My friend comes over for lunch. I open the door and welcome her graciously into my home. ‘Was your therapist busy?’ she asks, laughing. I glare at her. ‘No,’ she explains. ‘It’s just I’m sure you would have tried to get her to come.’ I continue to glare at my friend, and thrust a cocktail into her hand.
(I may be cross, but I’m still an impeccable host). ‘Don’t worry,’ my friend continues. ‘I’ve brought you a present.’ I am pleased, until I unwrap the Mensa personality test. ‘Assess your personality. Are you ready to face up to the truth?’ the strapline asks mockingly.
My friend is beside herself with mirth. I wonder what Martha Stewart would do in this situation. ‘I do not wish to take this test,’ I tell my friend firmly. ‘Please help yourself to my homemade canapés.’ (I expect Martha would also ask for some stock portfolio advice, but there’s only certain parts of her career that I wish to emulate). My friend is not to be distracted. ‘Look,’ she says. ‘Your therapist is never going to come over for a ladies lunch. I thought this would be useful!’ ‘Look,’ I reply firmly. ‘She won’t come over because she doesn’t really like to go out that much. I’m thinking possibly agoraphobia.’ (I recently realised that agoraphobia is not a fear of spiders. This has forced me to re-evaluate the plotlines of several novels. It is also the only rational explanation for why my therapist does not want to come over and hang out with me).
My friend seems unconvinced by my diagnosis. I offer her a napkin, because she is flaking pastry all over my kitchen floor. ‘Ok,’ I agree reluctantly. ‘Perhaps not full-blown agoraphobia. But certainly social anxiety. Or some sort of social ineptitude. She is terribly odd in our sessions sometimes. I wanted to record her and use her as stand-up material, but she wasn’t keen. Which is a classic symptom of a generalized anxiety disorder.’ (Whenever we holiday together I take the opportunity to brush up on my medical knowledge by reading my little sister’s medical textbooks. I’m pretty much a consultant. Though I’m not sure my prescribing powers are as recognised as they ought to be). ‘You know there are rules about these things?’ my friend asks me. ‘Therapists and boundaries and so on.’ ‘I see what you’re saying,’ I say sagely. ‘I need to be more subtle, so her other patients don’t realise I’m her favourite. Understood. We might have to have next month’s lunch in a smaller location though- you know, to help reduce her anxiety.’