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7/23/06

Dear Kim:

Today was more Ian day. Kind of like if American Idol finalists went back to their alma mater and were awarded for intellectual achievement instead of singing.

Today, we went back to Sarah Lawrence where my brother was awarded an outstanding alumna award. I received an outstanding alumna award several years ago from Webster University but this was a different deal.

Webster is a good school with a global outreach and admirable philosophy that education is for everyone: undergrads, office workers, people in the military.

Sarah Lawrence has a very selective admissions process, a legendary small class ratio of 6:1 and a roster of graduates that reads like a contemporary who's who: Barbara Walters. Alice Walker. Jill Clayburgh. Yoko Ono. Ann Patchett.

Etc. Etc. Etc.

It is a very special place. And while I have mostly made peace with myself around my life choices, there will always be a small part somewhere that wishes I had gone to school there. That knows that it would have been a very good fit for me and that the direction of my life might be different had I gone there.

Undoubtably, I would have been an artist. Given the luxury of any option, Kim, like you, there is nothing else that made sense for me. But I might well have felt less isolated in my work. The theatre community in St. Louis does not know what of me. Someone who stepped away from some degree of traditional success as both a producer and a playwright to do a different kind of community based work.

There were three recipients today. One was Margot Farley, the managing artistic director of The Acting Company at Julliard. Another was a pediatric radiologist. And then there was my brother. Dr. Science.

My sister also went to Sarah Lawrence. My sister who is four years younger than me.

As I have been chatting with various staff members throughout the weekend, their puzzlement towards me is discernible although not spoken. And there has been an air of quiet disappointment, as if by not going to Sarah Lawrence, I broke a potential winning streak. What a poster the three of us would have made.

(Kim: Maybe I ought to do the poster. It is hard to comment. Reading is easier. To comment I need to move the text through my body...I guess that is called digesting. And it is not that I'm hungry. All these inane and insane things go through my head at the end of the day. Sometimes it is like adding another thing to what seems in my brain like very dense clutter.)

When I told the director of something or other—you know how these institutions are, there is a director of annual giving, of occasional giving, of semi regular giving, please give—that I was a writer and director and had gone to college elsewhere, he raised an eyebrow and said, you seem like a Sarah Lawrence girl. You certainly fit the profile.

I agreed and gave him a funny version of a story I thought I could live with.

I said that I was only a year and a half younger than my brother and that we had gone to the same small high school at the University of Chicago Laboratory School. That I had not wanted to go to another school where perhaps he might be going out with my friends.

We both laughed at this version and I went off in search of a drink.

The other version, the rest of the story which was at least as valid, is that when I visited my brother at Sarah Lawrence, I was quietly and privately terrified of the beautiful, sophisticated and self assured young women I saw on the campus. And while by that time, the campus had male student—my brother was in the first male class to graduate—there were many more women than men.

The unvarnished truth was that I did not trust myself to go to Sarah Lawrence. I was afraid I would become a lesbian.

How ironic that I did not give that version to the director of such and such, who was clearly a gay man. I could have come out to him and we could have had a good chuckle over that one. But somehow, I knew that would not be appropriate.

(Kim: I guess part of this was that even Joan, who is always herself, cared that she didn't embarass her brother. And at a place that is legendary for free thinking. See info on the politically incorrect guide of women, sex, and feminism: http://www.frontpagemag.com/Articles/ReadArticle.asp?ID=22889)

And how much more ironic that I went to Webster in conservative old St. Louis, lived with one boyfriend in my freshman year, broke up with him and got another boyfriend, slept with countless others and by my junior year, I was sneaking into gay bars in the Central West End and desperately trying to connect with women.

Later,

Joan

Saturday, June 3, 2006