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Elizabeth Wurtzel loses her looks
May 29, 2009 8:04 PM   Subscribe

Elizabeth Wurtzel writes: Because I need to make a point, I’m just going to be immodestly candid: I was a remarkably adorable child, the kind with such rosily expressive cheeks that grown-ups couldn’t resist pinching them. So when I became a teenager and then an adult, I was what you would call a hot number or something like that—at any rate, they put me half-dressed on the covers of my books to sell them, so draw what you will from that. Now that I’m in my forties, people say, I think kindly, She still looks good. This is to be followed by a phase of …for her age, which is hot on the trail of handsome, and then—then who knows? I think it deteriorates from there, enough so that the vain among us start to look forward to death, or at least stop resisting its horrific pull. (via)
posted by Joe Beese (175 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite

 
I blame the patriarchy.
posted by TheClonusHorror at 8:14 PM on May 29, 2009 [5 favorites]


Cripes, I hate this cultural idolizing of beauty. Can culture idolize brains a little more? It might stop being stupid if it does.
posted by kldickson at 8:18 PM on May 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


A fairly sympathetic response from a younger feminist.

"My natural reaction is that someone who has never been considered anything less than a beauty has so much privilege that she needs to shut the fuck up about it and let the rest of womankind glory in the moral superiority of having once had braces or frizzy hair or a big ass or whatever. And certainly, Wurtzel’s inability to let go is grating---even though she’s ostensibly writing about fading in her middle age (though I guess your 40s isn’t even middle age anymore), she insists that she’s even better-looking in certain ways, namely that she’s gained a couple of womanly curves, curing the “problem” of being too skinny, which you really can only be in America if you’re gawky, which she never was, so that comes off as disingenuous. But irritating as some of her statements are, I actually found the essay to be interesting, because it does address a taboo subject, which is how being beautiful in a society where that’s the number one measure of a woman can really fuck you up."
posted by rosebuddy at 8:18 PM on May 29, 2009 [32 favorites]


> Months later, when Gregg found out for sure what I was doing, when he went through files on my Mac and found letters never sent to this lover or that one, he didn’t want to make me feel better anymore. He threw a two-thirds-empty bottle of Stolichnaya at my head when I finally found him at a friend’s house. He told me, I was your only chance at happiness—now it’s over for you.

Gregg wasn't quite the perfect catch she seems to think he was. That aside, this essay was very sad. She sounds older and wiser in some ways, but she still has a lot to learn about life, other people, and herself.
posted by The Card Cheat at 8:27 PM on May 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Yeah, you know what? Youth isn't all that beautiful, really. Life well lived and inhabited is. Give me Diana Rigg or Helen Mirren over any fleet of twenty-somethings with their skin care advisors and fashion crews.
posted by jbickers at 8:29 PM on May 29, 2009 [5 favorites]


Oooooo, it sucks so hard to be pretty!
posted by Evangeline at 8:34 PM on May 29, 2009 [8 favorites]


Somewhere Gregg is sighing a sweet sigh of relief that he dodged this trainwreck.

Is she a practicing attorney? Her failure of the bar exam was celebrated on Gawker and she's not listed on the Boies Schiller directory.
posted by Frank Grimes at 8:36 PM on May 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


> Oooooo, it sucks so hard to be pretty!

I know you're being sarcastic here, but I'm quite sure* that in some ways it does suck so hard to be pretty. This doesn't mean you have to sympathize with Wurtzel, and it doesn't mean that not being pretty doesn't also suck (probably worse), but I think there are legitimate issues being raised here.

* disclaimer: I am not pretty, or female
posted by you just lost the game at 8:42 PM on May 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Somehow, I can seduce and be seduced for a moment here and there, but I can’t seem to meaningfully connect.

I'd guess (never having met her, and almost never having heard of her) that she has the same problem in real life that she does in this essay -- an intense self-absorption that has no place for anyone else. She'd be a lot of fun to date... right up until you realized that you were never going to have a place in her heart or life.

Her essay did this to me -- I loved the first page, liked the second, but about midway on the third I realized how her focus was never going to move outwards from herself, to consider the impacts of her choices on others, to consider others at all.
posted by Forktine at 8:43 PM on May 29, 2009 [44 favorites]


Somewhere Gregg is sighing a sweet sigh of relief that he dodged this trainwreck zombie, as quard finished.
posted by Mblue at 8:45 PM on May 29, 2009 [4 favorites]


That essay failed to activate my empathy gland. The quote rosebuddy offered above pretty much sums up the thoughts I had when reading it. White man's burden.
posted by maxwelton at 8:46 PM on May 29, 2009


And so, I cheated on him. With everyone I could. Bass players, editors, actors, waiters who wished they were actors, photographers. And everywhere I could, like that Sarah Silverman and Matt Damon video: on the floor, by the door, up against the minibar. I couldn’t sit still or stand still or lie still. And I didn’t want to lose Gregg either.

He knew, or must have known. But he was such a gentle guy that he gave me a chance to fix the damage. We were sitting at brunch one Sunday; Gregg was in his denim jacket and Sonic Youth T-shirt, his hair swept across his face, and he grabbed my hand over the table and looked at me so earnestly that if it had been a movie, the audience would have laughed. “I wish I could make whatever is bothering you feel better,” he said.

“I know,” was all I could say.

Months later, when Gregg found out for sure what I was doing, when he went through files on my Mac and found letters never sent to this lover or that one, he didn’t want to make me feel better anymore. He threw a two-thirds-empty bottle of Stolichnaya at my head when I finally found him at a friend’s house. He told me, I was your only chance at happiness—now it’s over for you.


Oh, fuck you lady. Hurf durf I'm a terrible person and I'm shocked that people treat me as a terrible person. Hopefully you will somewhere encounter a real problem to understand what one looks like.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 8:49 PM on May 29, 2009 [28 favorites]


* disclaimer: I am not pretty, or female

Well, I am, or at least have been (pretty - I'm still female) at some points in my life, and none of my problems ever arose from that. A smart chick can tell who's only dating her for her looks - I don't have much sympathy for the girls who date jerks and then lament the fact that he "only wanted me for my looks" or who blame society for exploiting them.
posted by Evangeline at 8:49 PM on May 29, 2009 [5 favorites]


Has a nice guy, on whom she cheats wildly, then complains about not being able to understand men when he gets hammered and pissed at her. And would like us to feel bad for her — the horror of being in the top percentile or two of attractiveness of humanity, then slipping a notch. Am I actually hearing the equivalent of a "But you just can't make it on $400,000 a year" from a financially-shaken millionaire?

Gracious, she could either find a hobby or get plastic surgery, but I doubt she'll stop and try to imagine what it is like never to have been beautiful.
posted by adipocere at 8:49 PM on May 29, 2009 [6 favorites]


This article reeks sadly of narcissism.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 8:50 PM on May 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


I read the whole essay, for the most part entranced by the style and cadence of the writing, but after a few paragraphs, I started thinking, "This isn't really going anywhere, is it?"

Interpret that however you will.
posted by strangecargo at 8:54 PM on May 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


English injury, sans Grecian. Or pap.
posted by Mblue at 8:55 PM on May 29, 2009


I was involved with a girl who absolutely insisted that I read Prozac Nation in order to "understand her." She, like Wurtzel, proved to be insufferably self-absorbed and tediously narcissistic to the point where I couldn't stand interacting with her on any meaningful level. Hence, I can think of no tag more appropriate for a Wurtzel post than "narcissism."

Also, does anyone have a working link to her media statement that said something along the lines of 9/11 wasn't a big deal and that she was upset that no one contacted her in its immediate aftermath to ask how she felt? That just sums her up so perfectly.

Oh, and as for her bar admission status, as far as I know, she's not yet Elizabeth Wurtzel, Esq. Great call on that one, Yale Law School. I heard she summered at Wilmer Hale; wonder what she did to screw that up and force the transition to Boies Schiller.
posted by Law Talkin' Guy at 8:56 PM on May 29, 2009 [5 favorites]


Oh for gods sakes lady. Go help someone. Then maybe you will become attractive to yourself.
posted by jcworth at 8:59 PM on May 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


Couldn't get anywhere near through this, reading this woman's writing is like running cheese graters over my eyeballs.
posted by The Straightener at 9:07 PM on May 29, 2009 [10 favorites]


It bugs me how Elizabeth Wurtzel has a lucrative career of writing "oh, poor little me. I'm so messed-up because I'm overly talented." Now that's messed-up.
posted by Xere at 9:13 PM on May 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Because I need to make a point, I’m just going to be immodestly candid: although I did not RTFA, based on that one paragraph and the name Elizabeth Wurtzel attached to it, I have confidently concluded it packs about as much "insight" as any random filler in Cosmopolitan.
posted by ornate insect at 9:14 PM on May 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


Ugh, flagged as Elizabeth Wurtzel.
posted by NolanRyanHatesMatches at 9:17 PM on May 29, 2009 [22 favorites]


Horrible person is still a horrible person.
posted by 2sheets at 9:18 PM on May 29, 2009


I can't figure this piece out. She wishes she were still young, while freely admitting that being young didn't get her anything (which must at least partly be due to how seriously addicted to drugs she was at the time, something she covers more in other writings). It seems like she's missing something she never had in the first place, something completely unrelated to looks.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:21 PM on May 29, 2009 [4 favorites]


I liked this, and am very surprised to find that I like her.
People like Ayelet Waldman are my abomination, but I am sympathetic to Wurtzel.

People who claim to be prettier than me never bother me at all. Congratulations, sweetie. I hope that works out well for you.
It's only people who claim to be smarter than me I find myself wanting to stab in the eye.
posted by Methylviolet at 9:29 PM on May 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


This is not the essay I wish it was. I'd love to read about the experience of growing up beautiful in this society and the transition needed while growing older, but this isn't it.

It makes me sad that people are so happy to hate on those with the "privilege" of being found beautiful. It's pretty clear how it fucks with your head, case in point - the linked essay.
posted by bobobox at 9:33 PM on May 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


"These days, I am a stable adult professional—a practicing attorney, capable of common sense—but I still know how to live life on the edge. I was a terrifically brooding and mature teenager, then a whiny and puerile adult, and now I may finally approximate the grace of a person who has come of age. But it took a very long time—probably far too long. Now that I am a woman whom some man might actually like to be with, might actually not want to punch in the face—or, at least, now that I don’t like guys who want to do that to me—I am sadly 41. I am past my perfect years."

Good god, I can't believe I wasted enough time to read this far. Joe, dude, your posts are edging ever closer to mere baiting, and honestly, I'm falling for it, and not liking it. Maybe let someone else take over the one-link tranwreck linkery for now?

Alternatively, greasemonkey killfile anyone?
posted by mwhybark at 9:33 PM on May 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


ha, tranwreck.

I of course meant trainwreck.
posted by mwhybark at 9:35 PM on May 29, 2009


It makes me sad that people are so happy to hate on those with the "privilege" of being found beautiful. It's pretty clear how it fucks with your head, case in point - the linked essay.

It's not about "hating" on beautiful people. It's about rejecting lame excuses for bad behavior and self-pity.
posted by Evangeline at 9:35 PM on May 29, 2009 [8 favorites]


She's not a lawyer, she's a professional navelgazer who failed the bar but still keeps calling herself an attorney. Maybe if she'd stop the constant self-analysis, she'd be happier and less irritating.

I thought law firms were pretty strict about not hiring people with sketchy backgrounds.
posted by anniecat at 9:39 PM on May 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


She got pretty because she was rich. She went to harvard because she was rich. She became a writer because she was rich. She works for a law firm despite flunking the bar twice because she's rich.

Also, see: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xMg8V3nGNuY
posted by mobunited at 9:40 PM on May 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


Not enough goddam Prozac on the entire fucking planet, apparently.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:46 PM on May 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Here's a recent photo of her. I can understand why she's depressed. Pretty unflattering.
posted by anniecat at 9:47 PM on May 29, 2009


Pretty unflattering.

But...but...MERMAID HAIR!!!!!!!!!!
posted by padraigin at 9:50 PM on May 29, 2009


I was actually prepared to have some sympathy, but none of her problems seemed intrinsically tied to her looks. Being pretty doesn't make you addicted to drama in relationships and unable to connect with people.
posted by Nattie at 10:04 PM on May 29, 2009 [4 favorites]


Cool, Elizabeth Wurtzel MadLibs:
I was a [punctually obsequious] child, the kind with such [fatally glistening nares] that grown-ups couldn’t resist [pasteurizing] them. So when I became a [knothole] and then an [okapi], I was what you would call a [douche bag] or something like that—at any rate, they put me half-[greased] on the covers of my books to [solder] them, so draw what you will from that. Now that I’m in my [Pleistocene Epoch], people say, I think [irascibly], She still looks [expensive]. This is to be [burrowed] by a phase of …for her age, which is [busy] on the trail of [vertebral], and then—then who knows? I think it [lactates] from there, enough so that the [syphilitic] among us start to look forward to [couch], or at least stop [sanitizing] its [crenelated] [Rob Liefeld].
posted by total warfare frown at 10:04 PM on May 29, 2009 [31 favorites]


I think it's kind of interesting, and sad in its own way, that she isn't Elizabeth Wurtzel. She's "Prozac Nation's Elizabeth Wurtzel".

The arc of art imitating the arc of life, or something.
posted by dhartung at 10:14 PM on May 29, 2009


But eventually, at some somber and sobering calendar date, most of us lose our looks and likewise one of our charms—and I will lose mine. At which time, for me at least, there won’t be much point to life anymore at all.

She really needs help.
posted by cmgonzalez at 10:16 PM on May 29, 2009


On Sept. 11, 2001, Ms. Wurtzel watched the twin towers fall from her apartment at Greenwich and Warren Streets, close to ground zero.

No she didn't, because she couldn't be bothered to get out of the bed.
posted by orange swan at 10:18 PM on May 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


Elizabeth Wurtzel writes the book Elizabeth Wurtzel fans have been waiting on Elizabeth Wurtzel for: Elizabeth Wurtzel on Elizabeth Wurtzel: The Elizabeth Wurtzel Story.
posted by boo_radley at 10:20 PM on May 29, 2009 [13 favorites]


"I still know how to live life on the edge"

What does this mean?
posted by frobozz at 10:31 PM on May 29, 2009


On Sept. 11, 2001, Ms. Wurtzel watched the twin towers fall from her apartment at Greenwich and Warren Streets, close to ground zero.

They all leave you eventually, don't they?
posted by dhartung at 10:33 PM on May 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


From anniecat's NYT link:
One day, in her criminal law class, while discussing the differences in sentencing guidelines for cocaine- and crack-related offenses. Ms. Wurtzel said, “Cocaine is a party and crack is a crime spree.”
Perry Fucking Mason, baby.
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:38 PM on May 29, 2009 [4 favorites]


She's not very attractive now, and I suspect there's pain in knowing the younger boys she can "still" pick up really only want to fuck her so they've got a story to tell. No longer a conqueror. With her self-described inability to form satisfying long-term relationships, this has got to make one feel lower than street whore, even if the sex is still "hot."

I read Prozac Nation nearly as soon as I could read in English. It was an "easy-to-read" book. I had a hard time with the narcissism and with how greatly Wurtzel was blessed in nearly every way . . . and how she was so foolish as to appreciate none of it.

I've talked a lot about my horrifying war experiences here, but every day I wake up and just can't believe how lucky I am. I'm pretty healthy and look good and have a good job and a fine life in most ways. I know that there are people who have had one hundred and fifty nightmarish days for every one that I've "enjoyed." I know it would be a sin to forget that. When I came here, I was somewhat uniquely in the dark about aspects of the war in Bosnia (at least for someone who cared.) In Sarajevo, we were surrounded and little news of the rest of the country (and world) got in. It wasn't until I got to America that I heard more than rumor about things like this:

Mistrust, prejudice and little support – this is the daily life of thousands of women raped during the Bosnian war (1992-1995), 14 years after the end of the conflict. It is unknown how many women were raped, but estimates reveal at least 25,000, most of them Muslim. There were Serbs and Croats, too. NGOs estimate that about one thousand children were born out of such abuses.

There is the case of a raped woman who kept her child, then suffered a nervous breakdown, and killed the baby after a few months. While claiming their rights at various institutions of the country, some of the raped women found their abusers as employees in the public offices that they approached. There, too, is the son of a raped woman who was adopted by a couple from a city 110 kilometers from Sarajevo. His adoptive parents say that the child was on the verge of suicide after his biological mother denied any contact with him and his schoolmates branded him derogatory names.


Prozac Nation reads like comedy in comparison. Worse, I've known many "victims" of many atrocities whose nature was still, essentially, loving, giving and altruistic. Wurtzel doesn't seem to realize the rest of the world isn't simply her own personal backdrop. Ten years ago, I would have really resented Wurtzel receiving six-figure checks for simply whining. But now she's become the victim she wanted others to see; she even knows it's her doing. But she's playing the same game, which shows she;s learned nothing.

I actually do feel sorry for her now. Life's short, and there's a point of no likely return. Welcome to the mirror, Elizabeth.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 10:43 PM on May 29, 2009 [63 favorites]


I'd love to read about the experience of growing up beautiful in this society and the transition needed while growing older, but this isn't it.

It makes me sad that people are so happy to hate on those with the "privilege" of being found beautiful. It's pretty clear how it fucks with your head, case in point - the linked essay.


The beautiful girls I've known-- the few seriously and conventionally gorgeous ones-- have all, in one way or another, had their beauty work against them. Not in the short term, but in the long; it really never got them anywhere or got them anything of substance, attracted all sorts of dubious and mind-fucking attention that had nothing to do with the people they were and everything to do with what they looked like, and caused people to either resent them or, in some cases, want to own them. You don't hear much about the actual experience of being beautiful in this society, because there's this idea that beauty is such a privilege that nobody should dare to complain about it, or try to speak about how it affects the way people treat you (in many ways not for the best).
I have a relative who bears a striking resemblance to the young Angelina Jolie; at 18 she has yet to complete 10th grade, let alone high school, and believes, I think, that her looks should guarantee her some kind of passage through life. The problem is that nothing worth having can be gotten by beauty alone.
posted by jokeefe at 10:53 PM on May 29, 2009 [11 favorites]


Argh. I think "got" is more appropriate there.
posted by jokeefe at 10:54 PM on May 29, 2009


orange swan: "On Sept. 11, 2001, Ms. Wurtzel watched the twin towers fall from her apartment at Greenwich and Warren Streets, close to ground zero.

No she didn't, because she couldn't be bothered to get out of the bed.
"

I thought I remembered her! Her elegant take on 9-11:

“My main thought was: What a pain in the ass... I had not the slightest emotional reaction. I thought, this is a really strange art project... It was a most amazing sight in terms of sheer elegance. It fell like water. It just slid, like a turtleneck going over someone's head... It was just beautiful. You can't tell people this. I'm talking to you because you're Canadian... I just felt like everyone was overreacting. People were going on about it. That part really annoyed me... I cried about all the animals left there in the neighborhood... I think I have some kind of emotional block. I think I should join some support group for people who were there... You know what was really funny? After the fact, like, all these different writers were writing these things about what it was like, and nobody bothered to call me.”
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 10:56 PM on May 29, 2009 [4 favorites]


This article reeks sadly of narcissism.

Congratulations, you've just been introduced to the World of Elizabeth Wurzel.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 11:11 PM on May 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


Okay, having RTFA:

I don’t want to look back at what was, tell stories of once upon a long time ago, of what I used to do, of the men I once knew way back when, of 1,001 rapturous nights that were and are no more—I don’t want my life to be the trashy and tragic remains of a really great party, lipstick traces on a burned-out cigarette at the bottom of a near-empty champagne goblet.

Sweet jesus on a pogo stick. You know, somewhere in this article there are the seeds of some things worth talking about-- the terror of losing sex forever after turning 40, which is a knife happily twisted by advertising and diet programs and plastic surgery clinics, etc.-- but this woman is not the person to do it. I was thinking earlier in the thead that people were being a little harsh in their comments, but not anymore. If she wants to look back at her life without regret then perhaps she should do some real therapy, and try to do something, anything, to help other people and realize that she is not the centre of the fucking world.

I probably have another decade before I really start to look old, but something has changed.

Oh honey, wait until you hit 50, when you can begin to see the shade of the face and body that will be yours in another ten years, and when you can no longer pretend to be young in any way. I hope, then, that you can take a deep breath and realize that there's a great deal more to life than your sad, fading prettiness. There are far, far worse tragedies and things that could happen to you than being 41 and no longer being a pretty girl.
posted by jokeefe at 11:14 PM on May 29, 2009 [4 favorites]


some guy I was seeing later on chased me down Topanga Canyon with a hot frying pan, screaming at me something about learning to make my own goddamn omelets

The essay written by Mr. Omelet is the one I want to read.
posted by benzenedream at 11:19 PM on May 29, 2009 [18 favorites]


Christ, what a Wurtzel.
posted by EatTheWeak at 11:33 PM on May 29, 2009 [8 favorites]


Being beautiful doesn't "fuck you up". Sure, pretty girls (and boys) attract the wrong kind of attention at times but so do average and ugly girls and boys.

There are lots of beautiful women and men for who their attractiveness is only a footnote to the real story of their life; the meat of which revolves around love, family, children, passions and intellect.
posted by fshgrl at 11:33 PM on May 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


She and Thomas Friedman should write a book together. They could call it Shit Everybody Else Knows That I Just Suddenly Noticed And Now Must Write About.
posted by braksandwich at 11:42 PM on May 29, 2009 [63 favorites]


Bitch - If you are compliant and happy to take your shirt off, do you get to complain about it later?
posted by P.o.B. at 1:10 AM on May 30, 2009


What’s meaningful in this piece, and what I admire in Wurtzel in general, is that she represents the unfortunate outcome of so many attractive, intelligent females who have been searching for ways to numb the terror that comes with having a brain yet always being wanted for your body. Such women seek outside themselves – through meaningless relationships, illicit drugs, or prescription medication – only to discover that the source of real "beauty" is within. Wurtzel is articulating and documenting that journey, while bravely making herself vulnerable to the same old dismissive criticism she encountered after pouring her guts out in Prozac Nation. I’d be surprised if any of her critics ever made an effort to read (or understand) her books, which have the potential to be inspiring to generations of tragically beautiful, brilliant women who are shrugged off because nobody understands them, let alone listens to what they're saying.
posted by Lillitatiana at 1:19 AM on May 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


<points & lolz>
posted by jeffburdges at 1:27 AM on May 30, 2009


The women that Wurtzel ruminates about include, among others, Nicole Brown Simpson and Amy Fisher. Why? Is Amy Fisher anyone's idea of a "bitch"? She's a confused kid from Long Island with a felonious approach to resolving her inner conflicts. Wouldn't Aileen Wuornos make a more interesting "bitch"? She at least chose her targets correctly. She felt helpless at the hands of men, so she attacked men. Fisher felt helpless at the hands of one man, so she shot his wife.*

God, thank you. That was one of the more confusing parts of Bitch to me as well. From cover to cover, it's a book that has some real gems in there - the chapter on Hillary Clinton especially was really insightful and informative - but she does lack a control of language and just loved to spin off onto herself. Repeatedly. I found myself wondering on many occasions if she was trying to compare herself to the subjects, or started writing about other people and sort of lost her train of thought, wandering into the familiar territory of Me. Saying she doesn't get taken seriously because of her pretty face is a really convenient way for a mediocre writer or her fans to casually dismiss criticism.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 1:28 AM on May 30, 2009 [3 favorites]


I can't imagine she'd make a very good attorney if she did pass.I really didn't think it was possible to be so self-absorbed.
posted by indienial at 1:57 AM on May 30, 2009


So my 25-year-old niece is a stunner, the quintessential tall, slender, blonde California girl ("girl" used for the song reference, not to be belittling). She's healthy, exercises, is not a stick (in terms of physique).

Ya know what she got on her 25th birthday?

A new Mercedes convertible from a much-older movie producer she's dating.

Just kidding.

She got her first paycheck from her work as a recently hired assistant district attorney for Los Angeles County--in the wake of having passed the bar (Bar?) on her first attempt.

Flabbergasting as it may seem to Wurtzel, she's also actually made good choices with boyfriends. By all appearances and accounts, she's also made smart choices with alcohol and other substances.

I wonder if spending time around my niece and those like her would both make Wurtzel's head asplode and serve as fodder for the next round of cash generation, er, imparting deep, insightful thoughts about women in the 21st century.

Hard to say how much of Wurtzel is schtick, but if any measure of what she relates is what she really thinks and feels, much a sense that my niece will never have 1/10th of Wurtzel's money, will be incalculably happier.
posted by ambient2 at 2:10 AM on May 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


This article reeks sadly of narcissism.

time to paste, once again, Ethereal Bligh's wonderful take on the subject:

People often misunderstand what narcissism is because they go no further than accepting the superficial implications of the person who has fallen in love with their own image reflected in the mirror. But a narcissist isn't so much in love with themselves as they are mesmerized by the idea of themselves.

The most anti-narcissistic thing I can think of is something I remind myself of occasionally and have told to a few of the narcissists close to me in the past: you will never, ever be even remotely as important to anyone else as you are to yourself. You are the hero (or anti-hero, or tragic lead) of your own drama...but no one else's. In everyone else's story, you are a secondary character--you're just not that important. In contrast, a narcissist will call you up in the middle of the night in crisis, perhaps a crisis of self-confidence or even loathing, but the key thing is that the occasion is assumed to be momentous--in their personal narrative that moment is a key scene where they may apprehend some great life-truth or suffer a tragic defeat--it's a turning point. They will expect you to remember the smallest details of their personal lives but will blithely refuse to remember even the most important facts and events of yours. They will often be heard complaining how selfish and ungrateful everyone else is, how they are constantly being taken advantage of by others because of their own generous, unselfish and idealistic nature. In fact, in my opinion that is their single most defining characteristic.

Saying that the narcissist lacks empathy, as this author does, is a bit incomplete of a description. They lack empathy in a very specific way: when they do try to relate to other people, to understand other people's states of mind, what they do is to merely see a clone of themselves as the other person. This is part of why they are so impatient and disappointed in everyone else. They are deeply contemptuous because the only explanation they can imagine for other people's failure to completely agree with them (because the truth is so obvious) is that the other person has some deep moral flaw or otherwise are willfully being wrong. Perhaps, they suspect, this willful wrongness is motivated from a malice directed toward them.
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:13 AM on May 30, 2009 [40 favorites]


Ok, so vacapinta and I went to college with Liz. Lets set a few misconceptions straight:
1. She was never that pretty to begin with, only vain
2. She devastated several friends by putting them in her book, which is why all the friends she has left are just as annoying and self absorbed as she is, and
3. To the best of vacapinta's memory (and I agree with this) while guys were always willing to take her up on up on a gratutious fuck, they were never "after" her
posted by zia at 2:35 AM on May 30, 2009 [22 favorites]


It's hard being a pretty vapid publishing product. Tastes bland, less filling.
posted by hooptycritter at 3:26 AM on May 30, 2009


Oh, well, anyone who's interested to find out what happens when you combine Elizabeth Wurtzel and international politics might enjoy this Guardian column. Apparantly Europe is "an unbearable place to be, as the anti-American feelings in light of the Iraq war have mingled with antisemitism to a point where they are indistinguishable". Not that she's been here, of course.

Or maybe it's just you, Liz.

(One of those writers is to sit down with a blank page, begin by typing a capital I, and then winging it from there.)
posted by Grangousier at 3:28 AM on May 30, 2009


and then wingingit whingeing from there

i didn't like your spelling, so i took it upon myself to fix it.
posted by UbuRoivas at 3:31 AM on May 30, 2009


[ ] Swap lives with your reflection, like Alice.
[ ] Steal your reflection, like Dracula.
[x] Drown in your reflection, like Narcissus.
[x] Talk at your reflection, like a parakeet.

Crazy narcissism aside, I like her writing. Some of the sentences she wrings out of this ego trip are very musical, but who in the fuck says redounded? Harlan Ellison?

his sweetness redounded to me like a sunny day on a dark sidewalk.

Now there's a mouthful of tetris bricks.

What’s meaningful in this piece, and what I admire in Wurtzel in general, is that she represents the unfortunate outcome of so many attractive, intelligent females who have been searching for ways to numb the terror that comes with having a brain yet always being wanted for your body.

I'll ever jump at the chance to judge my seniors on those sins they write off to youthful indiscretion. This is mostly because I can't seem to get in on any.

See, Wurzel admittedly held her peers to that exact same standard. Her lovers are such silly little chessmen, her youth not wasted but cashed in at its prime:

My imagination, my ability to understand the way love and people grow over time, how passion can surprise and renew, utterly failed me. I was temporarily credentialed with this delicate, yummy thing—youth, beauty, whatever—and my window of opportunity for making the most of it was so small, so brief. I wanted to smash through that glass pane and enjoy it, make it last, feel released. And so, I cheated on him. With everyone I could. Bass players, editors, actors, waiters who wished they were actors, photographers.

The regret here, and the reverie and weariness, is not that of being born pretty, but that of a decades-long game drawing towards its close. It's Yeats grumbling over his lost "plumage" and the way the body goes gray before the imagination does. Yeats took late refuge in the latter, and (surprise) so does she, white-knuckled and fighting it at every step. That she wasn't much acquainted with imagination beforehand is not really a deprivation unique to women; how many men follow that sad arc, flash the same late insight: a divorce or two, hairplugs, then, kicking and screaming, the red convertible of the soul. You know of what I speak.

There are lots of beautiful women and men for who their attractiveness is only a footnote to the real story of their life

Damn straight, but sometimes it can be a grace note too.
posted by kid ichorous at 4:07 AM on May 30, 2009 [4 favorites]


white-knuckled and fighting it at every step.

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though pretty women at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night -

- oh, who the fuck am i kidding, here?

I have fucked
the actors
that were at
the party

and who
you were probably
talking to
about yeats

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so bold
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:21 AM on May 30, 2009 [27 favorites]


Be careful, Ubu, or I'll redound you one.
posted by kid ichorous at 4:23 AM on May 30, 2009


your place or mine?
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:28 AM on May 30, 2009


Honestly I'm not even sure that verb is transitive.
posted by kid ichorous at 4:35 AM on May 30, 2009


I guess that makes it my place
posted by kid ichorous at 4:36 AM on May 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


When I Asked MetaFilter about this phenomenon a couple of years ago, nobody mentioned Wurtzel. This article doesn't make me regret the omission.
posted by cgc373 at 4:38 AM on May 30, 2009


ah, i love it when they're so sweetly naive & innocent.
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:40 AM on May 30, 2009


My grandmother, at 97--"In the end, we all die."
posted by Postroad at 4:43 AM on May 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Given Wurtzel's penchant for rhetorical baiting and instigation, surely the notion that Wurtzel wrote this half-fictively hasn't escaped everyone here.

I read Metafilter for critical, nuanced discussion, but this thread feels like a pack of dogs descending on a corpse.
posted by hpliferaft at 5:19 AM on May 30, 2009 [3 favorites]


ok, so maybe we're descending on a strawman, but it's an ugly strawman.
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:24 AM on May 30, 2009


Now that I am a woman whom some man might actually like to be with, might actually not want to punch in the face—or, at least, now that I don’t like guys who want to do that to me—I am sadly 41. I am past my perfect years.

This makes me sad.

She hasn't learned ANYTHING. My guess is that when she talks about being past her perfect years, she means she's past the years where she could attract a man who looks like Brad Pitt. She can't see the hundreds of 40-something men -- men who aren't Adonises -- who have matured beyond being dazzled by "hot chicks," the ones who want companionship and love.
posted by grumblebee at 5:50 AM on May 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


but this thread feels like a pack of dogs descending on a corpse.

An aged, decaying, unflattering corpse, apparently.

Did anyone else notice the ad on the same page as the main article hawking the current fantasy object de jour?

Megan Fox
ELLE's June cover girl on breaking up, misbehaving, and having men eating out of her hand


I look forward to the epic literature written by Ms. Fox about similar insights during her twilight years.
posted by Enron Hubbard at 6:03 AM on May 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


Just another reminder that you can have everything, but still be fucked up.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:22 AM on May 30, 2009 [3 favorites]


When I first read this essay I had the same reaction as many on this thread-- an eyerolling sarcastic response "poor you, it's so hard to be beautiful, white and successful." And then I start thinking about my daughter.

My daughter is the girl that strangers stop on the street so they can ask her if she's a model. She is so beautiful that it's hard to get past it. I have observed actual jaws dropping, and people often wonder if we're really related (so flattering). When people meet my kids for the first time they ask what my son does and then start gushing about my daughter's beauty. To her face. (She also is quite successful at what she does, and has a really cool job, but people usually don't get that far.)

She has had to build incredible strength of character to not just become that girl in the article, who just accepts the accolades and doesn't really try to be something more, and it's still a struggle. She has said to me that she hates it when other girls are more popular, because "I'm the hot one, I'm the beauty. They're already smart or successful or rich. But I get to be beautiful." This breaks my heart, because yes, one day she will be 40 and society will not care that she's still beautiful. It's also hard to be that parent, because this is the thing that people focus on with girls. If you have a beautiful daughter, no one ever asks how her grades are, or if she can play the violin. And it's seductive. If people are always praising this thing, you start to believe it, and encourage it. It's especially difficult because I was the smart girl, never the pretty one, so she's like this exotic alien to me-- I can't relate.

I hope she learns this lesson before, and better, than this author has.
posted by nax at 6:26 AM on May 30, 2009 [17 favorites]


Wurtzel's penchant for rhetorical baiting 'bating

Fixed that for you.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 6:30 AM on May 30, 2009 [4 favorites]


I see she's still milking the same cow. Poor thing must be sore by now.
posted by batmonkey at 6:49 AM on May 30, 2009


Okay, the very last encroachment of Mr Yeats into this thread:

From A Prayer for My Daughter

May she be granted beauty and yet not
Beauty to make a stranger's eye distraught,
Or hers before a looking-glass, for such,
Being made beautiful overmuch,
Consider beauty a sufficient end,
Lose natural kindness and maybe
The heart-revealing intimacy
That chooses right, and never find a friend.

Helen being chosen found life flat and dull
And later had much trouble from a fool,
While that great Queen, that rose out of the spray,
Being fatherless could have her way
Yet chose a bandy-leggd smith for man.
It's certain that fine women eat
A crazy salad with their meat
Whereby the Horn of Plenty is undone.

posted by kid ichorous at 6:49 AM on May 30, 2009 [6 favorites]


kid ichorous: "Okay, the very last encroachment of Mr Yeats into this thread..."

That's what you think!

I heard an old religious man
But yesternight declare
That he had found a text to prove
That only God, my dear,
Could love you for yourself alone
And not your yellow hair.


- "For Anne Gregory"
posted by Joe Beese at 6:55 AM on May 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


anniecat: "Here's a recent photo of her. I can understand why she's depressed. Pretty unflattering."

Huh? She looks attractive to me. She looks like she's in her forties but so do I. Not much you can do about that.
posted by octothorpe at 6:59 AM on May 30, 2009


Who was it that said that by the age of 40, you have the face you deserve?
posted by Countess Elena at 7:05 AM on May 30, 2009


Aw snap. The worst part for prospective suitors, though, was when he'd break out the Golden Dawn memorabilia and threaten to cast "polymorph: other" and take them for a walk all up and down the periodic table. Just another Saturday in the Yeats compound.
posted by kid ichorous at 7:05 AM on May 30, 2009 [3 favorites]


Huh? She looks attractive to me. She looks like she's in her forties but so do I. Not much you can do about that.

Yeah, let's not take this to, "Look how busted she is! Older women are so unattractive!" territory.

Aging is a bitch, but it sure beats the alternative. As a relatively young person who's already outlived at least two classmates who died in accidents (that I know of)--one who died at 19, one at 23--I can pretty much tell you that both of them (and their families) would have probably given anything for them to have the opportunity to become old, decrepit old hags. Which is something I think of every time someone in their 20s makes a snarky comment about people in their 30s or 40s, within my earshot: give yourself 10 years, and you'll be here too....if you're lucky.
posted by availablelight at 7:06 AM on May 30, 2009 [5 favorites]


What’s meaningful in this piece, and what I admire in Wurtzel in general, is that she represents the unfortunate outcome of so many attractive, intelligent females who have been searching for ways to numb the terror that comes with having a brain yet always being wanted for your body.

Elizabeth Wurtzel is not intelligent.
posted by jock@law at 7:37 AM on May 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: nothing worth having can be gotten by beauty alone.
posted by jock@law at 7:38 AM on May 30, 2009


When I think of the difficulties of once being beautiful and then growing older I think of people like Farrah or Elizabeth Taylor. People said horrid things about them as they've aged. We would have done the same thing to Marilyn if she hadn't died in her 30's. Farrah has almost always made me so sad when she's been in the public eye. Even when I was a kid in the 1970's she seemed fragile as she tried to transition from Charlies Angels to movies. Then there was a time she was on Letterman and she was kind of disoriented. That was horrible. Disorientation is so serious to consider and people laughed out loud at that. Now with cancer taking away everything she seems to be blaming the press while she still tries to pull them to her side. Breaks my heart a little bit. And I can't help thinking a part of her difficulty was being so beautiful when she was young.
posted by dog food sugar at 7:43 AM on May 30, 2009


Buy my book please, and thank you MetaFilter for the extended promo. Coffee will be served at my extra special personal appearance at Chapters South Keys in Ottawa just before Christmas.
posted by Mike D at 7:52 AM on May 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


I want to snark, but Elizabeth Wurtzel really is the leading expert on Elizabeth Wurtzel.
posted by The Whelk at 8:18 AM on May 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


With all the power one gets with being beautiful, most of it is utterly wasted on fucking and getting shit. Which is really sad, because there are far, far more interesting things (hell, positive things) you could do with that kind of power.

In an alternate universe I'm reading The Albert Einstein Diaries, where poor Albert uses his giant brain to think up new names for alcoholic beverages, finds ways to break into places, uses other people's swimming pools without permission…
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 8:34 AM on May 30, 2009


Oh Lord, it's hard to be humble, when you're perfect in every way

Enlightened caveman that I am, and granting the absolute scale of florescence and decrepitude on nature's terms and schedule, I would just point out that many men find many different kinds of women equally, if variously, beautiful (as I am sure is true in reverse). It is the sheer diversity of the beauty that is the stunning and compelling fact. There is, in fact, an endless supply. One must take care to distinguish the cultural standards, which do have great psychic force, for sure, and the absolute quality, which every person has in potentia. Of course there are basic naturalistic phenomenologies of visual perception, which has co-evolved with our reproductive behaviors in a necessary and constitutive way: symmetry is said to be a universal standard, and shiny surfaces and evidence of physical fitness are equally attractive of the gaze, and perhaps other basic visual signs of material wealth or social or cognitive prowess as well, though these are harder to specify in acultural terms.

What seems unique to me, from thinking about the anthropological literature, is the level of social and individual *anxiety* characteristic of the discourse of "beauty" in western culture, and certainly contemporary global culture, to a (westernized?) extent. One wonders whether the combined forces of advanced techniques of illusion-making (plastic surgery, for example) and the massive inflationary proliferation of commodified visual experiences are causes or effects of this anxiety. I think our species is teetering on the brink of extinction, and we know this in our collective guts, and we've collapsed the experiential connections between needs and wants, drives and social behaviors. We're hyper-stimulated by eroticized commodities all day and every day if we live a western, urban life at least. Other values then sexual attractiveness are associated with particular visual cues, and naturalized thereby. We think of cars as sexy, WTF?

But it seems basically obvious to me that possessing "conventional" beauty would be as much a curse, from the bearer's perspective, as a blessing, over time and on balance. Because it would be hard to be anything else, given the dominance of the visual channel and the ways it mediates sexual attraction and social identity. I can imagine that some parts of being pretty get old. I can see how she gets there, and it doesn't make me hate her quite as much as some in this thread seem to do.

PS I just watched an interview with Donny and Marie Osmond on CNN (don't ask, I did). They look, on TV, like they are 30 again, although they also looked unable to move without cracking into a hundred little pieces.

And that was about the ugliest thing I've ever seen.
posted by fourcheesemac at 8:39 AM on May 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


I love that this is in Elle magazine. It's perfectly calibrated to appeal to the women who read that mag and feel unworthy/inadequate, as if to say, "Don't worry, average people, we Fabulosi are totally insecure, too!".
posted by mkultra at 8:39 AM on May 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Leaving the looks and mental prowess of Elizabeth Wurtzel aside for a moment – Yes, yes, of course, any intelligent beautiful young woman would try not to let society's emphasis on youth and beauty to get to her. She could surround herself with people who value her for herself not her appearance, but, come on, as nax outlines above, your world is saturated with people reacting to your appearance. Even if your friends know who you really are, the world responds to the surface. And yes, you don't have to let it fuck with your head but it takes one healthy, resilient, head to do that. But really this goes for everybody, pretty, ugly, good skin, ban skin, small ass, big ass, whatever.
posted by bobobox at 8:53 AM on May 30, 2009


I want to snark, but Elizabeth Wurtzel really is the leading expert on Elizabeth Wurtzel.

I'm not at all certain that she's self-aware enough for that true be true.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:03 AM on May 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


Dear Elizabeth,

Please get over yourself, put the mirror down, and go out and play. Yeah, thanks.

Still an interesting FPP Joe Beese. Thanks for posting. I now feel much better about being neither pretty nor self-obsessed.
posted by futureisunwritten at 9:15 AM on May 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Here's the facet of this that most interests me: it's POSSIBLE that having something most people covet can cause problems for the haver. For instance, SOME wealthy people have problems BECAUSE they are wealthy.

(Example: Bill wins a million-dollar lottery. All of the sudden, down-on-their heels friends and relatives come out of the woodwork, begging him for loans and gifts. Bill quickly realizes that if he gives all these people what they want, he'll not only have none of his winnings left, he'll be bankrupt, because all the requests add up to 1.5 million. Bill tries to explain this to his friends, but they get angry. To each of them, he's a guy with a million dollars who is unwilling to part with "just" $1000 to help a friend in need.)

My question is this: is there ANY way such a person can write or speak about his problems without pissing everyone off? Even if you disagree with me that "blessed" people can have problems stemming from their blessings, please momentarily accept -- for the sake of argument -- that they can. Assuming this, is there a way for them to talk about these problems publicly that won't just make things worse?

In other words, assuming the above, is Wurtzel's problem the WAY she expressed her problem or the fact that she expressed it at all? If it's the former, how could she have rephrased things to get her point across better.

Actually, I'd like to keep away from Wurtzel as an example, because I think she has a ton of problems (expressed by many people, above). But can a person -- any person -- say "I'm having problems because of my beauty" (or wealth or whatever) without making things worse for himself?

If not, it's too bad, because the problem is not wealthy people or pretty people. The problem is that our culture judges people based on wealth and looks. It's a problem for EVERYONE -- the pretty and the plain, the wealthy and the poor. Yes, the poor and the plain tend to have it way worse, but that doesn't mean that the pretty and the wealty are at fault -- or at least it doesn't mean that the buck stops with them. The REAL problem lies higher up. The real problem is the way our whole culture is constructed. Problem is, it's hard (impossible?) to change this, so we're left feeling frustrated and angry. And the rich and beautiful are useful targets. If they're smart, they should -- I guess -- recognize that and not paint big bullseyes on themselves the way Wurtzel did.
posted by grumblebee at 9:23 AM on May 30, 2009 [7 favorites]


One of my friends when I was a teenager was incredibly beautiful. I remember comforting her one night in her apartment because she was distraught at how much of her beauty was gone and that she lad lost that dewey look that thirteen year olds have. She was seventeen and wonderfully stunning. She was so focused on her looks because that was all she had (well, also some incedible charisma). She discovered who she really was though, went back to high school and then worked very hard to become a registered nurse, created healthy realtionships with men and others and has a great life she is very contented with. Thank god she got past that self-absorption.

I don't think Wurtzel big flaw is so much that she focus's on her physical appearance as much as that she exculsively focus's on only one part of herself. I would feel the same towards her if the article was about how smart she was when she was younger but now she's losing that mental flexibility, or she solved some brillant software problem but still lives in her parent's basement at 40, or that she used to be able to pull all-nighters but now it is lights out at 9 pm. Any time someone over-focus's on just one facet of themselves to the neglect of all others they are increbily shallow and not really someone I care to be with or read.
posted by saucysault at 9:25 AM on May 30, 2009


> Gregg wasn't quite the perfect catch she seems to think he was.

Because he finally got pissed after finding out that this had been going on for who knows how long?

And so, I cheated on him. With everyone I could. Bass players, editors, actors, waiters who wished they were actors, photographers. And everywhere I could, like that Sarah Silverman and Matt Damon video: on the floor, by the door, up against the minibar.


Are you fucking kidding me?

And yeah, flagged as Elizabeth Wurtzel.
posted by languagehat at 9:31 AM on May 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Zia's comment, being from someone who knows Wurtzel, is interesting.

I was about to say that, "Just because guys want to fuck you doesn't mean you're pretty." Wurtzel seems to have mistaken their sexual interest as a sign that she is pretty. Looking at the photos of her then and now, she's never had more than mediocre looks. Not ugly, but certainly not a "hottie."
posted by jayder at 9:55 AM on May 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


But eventually, at some somber and sobering calendar date, most of us lose our looks and likewise one of our charms—and I will lose mine. At which time, for me at least, there won’t be much point to life anymore at all.

i'm fascinated with this subject--not really Elizabeth Wurtzel, tho i read Bitch.

at 42, and a formerly pretty girl, i do understand the kind of weird transition to "not being noticeable" that happens as you age. luckily for me... it wasn't *too* depressing, just interesting. i have things to do that don't involve men's eyes on me, and now's the time to celebrate them and pursue them.

playing a cute girl on Second Life reminds me how easy it can be to fall into an obsession with how people view you and how they respond to your appearance--flattery is wonderful, but so inexpressibly shallow. (being an avatar really brings that home.) becoming addicted to that attention is all too easy, and pretty girls grow up being tempted to feed upon it and only it. it's difficult, i think, to turn your head and realize that personal growth is the real goal in life. Wurtzel is attempting to rip her way to that place, but she appears to be having a terrible time. down to seeing death as a way out instead.

i had a beautiful narcissistic friend, for years, who has transitioned to her forties with this same tragic realization that she's squandered her mental and personal development in the complete orientation toward getting fucked and being adored by men. she is a great faker of intellectual pursuits... though once you get to know her it is obviously without depth. it *is* a tragedy to watch, though obviously self-inflicted. how one responds to that realization is how one demonstrates character. but without having practiced or developed character, what happens?

i do have pity for the Wurtzels of the world. and i do have a sense that it is our culture that does this to people with their in-born privileges. blowing out early sucks, and being able to find their way to fulfilling partnerships with someone who sees behind the face and body means also seeing behind appearance in others. she doesn't seem to have made that transition.

my life partner was never really a conventionally attractive man, but he's the hottest thing on the planet to me. this has very little to do with the way he looks. and guess what? he loves my 40-plus self. i hope she finds her way out. cuz this reads like a suicide note.
posted by RedEmma at 10:10 AM on May 30, 2009 [5 favorites]


@octothorpe: I was kind of joking. Like when everyone says how stressed out they are and you say, "Yeah, you look really tired" and then their face falls because you agreed with them. I think this is her way of wanting people to think she's unusually attractive and appealing in her forties, moreso than the average 40 year old, when that's not the case. She's just trying to brand herself. She's a mere mortal, like the rest of us and her expensive creams and lotions aren't doing her any good and she does have wrinkles. Her self-indulgent op-eds don't endear her to her readers, who have gained maturity and perspective, while she's still mentally the same brat she was in her 20s.
posted by anniecat at 10:10 AM on May 30, 2009


I await her melancholy, guilt-ridden memoir recounting her baleful influence on the life and work of William Butler Yeats.
posted by darth_tedious at 10:12 AM on May 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


I can imagine that Wurtzel is still milking the "I'm the notorious Elizabeth Wurtzel" thing quite a bit, and that perhaps it is even helping her in getting legal jobs.

Prestigious firms might like having a semi-famous person working for them as an associate, for the novelty ... after all, how often do you meet someone who had a movie made about her life (as Wurtzel did with Prozac Nation)?
posted by jayder at 10:15 AM on May 30, 2009


She annoys me, always has. But lately I've been thinking a bit about the topic being addressed.

I'm 42, and I was pretty attractive when I was younger. I mean, I don't break mirrors now... I have good and bad days. But in my 20s I was an energetic vibrant intelligent kind of pretty that I'll never be again. Thing is, as I came of age to develop bonding and vulnerable relationships with men, my experiences left me simply not feeling safe around them. Admittedly living in Los Angeles during those years (which happened to coincide with the rise of the porn industry in the Valley, so there were a lot of extra special slimeballs in the social mix here) definitely didn't help. I was flat chested until I was 19 and suddenly I was a DD chest, and it was terrifying to me that I started to feel like a hunted animal. Fortunately I always had a lot of male friends, but many of the men who expressed attraction towards me didn't actually care about getting to know me as a person or want to take care of me... I was a pretty thing they wanted to possess or just acquire momentarily to see if they could. And I did NOT like that. AT ALL. So many times I'd start to let my guard down with men I liked, only to be called a tease if I wouldn't sleep with them.

I remember one time I was out partying with old friends and I had been having a great time talking to this one super cute guy who was a friend of a friend. He seemed so charming and funny and I was just thrilled with how respectful and sweet he seemed. But by the end of the night, he had taken my car keys and cornered me in the parking lot after offering to "walk me to my car to make sure I was safe," telling me that I wouldn't get my car keys back unless I showed him my tits. After a while I learned to walk myself to my car holding a key between my fingers rather than let a man walk me. I started to realize that the man escorting me to my car was often more dangerous than the invisible guy who might jump me in a parking lot. So, it was often hard to trust men, because I needed to protect myself from harm and I met a lot of men who didn't care.

This stuff makes me very very sad in retrospect. I didn't want to fight people off and keep so many walls up, I just wanted to find a nice guy to love me as a whole package and let my guard down. I didn't want to be hurt anymore so throughout my 20s when I should've been out there having an awesome time, I stopped dating for years. I just got really tired of seeing the ugly side of people I really, really wanted to like so I didn't give them the chance to disappoint me anymore. During the most attractive years of my life, I shut down completely. (I've dated lots since. I didn't become a nun. Don't worry.)

Okay, so now I'm considered much less attractive because of my age... and on one hand I definitely DO profoundly miss the girl I used to see when I looked in the mirror. I didn't appreciate her looks at the time, I actually tried to do things to make myself look less attractive so I could be left alone, and that makes me sad when I think about it. I wish I'd had the maturity and self esteem I have now. But you know, the whole thing is kind of weird. It's a bummer that now I'm actually at the place I wanted to be -- where people judge me more on who I am as a person than by if they can convince me to let them into my pants -- but now I'm supposedly no longer as valued by society. As a woman, I'm FAR more sexually uninhibited now and waaay better at relationships, I'm more comfortable in my skin, I'm full of more insights and have more to offer the world and men on many levels. But nobody's taking my car keys away from me and cornering me to show them my tits anymore, so by looking at me and my birthdate I'm less relevant and desirable on a social level than I was.

I don't like Elizabeth Wurtzel, and I never capitalized on the way I looked the way she did. On the contrary, I totally hid from it. But the same issues about beauty and aging do upset me sometimes when I think about it. I'm very glad I'm a woman, and I don't have anything to be sorry for really... but during those times I sometimes do wish there weren't doublestandards, that the sexes aged more equally, or just that I was born a guy.

Alec Baldwin, to be specific.
posted by miss lynnster at 10:25 AM on May 30, 2009 [29 favorites]


Ten years ago, I picked up a copy of Bitch: In Praise of Difficult Women at the Virgin Megastore in Times Square. I was in my late twenties with a BFA from an acting conservatory and had zero formal education in women's studies. My core academic curriculum featured courses entitled "Chemistry" and "Community and Society" and "What Happened Before: World History in Brief", which was taught by a professor who began each class by pointing to the world map and saying "Now remember, future Oliviers....the blue is water and the green is land." She thought this was really funny because actors are morons.

So, I tried to educate myself as best I could on a variety of subjects. One of my college roommates had been a women's studies major at Sarah Lawrence before coming to the midwest to get her masters in creative writing, and she was prone to leaving things like Backlash on the back of the toilet and The Beauty Myth on the coffee table. She often stamped around the kitchen on Saturday nights reading passages aloud from Camille Paglia's Sexual Personae while taking pulls off a bottle of Concha Y Toro Chilean cab/merlot mix and yelling, and occasionally throwing the book to the floor. Her passion piqued my curiosity so I started to read Susan Faludi, Naomi Wolf, Germaine Greer, Andrea Dworkin, Camille Paglia, Phyllis Chesler, Betty Friedan, Erica Jong, bell hooks, and the list goes on and on.

I would say at that time my own feminist identity was wholly nascent and lacking in all sophistication. I knew I didn't understand why my grandfather blithely said things like "What you oughtta be doin' is lookin' for a good husband," after I had innocently asked if he knew anything about schools with good veterinary medicine programs, or why my own parents became obsessed with my weight and skin and clothes when I turned fourteen and "ballooned" to a hundred and twenty-five pounds, while my brother's habit of eating nothing but hot dogs and Fritos four times a day went unremarked upon. When I eventually decided to go into theater, my father told my brother, "It'll be a hard road for her. She's not exactly leading lady material." And I was pretty much expected to share in the cooking and cleaning duties with my mother while my brother disappeared for hours on end doing whatever he wanted with whomever he chose. So I knew all that chafed and seemed unfair and oppressive, but I had no vocabulary for exactly why I felt that way, save for the most basic understanding that Gloria Steinem was "a nut", according to my dad, and "one step away from comfortable shoes," according to my mom.

So, here I was, knowing I had missed something crucial - namely, the women's movement - but having read all this material on the subject of varying focuses and degrees of vitriol, and I had come to the firm understanding that, if nothing else, feminism was about solidarity with other women, equality with men, freedom from gender-based discrimination in the workplace, and a sense of ownership over one's body and sexuality. And then here came Wurtzel with her Praise of Difficult Women. And I thought, oh, wait. For certain women, the point is individual freedom. Women should use their "pussy power" with impunity to get what they want, make no apologies for it, and should regard black eyes and fat lips as badges of their passionate love affairs. (Oh, and apparently Nicole Brown Simpson has something to do with being a bad girl, I guess. And there's also lots of fucking in the back of tattoo parlors and don't judge me for it, blah de bloo, and Hillary Clinton figures in there somewhere, as well.) And I remember thinking, this woman is horribly deluded and what she's saying is damaging and potentially dangerous. Thank god we've had the women's movement and the feminist revolution, because surely no young woman with even the most basic understanding of feminism - like myself - could ever pick up this book and embrace its ridiculous, wholly self-serving thesis, or conclude anything but that Elizabeth Wurtzel is one of the most tired female cliches - the pretty girl who's automatically legitimized because she's pretty, uses her looks and sexuality to navigate her narrow little world, and then complains that no one takes her seriously because of her looks. I think I laughed out loud several times. Was this really a problem, I thought? Hell, was this even really a book - the whole exercise seemed to me just an extended exhibitionist rant strung together with the flimsiest "but this is why this is socially relevant" thread. But, being a good budding feminist, I embraced Elizabeth out of a responsibility to sisterhood and the idea that we were all in this together. Even morons like her.

It's been ten years since I read that book. Yesterday, I was riding the subway into work when a girl of about seventeen sat down across from me. She was wearing a tee-shirt that said "Beating Back Bitches since 1998." When I got to work, there was yet another lengthy discussion among several of my female co-workers about body fat and calorie counting and workout regimens. I hear the word "bitch" used like punctuation in regular conversation - "That bitch at the Pax overcharged me. Again." An agent I used to work with warned me about dressing "dykey" before going into auditions, but assured me that, sooner or later, the role of the "bitchy, slut friend" might come across her desk, which would be perfect for me, provided I "softened" my look, amped up the sexuality and toned down the "ballbuster" tone to my readings. A 23 year old woman with whom I recently did a decidedly feminist and now unfortunately "dated" play, according to her, complained to me that she's "tired of all this stuff about women's problems. We're past all that. I don't have problems because I'm a woman; I understand being a woman. What women need to do is try to understand men."

And now I read this article and I'm profoundly sad. Sad for Elizabeth Wurtzel against my will, sad for myself and other women, and sad for the existence of that stupid book she wrote in 1998 which, when I look back on it, was pretty prescient, if totally nauseating. Because Elizabeth Wurtzel had plenty of opportunities to reach her full potential, unlike many of us who hadn't the benefit of some platonic ideal of beauty to hide within our whole lives, or the Harvard education, or the legitimacy afforded to our rantings because we had the great misfortune of having no other choice but to look great in a little black dress, or because we're a beautiful mess that people sort of like to stand on the median and gawk at. She did fuck all with it. She was too busy pretending to champion women like herself, when all she was really doing was trying to make sense of her own nagging sense of emptiness and pointlessness over and over again, which had nothing to do with her being born female. (But I guess that wouldn't have sold as many books.) Now, she would like to blame her feelings of irrelevance on the societal obsession with youth and beauty that she sought to work to her advantage for her whole life. Well, cry me a river, sister. That beauty fades and "bitchiness" only takes one so far isn't news to alot of us. That it is to her is just pathetic.
posted by TryTheTilapia at 10:41 AM on May 30, 2009 [44 favorites]


During the Bea Arthur obit thread I wound up thinking about her in contrast to Marilyn Monroe. I'm certainly not going to claim Bea Arthur wasn't attractive, because I think she was, even as an elderly woman. Those alert dark eyes, the strong jawline and the silver hair made her quite striking. But I've heard lots of "she's a man, baby!" jokes about her, and certainly she would never have gotten the kind of attention Marilyn Monroe got for her looks. And whose life would you have rather led? Apparently Marilyn Monroe was quite intelligent, a talented writer, and a woman who would show up on a movie set for a shoot of months' duration with a suitcase full of books (Tolstoy was a favourite writer of hers) and no clothes. Possibly she had just as much good stuff within her as Bea Arthur, but who knew and what happened to it?

Wurtzel has so much going for her and yet she's a narcisisstic whiner and basket case. I've certainly known beautiful people who had heightened expectations as to what they deserved, and if a beautiful person is messed up to begin with or doesn't have a strong character she or he can really wind up doing nothing with his or her life. But then that can happen to anyone. I've known some plain or average looking people who got mired down in self-pity and either wouldn't do what it would take to make the most of themselves or carried a really unattractive chip on their shoulders that tainted their lives. Unfortunately I've spent far too much time being one of those people.

There are so many aspects to a person and it's the sum total of these attributes plus a certain amount of good fortune or bad luck that make anyone a success or a failure. In the end it's best to forget about comparing yourself to anyone else, to refuse to be defined by the world's estimation of your looks or your age, and to concentrate on doing what you need to do in order to accomplish what you want.
posted by orange swan at 10:50 AM on May 30, 2009 [4 favorites]


Okay, I finally got around to actually reading The Love Song of J. Elizabeth Wurtzel Prufrock... and what's striking about it is that it's not really a meditation. It's more an unprocessed confession-- a monologue delivered to a detached and resistant bartender at 2:37 a.m.

This isn't, on the face of it, a bad thing-- beauty and ardor and yada yada yada, as we know, are the main drivers of art and culture, and collectively an inexhaustible topic. It's worth thinking about beauty, and its rather sudden loss. And writing about this may as well come from the pen of Wurtzel, who, for whatever reason, did once upon a time successfully brand herself as The Pretty Princess Who Felt Ugly Inside, the Ur-Suicide Girl.

> I read the whole essay, for the most part entranced by the style and cadence of the writing, but after a few paragraphs, I started thinking, "This isn't really going anywhere, is it?"

Yeah, the whole This Pretty But Self-Consciously Vapid Essay is Coincidentally Brought to You by Elizabeth Wurtzel thing is funny... but it's also sort of necessary, a prerequisite for some more useful way of considering the power of beauty. Acknowledging the power and distortion of beauty, and the direct effect of beauty on the life of me, me, me, is a literary brick, necessary but insufficient; someone other than Wurtzel will have to do the architecture and build the house, and that's okay.

One might note that smarter and possibly purtier women have tackled the topic-- and likely so... but they weren't hurling themselves at a mass audience, as Wurtzel does.
posted by darth_tedious at 11:03 AM on May 30, 2009


That was one of the more confusing parts of Bitch to me as well

There were parts of Bitch that were very confusing, but it all made sense when I read her next book where she talks about how she finished the book on one last drug bender before going to rehab. It all made sense at that point.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 11:15 AM on May 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


On Sept. 11, 2001, Ms. Wurtzel watched the twin towers fall from her apartment at Greenwich and Warren Streets, close to ground zero.

So what? Is she going to appropriate that as well now that as her own personal experience now that she can 't get by on her looks?

even though she'll always have her rich girl connections? Half makes me wish she was in the actual towers. Maybe it would've saved someone with a modicum of modesty and selflessness.
posted by Skygazer at 11:21 AM on May 30, 2009


She just got a new law degree and a tony brand new job- and she's still living in the past? Or is this a build up to another book release?

(The not passing the bar thing is overblown- from what I understand, Yale doesn't teach for real law, for bar passing law. You need to go to, say, St. John's for that kind of thing. She'll pass next time, presumably.)

Life begins at forty, tra la.
posted by IndigoJones at 11:43 AM on May 30, 2009




Such a gamble, taking a ton of drugs while writing a book. Seems to be a losing bet most of the time - not everyone gets to be Hunter S. Thompson. You ever read any of Stephen King's books from the coke years? That's kind of a trick question cuz they're goddamn unreadable. I suspect writing high is why Tom Robbins sometimes seems to forget he's got a narrative going and digresses into all those cosmic sermons and theories he's prone too - "it all makes sense, maaan."

Of course, if this essay is an example of Ms. Wurtzel working sober, well ...

There's an interesting spread of sympathy and cynicism in this thread. I'm not sure where I fit on that spectrum. She sounds like she's in a lot of pain but it also sounds like she's sort of enjoying it. All I knew about her before last night was that her book Prozac Nation existed and the author sorta looked like Christina Ricci. So, take that as you will - a nerdcore kid from Central Washington who could give a shit about a memoir not written by Batman still somehow managed to hear tell of her beauty, as if she was some sorta sourpuss Helen of Troy. Fame'll fuck up anyone's head and hers was wired weird in the first place.

It's a shame that she seems to regard middle-aged beauty so impossible. Elizabeth, if you're reading (and let's face it, half the fun of publishing this article was watching all your Google alerts light up) and if it helps, my current leading celebrity crush is about your age. "Smoking Hot" and "Not in Your Twenties" are not mutually exclusive.

And folks, whether the true tragedy here is Wurtzel's narcissism, society's shallow beauty obsession, personal and romantic isolation in all its forms, or the ever-encroaching threat of mortality and age and loss of lustre that we all must face, I think we can all agree that washed-out, brown-on-brown 90s graphic design is the saddest sad of all.
posted by EatTheWeak at 11:54 AM on May 30, 2009 [3 favorites]


I think people are mixing up the problems of being amazingly beautiful and the problems of being Elizabeth Wurtzel who is promiscuous to the point of compulsion and finding it harder to pick up guys as she ages. These two things are not the same.
posted by fshgrl at 12:18 PM on May 30, 2009 [3 favorites]


> Gregg wasn't quite the perfect catch she seems to think he was.

> Because he finally got pissed after finding out that this had been going on for who knows how long?


No, because he threw a liquor bottle at her after finding out. If you think it's a justifiable level of violence given the circumstances, where would you draw the line? Would it have been alright if he'd slapped her around a bit? Punched her out?

I love my wife more than I can put into words, and I can't even imagine how devastated I'd be if I found out she'd repeatedly cheated on me, but no matter how many guys she slept with, or who those guys were, I would not resort to violence.
posted by The Card Cheat at 12:19 PM on May 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


The consensus here seems to be that Elizabeth Wurtzel is a Narcissist. Wait—last time I checked, that was a personality disorder. So, do you think she's thrilled that she was born with (or developed) a personality disorder? Narcissists can cause a lot of problems for people in their lives, but so far I think there's only one person here who's even met her. So why all the attacks? Maybe she's not the only one with (lack of) empathy issues?
posted by Crabby Appleton at 12:43 PM on May 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


No, because he threw a liquor bottle at her after finding out.

Or so she says. Makes it seem more passionate than just telling her to fuck off and walking out the door.
posted by Sailormom at 12:45 PM on May 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Thanks, all; it's refreshing to read a slew of such well-deserved snark. The Elle article might have been less a slog if Wurtzel were in fact beautiful -- but a dozen portrait shots later I've seen no evidence. She is, at best, Average While Thin(tm); must fuck like a mink to keep guys on board.

Check out Wurtzel's Works for evidence of how maladaptive her narcissism has been. "Work1" (the entire oeuvre being "work1, work2, work3") is subtitled, A deeply personal account of a young woman's nervous breakdown and recovery. Work2: Bitch: In Praise of Difficult Women (see this Bitch-free review reminiscent of MeFi comments). Work3, redundant at several levels, is A Memoir of Addiction -- A story of addiction to Ritalin and cocaine, and the long battle for recovery.

Is it any wonder society is circling the toilet bowl? This woman is actually getting press for feeling bad about herself!
posted by unblinking at 12:46 PM on May 30, 2009


> Or so she says.

Well, sure. She doesn't seem like a very reliable narrator, but for for the purposes of this discussion we're assuming it really went down like that.
posted by The Card Cheat at 12:54 PM on May 30, 2009


You missed another of her books, unblinking: The Secret of Life: Commonsense Advice for the Uncommon Woman [snarf].
posted by orange swan at 1:06 PM on May 30, 2009


Wurtzel seems to have mistaken their sexual interest as a sign that she is pretty. Looking at the photos of her then and now, she's never had more than mediocre looks. Not ugly, but certainly not a "hottie."

yeah, that's the bit that i wasn't getting, either.
posted by UbuRoivas at 1:41 PM on May 30, 2009


I can't believe anyone actually thought this woman was intelligent. Here she is from the NYT piece, on drugs:

One day, in her criminal law class, while discussing the differences in sentencing guidelines for cocaine- and crack-related offenses. Ms. Wurtzel said, “Cocaine is a party and crack is a crime spree.”

“We talked so much about drug policy in that class, and I was struck by how little knowledge these people were working with,” said Ms. Wurtzel, who in “More, Now, Again” describes how she once smuggled cocaine to Scandinavia in her diaphragm. “I said that if you removed drugs and alcohol from the situation, there’d be no crime.”


The woman hasn't even the opposite of a clue. What does cocaine is a party and crack is a crime spree mean? One, that she's never injected cocaine-- which is as intense and paranoia-promoting as crack. Two, that she understands nothing about the last 20 years debate over how stupid it was to make crack sentencing longer than powder. You can be every bit as crazy injecting powder as you can be on crack-- so all you do by making the crack sentences longer is lock up more black peopl.

Second, eliminating alcohol and other drugs would in no way eliminate crime. This is the idea on which Prohibition was sold to the U.S. It was suppose to end poverty, too. Didn't quite work out that way. But Wurtzel thinks she knows something because she's taken a few drugs herself? Please.

And her own article made me ill. You treat people like shit and then you are upset that others do the same back? Payback's a bitch, huh?
posted by Maias at 1:51 PM on May 30, 2009 [3 favorites]


Regardless of whether Wurtzel is truly beautiful (a disturbing debate in its own right), she has clearly received a lot of sexual attention. And as her vapid essay shows, said attention and interrelated self-image have not helped her gain much perspective or wisdom.

I recently watched one of my female students, a highly talented and articulate undergrad who is also quite beautiful, give a presentation and then immediately afterward get swarmed by a handful of aggressively flirtatious young men. Watching this made my heart sink: 1) this intelligent young woman was getting bombarded with extremely shallow attention, 2) the guys approaching her were not exactly an thoughtful or considerate bunch, 3) apparently for a certain personality, the mere shape of this woman's face is considered an open invitation for flirtation.

I don't envy women who build their identities around that kind of interaction: it's pretty clear that too much attention like that from that men like that could really mess a woman up.

And in this way all the ire being expressed for Wurtzel seems misplaced. It's embarrassingly obvious that she hasn't matured very successfully. Why exactly are we rubbing it in?
posted by marlys at 2:01 PM on May 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


A quick add: I'm not defending Wurtzel here - just saying that she's clearly a sad individual with significant problems, and that I certainly wouldn't want to be her...
posted by marlys at 2:09 PM on May 30, 2009


Look, if anyone is so determined to mind the gender gap, Elizabeth Wurtzel prefigured a terrible, less talented XY narcissist named Tucker Max. He's even got the fake law degree. If Wurtzel aims at something like a much diminished PJ O'Rourke, a lesser accident of pedigree, chrome, ethanol, and bent antennas, Tucker Max is the dumpster diver who tries to redeem the wreck for ten cents. He'll get his stupid movie too, and perhaps his choreographed middle-age shit, if he lasts that long. Or everyone can refuse to pay any attention to him, and he'll shrivel into a tiny ball of tortured prose and die.
posted by kid ichorous at 2:31 PM on May 30, 2009


> I love my wife more than I can put into words, and I can't even imagine how devastated I'd be if I found out she'd repeatedly cheated on me, but no matter how many guys she slept with, or who those guys were, I would not resort to violence.

You say that, but you don't know that. I'm 100% sure Gregg would have said the same thing, and believed it just as absolutely. Get back to me after you've been through it and tell me how well you behaved. (Of course, as Sailormom says, we have no idea whether it happened or not—if this woman told me it was sunny, I'd open the window to check—but as you say, we might as well talk as if it did.)

> Not ugly, but certainly not a "hottie."

There's way too much of that stuff in this thread. Yes, yes, I know, she opens the door to discussion of her looks by obsessing about it, but that doesn't mean everyone needs to rush through the door and play "I'd hit it"/"I wouldn't hit it."
posted by languagehat at 2:39 PM on May 30, 2009 [5 favorites]


no, it's not in any way a question of hitting or not. the lady writes a piece about how hot she used to be, and how hot she isn't anymore; and all i can think is that (photoshopped photo shoots aside, which are always a case of mutton dressed as lamb) i could name, as a matter of objective fact, literally hundreds of women i know or have known who are much better looking, on the evidence before me.

unless, of course, she has some kind of fantastic magnetism or charisma in real life, which appears to be highly unlikely.
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:51 PM on May 30, 2009


(yes, hard as nails & surrounded by under-appreciated hotties. welcome to australia, mate!)
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:56 PM on May 30, 2009


Yeah, I know, and I wasn't talking about you in particular, just commenting on the general enthusiasm for seizing the opportunity to discuss her looks.
posted by languagehat at 3:08 PM on May 30, 2009


But can a person -- any person -- say "I'm having problems because of my beauty" (or wealth or whatever) without making things worse for himself?

No, because if the wealthy and beautiful have problems just like plain folks, then there's no reason to admire them or be envious of them their position or looks. By admitting their humanity, the beautiful people kill any dream of regular people that things could get better if they got money or liposuction, while simultaneously reminding the regulars just how small they are and how wretched their life is.

This why people are reacting so negatively to Wurtzel. She had everything, things people dream and pray for, but was so stupid and immature she not only threw things away, she threw them away without realizing how important they are.

No, if someone who is beautiful or wealthy compares their problems to other people, it's just a signal that they're shallow and don't appreciate what they have. It's like giving people pitchforks and torches and asking them to hunt you.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:10 PM on May 30, 2009


Our minds were not designed by evolution to discover the truth; they were designed to play social games.
posted by wallstreet1929 at 3:23 PM on May 30, 2009 [3 favorites]


I recently watched one of my female students, a highly talented and articulate undergrad who is also quite beautiful, give a presentation and then immediately afterward get swarmed by a handful of aggressively flirtatious young men.....I don't envy women who build their identities around that kind of interaction: it's pretty clear that too much attention like that from that men like that could really mess a woman up.

And what Wurtzel didn't seem to address--which would be a more interesting essay--is the fact that most of the special attention given to the especially attractive (and young, for women) isn't overtly sexual....it's that folks treat your jokes as funnier, your insights and stories as more interesting, your motives as more sympathetic/"good", etc. (For instance, an especially beautiful college classmate I had, constantly had male TA's approaching her outside of class/section and asking if they could write her a recommendation for grad school!) I'd be more interested in a an essay written about what it's like, identity-wise, to have all of that fall away.
posted by availablelight at 3:27 PM on May 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


I like that other narcissist better. The bodybuilder who made the Youtube music video about the girl who dumped him. At least he thought he was in love.
posted by surplus at 3:39 PM on May 30, 2009 [4 favorites]


UbuRoivas: (yes, hard as nails & surrounded by under-appreciated hotties. welcome to australia, mate!)

Speaking of both hard as medusa eyes & surrounded by throngs of crazy Maenads, when the hell are The Drones gonna drag their disheveled scary asses back to the USA? Can you send them a message via wombat or something?

posted by kid ichorous at 4:06 PM on May 30, 2009


No, if someone who is beautiful or wealthy compares their problems to other people, it's just a signal that they're shallow and don't appreciate what they have.

I'd amend that to read, "if someone who is beautiful or wealthy fails to keep their problems in perspective, it's just a signal that they're shallow and don't appreciate what they have."

A broken or even sprained wrist is a legitimate problem, but one needs to be mindful that there are amputees out there.

For God's sake, this woman expects everyone to listen to her whine about being less attractive than she once was, yet she complained that she was annoyed by people who "went on" about 9/11 on September 11, 2001.
posted by orange swan at 4:38 PM on May 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


For God's sake, this woman expects everyone to listen to her whine about being less attractive than she once was, yet she complained that she was annoyed by people who "went on" about 9/11 on September 11, 2001.

Precisely, it's classic narcissism. She's fascinating to read, to me, anyway. The jaw-dropping self-absorption is comedy gold. I don't imagine she's as entertaining to know in real life though.

Also, seconding what languagehat has said about straying into "I'd hit it" territory. We should be above that, look past her physical appearance and see the pouting child within.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 4:55 PM on May 30, 2009


I think the moment you become an adult is the moment when you realize that it's not really all about you, and that a relationship is an agreement between two people to be good to one another, whatever the circumstances. Sadly, even at 41, she doesn't seem anywhere near those realizations to me.

My wife & I met after washing out of relatively long-term marriages, at 36 & 39. I occasionally look at a picture of her as a teenager & I can see the physical difference, but I know had I met her when we were in our twenties, I would have fucked it up within a few years. She's beautiful to me still after ten years, because of what we have together as a couple -- I'm attracted to her by the nature of our knowing this thing that is us.
posted by Devils Rancher at 5:44 PM on May 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


Also, see: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xMg8V3nGNuY

I prefer the Shatner Version
posted by delmoi at 6:21 PM on May 30, 2009


This why people are reacting so negatively to Wurtzel. She had everything, things people dream and pray for

Did she? As far as I can tell she had an upper middle class education, a modicum of writing talent and good looks, a lot of mental health issues, a drug problem, serious impulse control issues and an inability to feel empathy or to form attachments. Those are not the things I dream and pray for, personally.

To most women "taking advantage of their youth" does not mean indiscriminately screwing everyone they meet that makes eyes at them. I think the essay is so divisive because it holds that kind of behavior up as something we should be envious of or at least acknowledge as some kind of achievement. And it's not. It's pathological. Excusing it by saying "oh I'm so pretty I couldn't help it" makes intelligent, accomplished women everywhere roll their eyes. It does not cast light on the experience of young women not being taken seriously, it diminishes it.

If you have impetuous, drama-prone flings with guys you meet at work as she describes, then you are not trying to be taken seriously for your mind.
posted by fshgrl at 6:32 PM on May 30, 2009 [7 favorites]


surplus - oh my good god thank you for posting that redonkulous bodybuilder video. I just got to the bit where he's carrying the rock around and taking his ATV off all those sweet jumps. This is about the most LOLing I've done all day.
posted by EatTheWeak at 7:06 PM on May 30, 2009


> I love my wife more than I can put into words, and I can't even imagine how devastated I'd be if I found out she'd repeatedly cheated on me, but no matter how many guys she slept with, or who those guys were, I would not resort to violence.

You say that, but you don't know that. I'm 100% sure Gregg would have said the same thing, and believed it just as absolutely. Get back to me after you've been through it and tell me how well you behaved.


I don't want to misunderstand you...let's say I would get violent with my wife, as Gregg allegedly did, after finding out that she'd been repeatedly unfaithful. You're saying that my actions would be justified?
posted by The Card Cheat at 7:06 PM on May 30, 2009


when the hell are The Drones gonna drag their disheveled scary asses back to the USA?

funnily enough, i was listening to the Drones (Gala Mill and then Havilah) last night, whilst messing about online. i also saw them open for Patti Smith at the Opera House. i've taken the precaution of slaughtering all carrier wombats, to ensure your message doesn't get through. we still remember what you blokes did to Phar Lap.

posted by UbuRoivas at 7:19 PM on May 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


I have a tendency to defend people who write this sort of "I am going to talk about some of the really unflattering things I think sometimes" confessionals, just because, sure, yeah, I figure we all have some kinda nasty thoughts in our heads, and it's pretty admirable when someone is open 'n' honest about their own personal nasty thoughts in a public forum. However, I think there does come a point where public honesty becomes narcissistic self-flagellation, and where really the author should stop writing down all the bad things they're thinking and instead try to, well, think better things. As such, I so concur with the people way upthread who urge Wurzel to go volunteer for something that's not about Wurzel.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 7:50 PM on May 30, 2009


as Gregg allegedly did, after finding out that she'd been repeatedly unfaithful.

That's not what happened and it's not very clear what brought about him throwing the bottle.

Here's the relevant paragraph:
Months later, when Gregg found out for sure what I was doing, when he went through files on my Mac and found letters never sent to this lover or that one, he didn’t want to make me feel better anymore. He threw a two-thirds-empty bottle of Stolichnaya at my head when I finally found him at a friend’s house. He told me, I was your only chance at happiness—now it’s over for you.
Did she literally just walk into a room and he threw a bottle at her or did something else transpire when she found him? It's not very clear. Not that it makes what he did right, or justifiable.

Man, reading that again, she's been chased by a guy with a hot frying pan, Greg threw the bottle at her, while another threw lamps around. You'd think a person would learn about people and themselves.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:53 PM on May 30, 2009


No, because he threw a liquor bottle at her after finding out. If you think it's a justifiable level of violence given the circumstances, where would you draw the line? Would it have been alright if he'd slapped her around a bit? Punched her out?

I thought the hidden clue there was 'he threw a two-thirds-empty bottle of Stolichnaya at my head when I finally found him at a friend’s house.' So he finally can't deny that she's been cheating on him. He dumps her (left a note? Phone? Said goodbye and walked off?) and goes to be miserable and fantastically drunk with friends. She can't let him go and chases the poor bastard down. The bit where you chase after somebody who is avoiding you because they hate you because you are a horrible person who has hurt them very badly, is when their violent reaction to your presence becomes at least a little bit your fault.
posted by jacalata at 8:22 PM on May 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Now surplus that's just messed up ...at first my head went to Bob Destepello, the coked up car salesman in Grosse Point Blank sharing his poetry, for ballpark level fuckedupedness. But on 2nd viewing: that video must be the 2girls1cup producers take on public displays of unrequited love.
posted by Glee at 8:24 PM on May 30, 2009


a waste of good vodka, if you ask me.
posted by UbuRoivas at 8:46 PM on May 30, 2009


The very most sad and willfully stupid quote:

I’m hopeful that there will be a moment in the next few years when I’ll be more striking than ever because some aura will wash over me in that way that these things just do: as when feminine confidence and feisty intelligence overwhelm the depredations of age, and suddenly women smolder anew—running companies, winning Oscars, reaping millions, landing heavenly younger men.

The passivity of it kills me. But it's just what you'd expect from someone who has (as she said) always failed up. She's been betting on red the whole way and beat the odds so far, so why would she stop now?

The second most sad and willfully stupid quote:

Whoever said youth is wasted on the young actually got it wrong; it’s more that maturity is wasted on the old.

Maturity (sic) is certainly wasted on the aged (sic) Wurtzel. I'm even older than Wurtzel and I was a very pretty* young woman. I didn't leverage my looks in quite the same way she did but I do remember wondering what it would be like to operate in the world when I was middle-aged and invisible.

I like it.

When I'm walking around my neighborhood, I can actually make eye contact with and smile at and chat with men of all ages without worrying that they'll interpret this simple human interaction as an invitation to go somewhere and fuck like bunnies. Which doesn't mean there's no flirtation. It's just that it takes place on a level of equals.

When I'm in a work meeting, I know I'm there because of my work, not because I'm "beautifully long-waisted with lovely tits and I was hoping you'd say something interesting." (That's verbatim from my first boss in New York. I remember every syllable.) I don't have to fret about someone across the table misinterpreting a random glance of commiseration as an invitation to go somewhere and fuck like bunnies. Which doesn't mean there's no flirtation. It's just that it takes place on a level of equals.

Beyond (or as part of--who knows) the narcissism and despite her pointed sexual aggressiveness, Wurtzel is sadly, drearily passive.

With a tendency to use words a half-degree off plumb: trenchantly, swank, pentimento

*Yeah, the hot-or-not stuff is rubbish. I think it's more of an algorithm, the terms of which are youth, vulnerability, beauty, with the female's sexual enthusiasm as a variable. If she's eager, that's good; if she's too eager, that's bad.

posted by dogrose at 9:13 PM on May 30, 2009 [5 favorites]


Dogrose, Oh thank you, someone mentioned the passivity. She hopes, she wants, she yearns, but what? Doesn't she ever get to be a real girl and not a mermaid? And that line, winning Oscars, reaping millions, landing heavenly younger men. stuck out for me too. I mean, really? That's what's she hopes experience brings? Really? And it's for Elle magazine? It's so clangorously artificial and tinny that you almost hope she's lying. Cause if not, damn.
posted by The Whelk at 9:34 PM on May 30, 2009


I remember one time I was out partying with old friends and I had been having a great time talking to this one super cute guy who was a friend of a friend. He seemed so charming and funny and I was just thrilled with how respectful and sweet he seemed. But by the end of the night, he had taken my car keys and cornered me in the parking lot after offering to "walk me to my car to make sure I was safe," telling me that I wouldn't get my car keys back unless I showed him my tits.

You seem to imply that this is one of the downfalls of being pretty, but this has almost nothing to do with being pretty. Not only "pretty" women are exploited, molested and raped. I'm sure there are not statistics, but I would bet that conventional physical attractiveness has little correlation to incidents of rape.
posted by Evangeline at 9:55 PM on May 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Let Wurtzel deal with male pattern baldness as a gay man in this culture and then get back to me about how to deal with tragically fading looks in your forties.

Life is like that. I mean, seriously.
posted by darkstar at 11:26 PM on May 30, 2009


Wait just a goddamned minute here. Ubu thinks Stolichnaya is good vodka?
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 12:14 AM on May 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


not compared with 42 Below*, no, but any vodka wasted on her is surely a waste of good booze.

* Kiwi vodka distillers; last i heard, the Russians wanted to buy them out becoz their vodka is so freaking awesome. Vashe zdorovie!
posted by UbuRoivas at 12:45 AM on May 31, 2009


Wow, NZ vodka. Look out Finnland! That's pretty cool.

I'm really enjoying a lot of the comments in this thread, in particular TryTheTilapia's. The more I think about Bitch, the more I think about the times in which it was published. This is when Hillary Clinton was being regularly and unabashedly accused of being some power-behind-the-throne shrew, when the energy of the riot grrl movement had given way to the ultra-reactionary occurence of friggin' swing music making a comeback, and when Ally McBeal (supposedly a show in the same tradition as Mary Tyler Moore, except that while Moore had a kind of spunky, energetic charm, McBeal spent each and every show stumbling around the office in a state of half-asleep confusion when she wasn't pouting about being manless) was asked by a co-character, "Why do you think your problems are the only ones that matter?", responded "Because they're mine", and this moment was used by David Kelley as an example of one of the show's best moments. Like TryTheTilapia says, Bitch was a very prescient book, and it also fit in very nicely in what was then the just the beginning of the ugly backlash against feminism. Only where Rush Limbaugh made his contempt bluntly apparent in coining "feminazi", other cultural cues simply subverted it by pretending to be feminist, and I think Bitch was definitely a part of that, or at least certainly helped the backlash along, whether Wurtzel was aware of it or not.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 1:24 AM on May 31, 2009


Adam's Curse
W. B. Yeats

We sat together at one summer's end,
That beautiful mild woman, your close friend,
And you and I, and talked of poetry.
I said, "A line will take us hours maybe;
Yet if it does not seem a moment's thought,
Our stitching and unstitching has been naught.
Better go down upon your marrow-bones
And scrub a kitchen pavement, or break stones
Like an old pauper, in all kinds of weather;
For to articulate sweet sounds together
Is to work harder than all these, and yet
Be thought an idler by the noisy set
Of bankers, schoolmasters, and clergymen
The martyrs call the world."

And thereupon
That beautiful mild woman for whose sake
There's many a one shall find out all heartache
On finding that her voice is sweet and low
Replied, "To be born woman is to know --
Although they do not talk of it at school --
That we must labour to be beautiful."
I said, "It's certain there is no fine thing
Since Adam's fall but needs much labouring.
There have been lovers who thought love should be
So much compounded of high courtesy
That they would sigh and quote with learned looks
precedents out of beautiful old books;
Yet now it seems an idle trade enough."

We sat grown quiet at the name of love;
We saw the last embers of daylight die,
And in the trembling blue-green of the sky
A moon, worn as if it had been a shell
Washed by time's waters as they rose and fell
About the stars and broke in days and years.
I had a thought for no one's but your ears:
That you were beautiful, and that I strove
To love you in the old high way of love;
That it had all seemed happy, and yet we'd grown
As weary-hearted as that hollow moon.

posted by fourcheesemac at 5:46 AM on May 31, 2009 [3 favorites]


surplus - oh my good god thank you for posting that redonkulous bodybuilder video. I just got to the bit where he's carrying the rock around and taking his ATV off all those sweet jumps. This is about the most LOLing I've done all day.

I like how he smiles everytime the song says the word smile. "When I see you smiiile..." Carries large rock *looks in camera - smiles*. Whips the ATV around in the dirt *looks in camera - smiles*. Throws large hay bale *looks in camera - smiles*
posted by P.o.B. at 7:17 AM on May 31, 2009


> I don't want to misunderstand you...let's say I would get violent with my wife, as Gregg allegedly did, after finding out that she'd been repeatedly unfaithful. You're saying that my actions would be justified?

Good Christ. "Justified"? What does that even mean? For the record, I think getting violent with people is bad. So is cursing them, wishing evil on them, etc. etc. Being nice and thinking nice thoughts is good and we should all strive to be good. Now that we've got that out of the way, can we get back to Planet Earth? I don't know if you've ever been in a similar situation. I have, and I can tell you, I behaved in ways that make me cringe when I think of them now. Does that make me bad? I don't know. But it makes me unwilling to say supercilious things like "Gregg wasn't quite the perfect catch she seems to think he was." Which implies "I am a good person, unlike Gregg, and would never do anything bad." Like I said, get back to me when you've been there and behaved like an angel.
posted by languagehat at 7:26 AM on May 31, 2009 [2 favorites]


so, have you stopped beating your ex-wife?
posted by UbuRoivas at 7:34 AM on May 31, 2009


sorry, that was an attempted joke. i blame the vodka.
posted by UbuRoivas at 7:50 AM on May 31, 2009


they have a hitler cat on their website.
posted by UbuRoivas at 7:55 AM on May 31, 2009


P.o.B. - it's got a hell of a soundtrack alright. The opening theme sounds damn familiar - is that from Lord of the Rings or Saving Private Ryan or something? I'm sure I've heard it. I'm sure the composer wasn't picturing a bodybuilder falling over in a straw field while they worked.
posted by EatTheWeak at 9:41 AM on May 31, 2009


Let Wurtzel deal with male pattern baldness as a gay man in this culture

I thought this problem had been definitively solved by gay men going cue-ball bald.
posted by jayder at 11:57 AM on May 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


Let Wurtzel deal with male pattern baldness as a gay man in this culture

Or try be slightly overweight and kinda plain gay man in this culture and then work in the media. People will call you ugly to your face. Fun.
posted by The Whelk at 11:59 AM on May 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


I’d be surprised if any of her critics ever made an effort to read (or understand) her books, which have the potential to be inspiring to generations of tragically beautiful, brilliant women who are shrugged off because nobody understands them, let alone listens to what they're saying.

Oh, I call bullshit on this one, Lillitatiana. I read (SUFFERED THROUGH) at least two of her awful-assed whining pieces of garbages. I still get hate mail for a review I did of one Wurtzel book at Blogcritics. I have never felt less sorry for anyone in my entire life. Miss Precious Perfect and Her Self Destructive Behavior Circus can, frankly, eat a dick.

Hey! look! she's doing drugs and screwing around not getting her (no doubt well, well-book-advance'd) book done, and her editor is all, umm, mean to her or something. People don't get her. People don't understand.

Of course they do. They understand that she is a vapid, narcissistic, selfish pain in the ass who can't be trusted to deliver her work on time or act like a human being. They understand she sleeps around, treats her friends awfully and is only just now, at the age of 40-something, trying to act like a grown up.

Save the tears for some misunderstood genius who deserves it. Surprisingly enough, critics do in fact make an effort to read and understand the work they critique, it's just that when you're given such a shallow pool to work with, don't be surprised if they aren't impressed. If anything, she got MORE than her fair share of being listened to, something that she's tried to milk for every last drachma, and I, for one, am tired of it.

/yes, yes, spare me the 'eponysterical username!' comments...
posted by bitter-girl.com at 2:59 PM on May 31, 2009 [8 favorites]


Let Wurtzel deal with male pattern baldness as a gay man in this culture

I thought this problem had been definitively solved by gay men going cue-ball bald.


You know I was thinking the same thing earlier in this thread about any man, as opposed to just gay men. Of course we all know and learn from a very young age that saying "you're ugly" is wrong and hurtful. Saying "you're bald" is factual and is really neither wrong nor hurtful, but can be both. It is something usually just as out of man's control as getting old is, and yet still has some type of stigma attached to it. Loss of virility? I don't know.
Of course bald can beautiful, but so can older woman, curvy woman, big men, etc., and it's not that it can be, but that there is a transaction that leaves you with less (at least at a superficial level) choices equaling some kind of loss.
So, basically, these things happen. You get older and start falling apart. Suck it up and take care of your self. It's not so much other people can't accept it, it's that you can't accept it.

is that from Lord of the Rings or Saving Private Ryan or something?

I don't know, but it's lollerific from the standpoint of cluelessness.

It's also interesting to note how he equates these things. His physicality and feats = love. That's kind of a Hollywood film trope when you really look at it. It would be interesting to see if someone could correlate bodybuilding, bulding excessive muscle for the reason of having the muscle rather than fitness, with the Hollywood glam idea.
posted by P.o.B. at 3:43 PM on May 31, 2009


> Which implies "I am a good person, unlike Gregg, and would never do anything bad." Like I said, get back to me when you've been there and behaved like an angel.

Ah, the old "cast no stones" defence. I didn't say any of that, those are words you put in my mouth. I did say I felt certain that if I were to find myself in a similar situation I would not react violently, which is a long way from saying I "would never do anything bad."
posted by The Card Cheat at 5:20 PM on June 1, 2009


I did say I felt certain that if I were to find myself in a similar situation I would not react violently, which is a long way from saying I "would never do anything bad."

And I say, as I said before: You say that, but you don't know that. You sound like an armchair warrior denouncing cowards, positive that if he were in the trenches, by God, he'd show them how a real man fights. But you go right on believing in yourself. I hope you never get the opportunity to discover how little you know about how humans behave in extreme situations.
posted by languagehat at 5:35 PM on June 1, 2009


> I hope you never get the opportunity to discover how little you know about how humans behave in extreme situations.

Exactly the same every time, eh? I'll make a note of it. That way I won't be surprised when the time comes.
posted by The Card Cheat at 9:25 PM on June 1, 2009


Things I have learned from this thread:

1) Elizabeth Wurtzel is a navel-gazing narcissist
2) Yeats wrote some lovely poetry about female beauty
3) Bodybuilders doing sweet jumps on ATVs know the meaning of true love

Thanks Metafilter!
posted by benzenedream at 11:43 PM on June 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


Okay, the bodybuilder video is cringetastic.

I hate when hunky guys embarrass themselves. It makes me conflicted about finding them attractive.


I blame Wurtzel for my shallowness.
posted by darkstar at 12:54 AM on June 2, 2009


> Exactly the same every time, eh? I'll make a note of it.

Not only did I not say that, I didn't say anything that could be construed by a reasonable person as meaning that. But that's OK, you're deeply invested in the image of yourself as a Good Guy incapable of doing bad things, and you can't actually take in what I'm saying. Do make a note of it, though. One never knows, do one?
posted by languagehat at 7:12 AM on June 2, 2009


Unattractive doesn't only happen on the outside.
posted by deborah at 10:21 PM on June 5, 2009


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