The first time I saw Uncommon Women and Others, I was completely electrified. I saw it on PBS, shortly after I graduated college and just a few years after it had been written. I watched it upstairs at my parents in what we called the office on their black and white TV. We were always behind the times that way. It shocks me now to see old programs in color when I have vivid recollections of them in black and white. Uncommon Women resonated with me for several reasons. Even though it was set at a Seven Sisters school and I went to a sub Ivy, I recognized that type of young woman. There were lots at Goucher and some even at Hopkins where I attended. In the play, the women are looking back at their lives from the vantage point of 30. They had promised when they were 30, they were going to be amazing. I was still in my 20’s and living with my parents. I needed to believe that thirty could and would be amazing.
Watch this play and you will see early performances by Meryl Streep, Jill Eikenberry and Swoosie Kurtz. Amazing. It also confirmed my longing for strong, female friendships. I had gone to what was essentially an all boys school. I had rebelled against my mother who saw me at Vassar or Radcliffe. I did want Bennington but she vetoed that because – shock- a women’s college with a woman president! In many ways, she was a product of her era.
I did develop those strong female friendships along the way. I am still in contact with my college roommate over 40 years later. I have reconnected with some of the girls of my youth. I have other women I have picked up along the way that have given me an incredible safety net, strength, support and love. But sitting watching that black and white TV, I knew none of that.
I remember thinking as I watched that I wish there was a way to keep this, like a book, so I could take it out and look at it whenever I wanted. A few years passed. It came back on PBS. By then, I was over 30 with a color television of my own and a VCR to record it. The world was moving. I wasn’t amazing but I was doing alright. I was making crap money; had a glamorous job; and was not working up to my potential. I was, however, known as a person with friends. I had a therapist at that time who told me I defined myself as a friend. I did not think it was a bad thing.
I, like the women in the play, began to believe at 40, I would be amazing. Forty came and went and I was so not amazing. I no longer had the glamorous job and was back with my parents. Volunteering saved me. I was lucky to have a volunteer position that involved raising money to support and advance women’s rights. New York, my state, was never ever going to be able to compete against California. There is just too much money there. However, Uncommon Women and Others continued to resonate with me. I used it in my stump speech all the time. I believed that as a state, we could raise our fundraising and be amazing. We, as women, could and would be amazing. Was this uncommon?
Time advanced. I was ecstatic to discover Uncommon Women and Others on DVD. I bought a handful and gave them to my important women friends one Christmas. Technology was amazing.
Wendy Wasserstein wrote other, wonderful powerful plays about women. I have been blessed to be able to see them. These plays grew along with me. Women of a certain age will relate to The Heidi Chronicles. She became an iconic voice for women. Wendy Wasserstein was truly amazing and she died.
I passed 50 and was still waiting to be amazing, then 60. I still aspire to be amazing. As the years have passed, my concept of amazing has changed. In my 20’s, I wanted the job, the car, the man, the friends. It didn’t change much for my 30’s. I did have all of that but somehow it wasn’t amazing enough. My 40’s found me rebuilding – a broken marriage, broken relationships, a different career, better friends and moments to be amazing. I am very proud of the work I did for that organization and hoped I have helped other women find their “amazing”. 50’s – almost there. I had created a sort of life that became blown up by disease. I fought and continue to fight. 60? Still standing and literally that is remarkable and amazing. I was filled with more fortitude than I thought possible.
Amazing changes through time and space. Can I say now when I reach 70, I am going to be amazing? Seventy sounds like a foreign country, unexplored and unimagined but closer. I thought when I graduated college that I would go for my PhD in my 60’s. Well, that ship sailed. I still have the curiosity and the interest. However, time and money have become finite. I consider myself amazing sometimes because I have been able to find and hold uncommon women and “others” in my life. I never could have imagined that or its importance when I first experienced the play. Sometimes, when I consider what life has thrown at me, I may be amazing. I still keep on trying. I try to walk. I miss the feeling of speed and air when I am walking. Sometimes, I miss working yet still I tick on. What makes us uncommon women and what makes us amazing? I consider my uncommon women friends amazing. Each in her own way is unique yet the same. They are intelligent, curious, courageous, inspiring. They lead. They share. They never stop changing. They are principled. They have style and substance whether they acknowledge it or not. I have fulfilled one of my wishes from when I first saw “Uncommon Women and Others”, I have those close female friends for decades, uncommon women each and everyone of them, and that is AMAZING!