There are very good psychiatrists in this country. Men and women who simply want to help, to quiet the voices, to bring peace to the troubled mind. At the other end of the spectrum, you’ll find a pool of scumbags and scoundrels so vile they should be listed as Enemies of the State. These are monsters who prey on the weakest, the most fragile; they twist everything, because they need someone to hang on their every word. They have no friends, and in all likelihood, they were peed on in high school.
In between, you’ll find ones who just want to be called, “Doctor,” the people who only do it for the money and prestige. You also have folk who want to help the injured, but they’re too squeamish for surgery. Then you have physicians who used to be good, but the stacks of the failed cases and bottles of booze simply scraped out their ability to care.
The psychiatrist my father took me to would best be described as “clueless” and “confused.” He was well-meaning and he had a good heart, but that only made him more dangerous, especially to my father.
This doctor’s office was near my old high school, and as we passed by the football field and campus, I remembered all the father/son fights we’d had during those turbulent years. We should have been in therapy then. We couldn’t communicate. We just screamed.
My father and I entered the nondescript medical building and walked up to the second floor. Dr. Len greeted us and shook our hands. He had a beard, thick glasses, and a soothing voice. He was wearing a turtleneck and pants that were way too tight.
I tried not to make any judgments. The man was helping my father to deal with the pending divorce and to move on with his life. I needed to respect that.
My father and I sat on a small couch, while Dr. Len smiled and blinked. My father and I were practically touching the couch was so small.
“Thank you for coming,” Dr. Len said. He was only staring at me. “Your father wants to see how you’re doing?”
“Fine, okay…okay… What do you mean by that?”
I suddenly realized this wasn’t about my dad’s progress. This was about me. I felt cornered.
Dr. Len sat there, smiling, blinking. “It must have been difficult hearing your mother tell you she’s gay?”
Over the past few months, I’d been asked this question a lot, by friends, by acquaintances. My answer came out by rote: “It was unexpected, sure. But she’s my mom, and I love her, so I support her.”
“Of course, of course. But how are you dealing with it?”
“Dealing with…? I don’t know. I’m just…dealing. I mean, I’ve definitely asked myself if I’m gay.”
I gave a little laugh. I could feel my father’s heartbeat quicken.
I continued, “I’m just saying I’d want to know, like now, you know? I don’t want to figure out I’m gay when I’m forty-five like my mom.”
I felt my father shifting in the seat. I chose to stop talking. I was actually enjoying his discomfort. He’d ambushed me, after all.
“And…what conclusion did you come to?” Dr. Len asked.
My father was going to have a heart attack. I thought about singing my answer. Instead, I said, “I’m not gay. I’ve thought about it though. I really have, but I’m just not.”
“That’s good,” Dr. Len said. “I mean, not that you’re not gay - I mean, it’s good you’ve asked yourself that question. Perfectly normal.”
“Well, I don’t know if you know this, but ninety percent of the population is bisexual.”
My father sat back and nodded.
“Excuse me?” I said.
“The vast majority of people are bisexual.”
“I’ve…never heard that…”
“Oh yes, all the new data proves it.” Dr. Len brought out an image of a bell curve on this little cardboard square. “See these ends here? They represent the extremes. Only five percent of the population is completely gay. And over here, only five percent is absolutely straight.”
I looked over at my father, who was nodding along, clearly having seen this chart before.
“And the rest of the population,” Dr. Len said, “are varying degrees of gay. See, some are more straight, while others are more gay. And some are right in the middle.”
“I’m not sure…I mean, what?”
“Well, take me for example.”
Okay, here we go.
“I’m happily married,” Dr. Len said. “Have been for thirty-one years. And I love my wife. Truly love her. We have three kids and a very satisfying sex life.”
I noticed food stains on his turtleneck.
“And while I absolutely love my wife and find her very attractive, I also like watching track athletes.”
“Their hard muscles churning at peak physical condition…”
Dr. Len kept talking, but I stopped listening, because that’s when I noticed, over his shoulder, hanging on the wall, was a framed picture of Carl Lewis. The Olympic champion glistening with sweat.
I don’t remember the rest of the session, but I remember the car ride home.
“Why are you seeing this guy?” I asked.
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, he’s a weirdo.”
“No, he’s got some good points.”
I realized my father wasn’t trying to move on at all, and it was because of Dr. Len. If ninety percent of the population was bisexual, then sexuality was fluid. It gave my father this bullshit hope that my mom wasn’t really gay, that in all probability, it was just a phase.
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photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/pasukaru76/5023702628/”>pasukaru76</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>cc</a>