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:

aida_8341At 3 a.m. on the morning before Independence Day, I drove six hours from Santa Cruz to Los Angeles on a mission to seduce my closest male friend. Nathan and I had been buddies in high school but drifted apart afterwards; it was only recently that we’d rekindled our connection. We’d spent the past year logging long hours in online conversations laced with a potent combo of flirty chemistry and neediness. Our chats were late-night confessionals on crushes, love, and sex; I was his virtual wing-girl. We were building a strong friendship too, but I knew I was falling for him when I wanted to stay up past midnight basking in the twin glows of my laptop screen and my newly minted role as Nathan’s confidante, instead of crawling into bed with my boyfriend of six years, who I lived with.