Skip to main content
mark schatzker

March, 2012. A couples therapy clinic, somewhere in Toronto. A male and female panda are seated on a white couch across from a bespectacled middle-aged woman in a pantsuit.

Therapist: Welcome.

Mrs. Panda: Thank you.

Mr. Panda: I'm leaving.

Mr. Panda stands and takes a step towards the door. Mrs. Panda bursts into tears. The therapist offers her a box of tissue.

Mrs. Panda [sobbing] We haven't even started yet and you're already going.

Therapist: Please, sit down.

Mr. Panda: You're ganging up on me.

Therapist: I'll ask you each what you want to talk about. Whoever wants to start first.

Mrs. Panda: We had a significant disagreement yesterday.

Mr. Panda: It was hardly –

Therapist: You'll get your turn to speak, too. This is as much about listening as it is talking.

Mrs. Panda: There's one subject he refuses to talk about.

Therapist: Is that true?

Mr. Panda stares at the floor, refusing to acknowledge the comment. His right paw is trembling. Eventually, he speaks.

Mr. Panda [still staring at the floor] There's some things guys don't like talking about.

Therapist: You're using the gender excuse.

Mrs. Panda: He has trouble with…intimacy.

Mr. Panda picks up the box of tissue and crushes it in his paws.

Mrs. Panda: See? Angry. Always angry.

Therapist: It's okay to feel anger. [Turning to Mr. Panda.]Tell me about your anger.

Mr. Panda: This is stupid.

Mrs. Panda: Here we go again.

Therapist: It's okay. It takes –

Mr. Panda: Do you know how much it cost to get us over here?

Therapist: I want you to tell me.

Mr. Panda: $20-million.

Therapist: How does that make you feel?

Mr. Panda: Guess what my cut was?

Therapist: Tell me.

Mr. Panda: Zero.

Therapist: Does that make you feel humiliated?

Mr. Panda [shaking his head] Zilch. Nada.

Therapist: Does this preoccupy you during moments of intimacy?

Mrs. Panda: What about me? Don't female pandas get to have orgasms too?

Mr. Panda [talking over Mrs. Panda] You tell me what I'm supposed to be thinking about. We're sitting there in a $10-million panda enclosure that looks to me like it would have been a rip-off at 500 grand. There's kids staring at us saying, "When will he poop again?" or "Why do they eat leaves?" Some zoo biologist monitoring our genitalia. And to top it all off, we're in Scarborough. I mean, is it really a surprise I'm not getting an erection?

Therapist: Of course it isn't.

Mr. Panda: I mean, wouldn't getting an erection under those circumstances make me pretty weird?

Therapist: How do you feel, now, talking about it?

Mrs. Panda bursts into tears again.

Mr. Panda: Oh, looks like I said something to offend Princess again.

Mrs. Panda: The whole world expects me to have a baby.

The Therapist produces a fresh box of tissue and offers one to Mrs. Panda.

Mrs. Panda: Do you think this is easy for me? Do you think I wanted this? Two years ago, I was living in a zoo in Chongquing. Next thing I know I'm halfway around the world with a male who doesn't find me attractive. It's the third week of March already. I'm only in estrus another two weeks.

Mr. Panda: Well that's definitely helping with the erection.

Therapist: Do you blame him?

Mrs. Panda: $10-million on a panda enclosure. Could they have at least asked me what colour to paint the walls?

Mr. Panda: I pictured us in a big roomy tract house. You know, cul-de-sac, road hockey, big backyard. Not this.

Therapist: What else.

Mrs. Panda: The bamboo here is terrible.

Mr. Panda: They pick it green so it can "ripen" on the plane.

Mrs. Panda: The giraffes can see into our enclosure.

Mr. Panda: They stand there staring and chewing like morons.

Mrs. Panda [giggling] He mooned them the other day.

Mr. Panda [nodding] Darn right.

Mrs. Panda grasps Mr. Panda's paw with her paw.

Therapist: I think it's time for a hug.

The pandas embrace. They hold one another tight and rock slowly back and forth. Sensing it has become more than a hug, the therapist gingerly rises from her seat, tiptoes towards the door and dims the lights before she leaves.

Special to the Globe and Mail