NOTE: “Woman, Writer, Designer, Wife, Stepmother” is about a remembered conversation with Hartley Waltman, who has read and approved its publication. Hartley has also kindly provided the illustrations that accompany it, for which I am truly grateful.
“You’ve said that twice in the last 15 minutes,” my friend Hartley noted, watching me wolf down a spicy fish taco at Bill’s Burger Bar just off Rockefeller Plaza.
“Said what twice?” I asked.
“That you have two lives. You said, ‘In my New York life,’ as though your New York life is some life other than the one you have with your husband wherever his works takes him,” he explained, like a therapist might to a patient in denial about something baldly obvious. A hint of a grin pulled up the corners of his mouth.
He watched me with the resolute bearing of someone convinced I couldn’t possibly come back with a logical response, waiting, I imagined, for me to wipe Sriracha Mayo from my lips and acknowledge that he was right.
“But I do have two lives. My husband has one, I have two. He has his work, his children and me, sort of like a TV show in which I’m a special guest. When I’m in New York, if you’re lucky, you might catch me on my own show, in which my friends accuse me of appearing so infrequently they’re surprised it hasn’t been cancelled. I live and work here and carry my costumes and props back and forth between my reality and his reality, where it’s sort of like hanging out in a green room waiting to film my cameo,” I said confidently, but more than a little miffed that the unconvinced look on his face meant I would have to further explain my meaning.
Fortifying myself, I dove into another fish taco.
Taking advantage of my silence Hartley insisted, “But you don’t. It’s all the same reality. There aren’t two realities. Nobody has two realities. This isn’t physics and there aren’t two TV shows. And this isn’t the entertainment business. It’s the same life. It’s all one big life. Your life, his life, even when his children–aren’t they all adults now?–are with you. So you travel back and forth, but it’s still just one life. Okay, spread out geographically a little bit, but still…”
He can be emphatic, my lawyer and cartoonist friend. Sure of himself. And calm. Very calm. Which makes it difficult, if not impossible, to argue with him when he does that self-satisfied and annoying I’m Right and You’re Wrong thing that lawyers do to justify having gone to law school so that they can argue with anyone and everyone about anything and everything for the rest of their lives, enjoying it immensely while they do.
I didn’t know this about Hartley when I met him 15 years ago at Christie’s auction house, at Rock Center a couple of blocks from Bill’s, where I was VP/Business Development Liaison, Correspondent and Speechwriter for the Chairman, and he was a new attorney in the general counsel’s office. One evening at the end of a typically long day, we found ourselves standing next to one another in the executive offices staring at a Blue Period Picasso slated for auction a few days hence.
“I heard there was a Blue Period in here. I’ve never seen one in person. Wow,” he said.