As the United States ponders the two options before it, the two pathways its future might follow—
As each of us ponders whether we will remain calm and collected in the face of uncertainty, or collapse into madness, ferocity, and depair—
As every waking second we face the decision of whether to check our screens, yet again, for any small scrap of a news update—
In the meantime, a character in Miranda July’s comedic novel The First Bad Man faces two options of her own.
Lampooning the Clinical Psychology Experience
The character is sitting in a psychotherapy session. This, of course, is a ripe place for comedy. Think of the Freudian psychoanalysis meme that recurs again and again in New Yorker cartoons. There’s something inherently hysterical about the situation of being in therapy. You’re sitting there on a couch, disclosing your most intimate, taboo thoughts and secrets, as a stranger listens and pretends to show no emotion. Bizarre, right?
Miranda July takes the inherent humor of the situation to a whole new level. Here’s some more comic relief for this trying week in 2020. The following passage has the psychologist in the novel speaking to the patient, the protagonist of the novel. The patient suddenly needs to use the restroom. The psychologist says:
“‘Okay. You have two options. There’s a key in the waiting room with a plastic duck on it. You can take that key and go to the bathroom on the ninth floor, which unfortunately you can only get to by taking the elevator down to the lobby and asking the doorman to use his key to unlock the service elevator. This option usually takes about fifteen minutes in total. Alternately, if you look behind that paper screen you’ll see a stack of Chinese takeout containers. You can go in one of these, behind the screen, and take it with you when you leave. There are thirty minutes left in your session.'”
OMG, too funny. This is humor at its finest. It incorporates not just clinical psychology (funny), but also bodily functions (very funny), bodily functions in the presence of someone else (even funnier), bodily functions inside something you usually eat from (I’m dying), the thought of walking around with the product of your bodily function (gasp for air), the ridiculousness of navigating tall office buildings that you’re unfamiliar with (we’ve all been there), the dilemma of choosing between losing precious time/money and experiencing abject embarrassment (been there too), and, to top it off, the infantilism of the plastic duck (I’m on the floor).
Unbelievably, the humor only increases from here. Clinical psychology is skewered and hung out to dry in this novel. However, if you are a clinical psychologist, don’t worry—this novel is all-inclusive in its skewering. Also skewered are the protagonist, and basically everyone she encounters. All of life is rendered ridiculous here. No one is safe from the lampooning.
We’re Not Safe
Nope, we’re never safe from lampooning. And we’re never safe from having to make choices. All we can do is make the best decisions we can . . . and then laugh about it.
Here’s my choice. I’m choosing to release this blog post today (Thursday morning) instead of tomorrow (Friday morning), because I’m not sure what the national mood will be tomorrow, RE laughing at ridiculous passages in novels.
I really can’t do anything today but laugh at plastic ducks.
Join me, here on the floor?