Barbara Walters

Well, I want to talk now about having it all. Men and women today are faced with choices that their parents and grandparents didn’t have that is they want to have a private life that’s important as well as a career. You want to be involved with your children. You don’t want to leave it up to daddy or leave it up to parents. How do you have it all? There are still choices that you will make. One of the greatest problems you will face and one of the greatest joys and perhaps triumphs is balancing this life. The career, the relationship, whatever it may be, the children. I thought about what I would do, really because I just love it and it’s fun, to tell you about Katharine Hepburn. Do you know who she is? Good. Well, some of you are saying, “Who? Which? What?” She was a great actress. She died in 2003 at the age of 96 and she was a beloved icon, in part because she was so definite about everything. She talked like this and she was very definite.

I remember coming back from the Middle East and we were talking about something. She said, “I see things in black and white. Don’t you?” I said, “I’ve just gotten back from the Middle East. I’m afraid I see things in shades of grey.” She said, “Well, I pity you.” I talked with her. She had married once very young. Never married again and had a long affair with the actor Spencer Tracy. She had a great career. She never had children and she did not have a great marriage. I said, “Can you have a career and a marriage and children?” She said, “You couldn’t when I started. At least you couldn’t have a marriage that would please me because the ladies are going to have to be careful that they don’t all marry morons.” I said, “Why?”

She said, “Well, because they don’t deliver the goods as wives. We’re very confused. Sexually very confused. Look at the birds and the beast and the male and the female. There are very definite types. We’re getting awfully confused. I put on pants 50 years ago and declared a middle road, but I have not lived as a woman. I have lived as a man.” I said, “How so?” She said, “Well, I’ve just done what I damn well wanted to and I made enough money to support myself and I ain’t afraid of being alone.” I said, “Is it so hard to have it all? The marriage, the children, the career? I think it’s very tough. Much of my life has been a balancing act.”

She said, “It’s impossible. If I were a man I would not marry a woman with a career and I would torture myself as a mother. Suppose little Johnny or little Katie had the mumps and I had an opening night? I’d want to strangle the children. I would really want to strangle the children. I’d be thinking to myself I’ve got to get into the mood. What’s the matter with him. Then out of my way.” You see? I said, “If you were a man you would not marry a woman with a career?” She said, “I wouldn’t be that big a fool. I’d want her to be interested in me, not a career. A career is fascinating. I don’t know what the hell the women are going to do, or the men, so welcome to the life of choices.” Then my favorite part of the interview did not have to do with choices.

I said to her, “Do you remember the last time we talked? I did something that I have regretted ever since. We were talking about your getting on and you said, which people don’t remember, you said, ‘I’m like an old tree.’ I said, ‘What kind of a tree?’ You said, ‘I’m like an oak tree.’ I said, ‘Right, everybody forgets that you said you were like a tree.’ My obituary it’s going to say she asked people what kind of tree they want to be. Why did she ask that wonderful Katharine Hepburn what kind of a tree, right?'”

She said, “I wonder what kind of a tree people are all the time. Don’t you?” Do you ever wonder what kind of a tree your best friend is?” “Well,” she said, “You didn’t mean that question? I look out and I know I’m not that damn sycamore in the backyard that drops his branches and is liable to kill people. I’m not a silly piddling little tree. I am a wonderful oak tree. I saw one this big around in the woods. A while oak with branches that go right through the wall. Great like that.” Symbolic. That’s okay.


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