the mouth into a pretty shape through repetition of certain words seems to have been an indoor sport for young nineteenth-century girls; in Little Dorrit, Charles Dickens' overly bred girl repeats, "papa, potatoes, poultry, prunes and prism." (

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Women Who Run With the Sopranos

I had a therapist (n.b.: This blog is not going to be all about my unruly emotions and how I'm failing to manage them! Eventually we're going to get around to other things. Like cosmonauts.) lo these many years ago who would recommend books about how to heal the wounded woman within through Jungian archetypes, or literary characters (Your father as King Agamemnon: discuss). I can't say these helped or hurt, but I nonetheless read them with great relish, being fresh from college, where I took classes in which I wrote poetry based on my dream journals. (Really, for credit.)

Dear reader, it won't surprise you to learn that I have another therapist now, and we have never once talked about La Llorona, the Weeping Woman. Because apparently my heroine's journey is informed only by HBO.
  • My phantom back pain -- just like what Big Pussy suffered in season 1 when he was ratting to the Feds (and Dr. Melfi told Tony that back problems are often a manifestation of a psychological burden)!
  • The way I wonder how happy families look -- just like Brenda did when she ate with her boss's hyperfunctional family and then went home and tried, sadly, to recreate that hyperfunctionality with a new polenta recipe!
  • The Gordian knot of parental relationships -- just like the all-consuming love and corrosive resentment Carmela feels toward Meadow!
  • That hideous ponytail that the Comrade would not cut off -- just like Furio's!
Then a couple of weeks ago we were discussing free-floating rage, and I brought up the Sopranos episode in which Janice beats one of the other mothers at a soccer match and has to go to court-ordered anger-management classes --

And my therapist [who reminds me of Claire's high-school guidance counselor from Six Feet Under seasons 1 and 2 -- though I can also almost see him as Father Intintola] says, "And Tony goads her about her abandoned French-Canadian son until she blows up, and then he walks away smirking? We've talked about that before! [Beat.] Wasn't that you?"

Now, friends, I'm sure it wasn't me, and that means I am not the only analysand out there destroying my inner life with cable television. My therapist says TV characters and situations come up often, especially from The Sopranos and Six Feet Under, the devastating last episode of which got a lot of play on his couch in the weeks that ensued.

I asked him what he thinks about Tony's sessions with Dr. Melfi -- don't a lot of therapists think they're unrealistic? Didn't I read that in Slate? I thought he took this the slightest little bit personally, because he shot back, "They don't? Why not? Do you think they're realistic?"

"I -- I guess," I said, though I have never tried to (1) strangle him or (2) mount him, which Tony managed to do to Melfi just in the first season.

Last week I was watching the first episodes of the new Project Runway and I found myself tearing up at the false(tto) bravado of Heidi, the uber-enervating Alabamian, after she was booted out -- snapping right back with that chirpy "Let me hug y'all anyway!" How many times have I made that cornbread-fed chirp-chirp-chirp in the face of disappointment, I thought, and then: The line is drawn here.

Just like Captain Picard did in Star Trek: First Contact!

To reward you for reading this far, let's have a cosmonaut story:

When the Comrade was six he had to have his appendix removed. He says the doctor led him by his little hand into the operating room, where he boosted him onto the table and told him they were going to play cosmonaut, with a special mask and everything. The doctor said, "Don't you want to be a cosmonaut when you grow up?" (I swear that in a previous iteration of this story he said, "Don't you want to be like Yuri Gagarin when you grow up?" but the last time it was recounted this version was, Politburo-style, discarded.)

Anyway: "Don't you want to be a cosmonaut when you grow up?"

And the Comrade said, "No, I want to be a janitor!"

He said he wanted to be a janitor because Kolya, the janitor in his apartment block, was such a cool guy, in a special coverall with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth, all [and for this next untranslatable bit, he swaggers forth, eyes squinted, looking not unlike Steve McQueen were Steve McQueen pushing an industrial-size broom].

I guess the doctor wanted to honor the Comrade's proletariat impulses (lest the doctor find himself in Kamchatka eating shoe leather), so he said that seemed like a fine thing, but wouldn't it be fun to play cosmonaut?

The Comrade agreed that it would, and so the doctor put the mask on, and he doesn't remember another thing. Poor tiny cosmonaut! It kind of chokes me up.


Blogger thirty-year-old secretary said...

Poor little comrade. This gives me the good cry feeling.

12:35 PM  

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