Kathleen Parker

All over America, boomer women are praying that there is no John Peavoy in their past. That is to say, no erstwhile friend who saved their college letters and feels compelled to share them with The New York Times.

Most aren't as famous as Hillary Rodham Clinton and so wouldn't inspire a long-ago pen pal to dig up their angst-filled ramblings. Nor, we can imagine, are most as literate and thoughtful as Hillary was during her years at Wellesley College.

But everyone of pre-Facebook age must be wondering whatever happened to whatshisname. And those blasted letters!

Given America's intimate knowledge of Hillary's life and marriage, it seemed unlikely that there was anything left to know. What possible humiliations could remain for her to suffer?

Enter the Dickensian Peavoy. He's got mail.

Some of the dozens of letters from a four-year period in the 1960s had been previously quoted by author Gail Sheehy in her 1999 biography, "Hillary's Choice." Eight years later, Times writer Mark Leibovich got a peek and now we're all reading between the lines.

No one should be held accountable for the thoughts of her college self -- a time notable for self-absorption -- but Hillary can't feel much embarrassed by her mental doodlings. Her letters reveal that she was self-deprecating, self-aware, intellectually curious and morally demanding of herself.

Her thoughts were not atypical of college students in the tumultuous '60s. The boomer generation marinated in the civil rights and anti-war movements and came of age with the drug and sexual revolutions. It was a heady time, but also a period of immense upheaval, not only in the larger world but also within the moral child.

Hillary was certainly that. Raised a Republican in a conservative, middle class home, her cultural experience, as for many boomers, was at odds with that of her parents. Becoming independent of her family was clearly a source of inner conflict.

"God, I feel so divorced from Park Ridge, parents, home, the entire unreality of middle class America," she wrote. "This all sounds so predictable, but it's true."

Hillary was scornful of complainers and do-nothings, noting even that her pen pal was a "reactor'' rather than an "actor." She was also disapproving of, but not judgmental toward, friends who slept over with boyfriends or took drugs. She was toughest on herself, critical of her self-absorption and ramblings about "me," which she described as "the world's saddest word."

Kathleen Parker

Kathleen Parker is a syndicated columnist with the Washington Post Writers Group.
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