Saturday, December 3, 2011

Little big woman

To learn that Elisabeth Young-Bruehl has died this month is quite sad. Wikipedia seems to be aware of this before even the New York Times is able to publish an obituary. She will most certainly be remembered as a scholar who was recognized for great work during her lifetime. I am certain that she will also be remembered by many as a loving and caring person. I only meet her once, and the meeting was brief. Sitting with the memory of that meeting affords a meditation on the power of little moments.

While in grad school, I had walked up to the New York Psychoanalytic Institute to hear her give a talk on the relevance of early childhood dyadic relations. Afterwards, I approached her with my dissertation chair's copy of her then recent book: The Anatomy of Prejudices. I asked her to sign the dust jacket under her photograph knowing that when I returned the book to its owner the autograph would serve to initiate a good and challenging conversation regarding the relationships between social psychology and psychoanalysis on the matter of prejudice. I said something to this effect to Young-Bruehl who after signing the book, proceeded to pinch my cheek while saying, "Keep the faith kid."

Walking back to the subway in my pinched cheek reverie, I noticed that I was enjoying a Brady Bunch memory. My memory was of a well known episode that is centered around Marsha's exclamation that she will never again wash her cheek due to the fact that Davy Jones has planted a kiss on her cheek. To identify with Marsha said something regarding the potency of Young-Bruehl's pinch. As my face has since been washed countless times, the memory continues to open my heart with the joy that is love.

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