My Role Models: Baby and Sydney Ellen Wade

My love language has always been legislative action

When I was in elementary school, I was obsessed with Dirty Dancing and The American President. Mount Holyoke-bound Frances “Baby” Houseman’s and Washington lobbyist Sydney Ellen Wade were brilliant women who fought for what was right, and in my little mind, they became the same person in the same story. My story. The story of who I would become.

Here I am on vacation with my family the summer before college.

Then, building on my experience as president of the school’s Ecology Club, I find myself in this meet-cute.

I’ve clearly got a type: A good man who wants to do the right thing, but other men, men who violate basic decency or fail to recognize it, get in his way. 

When I dance, the stakes are always high.


My relationships have three phrases: Boy wins girls. Boy loses girl. Boy makes a grand gesture to get girl back. 

I’d spend life vigilantly defending my honor (or another woman's), which turned out to be true, but because I watched these movies when I was far too young, I also thought every attempt was likely to be seen as a reckless failure. It had to be. Only then could my hero, left with no other choice, deal a decisive blow.


I preferred President Shepherd’s words to Johnny’s fists, but my love language has always been legislative action. When he sends the carbon-emissions bill to the floor, he’s showing up for me and America.

My life didn’t turn out to be a Dirty Dancing and The American President mash-up. I’ve never even taken a dance class on vacation, but Andrew Shepherd? He’s unexpectedly appeared in one of my meetings, too. More on that in next Wednesday’s newsletter.

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