Dear Dr. Love, You Should Change Your Name: “P.S.” by Jill McCorkle


“P.S.” has all the elements of a disgruntled Freudian romance (minus the sex).

It is written as a letter from “Hannah from three suburbs over” to her former marriage therapist – “Dr. Love”.  She bemoans the way she appeared after sessions “like s–t on a stick”.  She blames religion for the break-up of her marriage – “I think that marriage vows should include an escape clause that says the contract is broken if one party ups and makes a big switch in religion…”.  She regrets her investment in therapy – “I wish I could get all that money back from you.” Hannah has decided to move on – beyond therapy, beyond marriage, beyond religion.  She now realizes –

I am someone who does believe in the higher power of necessary medication.  Amen.  At times, a smidgen of this or that is just what you need.  I loved the feel of Demerol when I was in labor, and I don’t know what I would have done without that epidural — scream out lots of terrible things, I suspect, which I did anyway… And I believe in spiritual highs, too.  What I don’t believe in is someone having the power to dictate someone else’s spirituality or aesthetic code.

Hannah’s husband Jerry was not “born-again” when they married.  He was a Mensa nerd who worked at a Toyota dealership and solved Rubik’s cube.

But being normal wasn’t enough for Jerry, he had to always be into this or that.  He always had a new hobby, and he’d go at it full tilt for a few months and then move onto another interest.

From Sudoku to pottery, model trains to beer making to a kind of tag wrestling” Hannah refers to as “homoerotic dance”. Hannah goes on in her letter to speculate about what mental and emotional problems led Dr. Love to pursue the field of psychology.  She advises him not to charge her for the time spent reading her letters – “like that lawyer keeps doing every time I e-mail or call him back to answer a question he asked me.”  She wonders what his life is like at home, with his wife, after a day spent listening to other people’s marriage problems –

“She looks a bit older than you, and so I did wonder (when I saw the photo on your dresser) if she had had a husband before you and how you had adjusted to that or if you all have some different kind of marriage like a mentor/mentee, or mother and child.”

She recalls her “big confession” – having sex with the plumber – and admits it never really happened, that she had made it up as an interesting story because she was bored.

No, my biggest betrayal to Jerry is that I quit trying.  When I finally found my own voice, I realized I had nothing else I wanted to say to him.  I stopped talking, nothing feeding nothing until  nothing was huge and nothing begot nothing.  Feeling nothing is not good, but it’s where a lot of people stop and stay.  The nothingness is so delusional and numbing.

As a contemporary reader, I ache with the realization that Hannah is right – in so many relationships finding your own voice often leads to disruption. As a man who is separated from my wife, I feel convicted by her observation that a lot of people (like me) stop and stay with nothingness. As a person of faith, however, I find hope in these sacred words –

And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.  (Genesis 1:2)

The Spirit of God moves, even in the void.  Out of nothingness, comes new life.

“P.S.” was first published in The Atlantic. It can be found within Going Away Shoes by Jill McCorkle.

image above from elly gay onto Artwork and More Galore: Art, music, politics, writing, books, women, photograhy, etc. GALORE

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