February 20, 2003
When my therapist suggested that I consider taking antidepressants, I panicked.
"But what about my dating life?" I shot back. Never mind that I rarely shower before dinnertime (which, come to think of it, might also be affecting my dating life). For the past several months, I've subjected my shrink to a whiny my-life-is-a-shambles mantra, repeated not just each session, but in an endless loop within each session -- the psychiatric profession's nightmare equivalent of "Groundhog Day."
At first my shrink tried exploring my "family issues," which he quickly discovered to be as volatile as the current geopolitical situation. Switching gears, he gave me homework to help focus my priorities. When I concluded that my biggest priority was to feel understood, he adopted a more Freudian orientation: nodding sympathetically. But soon my tone of voice began resembling that of David Schwimmer's morose character on "Friends," so my therapist broached Plan C: antidepressants.
"A pill?" I asked incredulously. Conceptually, it seemed so ... goyish. I mean, Woody Allen may be an emotional mess, but doesn't he lie on the couch five days a week?
"Jews talk, we analyze, we obsess -- " I continued.
"Exactly," interrupted my therapist. "An antidepressant might also stop you from obsessing so much."
"But obsessing is the only thing that keeps me from being depressed!" I squealed.
The thought of taking away my obsessive tendencies seemed tantamount to robbing Linus of his beloved security blanket. After all, I'd consider a pill that might wipe out my blues, but not my favorite pastime. What's more, since my already low self-esteem had fallen below sea level, my quasi-charming neurotic-obsessive side was practically the only thing I still liked about myself.
And what if it was the only thing men liked about me, too? Wasn't I already depressed about my love life? Forget the sexual side effects of these drugs -- where was the "anti" in "depressants" if I wouldn't be able to get a date in the first place?
It doesn't take a shrink to explain why Jewish men find obsessively neurotic women sexier than a shiksa with a C-cup (Cf. love/hate relationship with Jewish mothers). Would they still adore "Will and Grace's" Grace Adler, obsessive Jew par excellence, if she were popping Prozac? Would they tune in each week if Grace suddenly smiled serenely instead of launching into one of her trademark meltdowns? Would the series have won Emmy Awards or made it into syndication? Of course not, because obsession can be fun! Or, at the very least, distract from depression.
It goes like this:
Depressed because a guy I'm dating won't commit?
Antidote: Micro-analyze the relationship.
Depressed because he says I micro-analyze too much?
Antidote: Concentrate on TV work.
Depressed because my TV pilots are in limbo?
Antidote: Call agent several times a day.
Depressed because my agent says I need to write for the 20-something demographic?
Antidote: Read stacks of magazines devoted to 20-somethings.
Depressed because these magazines say doctors dub 30-year-old women "premenopausal"?
Antidote: Write feminist Op-Eds to the New York Times.
Depressed because the New York Times won't publish my Op-Eds?
Antidote: Google all Times writers whose Op-Eds were published, then compare myself unfavorably.
As Seinfeld might say: yadda yadda.
No wonder I can barely get out of bed: obsessing is exhausting. The truth is, it's probably more fun to write Grace Adler's character than to be her.
So maybe I'll do some research on those antidepressants. Then maybe I'll stop calling my agent incessantly. Then maybe I'll get a job on "Will and Grace." Then maybe I won't micro-analyze my relationships ad nauseam. Then maybe -- oh, who am I kidding?
Obsession is as deeply embedded in my Jewish DNA as fast-talking and kinky hair. But still, the pills might help: perhaps they'll get me to shower each morning.
After all, even Grace Adler shampoos her curly locks regularly.
Lori Gottlieb is author of the memoir "Stick Figure: A Diary of My Former Self" (Simon and Schuster, 2000) and Inside the Cult of Kibu: And Other Tales of the Millennial Gold Rush (Perseus Books, 2002). Her Web site is www.lorigottlieb.com .