Should I dump my shrink because he likes Bruce Springsteen?

It could be just a Jersey thing, but it's shaken my confidence.

Published July 26, 2004 7:00PM (EDT)

Dear Cary,

Today, at my shrink, he mentioned a conversation that he had with someone who didn't see the greatness of Bruce Springsteen. He was trying to make the point that even if you don't like him, one has to admit that he is extremely talented. Well, to sum this quandary up, I despise Bruce, and couldn't tell Dr. Shrink that I can't stand Bruce Springsteen, and now, have a dilemma about continuing with this doctor who I have been seeing for many years.

I don't give a flying flap about whether or not people don't think well of me if I don't care for Springsteen, but I think less of people when their taste is so abysmal. How could I tell the shrink that I hate Springsteen? And, how and why would this affect one's therapy?

(I live very close to NYC, and I think that I need to get outta this state!)

Jersey Girl

Dear Jersey Girl,

What is it about Bruce that bothers you so? Is it his failure to address the postmodern condition, his reliance on linear song form? Is it all those beefcake butt shots and that precious Telecaster that seem to say that Foucault and Derrida never really existed, and even if they did exist he could blow them away in a blast of burned rubber on hot asphalt? Is it those short muscle sleeves and taut biceps evocative of smart-mouthed grease monkeys in small-town pool halls? Is it that weathered face that appears never to have truly doubted itself even in deepest reflection -- the face that on "Darkness on the Edge of Town" and "The River" seemed to be wearing Al Pacino's face like a mask? Is it all that old-fashioned working-class rah-rah blather that gets you down?

"Bruce Springsteen" is just a symbol, right? But what is he a symbol of? Is this a class thing? Are you trying to transcend your Jersey roots and every time you think you're out of the life of big-mouthed ass-kicking tight-pants big-haired New Jersey, Bruce Springsteen pulls you right back down into that vast chain-link fenced hubcap emporium of Juicy Fruit-chewing, bottle-spinning, whisky shot-downing, black Cadillac driving, sweating, C-student New Jerseyites?

And what's the connection between your psychiatrist and Bruce? Is it because at 54, hard as he tries, Bruce can't seem to shake that whole teen rebel shtick that is so unseemly in a man his age? Does it alarm you that your shrink, whom you're trusting to guide you through the darkest and most perilous stretches of psychic wilderness, might also, just like Bruce, harbor unresolved teen-rebel dreams of his own -- sad, pathetic New Jersey teen-rebel dreams?

Even if you don't care for Bach, it wouldn't bother you if your shrink liked him, right? Because at least he's got gravitas, highbrow cred. So if Bruce is off the list, what is the proper musical taste for a psychotherapist? Shostakovich? Mahler? Brahms? Zappa? Dolphy? What about Bono? You'd cringe, right? Because like Bruce, compared to Shostakovich, he's lightweight, right?

But here's the thing: Musical taste is just symbolic. It might seem to signal a failure to mature in a crucial aesthetic area, but it doesn't mean that your shrink has no more wisdom, strength and compassion than a kid working a pizza stand in Asbury Park. What it means is that he's dedicated his life to being a psychiatrist and not a rock critic. So lighten up on the guy.

He probably shouldn't have mentioned Bruce Springsteen. But he did. Next time you get together, tell him how you had a crisis of faith because of his mention of Bruce. Tell him you wrote me a letter and all that. Try to find out what this Bruce thing is really all about.

And then, just for fun, ask him what he thought of "Nebraska."

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