The Heidi Chronicles

by Wendy Wasserstein

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In 1989, Heidi Holland is lecturing on female artists. Her thoughts first flash back to a high school dance in 1965, where she and her friend Susan Johnston begin their investigation of the opposite gender. While Susan is asking a boy to dance, Heidi meets and befriends Peter Patrone. Heidi then remembers a political rally in 1968, where she had met Scoop Rosenbaum, who seduced her.

Heidi then remembers that, in 1970, she and Susan joined a women’s consciousness-raising group, where Heidi’s inability to fit in had become apparent. She had still been seeing Scoop. At a Women in Art protest in front of the Chicago Art Institute in 1974, Heidi met Peter’s new boyfriend, Mark. Heidi had been engaged in the issues of her times, yet she never was entirely engrossed in them. She remained an outsider, an individualist who observed the follies of others’ commitments rather than fully commit to relationships herself.

Heidi continues her flash backs to the 1970’s. She matter-of-factly tells Peter that she is not having a relationship with Scoop but that she just enjoys sleeping with him. Peter sees through Heidi’s shell and responds ironically that Heidi is now a woman of the 1970’s who can use men to fulfill her sexual needs without an emotional connection. Peter knows, however, that Heidi’s emotional needs are not being fulfilled, either professionally or socially.

In 1977, Heidi and Peter are at Scoop’s wedding; he is marrying a woman named Lisa. Despite the flippant air of cynicism at the wedding, especially as provided by the wit of Peter and the droll sarcasm of Susan, for Heidi the moment is painful. She is experiencing the consequences of her inability to connect with Scoop. Scoop introduces Heidi to Lisa as Peter’s fiancé. In the ensuing conversation, Scoop and Heidi engage in an awkward, roundabout discussion of their relationship, with each making light jokes to avoid discussing it directly. Scoop admits to Heidi that they want different things in life and that he could not wait for her any longer. He tells her that he will always love her, and they dance slowly to “You Send Me.”

Heidi is continuing her art lecture at Columbia in 1989, then flashes back to 1980, when Lisa is very pregnant and having a baby shower. The women there bond, although Heidi seems to be slightly disengaged from the group. Heidi has progressed in her career and is writing books. The women exchange gifts and gossip: Scoop is being unfaithful to Lisa, news that Heidi receives with mixed emotions.

In a television studio in 1982, Heidi, Scoop, and Peter are together again to participate in a panel show on the baby-boom generation. Scoop and Peter dominate the conversation and mock the host, April, with in-jokes and double entendres; the show gets out of hand. After the airing, Heidi assails Peter and Scoop for not allowing her to speak for herself. She believes their witty rejoinders prevent a serious discussion of Heidi’s book, but more important, demonstrates that both men have automatically protected her and acted as her spokespersons, instead of letting her speak for herself.

At a New York restaurant in 1984, Heidi meets Susan, who is now an executive television producer. She is soon joined by her assistant, Denise, Lisa’s sister. Although Heidi hopes for quality time spent catching up with her old friend, she soon realizes that this is a business lunch. Susan asks Heidi to be a consultant on a series pilot that focuses on single women in the art world. Heidi declines and feels even more estranged from Susan. Susan...

(This entire section contains 870 words.)

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tells Heidi that she wants them to become committed women and that she has stopped assigning blame on herself simply for being a woman.

In the next scene, Heidi’s career moves forward, and in 1986, she delivers a lecture as a distinguished alumna. Heidi reveals the real motivations in her life, as she relates an incident in a women’s locker room where she comes to the realization that she no longer wants to compete with women. Heidi’s way is to stand back and watch while others race past, for whatever goal they consider important. She tells the audience that the price, however, is that she lacks happiness in her life. She also tells them that she has felt this way for quite some time. Heidi feels stranded and alone, in a world that is supposed to unite women. She expresses her disappointment with the feminist movement’s failure to provide solidarity.

On Christmas Eve, 1987, Heidi meets Peter, now a pediatrician, at the children’s hospital where he works. She tells Peter she is moving out of New York, to Northfield, Minnesota, to teach. Peter finally declares his need for Heidi’s friendship, and she agrees to stay in New York. Two years later, Scoop visits Heidi’s apartment for a final farewell. She has adopted a baby, named Judy, and Scoop has sold his magazine, intent on moving on with his creative life. Scoop tells Heidi that she is the epitome of the 1990’s mother, and Heidi admits that the possibility of a promising future for Judy makes her genuinely happy. Scoop leaves. Heidi holds Judy and rocks her.