The well-publicised rumors about her husband, Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass). and other women hurt, Joan Kennedy told her longtime friend, Joan Braden, in an interview for the current issue of McCalls. "I began thinking, 'Well, maybe I'm just not attractive enough or whatever," and it was awfully easy to then say, "Well after all you know if that's the way it is, I might as well have a drink."

"I tired to talk about it, but I was embarassed and Ted was embarrassed about it. Everybody was embarrassed about it. Even my best friend would tiptoe around it."

Her solution was to go back to Boston, where she could easily be visited by her children and her husband. "I was not running away from Washington nor from Ted. I was making a forward step for myself. Now that I'm here I think that forward step has been good for both of us," Kennedy said.

She told Braden that Washington had gotten to be too much - her own personnal troubles including three miscarriages and her son Teddy's bout with cancer four years ago - had caught up with her. Boston was a step for more space, she said.

"Washington tends to be a nebulous town, with people moving in and out so fast it's hard to make friends. One of the most marvelous things about Boston is the privacy. And even though I'm the wife of the senior senator from Massachusetts I have more privacy in Boston than I do in Washington," she said.

And Joan Braden who came to Washington at about the same time and quickly began to earn a reputation in Camelot's inner circle as a good party-giver, says Joan Kennedy's recovery is marvelous.

"I spent two days with her and took 95 pages of notes - I had started out on the assignment with some apprehensions, because she was so down and out there for a while.

"But as soon as I got there and saw that look in her eye," Braden recalls , "I knew she was okay. It's not a permanent step, this living in Boston, but it is, in her words, space.

"I haven't seen the article yet, but I do hope the picture came out good. They wanted to use an old picture but when I got there and saw how she looked - my God, shewas a beautiful woman again. I made them take a new one.

Braden, now working as a consultant to the American Petroleum Institute, says, "You don't have to be Joan Kennedy to fall apart like she did. But she's really taken charge now."