FRESH YARN presents:

Google This
By Harlyn Aizley

It took at least a year of therapy before I had the courage to Google my therapist. Digging up information beyond that which she had control over seemed wrong, antithetical to the whole process of transference and psychic healing in which I was personally, as well as financially, investing. I knew my therapist prided herself on being as close as any human being can be to a blank slate upon which I might safely plaster each and every one of my plentiful neuroses. She shared with me nothing about herself, and I knew better than to ask.

Though once I did see her underwear. She was wearing a skirt that was far too short, if you ask me. When she sat down, it hiked up higher than any pair of cut-offs I ever had worn to her office. When she crossed her legs, I could see thigh, perhaps a whole six inches of flesh above and beyond her knee. And when she uncrossed her legs, hesitating just a fraction of a second in the in-between position where both legs are spread, readying themselves for the opposite cross, there they were -- sans apology, sans remorse -- her white underpants. Externally, I didn't gasp or giggle. I'm 43 years old, sane but for an inherited mutation on my anxiety and decision-making genes; I knew better than to miss a beat. But internally, well, it took months to get over. Why were they white? White underpants are like diapers, like finding out someone thinks it's dirty to have oral sex or to be gay. And why did she stop mid-cross for that fraction of a revealing second? Surely some unconscious counter-transference type of seduction thing was going on.

Needless to say, Googling my therapist not only would violate some antiquated, yet legitimate, code of psychotherapeutic conduct, it also packed the potential to blow this mind, the one that could barely manage a brief accident of bodily repositioning, the one that had required weekly two-dollars-a-minute sessions in the first place. Not to mention, I had myself partially convinced that somehow my therapist would find out, like each web site I visited might send her an immediate email with my name on it and a picture of me at the computer all bug-eyed and nervous in my pajamas and uncombed hair. So I refrained.

Here's what I knew about my therapist before Googling her: That she lived in a large brown house in an affluent Boston suburb. (A no-brainer since her office was in her home.) That she drove a green Honda Accord. (Always in the garage.) That's it.

Not Googling my therapist made me feel virtuous. I had not tugged at the little thread that threatened to unravel the delicate fabric of our relationship. I had not cheated on her, had not violated her myth of anonymity. Perhaps most importantly, I had not uncovered some piece of information that would stand like a wedge of cement between myself and psychic peace, until I revealed it to her and confessed all -- including the white underpants.

And then my therapist fell asleep during one of our sessions. And that was the end of that.
It's not just that by falling asleep she had cast an inadvertent (or not!) blow to the gentle surface of our mutual respect, it's that in its shock and pain my shattered ego insisted I tell everyone I knew that my therapist had fallen asleep.

"Her lids got droopy, and then heavier, and heavier, until in mid-sentence -- mine, that is -- she fell asleep!"

There I was sharing with everybody that I had a therapist prone to narcoleptic attacks, which led to them questioning her competence and credentials, which led to my stating that I knew very little about her, except for the house and car, which led to them saying, Well, that's not much, is it? This led to my reiterating the rights of all mental health professionals to remain anonymous, which led to my friends telling me that, for crying out loud, everyone Googles everyone, especially their therapists; that, in fact, people Google their therapists all the time, as in sometimes right before and after each session.

Up until that moment, I had even felt shy about Googling myself. There was something akin to masturbation about sitting back and typing your own name into the computer and waiting to see who you were. I assumed it was degenerate of me to want to glimpse the shape my own profile would take should anyone else decide to search me out. Would it be any worse to graffiti my own name all over town, to hike up my metaphoric skirt and demand sex from a friend?

Thanks to Dr. Doze-Off, I suddenly discovered there's a world out there of otherwise happy and healthy people who follow their hearts and, with the exception of acts of violence and other really, really bad things, allow themselves to do whatever they want. Not only do they regularly Google their therapists, their ex-boyfriends and girlfriends, and themselves, but they leave unsatisfying jobs, pursue careers in the arts, use sex toys, and wear the same pair of jeans three days in a row if they feel like it. While I sat around thinking there was some kind of visible thought bubble over my head telling the world all of the self-involved and/or mildly inappropriate things I ever had done or wanted to do, other people were allowing themselves to do them. Per usual, I was slapping my own hand, squelching my own mind, forbidding myself to break free of my own self-imposed status quo. And I couldn't even tell my therapist about it because then I would be forced to admit everything -- including the white underpants.

Still, while almost everyone I knew who had been in therapy had Googled their therapist (some even used it as a tool for screening potential talk-doctors, telling each shrink they met that they were interviewing and Googling several more before making a decision), none of them had had a therapist fall asleep during a session.

Maybe it was revenge. Maybe it was physics -- her jumbling of the energy between us required an opposite jumbling of equal proportion. Whatever it was, I Googled her. And then, throwing caution to the wind, I Googled up a storm. I Googled her husband, her maiden name, his last name. If I had found the names of her children, I would have Googled them. I clicked on an article here, a professional membership there. I did everything but use a credit card to register to find out how much she had paid for her house. Afterwards I was exhausted, spent -- sated, yet empty.

Here's what I found out about my therapist:

  • Her date and city of birth. (Eighteen years older than me. Oh jackpot of heavenly transference, she could be either sibling, mother, or lover.)

  • That she and her husband graduated from my alma mater! (There was her name, his name, their year of graduation and of all things the name of another therapist I had seen years earlier, which caused me to wonder why, if this particular school was in the business of creating therapists and the patients to see them, I had been chosen to play a patient and not a therapist.)

  • That her husband is an academic at a local university with the most boring of specialties (picture math + workmen's comp and you get the picture, if you haven't already gouged out your eyes).

  • Found! A first-person essay written by her husband, revealing all sorts of tidbits a trained shrink should have known to have him hide, such as: the number of children they have (two); that after the birth of each child, she took only short maternity leaves, and then placed them in child-care, and returned to work; she likes to cook, but has little time to, so when her kids were little she took them to eat at McDonald's.

  • The dates and locations of all the yearly conferences she has attended or is planning to attend, i.e., where exactly she is -- hotel included -- when she cancels our sessions.

  • When and where she went to medical school. (She was one of those no-time-off-between-college-and-graduate-school people, the ones who knew what they wanted to be when they grew up and then went ahead and did it without having a panic attack.)

  • That she regularly donates between $100 and $500 dollars to our alma mater's alumni fund. (Probably to assure that she remains on the therapist end of our college's therapist-patient production line.)

I've even allowed myself to imagine that my therapist Googles me, and in response I recently paid a young man to spiff up my web site. Not coincidentally, I've also left an unsatisfying job, stopped reading books in the middle if I don't like them, and worn the same outfit two days in a row while fantasizing about the casual sex I can't have thanks to my ongoing commitment to monogamy and a partner of 12 years. Finding out my own impulses were no more sordid than anyone else's liberated me from thinking I must be of perpetual sound mind and body.

After journeying the three universal steps of recovery having your therapist fall asleep during a session requires -- narcissistic injury (she thinks I'm the most boring person ever to set foot inside her office); revenge (I'll show her. I'll Google her!); narcissistic joy (she obviously wants to sleep with me) -- I was freed from the burden of thinking her, and by association all other humans, including myself, infallible. This sometimes leads to a fourth stage, fear (Uh-oh, my therapist's a nutbag), unless you tell him or her about it all, and spend two dollars-a-minute working it out. In which case be prepared to hear, "What did you hope to find out?"

Should that ever happen, my plan is to distract my therapist from the sordid inner workings of my fantasy life by explaining how her breach of the rules of consciousness -- coupled with a search engine -- inadvertently caused my psychological liberation. If that fails, I'll bring up the underpants. If there's anything that can take a therapist's mind off being Googled, it's got to be finding out they've shot you a beaver. If after that she's still hell-bent on learning all of my deep dark sexual fantasies, I'll yawn, let my eyelids droop slowly closed, and do my damnedest to fall asleep.

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