Hillary Clinton Talks to Lena Dunham About Marrying Bill: 'I Actually Turned Him Down Twice'
When it came time for Lena Dunham to interview Hillary Clinton for her new digital newsletter Lenny, which launches September 29, she went right for the most interesting question: her marriage to Bill Clinton
“Did you have anxiety about that?” Dunham inquired. “About the concept of losing your own identity in the process of joining forces with someone who clearly had political ambitions?”
Clinton’s answer was unusually candid. “I was terrified about losing my identity and getting lost in the kind of wake of Bill s force-of-nature personality,” she told Dunham. “I actually turned him down twice when he asked me to marry him. He asked, we were in England on a trip after law school graduation. He asked me to marry him. I said, ‘You know, I can t say yes. No, I can t do that right now.’ And then, about a year later he asked me again, and I said ‘No.’ He said, ‘Well, I m not asking you again until you re ready to say yes.’ And that was a large part of the ambivalence and the worry that I wouldn t necessarily know who I was or what I could do if I got married to someone who was going to chart a path that he was incredibly clear about.”
“My ideas were much more inchoate,” she tells Dunham of her younger years. “I wasn t sure how to best harness my energies. And so I was searching. And when I taught at the law school, I set up a bigger legal aid clinic. I sent students to represent prisoners. I did a lot of poverty cases. I loved doing that. And I wasn t quite sure how everything I cared about might fit into a marriage with him. And so eventually I said yes. It was a big leap of faith, and I think most marriages are. I mean, you really do just sort of say, ‘Okay, I think I know what it s gonna be like, but I don t know for sure. Let s find out.'”
“It was great,” she says. “We were both teaching at that time. We got married in the living room of the house we had bought. And I was excited about it, but still, somewhat apprehensive. And then he did get elected to be attorney general about a year after we were married. And we moved from where we were living in Fayetteville, Arkansas to Little Rock, Arkansas. And I switched gears to practice law instead of teach law. So at every step along the way, I never could have predicted what I would have ended up doing.”
Looking back, she said,”If somebody had said when I was twenty or twenty-one, ‘Are you gonna marry somebody from Arkansas? And you re gonna teach law school at the university there, and you re gonna move there, and, you know, that s where your daughter s gonna be born ‘ It would have never been in, you know, my mind. It s just not something that I had ever imagined.”
“And, I often tell young women who ask me about my life or my career: you just make the best decision you can at the time,” she advises. “Don t be reluctant to make decisions, and don t rush into them. I mean, give them some thought. And then finally you say to yourself, ‘I think this is right for me. I m going to, go ahead and do it.’ And you just do the best you can. And I have a piece of wood that there s a slogan on in our house up in Westchester County, which says, ‘Bloom where you re planted.’ And I ve been in lots of different places where I ve had to learn how to bloom. And it s been an incredible experience.”
Clinton’s entire interview will be sent to Lenny subscribers on their launch date September 29.
The Girls writer and creator cofounded Lenny, with her producing partner Jenni Konner. The weekly newsletter will cover topics ranging from politics, style, art, health and wellness to sex and relationships. As Dunham describes it: “Lenny is an email newsletter where there’s no such thing as too much information.”