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Women, Where We Are Going

I saw a performance of this in Chicago over the weekend. This monologue was particularly well done and made me think of some of the things Most-Honoured Girlfriend has intimated in moments of weakness that became moments of strength.

Women, Where We Are Going
from The Heidi Chronicles
by Wendy Wasserstein

Heidi: Hello, Hello. I graduated from Miss Crain’s in 1965, and I look back on education in Chicago very fondly. One of the far reaching habits I developed at Miss Crain’s was waiting until the desperation point to complete or, rather, start my homework. Keeping that noble academic tradition alive, I appear before you today with no formal speech. I have no outline, no pink note cards, no hieroglyphics scribbled on my palm. Nothing.

Well. So you might be thinking, this is a women’s meeting, so let’s give her the benefit of the doubt after teaching at Columbia yesterday, Miss Holland probably attended a low-impact aerobics class with weights, picked up her children from school, took the older one to drawing with computers at the Metropolitan and the younger one to swimming-for-gifted-children. On returning home, she immediately prepared grilled mesquite free-range chicken with balsamic vinegar and sun dried tomatoes, advised her investment-banker, well rounded husband on future finances for the City Ballet, put the children to bed, recited their favorite Greek myths and sex education legends, dashed into the library to call the twenty-two year old squash player who is passionately in love with her to say that they can only be friends, finished writing ten pages of a new book, took the remains of the mesquite free-range dinner to a church that feeds the homeless, massaged her husband’s feet, and relieved any fears that he might be getting old by “doing it” in the kitchen, read forty pages of The Inferno in Italian, took a deep breath, and put out the light. So after all this, we forgive Miss Holland for not preparing a speech today. She’s exemplary and exhausted.

Thank you, but you forgive too easily. And I respect my fellow alumni enough to know that I should attempt to tell you the truth. Oh, hurry up Heidi. Okay. Why don’t I have a speech for the “Women Where Are We Going” luncheon? Well, actually, yesterday, I did teach at Columbia. We discussed Alexander Pope and his theory of the picturesque. And afterward I did attend an exercise class. I walked into the locker room, to my favorite corner, where I can pull on my basic black leotard in peace. Two ladies, younger than me, in pressed blue jeans were heatedly debating the reading program at Marymount Nursery School, and a woman my mother’s age was going on and on about her son at Harvard Law School and his wife a Brazilian hairdresser, who was by no stretch of the imagination good enough for him. They were joined by Mrs. Green, who has perfect red nails, and confessed to anyone who would listen the hardship of throwing a dinner party on the same night as a benefit at the Met. And in the middle of them was a naked gray-haired woman extolling the virtues of brown rice and women’s fiction.

And then two twenty-seven year old hot shots came in. How do I know they were hot shots? They were both draped in purple and green leather. And as soon as they entered the locker room, they pulled out their alligator date books and began madly to call the office. They seemed to have everything under control. They even brought their own heavier weights.

Now Jeanette, the performance-artist-dancer-actress-aerobics teacher, comes in and completes the locker room. I like Jeanette. I’ve never talked to her, but I like her. I feel her parents are psychiatrists in the Mid-west. Maybe Cedar Rapids. Jeanette takes off her blue jeans and rolls her tights up her legs. I notice the hot shots checking out Jeanette’s muscle tone while they are lacing up heir Zeus low impact sneakers, and Mrs. Green stop’s talking about her dinner party long enough to ask where did they find them. Every where she looked on Madison Avenue is out. And the lady with the son at Harvard joins in and says she saw Zeus sneakers at Lord and Taylor’s and were they any good. Her daughter-in-law likes them, but she can’t be trusted. The mothers with the pressed blue jeans leap to rescue. Yes, they can assure her, despite the daughter-in-law, unequivocally, absolutely, no doubt about it, Zeus sneakers are the best!

It was at this point that I decided I would slip out and take my place in the back row of the class.

I picked up my overstuffed bag. But as I was just between Mrs., Green’s raccoon coat and a purple leather bomber jacket, I tripped on one of the hot shot’s goddamn, 5-pound professional weights and out of my bag flew a week’s worth of change, raspberry gum wrappers, and Alexander Pope on the Picturesque right on the naked gray-haired fiction woman’s foot.

I began giggling. “Oh.” “That’s okay.” “Excuse me.” “I’m sorry.” “I’m sorry I don’t wear leather pants.” “I’m sorry I don’t eat brown rice.” “I’m sorry I don’t want to stand naked and discuss Zeus sneakers.” “I’m sorry I don’t want to find out I’m worthless. And superior.” 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 dock worker and is driving her husband crazy. I’m sure the hot shots have screwed a lot of thirty-five-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 choose 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 hear whispers. I hear chairs moving from side to side. Yes, I see I have one minute left.

The women start filing out of the locker room. Jeanette puts her hair in a pony tail and winks at me. “See you in class, Heidi. Don’t forget to take a mat this time.”

And I look at her pink and kind face. “I’m sorry, Jeanette, I think I’m too sad to go to class.”

“Excuse me?” She smiles and grabs a mat.

And suddenly I stop competing with all of them. Suddenly I’m not even racing. “To tell you the truth, Jeanette, I think I better not exercise today.”

“Is there anything I can do?” She puts her arm around me. “Are you not well?”

“No, Jeanette, I’m not happy. I’m afraid I haven’t been happy for sometime.”

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.

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.

Thank you.

Filed under: Ennui | | Comments (3)


  1. I love love love love this play. I love it.

    You’ve highlighted an especially noteworthy monologue. I’m glad you heard it done right. :)

    Comment by Loricious — 6/27/2007 @ 4:18 pm

  2. Comment by Bill — 7/13/2007 @ 6:25 am

  3. i tried to comment with a picture but it doesn’t look like it’s working.

    Comment by Bill — 7/13/2007 @ 6:25 am

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