Dysfunctional, Me? Never! - a short play by Lee Bob Black

DAPHNE: “What are you writing about?”

ZED: “A novel about dysfunctional women.”

DAPHNE: “I don’t like that term, dysfunctional. It’s not accurate. All women aren’t dysfunctional.”

ZED: “What are all women then? Functional?”

DAPHNE: “Most of the time.”

ZED: “Yet not all of the time?”

DAPHNE: “Of course not.”

ZED: “So women are dysfunctional some of the time?”

DAPHNE: “But not all of them.”

ZED: “Just to be clear, I only said I was writing about dysfunctional women.”

DAPHNE: “But that’s like saying that all women are dysfunctional.”

ZED: “I never said I was writing about all women. And I never said all women are dysfunctional all of the time.”

DAPHNE: “It’s not a nice thing to say.”

ZED: “Let’s be frank, we’re all a tad dysfunctional. So why does this particular word get under your skin?”

DAPHNE: “It’s not fair. Therefore it’s wrong.”

ZED: “I’m dysfunctional. You’re dysfunctional. What are you so uptight about? What do you have against saying what you mean and meaning what you say? And what’s wrong with me writing about it?”

DAPHNE: “But it’s not realistic. Because all women aren’t.”

ZED: “But all women are some of the time. They just are, that’s the truth. Tell me that’s not true. Tell me that’s not how the world is. Isness. Same goes with men--we’re dysfunctional too, no doubt about it. Have you ever met somebody who’s not dysfunctional? No. Such people don’t exist. The Dalai Lama is dysfunctional, all your favorite comedians, your favorite activists, playwrights, all your friends.”

DAPHNE: “But I’m functional most of the time.”

ZED: “Absolutely. But all of the time? Here’s some facts: You’re a women, and you’re dysfunctional. So if I were writing about you, I’d be writing about a dysfunctional woman, is this not true? If this is all true, then why don’t you want me to say that I’m writing about dysfunctional women?”

DAPHNE: “It’s unkind.”

ZED: “What about all the emotional baggage our parents loaded us up with? You think you’ve figured life out? That you’re within some range of normal functioning? Test that out by visiting your parents for a weekend.”

DAPHNE: “My parents were dysfunctional. We were raised in a dysfunctional household. I don’t like the word, that’s all.”

ZED: “That’s all? Come on, that’s not all. That’s illogical, that’s what that is. Irrational, too. You say that I shouldn't use the word, and your best reason is that you don’t like it. That’s a weak argument, it’s hardly even an argument.”

DAPHNE: “You’re not a woman.”

ZED: “That’s right.”

DAPHNE: “You can’t write about women.”

ZED: “Why not?”

DAPHNE: “You don’t know us.”

ZED: “That’s entirely right . . . in a sense. But that’d be like saying that you don’t know men. You don’t know men, do you?”

DAPHNE: “No, I don’t. And I’m glad I don’t.”

ZED: “And the reason that you don’t know men is because you’re a woman, is that right?”

DAPHNE: “Uh-huh.”

ZED: “But you know some things about some men. You do. Admit it. You know how some men want sex all the time, and some want sex less. You know that most men maintain that an awkward morning beats a boring night. You know that some men have a hard time staying in love.”

DAPHNE: “Staying? You mean falling in love.”

ZED: “You know that some men don’t like to talk--or can’t--about some things.”

DAPHNE: “But I can’t know for a fact. That’s my point.”

ZED: “Your point is that one can never be certain about anything? You imagine that that’s your point, but it’s not. You observe us men. You can see my hair, you know that it’s shorter than yours. You know that I’m tall, that I’m drunk, and you can probably piece together that it’s likely I’ll get drunker before I get soberer. Sure, you don’t know everything about every man, about all men, with absolute confidence, because you’re a woman, as you said. And I don’t know women--can’t know women was what you said--because I’m a man. But let’s not bullshit around the bush; we know many, many things about the other gender.”

DAPHNE: “But that’s different. You’re twisting my words.”

ZED: “I’m twisting your words? How?”

DAPHNE: “I didn’t say any of that.”

ZED: “You didn’t say any of that? What about the part where you said that I can’t write about women because I don’t know women? What about the part where you said that I don’t know women because I’m a man?”

DAPHNE: “I said that, yes, but not like that.”

ZED: “How’d you say it then?”

DAPHNE: “It’s just not fair or nice to call women dysfunctional.”

ZED: “Listen to yourself. Look in a mirror. You’re being dysfunctional right now. Come on, deny that--I dare you to try and deny that. Double dare you.”

DAPHNE: “But that doesn’t mean that you’re allowed to say that.”

ZED: “But it’s true! So why can’t I say it? Isness! You’re a woman. You have a Californian accent, you--”

DAPHNE: “How’d you know I’m from California?”

ZED: “Your accent’s unmistakably Californian. But like I was saying, you have blonde hair. You’re talking with me right now. You have on an electric blue skirt and your hair’s all frizzed up.”

DAPHNE: “My hair’s not frizzy.”

ZED: “Okay, but it’s not flat either. Also . . . you have a Quilmes beer in your left hand. And you’re being dysfunctional.”

DAPHNE: “No I’m not.”

ZED: “Daphne, get in touch with reality.”

DAPHNE: “How’d you know my name?”

ZED: “We introduced ourselves, then I said I was a writer, and then you asked me what I’m writing about.”


ZED: “So, Daphne--”

DAPHNE: “I’ve forgotten your name.”

ZED: “So, now’s a perfect opportunity to be completely honest with yourself. Don’t worry about being honest with me--”

DAPHNE: “I’m not worried that--”

ZED: “Good, great. But worry about being honest with yourself. You’ve just spent the past few minutes admonishing me for using the word dysfunctional when I say I’m writing about women, and all you can--”

DAPHNE: “But I didn’t tell you all that. You twisted my words.”

ZED: “Fine, whatever . . . So, what do you do for a crust?”

DAPHNE: “I’m a writer.”

ZED: “No kidding. What do you write about?”

DAPHNE: “Dysfunctional men.”

ZED: “Cool, fantastic. But, really, do you write about men?”

DAPHNE: “Of course I do. They’re so flawed, so maladaptive. Men are very emotionally messed up, too. There’s nothing better to write about.”

ZED: “But you’re a woman, and therefore you can’t know men? Am I right or am I right? These are your words, no? So how then can you write about men?”

DAPHNE: “I just do.”

ZED: “You just do? And are some of these men you write about dysfunctional?”

DAPHNE: “Yes, but when somebody asks me what I’m writing, I don’t say I’m writing about dysfunctional men.”

ZED: “But that’s exactly what you’re doing. Yes or no?”

DAPHNE: “I write about other topics, it just happens that the men I write about are pretty screwed up in the head, in their relationships, in their so-called careers. Not all of the time though, that’s important. The thing is, I don’t want to write about men who have all their ducks in a row, who have their shit together, who are financially independent, emotionally independent, spiritually independent. I’d rather write about men--I mean, people--who are struggling to figure this thing called life out, who have a hard time communicating . . .”

ZED: “A . . . hard . . . time . . . communicating. Mmmm . . . interesting.”

DAPHNE: “There you fucking go again, twisting my words.”

ZED: “How? Tell me what you said, and then tell me how I twisted what you said.”

DAPHNE: “I can’t remember what I said.”

ZED: “Then how can you know that I twisted your words?”

DAPHNE: “Because I didn’t say what you said.”

ZED: “But you can’t remember what you said.”

DAPHNE: “Look, I don’t want to talk about it anymore.”

ZED: “Okay, sure.”

DAPHNE: “But let’s get together some time. You should interview me for your novel. If you’re writing about dysfunctional women, then you should definitely interview me.”

ZED: “I have a lot on my plate at the moment.”

DAPHNE: “Here, take my email.”

ZED: “I gotta go. I see the guy in the wings giving me the wind-up.”

[The End.]