Saturday, April 01, 2006


So, as soon as I published my last blog entry, I got a call from another psychologist who couldn't help me. This time, he did take my insurance, but he was yet another child psychologist who does not treat young children, which, apparently, is The Kid's demographic. So, anyway...

We had an exchange that I can't stop thinking about.

The French have an expression called l'esprit de l'escalier, which describes the realization of the most perfect and witty or fitting comeback in a conversation well after the conversation took place. You can roughly translate it into 'staircase wit.' This is one of those many linguistic phrases I think of all of the time, because I am thinking about things I could or should have said roughly 80% of the time while falling asleep.

On the converse, I occasionally come back with exactly what I need to say. The exchange I'm about to describe is one of these, but I am still haunted with thoughts circling my head after we hung up the phone. This proves that even when you say the exact thing you wanted to say, you can still occassionally continue to think of it as you descend the stairs immediately after the conversation, as you fall asleep the night following the conversation, as you grocery shop the day after the conversation, and while you watch bad VH1 tv shows while you clean your house a good 24 hours after the conversation.

So, let me set the scene.

Interior, bedroom, spring afternoon. "Molly," our protagonist, is on the telephone with "Pdoc," a kindly psychologist, discussing the difficulties finding other psychologists within Molly's insurance network. [please note NO discussion whatsoever of either financial or marital status had been discussed prior to the following]

Molly: ...and so I guess I'm going to have to either start looking for psychologists further from our home or just pay for treatment out of pocket. But you said you had some colleagues you could refer me to that you knew either took my insurance or treated young children. Your voicemail referred to a play therapist near Boulder?

Pdoc: I do have some referrals for you... Is your son's father helping to pay for this?

Molly: [pauses] Excuse me?

Pdoc: Well, I mean, can you get child support to help pay for this?

Molly: [begins to pace nervously around her bedroom in reaction to him nailing the fact that she is single, and due to the immediate pissed-off-ed-ness that she always gets when people assume that because she is a single mom she is destitute] I don't believe I've said anything about either marital status or having a hard time paying for treatment.

Pdoc: I'm just saying that paying full price for psychologicial treatment can be a heavy burden for a single parent.

Molly: Well, adding $120 per week to a double-income family budget is a heavy burden to most the double-income families I know as well. If you are asking if I am single, I am, and you could have asked me my marital status more forthrightly if you were truly curious. Since you are not going to treat my son, I don't see why you would possibly need to know this. I thought you were giving me referrals to psychologists you knew who specialized in treating young children.

Pdoc: Um, I, well, I just mean that I know that treatment is expensive. The name of the play therapist....

[End Scene]

Okay. Here is what I can't get off of my mind:

1. The dude knew that I was single. HOW? Did I not "we" him enough, giving him those traditional verbal cues that married people give? Is my preoccupation with wanting to get mental health coverage under the mental health insurance policy that I pay premiums on biweekly a "single mom" thing? Because I'd rather pay a copay than full price? Do married people not deal with the annoyances of insurance and just pay more money because of their blessed two incomes? What the hell? Or, is he psychic? A psychic psychologist?

[side note, I had a friend in grad school who completely freaked out at words that started with P without the P sound, like psych-anything. She told me and another grad student this once after many pints one night. Naturally, the next day we stole a sticky-note pad and littered her desk with these words: Pneumonia! Ptolemy! Psychoanalysis! I think of Madeliene every time I write one of those words now.]

2. How annoying and random was it that he was digging for personal details after he'd told me that he couldn't help me except to give me a referral? Is this just part of the psychologist's psyche or was he being improper? I can't decide on that. It's almost as if he was digging for information, but to what end? Are there treatments or colleagues he would have advised me for or not depending on my marital status?

3. Outside of this conversation, a bit, but in there lies this fact: Being single makes people uncomfortable. I am fully aware that in other cultures, or in the past, I would have been stoned to death or put to work in the laundries or work houses, The Kid given to an orphanage. I am lucky to be an American in the 21st century considering the nature of my single-motherhood. This does not change the fact that single motherhood makes people really freaking uncomfortable. It is assumed that we are poor. It is assumed that we don't care about our children's education. It is assumed that we are irresponsible. You may read this and think, "I'd never assume that about someone." And in all honesty this is as much about me and my feelings as it is about the feelings of others, but it's out there, and I can't ignore it. I see it in the faces of coworkers at company (family) picnics. I see it in the faces of mom's at school who [secretly pitying me] say, "I don't know how you do it." And I hear it in the voices of psychologists I will never meet. They are uncomfortable with my single-ness. I know I'll get an amen from all of the single girls [Sarah, shout out!] out there mothers or not when I say, I'm not single for any other reason except that I've yet to find a suitable partner to be in my life. And I'm not willing, for one second, to settle for anything less than a suitable partner. I see married people all too often married to someone who is not a fitting partner. I can't do that. I have a child, and myself, to think about. Seriously, though, I think a lot more people would be more comfortable with me if I had a husband, any husband, to bandy about in "we's" and "ours" in conversations. Like that would make my life easier. Like because I was married it would suddenly assumed that I could afford medical care (because married people never struggle financially?), or that would illuminate how I "do it all," parenting while working 40 hours per week, like there aren't millions of married American women doing the exact same thing as I. It is infuriating.

So, yeah. I think I said what I needed to say to that psychologist, but clearly, l'esprit de l'escalier would have had me wage a full on single-woman-who-happens-to-be-the-mother-of-a-special-needs-child war on his ass. Sometimes I think it's better left unsaid, but nevertheless I'm really glad I have this blog to tell it to the stairs.


palefire said...

Maybe you're part of a large psychological experiement yourself and all these people, the psychologists, the teacher, even the Kid are in on it. The Kid acts up, which prompts you to call all of these offices where the psychologists test you directly. Your responses to stress, your level of aggressiveness when confronted with challenges. This blog was a surprising and helpful addition to their cause. It's all 'The Molly Show' and medical professionals the world over are watching on closed cicuit television. now you just have to find the cameras. Ok... that's a bit nuts, but I'm trying to put it all into a context in which everything you're going through actually has a reason. Oh well. I'm sure I'll think of a better way to have done it halfway down the stairs. Good luck Molly + Kid.

jacik said...

interestingly enough, my mom and i were talking about you again this weekend and saying how sometimes it could be harder w.out a partner, but overall, it's easier because there is not that rogue element threatening your consistency. and you don't have another one to clean up after most of the time.
as far as the psychologgist, i hope one will repsond soon. quite ridiculous that none want to step up, but i did hear that there was a serious shortage of them for children because they are afraid, it's less money, and they still have to go through med school bull.

Alison said...

I think the "single assumption" is to some extent a generational thing. I know plenty of single moms who are in our age bracket, and I wouldn't assume anything about them. But to our parents' generation, being a single mom is still something they can't figure out. And that still filters down to everyone else.

I am heading into a week of my younger sister's huge wedding, and I am trying to figure out what my response should be when everyone asks me when I'm getting married. Apparently bursting into tears is not an acceptable response! The pisser is that I will actually have a date at this wedding, but he is also moving to Casper, Wyoming, in a week, and I haven't a clue what's going to happen with us after that... Anyway, my point is that whether or not you have children, when your younger siblings start getting married, you get those same kinds of responses, you know?

Anonymous said...

Brilliant post, Molla. I feel for you and The Kid. You should know that you are and always have been a total inspiration to me, and one of the strongest women I know. You'll get it done, one way or another. Life wouldn't be worth it if it wasn't so damn hard, right? Cheers.

Love you.

Boc said...

I’m providing you with a shot in the dark but I guess worth a try. There is a professor at UNC and his name is Mark Alcorn PhD ( ), he taught Child and Adolescent Psychology while I was a student there. He may be able to assist you finding a network of Children’s therapist here in the Denver area. If this does not work there is always my father or my brother, they may have some resources for you to explore. Hope this helps.
Take care and Love Ya,
Bro in-law