Transcript of 32nd Session between Charles Balis, M.D. and Ms. Sharon Lough, Friday, September 18, 1998 at 10:00 am.

Dr. Balis: Hello, Sharon.
Ms. Lough: Have you been talking to Rob?
Dr. Balis: I don't discuss your sessions with anyone, you know that.
Ms. Lough: Because it seems you've convinced Rob of your theory--I need a diversion to keep me out of trouble. When I told him I decided against taking any courses, he enrolled me in a class and volunteered me for an ESL program. ESL stands for English as a Second Language or Extremely Slow Learner, depending on whom you ask. I got stuck tutoring all the dumb ones, the ones who got low scores on the Tofu Test.
Dr. Balis: You mean the TOEFL test?
Ms. Lough: Yeah, what I said. I get to tutor Tofu rejects for the rest of the year. The class he signed me up for produces the Shitty College Literary Magazine. And when I'm not spoon-feeding brain-dead immigrant teenagers, I'll be slogging through bad poetry written by lovesick, adolescent girls. It's a fate worse than death. I want to slit my throat right now just thinking about it.
Dr. Balis: It's not so bad.
Ms. Lough: It's even worse. I might throttle a slow-learning student in frustration. Also, it's not a good idea--if the State Disability people find out I'm doing something that resembles work, they'll cut off my disability checks.
Dr. Balis: That's not very likely.
Ms. Lough: They send out spies to check if you're really disabled. A lot of people get in trouble for falsely claiming disability. They say they have a bad back, and then someone catches them lifting weights or doing construction work. I saw it on "Hard Copy."
Dr. Balis: That's always a good source of information. You won't be doing strenuous physical labor, and it will only be for a few hours a week. I think you can manage tutoring a few students and a little proofreading. You might be able to do a lot of it at home.
Ms. Lough: Rob said the same thing. You're both in a conspiracy against me.
Dr. Balis: You haven't even given it a try.
Ms. Lough: Yes, I have. The class started on Monday. I hate it already.
Dr. Balis: I'm glad you're giving it a fair chance.
Ms. Lough: To be honest, it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. Our teacher, Doris, is the sort of old woman who scares small children with her wild hair and long green fingernails. When one of the students commented on her nails, Doris explained that all her life she bit her nails until she had to get false teeth. And for dramatic effect, she popped out her teeth. She looks like she might have a broomstick stashed in the big purse she always carries. She lives in Berkeley, of course, in run-down old house with about twenty cats. We got into an argument the first day.
Dr. Balis: I'm almost afraid to ask, but what did you argue about?
Ms. Lough: Doris doesn't come to class with a lesson plan and lecture, she rambles and goes off on tangents. She got on the subject of her favorite writers and started waxing romantic about Herb Caen, the San Francisco columnist who died last year. I said that Herb Caen was nothing more than a glorified gossip columnist and that stringing together a page-long series of elliptical phrases did not constitute actual writing. She shot back, "Herb Caen is a vital part of this city's history. He's an institution!" I told her he should have been put in one for his shameless pandering to the city's moneyed elite. His real gift was for high society ass-kissing: his knee pads got more use than Monica Lewinsky's. Stanton Delaplane was a hell of a better writer, and they didn't name a fucking street after him when he died.
Dr. Balis: How did Doris react?
Ms. Lough: I was hoping she would order me out of her classroom, but she was more amused than annoyed. We bantered back and forth, and she even agreed with me about Delaplane. No one else participated much. There were twelve students in the class, and they may as well have been comatose. I don't usually participate in class discussions, but I was so over-caffienated I thought, "What the hell?"
Dr. Balis: Did you talk to any of the other students?
Ms. Lough: Not directly. Doris went around the room and asked who our favorite writers were. This big goon, in head-to-toe goth regalia, said he loved Anne Rice. I said that she was a self-indulgent hack who had become a bad parody of herself, and "The Mummy" was an embarrassing piece of shit, but the "Sleeping Beauty" series couldn't be beat for one-handed reading.
Dr. Balis: How did your classmates react?
Ms. Lough: Goth Spice was pissed--those vampire wanna-bes are so sensitive. An androgynous-looking Japanese girl kind of smiled. This woman with a big ass and a face like Herman Munster's asked what I meant by one-handed reading. I said, "A jack-off book," and she turned red. These two guys who sat together in the back, Beavis and Butthead, started hooting. A frizzy-haired woman sipping a Big Gulp had a disapproving look on her face.
Dr. Balis: Hmm. What did you say when it was your turn?
Ms. Lough: I said my favorite writer was the guy who writes "Dilbert." I had a feeling they wouldn't know the name Scott Adams--they weren't a very literate group. There were a lot of Anne Rice and Stephen King fans. Big Gulp self-righteously proclaimed that she only read the classics, which got Doris raving about "The Great Gatsby."
Dr. Balis: Hmm.
Ms. Lough: When the class took a break, the big-assed woman got up, and I saw how revealing her clothes were. The sight of a homely middle-aged woman in painted-on jeans showing cleavage made me think "desperate" and "skanky." As she was leaving, Beavis nudged Butthead and said, "Check out Camel Toe," because her jeans were so tight you could see all her anatomy, you know, the outline of her...
Dr. Balis: I get the picture.
Ms. Lough: Well, anyway, I hope I don't end up like that. When the class reconvened, Doris continued with her poll. Camel Toe was a Danielle Steele fan--what a shocker. The boyish-looking Japanese girl--I'll call her L'il Dyke--said that she'd been reading women writers. Beavis turned to Butthead and mouthed "lesbian," and they snorted and laughed. L'il Dyke didn't respond, but I could see her jaw tighten. She was sitting a few desks away from me. I leaned in her direction and whispered, "You just know those guys have to be closet cases. They should change their names from Beavis and Butthead to Fuggin' Kweer and Fat Faggot." She laughed a little, which made me feel good.
Dr. Balis: Isn't that a departure for you? In previous sessions, you've said that you find social situations difficult, but in this class you seem to have no problem expressing yourself and talking to strangers.
Ms. Lough: Yeah, I noticed that, too. I think it's because I went in with the attitude that I didn't give a shit what anyone thought. I was secretly hoping that I would be expelled, but my plan backfired.
Dr. Balis: How so?
Ms. Lough: At the end of class, Doris asked me if I knew any desktop publishing programs, and I was stupid enough to reply that I had experience with Pagemaker and Quark Xpress. With an evil grin on her face, she appointed me editor of the Shitty Rag. She proclaimed that I was astute, very perceptive, and a good critic. Maybe she did it to punish me for being so mouthy. I was surprised, and so was Big Gulp--her jaw dropped. I have a feeling she wanted the title of editor; she was so pompous and arrogant. I can't wait to see what she turns in next week.
Dr. Balis: What's your assignment for next week?
Ms. Lough: We have to bring in a poem, an essay, or a short story. Doris said she wanted all of us to be published in the Shitty Rag. I thought the class would consist of desktop publishing and proofreading, but we have to write, too. Doris said she had some contributions from the previous semester, but not enough to fill all the pages.
Dr. Balis: Hmm. Have you started on your assignment yet?
Ms. Lough: No, I don't know what to write. Rob used to write poetry. Maybe I'll plagiarize one of his old poems.
Dr. Balis: Why not give yourself a chance?
Ms. Lough: Rob's the writer, I was very impressed when I read his poetry. I could never write as well as he does. He's even been published in some local anthologies. That's how he wooed Charlotte; they were both in college and working at the same restaurant. He was a cook, and she was a waitress. He won her over by writing her love poems on napkins and paper bags. Isn't that corny? I'll admit, I was jealous when he told me that. He doesn't write any more, and even if he did, he'd never write poems for me.
Dr. Balis: You can't be sure of that. Don't compare yourself to others, you're just setting yourself up for disappointment. You don't necessarily have to write poetry. You've expressed some strong opinions here, why not put your rants on paper?
Ms. Lough: That's an idea.
Dr. Balis: If you don't like the results, you can always write something else.
Ms. Lough: I'm ambivalent about doing anything even remotely artistic. I don't want to become some pretentious, self-important, artsy-fartsy type. San Francisco is riddled with them--those horrid people in black who hang out in cafes, always pontificating about the importance of their latest work-in-progress.
Dr. Balis: Hmm.
Ms. Lough: That guy in my class, Goth Spice, reminded me of someone I went out with. He made a big show of being a suffering artist by wearing black clothes and boots even on the hottest summer days. He wouldn't deign to let me read any of his unpublished novels because "they weren't ready." What he really meant was that he didn't think I was smart enough to understand all the deep symbolism and shit. His work was rejected by several publishers, but he kept plugging away, churning out reams of drivel. I hope he never becomes a best-selling author, because that would make me very depressed.
Dr. Balis: You don't have to emulate these people to explore your creative side.
Ms. Lough: It comes with the territory.
Dr. Balis: Not necessarily. Not all artists have the affectations you describe.
Ms. Lough: Last week, you were pushing this creative thing on me, so I did this in class.

Doodles by Sharon Lough
Dr. Balis: Thank you for bringing and showing me your drawings.
Ms. Lough: I put the finishing touches on at home.
Dr. Balis: Very interesting.
Ms. Lough: That's a nice way of saying they sucks.
Dr. Balis: No, I...
Ms. Lough: It's okay. I had fun doing it. When I was a kid, I wanted to be a cartoonist for Mad Magazine.
Dr. Balis: I've noticed you have a habit of assigning nicknames to people in your life.
Ms. Lough: It's a technique designed to dehumanize them, so I won't find them as threatening. It's the same reason why American soldiers referred to the Vietnamese as "Charlie." I'm also bad at remembering names.
Dr. Balis: Hmm. Could you bring in a copy of your assignment next week?
Ms. Lough: What assignment?
Dr. Balis: Come on, Sharon.
Ms. Lough: Damn. All right, you win. I'll bring a 400-page treatise on daytime television, then you'll be sorry.
Dr. Balis: No, I won't. Take care, Sharon.
Ms. Lough: You too. Bye.
Arrow, Straight, Left, Earlier Arrow, Straight, Right, Later

Button to Dr. Balis' Notes Doctor Balis' Notes on this Session
Button to Sharon Lough's Drawings Sharon Lough's Doodles Delivered This Session

Button to Sharon Lough's Transcripts Transcripts of Sharon Lough's Communications
Button to Sharon Lough's Patient File Sharon Lough's Patient File

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