Week 2: Frances

Paul is seeing a doctor who is doing neurological tests. 

Paul and Frances are in session. She says he looks tired. She apologizes for saying that. She shows him a prompter, an ear piece to help with lines. The director wants her to wear it in performances. She says everything is fine and then … Paul asks if she is going to wear it -- she says she told the director she is seeing the finest psychoanalyst in NY. She says the stage manager keeps talking to her about her own memory problems. She says he must think she is frivolous worrying about memory problems and menopause. Paul says she keeps saying things like that. He asks why she uses language like that to describe herself. She says she didn’t plan to talk about those things. And he asks what she is here to talk about. 

Then he asks if she paid attention to what happened when she lost the line, where her mind went. She says she doesn’t know.He tells her to try. She says 2 days ago she remembered she needed to talk with Izzie. Her ex said Izzie is spending time with patricia, whom she likes better. She says Patricia introduced her to her ex.  He was smart and funny and she liked that. And he has -- she pauses -- Paul asks what. She says she was overwhelmed the first time. He was the one who wanted to marry, that he wanted it more than she expected. She says she got pregnant to please him. She says the clock was ticking. Paul asks if she had wanted more time alone. She says she was afraid he wouldn’t want her anymore but he did, he liked her pregnant body. She was afraid that after birth she would be destroyed for sex. She thought she would never recover. He still wanted her. Took pictures of her nursing, thought she was beautiful, but she thought she was fat and ugly. Then she fell in love with nursing, she had a purpose then. Paul says now it seems Izzie doesn’t need her anymore. She says Izzie pushed away when she was 6 or 7. Frances says she lost Izzie a long time ago, but she was surprised to lose her husband when he had an affair with a student. 

She then confesses she hasn’t had sex since the marriage broke up and says he must think she is pathetic. Paul points out she did it again and asks about the period of celibacy. She tries to make a joke then says Izzie is about to have sex , that she is reading her emails after hacking into her account. Paul asks if that is a good idea -- she says she has no other way to know what is going on. Paul asks if she thinks the boy is pressuring her. She says he says he will wait. But she thinks it is a con. She asks if Paul worries about his daughter. Izzie just talks to Patricia. Paul asks if she talked with her mother about sex. She says Izzie even looks like Patricia -- Paul says she feels excluded again as when her mother was ill. Frances says she is jealous and begrudges her sister the time with her daughter. She says she had an awful thought -- maybe when Patricia is gone, Izzie will be hers again. Paul asks if she believes she has been usurped. She says Izzie prefers her sister. 

Paul asks if she has spoken to her sister. She says once. Paul asks if she knows he spoke with her -- Frances asks why -- he says he had heard she was ill and asked if she had a therapist which she does. Frances asks if he told her sister about her. He says she was not mentioned. Paul says she told him Patricia referred her and said it was all right for her to see him. She asks if he is saying she lied. She says she was afraid he wouldn’t see her. He tells her it is important to be honest, therapy is a relationship. Frances says he is getting the sort end -- all the crazy, none of the sex. She says she will tell her sister -- Paul says before the next session.

She brings up the genetic test again. She says she scheduled the test and says they recommend prophylactic mastectomy. She says her sister had that done and said it made her feel powerful -- but she cringes and says it looks horrible. When she saw it, she couldn’t breathe. She won’t have it done. She says if her life had been different, if her ex had stayed -- couples get closer in things like that. She says but who would want her, would Paul? 

Paul reflects how much loss she has had and now the threat of losing her breasts, which have been so important to her sense of herself as a woman, just as Izzie is becoming a woman. Frances reacts to this and asks wearily if she could sit there a little longer. Then she asks how long? He smiles. She holds out her hand for him to help her up which he does.

She asks if he tells anyone she comes to see him. He says of course not. She leaves.


Again with Frances we have the doubling when we see Paul being examined by the neurologist, though we do not learn the outcome of the examination, as Frances does not know if she carries the gene for breast cancer. Both of them haunted by the spectre of debilitating illness and death.

Frances’ fears about her waning appeal are evident throughout as she makes flirtatious gestures and somewhat coyly attempts to get Paul to correct her negative views of herself. Though he challenges her on why she does this, he does not connect it with her need to feel attractive and desirable. It would be premature for him to do so at this point.

The jealousy between her and her sister and her envy that her daughter prefers Patricia is, along with her fears about death, the central issues that she seems to be bringing to Paul. And of course they are connected. It is, it seems, intruding thoughts about her daughter, and probably her sister, that lie at the heart  of her blowing her lines. And the more it happens, the more she fears her own waning abilities and losses. Which then makes her anxious about death, her sister and her daughter. Round and round they go in a vicious circle. And it appears that Paul’s best entry point is through her feelings about her sister and her daughter. 

Paul confronts her pretty strongly about the fact that she led him to believe her sister had referred her to him and that she was fine with her seeing him. She at first tries to deny this then acknowledges it and then confesses she was afraid he wouldn’t see her if she hadn’t said that. This was the ideal time for Paul to drive home the point that therapy is a relationship and depends on honesty. It’s not clear that Frances really gets that but she is afraid of having her sister know she is seeing him. Will she really follow through on telling Patricia as Paul told her she must do? 

At some point, I am guessing Paul will have to find out more about how and why Patricia and Frances talked so much about him. We know that she learned from her sister quite a lot about him, but we don’t know what all of that was about. This is important because there is meaning in Frances choosing her sister’s former therapist at a time when Patricia seems to be stealing Izzie away from her. There is a parallel here that deserves exploration.

While I think Paul was spot on in his final interpretation about all of Frances’ losses, the end of the session seemed to come very abruptly after that. And at the end, Frances succeeds in getting one of her flirtatious efforts met when she holds her hand out to Paul and he takes it. That seemed off coming so soon after connecting her fears about losing her breasts with her own sexuality and Izzie’s emerging sexuality. Gratifying her in this way at this time felt a little off to me.


© Cheryl Fuller, 2018. All  rights reserved.