The Proust Questionnaire: Birthday Edition

Next week Kathy will turn 50!

As part of this auspicious occasion , I, her life partner, have commandeered her blog to give  readers an opportunity to know a bit more about her–though anyone who has ever read her writing, knows Kathy well, for she is forthright and brave, exposing aspects of her life that are at once glorious and heartbreaking, embarrassing and (always) inspiring.

This will be a two-part post – the first will include The Proust Questionnaire, (familiar to those who read the back page of Vanity Fair); the second will share my more personal feelings for Kathy.

Kathy and Sara in Vietnam--

The Proust Questionnaire is a series of questions posed to subjects about their lives, thoughts, values and experiences.  This questionnaire became associated with Proust when the young Marcel was asked to fill out questionnaires at two social events: one when he was 13, another when he was 20.   Proust did not invent this party game; he is simply the most extraordinary person to respond to it—until Kathy.

  • What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?

Being in a psychiatric hospital in four point restraints.  That represented an extremity of defeat.  [For more than a decade, due to bipolar disorder, Kathy cycled in and out of psychiatric hospitals, so this is an actual experience she is referring to.]

  • What is your idea of perfect happiness?

To live on a beach in Thailand with Sara, Ralph and Lucy.

  • What is your greatest fear?

Not willing to share that– 

  • Which living person do you most admire?

My partner Sara–

  • What do you consider the most overrated virtue?


  • On what occasion do you lie?

When I am angry – and want to say hateful things.

  • Which words or phrases do you most overuse?

Wow and Gosh!

  • Which talent would you most like to have?

To be a better writer, and I would also like to be able to draw representationally.

  • What is your current state of mind?

I feel like I’m in limbo, like I’m in-between, restless, and unsettled.

  • If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

My weight–

  • Where would you like to live?

Somewhere in Asia or Africa–

  • What is your most marked characteristic?

That I’m easily flustered – easily overwhelmed.  I don’t like that about myself.

  • Who are your favorite heroes/heroines of fiction?

Two come to mind – both are narrators in Margaret Atwood’s novels. One is not named.  She is the narrator of The Handmaid’s Tale, trapped in a world from which there is no escape, and yet she retains a vital inner life and shares a compelling story.  I would want to know her.   And the second, Elaine, who is the narrator of Cat’s Eye.   She is an artist who grows up with a best friend who betrays her, but most compelling is how she uses art to represent her past – how she images her past.

  • Your favorite painter?

Frida Kahlo.  Her self-portraits are compelling.

  • Your favorite musician?

Indigo Girls–

  • The quality you most admire in a man?

Don’t know if I can delineate by gender.   Intellect and sense of humor.

  • The quality you most admire in a woman?

Intellect and sense of humor.   I would add creativity, but don’t know why I don’t attribute that to men.

  • What is your favorite color?

Almost-green, not a pure green, but a green that leans toward blue or yellow.

  • What is your favorite flower?


  • What is your favorite bird?


  • Who are your favorite writers?

Margaret Atwood–and poets: Louise Gluck, Olga Broumas, and Sharon Olds.

  • What are your favorite names?

Sara(h), Lucy, Emily, Elizabeth.  I’ve just always loved these names.

  • What do you consider your greatest achievement?


  • If you could choose what to come back as, what would it be?

My own dog–

  • What is your most treasured possession?

Lucy— [Kathy’s Maltese]

  • How would you like to die?

In my sleep, without knowing it was coming.

  • What is your motto?

Live Large;  Dream Big!

What questions do you have for Kathy?   

The second part of my commandeered post will be coming soon!   


80 thoughts on “The Proust Questionnaire: Birthday Edition

  1. I love the Indigo Girls too!

    I love all the answers, except I don’t like the fact that you answered with something you don’t like about yourself for your most marked characteristic. Come on Kathy, we all know you are a fabulous person. I humbly request that you rethink your answer on that one. Or maybe we should ask Sara for her opinion 🙂


  2. I love this post. Sara, you are an amazing partner to the fabulous Kathy. Kathy, I agree with 2summers, rethink that answer. You are such an incredible, talented, creative, warm person. I knew that from the first words I read, and it was reaffirmed the moment I met you.


    • She is pretty wonderful. I have to agree. Like I told Heather, I misunderstood the question. I actually think my most marked characteristic is probably diligence–or maybe, perfectionism. In other words, I expect a lot of myself. I’m driven–for good sometimes, sometimes for the worst.


  3. I love this post! I’ve come to know Kathy as a compassionate person and generous friend. I love her sense of openness and the fact that she is so accepting. Getting to know Kathy more through these responses just adds to all that I admire about her. Thanks, Sara! Looking forward to Part 2!


    • Oh, Terri, thank you. How wonderful to hear that you think such great things about me. You have made my day. Sara has actually finished Part 2, and it is something to look forward to. She’s so, so dear–and good to me!


  4. Excellent post, Sara! Thank you for sharing more about your wonderful girl with her readers. You guys make a lovely match and the pictures are great.

    My question is this, Kathy, what are you doing on your milestone birthday proper? Possibly, this can be the third post in the series, or at least the PG rated portions.


  5. Thanks, Sara. What a fun and generous idea as a gift to Kathy. She has led an interesting life, that’s for sure. And she seems to have weathered it well. She is a very supportive and caring individual. Looking forward to part 2.


    • Thanks for reading, Christine. I thought it was a wonderful gift, as well. And I’m glad to hear you think I’ve weathered my life well–that’s a great way to put it! I think you will enjoy part 2 even more.


  6. This was just so sweet. I don’t have any further questions. I am looking forward to part 2. Happy upcoming Birthday, Kathy! I hope this year showers you in all of your hearts desires.


  7. Yay! I was hoping that someday Sara would write to us! Can’t wait to read posts 2 and 3……….Kathy, question one makes my heart ache for you. I am so sorry that you had to experience that. However, I am thankful that you came out the other end so happy and blessed with a partner like Sara. Hugs to you both!


    • I know, Sista, it truly is sad. I wish I hadn’t had to go through that, but I don’t think in retrospect i would change it. Does that make sense? I think it taught me a degree of empathy I might not have otherwise. Hugs to you, too, dear heart!


  8. Happy not yet your birthday post! My question…. if you could “do” anything to make someone else happy, what would that “thing” be? An actual action, or activity. 🙂


  9. I hope this was as much fun to do as it was to read. Here’s my question:
    What is your “edge” these days? What frontiers are you venturing into, what experiments, new vistas?


    • Sandy, this is such a great question. Besides mentioning the edge that is “old age,” (lol) I think I might want to wait and address this the post I write for my birthday itself. This is such a perfectly articulated question I want to save it. Is that okay?


    • What am I most proud of? Hmmmmmmmmmmm———— I’m proud of the course I created that took students to the slums of New Delhi, and apart from that I guess I’m most proud of my sanity. Surely there’s more, but I need to give it some thought. I think I may need to write a post about the later, as I imagine, if you haven’t been as crazy as I was, it might be hard to imagine being proud of that. Another great question. Thanks, Deanna!


  10. Happy Almost Birthday Kathy! My addition to the Proust Questionnaire: What in your life are you most proud of?
    I love the build-up to celebrating your birthday – I’ve been away, but am now catching up on my blog reading…


      • Oh and I am still reading “The Handmaid’s Tale” – heavy stuff, but I go back to it again and again and, like you, am in awe of the narrator. My goodness she was brave. I wonder if I could be as brave as her in similar circumstances?


      • Yes, you’re right. It is an intense book. I can’t even imagine how I would handle her situation either. You may be wise to take the novel in small pieces. Hugs to you today————–


  11. Happy Birthday, Kathy! I have thoroughly enjoyed reading your posts and learning about your fascinating history and sharing in your present life. You have a great partner in Sara! How lucky for you – and I’m sure she feels the same way! Here’s to many more happy birthdays!!


  12. Sara, how lovely to meet you! I only introduced myself to Kathy recently, when Robin at the Bogs invited her readers to call in and look at the photos of your home. I’m so glad I took Robin up on her invitation!

    Kathy, your openness and honesty, especially with you health issues, make me laugh and cry, and sometimes laugh and cry at the same time! But most of all I feel like hugging you and reassuring you that you have nothing to worry about, everything will be okay and you are totally wonderful just the way you are! 🙂

    I’m looking forward to part two, Sara. 🙂


    • Joanne, you are such a sweetie. I’m so glad you think I’m okay the way I am. I suppose I am. Sometimes it’s good to be reminded of that very simple and fundamental message.

      Sara and I are both looking forward to folks reading part 2. I think it’s the better of the two posts–or, I should say, the really, really touching part for me.


  13. Happy Birthday Kathy. You’re my favorite teacher I ever had, don’t listen to Mrs. Chivalray from 1st grade. She doesn’t hold a key to you.

    I hope this birthday is so great that you celebrate it annually, for the rest of your life. haha ;D


  14. Great post Sara! Thank you for being so creative in telling us more about Kathy 🙂 This was so much fun, and so revealing despite the brevity of Kathy’s answers. What a person likes or dislikes says so much about their personality. I found myself chuckling at some of Kathy’s answers, nodding with approval at others 🙂
    Kathy, my bestest wishes to you all the way from Karachi on turning ‘golden’ 😀 May you have the happiest birthday ever and that you stand on your weighing scale that day and see that you have magically dropped 5 lbs! Hugs and kisses!


    • Oh, Mun, I appreciate the Karachian good wishes. By the way, is “Karachian” a word? I know my answers were short, but Sara didn’t want me to elaborate. She was afraid I would try to clarify and qualify my responses into non-answers.

      And dropping 5 pounds would be terrific. That’s the best wish ever! Hugs to you, my friend!


  15. Sorry it took me so long to comment on this beautiful, touching post — AND WISH YOU HAPPY BIRTHDAY, KATHRYN!!! … I feel like I know you a little bit better from Sarah’s loving interview, and I was very touched by the obvious deep love and connection you two have with each other. Lovely!!
    (p.s. don’t worry too much about being in limbo – once you get the other side of 50, you are going to kick into HIGH gear!! and personally, i can’t wait for the book!)


    • Oh, Betty, you are such a sweetie. Sara and I have a deep and lasting connection. We are truly blessed. She tolerates my moods and I accept her moving us off to strange and exotic locations. (And actually I love the travel.)

      I’m delighted to hear you want to read the book. I’m looking forward to it, as well. Hope you have arrived safely in Peru!


      • I agree … I thought the photo of the two of you was beautiful. Happy Almost Birthday … as you head towards 50, just remember it gets better every year. I really do think we get a little bit smarter each year (because we finally figure out we don’t know a darn thing). I’m at 53, heading towards 54 in August, and I know a little less each day!


      • Oh, thanks so much. Glad to hear you like the photo.

        And, yes, the most important thing we ever learn is that we don’t know a damn thing. I’m happy you think life improves with age. Good news!

        Happy Tuesday to you, my friend!


  16. What a delightful post! Thank you, Sara, for commandeering Kathy’s blog and playing interviewer for her birthday.
    I’m a big fan of Margaret Atwood and The Handmaid’s Tale in particular. Have you read The Blind Assassin? I enjoyed that novel as well.
    I bet if you came back as your own dog, you would live a very good life indeed! 🙂
    I’m looking forward to part 2!


    • No, I have not read the “Blind Assassin”–don’t know why. Thanks for recommending it.

      I, too, loved Sara wanting to take over my blog for my birthday, but she still doesn’t want to respond to comments. Alas.

      Thanks for reading, Jackie!



  17. What a wonderful post! First of all, my friend Kathy is only turning 29….so you got the age mixed up a bit Sara….. And thanks so much for the great giggle because I will never look at Kathy’s smiling pic again without thinking of her constantly saying “Gosh!” and “Wow!”….. heheheheheh 🙂


  18. Wonderful post! Thank you to Sara for helping us learn more about Kathy.

    Kathy: We have a lot of likes (favorite writers, artists, etc.) in common. And so glad the Robin is your favorite bird. 😀


  19. Brilliant post, Sara! I am a HUGE fan of lists like these, so it was a real treat to read this trivia about one of my favourite bloggers, Kathy! 🙂

    I would also be interested to know how you (Kathy) are planning to celebrate your milestone birthday. Can’t wait for Part 2 of this post!


    • So glad you enjoyed this, Dana. Today (Saturday) we are celebrating at my sister’s with my family, and tomorrow with Sara’s family at her father’s. Monday–we have nothing special planned–except that Sara is going to cook me my favorite meal–Pad Thai!


  20. Happy to have paused here today and read the questions and answers. Learning more about you each day, Kathy! I hope you are enjoying your day with Sara’s family. And tomorrow–can we all virtually join you for Pad Thai?


  21. I loved this! Honest, raw, brave……I am bipolar also and have struggled with mental illness and suicide in my family. I hope that one day I have the honor of meeting you two ladies. I already ADORE you both! lol And I know that I would walk away richer, wiser, and smiling. Thank you for sharing! xoxo


    • Oh, Julia, thanks so much for reading this! And thanks even more for sharing that you are bipolar! I hope we get to meet you, too. And, darn, your comments make me want to rush to you blog. I think Sara and I would both love you!


    • Okay, I’m already subscribed to your blog, but I am not getting the announements. Wonder why? I clearly had visited, subscribed, and then not gotten the notices about new posts. Would you mind looking to see if I am on your list of subscribers?


      • believe it or not, Kathryn, I’m unsure how to see a list of who’s following my blog! I’m such a dinosaur when it comes to all of this! lol I’ll keep looking! Thanks for trying! I SO appreciate it! And I have a feeling that we are all surely meant to meet one day! Take good care! xoxo


      • I don’t see you on my list of subscribers. And I don’t know how to send you an invite without your email address. Maybe you could try to “follow” again? I know you’re busy and hesitate to even bother you with this. Thanks so much for the note, though. I SO look forward to meeting you and Sara sometime in the future! Take great care, ladies! xoxo


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