Plain, Reliable Betty
Dr. Cohen’s counseling office wasn’t what I'd expected. I had been nervous about going there ever since I made the appointment. What if all she did was nod her head and peer over her reading glasses and say, “Hmm, I see.” What if she was mean to me? Worst of all, what if she’d never seen anyone so needy and couldn’t help me? Still, I knew I needed to do something, so I made the appointment, and there I was.
Right away, I found the office pleasantly inviting. I’d expected gray furnishings and walls, perhaps a few motivational posters with perky sayings on them. Instead, the beautiful reception area with sage green walls and fern-patterned sofas didn’t feel like a counseling office at all. It felt more like a cozy living room.
After I checked in, I sat down and picked up a copy of People magazine, pleased to find it was current. Most doctor’s offices seemed to prefer dog-eared copies about a decade old.
“Betty Brown? Dr. Cohen will see you now.”
I took a deep breath and placed the People magazine back on the table. I would just have to wait to find out which Hollywood power couple was divorcing that week.
Like the reception area, the doctor’s office was a nice surprise. First, I was relieved that there was no red leather couch for me to lie down on. Instead, two beautiful wingback chairs in a turquoise geometric print sat before the doctor’s desk, a simple glass and metal piece. For some reason, I liked that her desk was glass. Talk about transparency!
Dr. Cohen, who had short, spiky gray hair, stood and shook my hand. “I’m so happy to meet you, Betty. Before we begin, would you mind telling me a little about yourself?”
That was what I was there for, after all, so I gave her the scoop.
“I was born in England, and my family moved to this country in the 1960s. I went through elementary, middle, and high school just fine with no rebellion, little of the customary teenage angst. My parents said I gave them very little trouble.”
I paused, and Dr. Cohen nodded affirmingly. I liked that.
“So the early years were fine, but in college…” I said with a sniffle. “That’s when it first hit me how truly plain I was. Or am, rather. All the other gals had dates every weekend, but I never got asked out. Not once. Oh, I did things with groups of friends, but it wasn’t the same. I always wanted a boyfriend, but I never got one.”
When I paused, Dr. Cohen gently asked, “And you’re still single today?”
“Yes,” I said, and the tears began to trickle once more. “I’m still just plain, reliable Betty, the one everyone relies on but no one ever thinks to talk to at a party. I’m so taken for granted. Dr. Cohen, is something wrong with me?”
Dr. Cohen smiled and shook her head.
“Betty, in both my personal and professional opinion, there’s certainly nothing wrong with wanting to belong, with wanting a relationship. But what I’m concerned about is that you seem to be letting others define you.”
Puzzled by what she’d said, I stopped sniffling.
“First, do you call yourself plain, reliable Betty?” she asked.
“So you’ve heard someone else call you that?”
“No one’s ever actually called me plain to my face, but I can tell they’re thinking it. And they have called me reliable. Everybody says that like it’s so great.”
“So you would prefer to be thought unreliable?”
“No!” I quickly said. “Of course not.”
Dr. Cohen was hard to read right then. She said, “So why would you mind being thought of as reliable?”
“Hmm.” I hesitated. “I guess I don’t mind being thought of as reliable, but I don’t want to be thought of only as reliable. Does that make sense?”
“Betty, in my practice, I see teapots every day who are thoroughly unreliable. Some of them have cracks and chips that won’t ever be repaired. Some of the so-called pretty ones are such narcissists, all they do is sit around staring at their own reflection in the china cabinet. They’ve never actually been called into service and have certainly never proven to be reliable serving pieces.”
I had not given much thought to those attractive teapots I had envied. “Really?” I said.
“You would be surprised at the teapots that have come into this office. And then there are those who truly want to serve but have some unfortunate physical defect that makes them unable to function well.”
“I know just who you’re talking about—the drippers!” Betty said. “I don’t mean to brag, Doctor, but I never drip. Ever.”
“I know that, Betty. Your family is well known for your excellent service through the years. You’ve always been considered … well, plain and reliable, if you don’t mind my saying so.”
I found myself sitting up a little straighter in that pretty wingback chair of hers. “I think I see your point,” I said.
“Why don’t you go home and work on a list of all the things that are actually good about being plain and reliable,” Dr. Cohen said, “and then come back in two weeks, and we’ll discuss how you feel about it.”
I nodded, told her I’d book the appointment on my way out, and thanked her for her time. Dr. Cohen had certainly given me a new way of looking at things.
As I stood at the reception desk waiting to get my appointment card, I noticed a handsome gentleman, a hunter green Chatsford teapot, waiting in a chair and holding the new issue of Sports Illustrated.
And to my surprise and amazement, he smiled at me! Was I plain and reliable? Yes. And so much more.