Mink blankets most of her, but underneath are thick brown corduroys, a wheaty cardigan, the floppy blouse that hides a soft shape soothed by her Seatle hot tub.
"I'll think I'm rich," she is saying, "when the phone rings and I don't have to worry that it's Master Charge calling to tell me I'm overdrawn." Her face is lose and round with lines. At the eyes are creases.
"There are still months," she continues, "when I don't know where the next dollar is coming from.'"
Odd words from a woman who has just finished a book on other women, the kind who view Manhattan by limousine, commute for weekend marriages, advise the president, run a college.The kind who are engulfed in power, money and housekeeper.One of them $750,000 a year.
The book is called "Women on Top," and is another examination of the female overachiever as she relates a personal life to professional success. Its author is Jane Adams, who stopped in Washington this week on her promotional tour. She doesn't mind it, she says, "It's almost like conceiving a new child on the delivery table."
The book eight months from conception to birth, presents a conclusion that is hardly startling: True success for women is not either professional or personal, but a combination of the two.
Adams manages to shred the myth of the successful woman as ice goddess. Her research reveals a composite woman who is "both successful and caring, a woman who does not feel she has to hide the caring side of herself in order to achieve, to be No. 1."
Her conclusion was culled from extensive interviews with five dozen women. Some of them are household names, some not, but all are perceived by their peers as eminently successful. Some of their words are provocative.
From Gail Sheehy, author of Passages": "The fact that there is another, compelling world for a woman -- in my case, the world of ideas, of passion; an engrossing, surging, almost sexual feeling that comes when you are with your project -- is difficult for men to accept. They are an intrusion, and there's no use pretending they're not.
From Betsy Johnson, the designer: "I love to fall in love for a few days -- it's a real high, and it's enough."
From Suzanne Woolsey, associate director of the Office of Management and Budget: "I'm doing what I want to do and having everything I want to have, so no, I don't spend a lot of time examining my soul. My husband and children are marvelous, my career is rewarding and exciting . . ."
As adams puts it: "I think I can have it all -- although I may not be able to have it all at once."
What seems more interesting than the book is comparing it to the career of the author herself, a woman who -- if you wade through the initial pep -- lets on that she, for one, has never had it all, most certainly not "the all" of the women she writes about. President adviser Sarah Weddington; New York Times senior editor Charlotte Curtis; Henri Bendel president Geri Stutz -- three of 60 she interviewed, three of 60 whose careers she examined and found as torchlights to what she sees as the flicker of her own.
She has written a book about women on top, and it is a book by a woman who would very much like to be.
"I get depressed," says Adams, "because I started late. There's just not enough time to do what I have to do. I have a lot of doubts about whether my perserverance and my abilities will live up to what I want to do".
Adams is 39, raised in Connecticut, educated at Smith, politicized as a Washington press aide during the '60s, married, then divorced. Intermittent free-lancer, mother of two and author of "Sex and the Single Parent," she now lives in Seattle and thinks of moving East.
But she worries. "I'm too old to be poor and nobody in New York," she says. "I have a place in Seattle, people know who I am. It's a safe place. But it doesn't offer me the stimulation that I really require."
The icy light comes in from L Street, picking out a small mole on her cheek. The setting is late afternoon, a cafeteria. She drinks Coke from a paper cup, rummaging now and then through her travel bag for cigarettes.
She talks for two hours. During the first, she says things like: "By my standards, I'm successful. I'm doing what I want most in the world to do -- and I'm being compensated for it. I would do what I do, even if they didn't pay me."
During the second hour, she talks about her need for men, about the problems of raising two children, alone, about the financial insecurities of free-lancing, about the economic realities of writing non-best sellers. Though she says women can juggle it all, you get a sense that she, for the moment, doesn't.
"I think the presence of a special man in my life would add a great deal to it," Adam says. "I don't have that. I do have some friends -- and some lovers -- and in some fortunate connections, those two roles coincide.
"Right now," she reflects, "it's not the highest on my list of needs. But I'd like a little romance in my life."
Her next book is about men, tentatively titled "Successful Men -- A New Look at the American Dream." She plans to send out questionnaires to 500 males, then interview 50. Her premise, so far, is that a new professional woman has helped create a new professional man.
Writing "Women on Top" "showed me how much further I have to go," she says, "and it gave me role models." They are women like Pat Neighbors, the vice president of Avon, whom she admires for her skill with people, and Natalie Lang, a Hill and Knowlton executive to whom she looks for perserverance.
"I don't know what it's like to have a book on the top of the best-seller list," she says. "But if that happens, to echo what Gail Sheehy says, it'll be another ride in a terrific amusement park."
It is a possibility she has few qualms about. "All the women I talked to seemed quite happy with their success," she adds. "And I'll take their word for it."