Friday, February 10, 2006


The lines that The Times quotes are proof of her extraordinary inanity.
Wendy Wasserstein's Women
Published: February 5, 2006
IN the late 1970's and 1980's, when Wendy Wasserstein was emerging as a leading playwright, Ms. magazine had begun its decline.

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Peter Cunningham
ME, MARRIED? Christine Lahti and Tony Shalhoub, sparring partners and lovers as Heidi and Scoop.

An American Woman (Jan. 31, 2006)

Uncommon Women and Others (Nov. 22, 1977)

The Heidi Chronicles (Dec. 12, 1988)

The Sisters Rosensweig (Oct. 23, 1992)

An American Daughter (April 14, 1997)

Old Money (Dec. 8, 2000)

Isn't It Romantic
(Feb. 19, 2001)

Third (Oct. 25, 2005)

Wendy and 'Heidi'
Colette Dowling had written a best seller, "The Cinderella Complex," arguing that women were afraid to be independent. And that book was followed by others, like "Smart Women, Foolish Choices."

Feminists were on the defensive. Their predictions that women could have fulfilling careers, marriage and children seemed badly off the mark. What on earth went wrong?

While Ms. Wasserstein's plays didn't repudiate feminism, they didn't embrace it either. Instead, the playwright, who died last week, gave voice to the emotional debate and the new uncertainty ringing in women's heads.

Here, through her plays, is a sampling of the debates during that time, when many women wondered (as women still do) how to have it all — career, marriage, children, sanity.


In "Isn't It Romantic" (1983), Harriet struggles to find her way after graduating from college. Lillian, Harriet's mother, is a divorced career woman, and has little patience when Harriet asks whether it's possible to have it all.

LILLIAN: Life is a negotiation, Harriet. You think the women who go back to work at 36 are going to have the same career as a woman who has been there since her 20's? You think someone who has a baby and leaves it after two weeks to go back to work is going to have the same relationship with that child as someone who has been there all along? It's impossible. And you show me the wonderful man with whom you're going to have it all. You tell me how he feels when you take as many business trips as he does. You tell me who has to leave the office when the kid bumps his head on a radiator or slips on a milk carton. No, I don't think what you're talking about is possible.

HARRIET: All right. When you were 29, what was possible for you?

LILLIAN: When I was your age, I realized I had to make some choices. I had a promising career, a child, and a husband; and believe me, if you have all three, and you're very conscientious, you still have to choose your priorities. So I gave some serious thought to what was important to me. And what was important to me was a career I could be proud of and successfully bringing up a child. So the first thing that had to go was pleasing my husband, because he was a grown-up and could take care of himself. Yes, baby, everything did take work; but it was worthwhile. I never dreamed I'd be this successful. And I have a perfectly lovely daughter. Baby, I have a full, rich life.

HARRIET: Mommy, what full, rich life? You watch "Rockford Files" reruns every night.


In "The Heidi Chronicles" (1988), the lead character, Heidi Holland, joins a consciousness-raising group and writes feminist art criticism. But she struggles romantically, and is heartbroken when Scoop, the man with whom she's halfheartedly involved, marries Lisa.

SCOOP: But I can explain. Let's say we married and I asked you to devote the, say, next 10 years of your life to me. To making me a home and a family and a life so secure that I could with some confidence go out into the world each day and attempt to get an A. You'd say, "No." You'd say, "Why can't we be partners? Why can't we both go out into the world and get an A?" And you'd be absolutely valid and correct.

HEIDI: But Lisa...

SCOOP: Do I love her, as your nice friend asked me? She's the best that I can do. Is she an A+ like you? No. But I don't want to come home to an A+. A- maybe, but not A+.


The play "Uncommon Women and Others" (1977) tracks students at an elite women's college. They are eager to take their place in the work world, but they are also overwhelmed by their choices. In this scene, they get together after college and reminisce. Samantha is one of the few who chooses to get married and forgo a career.

RITA: Samantha, you have a good marriage, don't you?

SAMANTHA: Yes, I guess I do. Sometimes I get intimidated by all of Robert's friends who come to the house. And I think I haven't done very much of anything important. So I don't talk. But Robert respects me. I don't want to sound like Mrs. Plumm, but I just want to say that I'm glad we all got together today. I had second thoughts about seeing all of you, especially Kate and Rita. Sometimes, I think you might disapprove of what I do. I don't live alone, I'm not a professional, and I tend to be too polite. What I really want to tell you is, Robert and I are having a baby.

MUFFIE gets up to kiss SAMANTHA: That's wonderful, Samantha.

RITA: Why didn't you tell us?

SAMANTHA: It's not as easy as telling you I was getting married to him. Remember when I ran into the room? Now there are more options. I decided that I was a little embarrassed to tell you, but I'm also happy.

KATE kisses SAMANTHA: I'm so pleased for you, Samantha, really. I even promise to sit for you on Election Day — that's my one day off. Pauses. I wonder if I'll ever decide to have a child. I hardly think about it, and when I do I tell myself there's still a lot of time. I wonder what it's like when you stop thinking there's a lot of time left to make changes.


In "The Heidi Chronicles," Heidi Holland, single and lonely, is giving a speech, which turns into a riff about the women in the locker room of her gym.

HEIDI: I'm embarrassed — no, humiliated — in front of every woman in that room. I'm envying women I don't even know. I'm envying women I don't even like. I'm sure the woman with the son at Harvard is miserable to her daughter-in-law. I'm sure the gray-haired fiction woman is having a bisexual relationship with a female dockworker and driving her husband crazy. I'm sure the hotshots have screwed a lot of 35-year-old women, my classmates even, out of jobs, raises and husbands. And I'm sure the mothers in the pressed blue jeans think women like me chose the wrong road. "Oh, it's a pity they made such a mistake, that empty generation." Well, I really don't want to be feeling this way about all of them. And I certainly don't want to be feeling this way about "Women, Where Are We Going." ...

I'm just not happy. I'm afraid I haven't been happy for some time.

Looks up at the audience. I don't blame the ladies in the locker room for how I feel. I don't blame any of us. We're all concerned, intelligent, good women. Pauses. It's just that I feel stranded. And I thought the whole point was that we wouldn't feel stranded. I thought the point was that we were all in this together

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MICHAEL ROLOFF exMember Seattle Psychoanalytic Institute and Society this LYNX will LEAP you to all my HANDKE project sites and BLOGS: "MAY THE FOGGY DEW BEDIAMONDIZE YOUR HOOSPRINGS!" {J. Joyce} "Sryde Lyde Myde Vorworde Vorhorde Vorborde" [von Alvensleben] contact via my website


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