The Vulnerable Core in “The Iron Lady”

I just saw the film “The Iron Lady” with Meryl Streep putting in a stunning performance as Margaret Thatcher. 

I had anticipated the political biopic plotline and the Greek tragedy nature of Thatcher’s arrogance-induced downfall.

What I wasn’t prepared for in the film were the dual sub-themes of a) the in-depth treatment of her relationship with her husband Dennis Thatcher; and b) the focus on the vicissitudes of the aging process.

These two aspects of the movie struck a very personal chord for me as I suspect they will for many moviegoers and it is making me reflect on my own life. That surely is one of the criteria of good art.

We tend to see public figures largely in terms of their professional roles. Where their private lives do become visible is often in sensationalized situations, rarely in the context of their principal affectionate relationships. Margaret Thatcher is identified with (and loathed by many for) her politics. We get that in “The Iron Lady” but we unexpectedly get the impact on this woman of her love for and then the loss of her significant other. That theme in the film started my self-reflection.

I worked for thirty-plus years in the area of global environmental ethics, principally climate change. During this period, I participated in countless international conferences with the UN and academic institutions, was interviewed by media many times, and authored five books. After I took early retirement for health reasons, my life suddenly gyrated away from the public professional responsibilities and toward family care-giving roles with the deaths in quick succession of my parents, my partner’s parents, my younger brother, and then, cataclysmically, my long-term partner Bill.

My writing veered dramatically as I produced first a memoir of our thirty-three-year gay relationship culminating in the two weeks between his cancer diagnosis and his death, and then a novel that similarly depicts love, laughter, and loss.

My profile as an academic writer has been displaced by that of a story-teller of deeply personal experiences of love and grief. I sometimes feel like I have become an emotional exhibitionist, a dramatic role reversal from that of my decades-long professional persona. 

I have significant misgivings about that transition.

The other dimension in “The Iron Lady” that caught me off-guard was the searing portrayal of the aging process particularly as it is impacted by the loss of one’s partner.  

I left the theatre a bit shaken by how that aging process might play out in my life. I’m not ready. Are you?

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My memoir “August Farewell” tells the story of the two weeks between Bill’s diagnosis with pancreatic cancer and his death. Interspersed among the scenes are vignettes from our thirty-three years together as a gay couple.

Information on “August Farewell” and on my novel “Searching for Gilead” is available on my website at

Both the memoir and the novel are available for order from your local bookseller or on-line retailers including,,,,

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The two pictures below: a) in the professional role early in my working career; b) the current “author” photo used on my memoir and novel.






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2 responses to “The Vulnerable Core in “The Iron Lady”

  1. PeeOnYourShoe (Leora)

    Ready? Who can be ready for the unknow? Despite of many dramatic aspects of my personal life, despite of my sister’s fibromyalgia -I’m her caregiver- I don’t think I’m ready. I’m not more ready than you’re an emotional exhibitionist! During early years, I lived with few of them, I can see the difference 😉

  2. Donna Sinclair

    I believe that the personal essay (which I write as well) is a way of connecting with readers in a profound way. It requires courage and honesty, and a careful sense of where the boundaries are. Interesting to see you musing on this question of sharing emotions ( I do too) — but let me assure you that you have the required courage, honesty, boundaries — as well as enormous power to engage the reader. It is wonderful and authentic (so please don’t stop!!!)

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