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Sandie Friedman SANDIE FRIEDMAN has had three lives so far. Life 1: artsy kid and teenage punk rocker in the suburban idyll of Weston, Connecticut; Life 2: tightly-wound student of literature and American Studies in New York City; Life 3: happily married professor and proud stepmom in Washington DC. Currently in her third life, she teaches writing at George Washington University and at the Washington Center for Psychoanalysis.

Recent Work By Sandie Friedman

Greta Gerwig

Women catch courage from the women whose lives and writings they read, and women call the bearer of that courage friend. –Carolyn Heilbrun

I.

On a blistering August day in 1989, my boyfriend, Adrian, and I were trudging up 123rd Street on our way to his dorm, and I was lagging behind. He always seemed to be several steps ahead of me, which wasn’t surprising, since I was barely five feet tall, and he was close to six. But he felt that I should have walked faster, and he diagnosed the problem as hesitation, fear. (He studied the existentialist theologian Paul Tillich, who wrote a book called The Courage to Be.) Whenever he noticed me falling behind, he made this observation: “You fear to step.” It made me laugh, and also caused, as he seemed to intend, a stab of shame about the pervasive anxiety that in fact kept me from moving forward. “You fear to step,” he announced, as we sweated up the hill, and I protested that my feet hurt because I wasn’t wearing any socks. I began to compose a mantra of my own inadequacy:

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I.

Edie Sedgwick was my idol.

As a junior in high school, I read the biography Edie: An American Life by Jean Stein and George Plimpton, so I knew she grew up on a ranch, the troubled scion of a privileged family, had been institutionalized at Silver Hill and sculpted a horse at Radcliffe. In 1965, she became the most glamorous of Warhol’s “superstars,” the one who best set off his own spectral image when they appeared in photographs together.

imagesA young playwright named Dan taught me to do flip turns.  It was 1993, and he was teaching a swim class at NYU, where we were both graduate students.

Once, we met on Mercer Street, and I startled him when I said hello.  “I didn’t recognize you in your clothes,” he said.  I rather liked that Playwright Dan only saw me in my swimsuit, but I was hurt when I learned that he didn’t think I was a very good swimmer.   After watching me swim, he asked what kind of exercise I did.  Just swimming, I told him.  Couldn’t he see that?  I’d taught myself to breathe on alternate sides, and I’d built up my stamina so that I could swim 40 lengths—twice what I could do in college.   But I’d never been on a team, and no one had helped me with technique.  Dan helped me improve my freestyle stroke, taught me to practice with a pull buoy, and finally, got me to try doing flip turns.  But it was quite some time before I actually mastered them.