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Elizabeth Wurtzel Has Only Been To Me

[1]

From New York magazine

Well, you’ve just got to read this deliciously hathotic middle-aged whine [2] from the exceedingly privileged drama queen Elizabeth Wurtzel, whose hardening middle-aged face, with those perpetually self-adoring eyes, you can gaze upon above. Here she is a best-selling, 44-year-old Manhattan writer, but all she does is complain about how she’s blown her life on living selfishly for the moment and her own desires. You might think: Wow, has Elizabeth Wurtzel finally grown up? Has she finally realized there’s a price for living the way she has? What gets you to that point is this heart-rending passage about an epiphany she had in 2012:

It had all gone wrong. At long last, I had found myself vulnerable to the worst of New York City, because at 44 my life was not so different from the way it was at 24. Stubbornly and proudly, emphatically and pathetically, I had refused to grow up, and so I was becoming one of those people who refuses to grow up—one of the city’s Lost Boys. I was still subletting in Greenwich Village, instead of owning in Brooklyn Heights. I had loved everything about Yale Law School—especially the part where I graduated at 40—but I spent my life savings on an abiding interest, which is a lot to invest in curiosity. By never marrying, I ended up never divorcing, but I also failed to accumulate that brocade of civility and padlock of security—kids you do or don’t want, Tiffany silver you never use—that makes life complete. Convention serves a purpose: It gives life meaning, and without it, one is in a constant existential crisis. If you don’t have the imposition of family to remind you of what is at stake, something else will. I was alone in a lonely apartment with only a stalker to show for my accomplishments and my years.

I was amazed to discover that, according to The Atlanticwomen still can’t have it all [3]. Bah! Humbug! Women who have it all should try having nothing: I have no husband, no children, no real estate, no stocks, no bonds, no investments, no 401(k), no CDs, no IRAs, no emergency fund—I don’t even have a savings account. It’s not that I have not planned for the future; I have not planned for the present. I do have a royalty account, some decent skills, and, apparently, a lot of human capital. But because of choices I have made, wisely and idiotically, because I had principles or because I was crazy, I have no assets and no family. I have had the same friends since college, although as time has gone on, the daily nature of those relationships has changed, such that it is not daily at all. But then how many lost connections make up a life? There is my best friend from law school, too busy with her toddler; the people with whom I spent New Year’s in a Negril bungalow not so long ago, all lost to me now; every man who was the love of my life, just for today; roommates, officemates, classmates: For everyone who is near, there are others who are far gone.

She says she has “spent [her] freedom carelessly, and with great gratitude,” and:

I was born with a mind that is compromised by preternatural unhappiness, and I might have died very young or done very little. Instead, I made a career out of my emotions. And now I am just quarreling with normal. I believe in true love and artistic integrity—the kinds of things that should be mentioned between quotation marks—as absolutely now as I did in ninth grade. But even I know that functional love includes a fair amount of falsity, or no one would get through morning coffee, and integrity is mostly a heroic excuse to avoid the negotiating table. But I can’t let go. I live in the chaos of adolescence, even wearing the same pair of 501s. As time goes by.

Horribly sad. A wasted life. I have friends who are immensely talented, kind, giving, hard-working, beloved by all who know them, the kind of people who would take a bullet for you — and who through no real fault of their own (as far as I can tell) find themselves in similar midlife personal and career crises. Wurtzel has had far, far more opportunities than they have had, and by her own stupidity, petulance, and selfishness — things she pretty much concedes in this essay — she has created this miserable life for herself.

You’re thinking by now that Elizabeth Wurtzel has written a downtown faded-hipster version of the early Eighties, one-hit wonder ballad “I’ve Never Been To Me,” [4] in which an aged jet-setter mourns for the more meaningful, if prosaic, life she could have had if she had been willing to give up hedonistic pleasures for the promise of committed love, and children.

And then you read that poor Elizabeth considers her lifestyle as evidence of her superior philosophical and artistic integrity. She says:

I am committed to feminism and don’t understand why anyone would agree to be party to a relationship that is not absolutely equal. I believe women who are supported by men are prostitutes, that is that …

Ah. See, that’s my wife she’s talking about, and the wives of many of my friends. I don’t feel especially compelled to answer this snide remark of a drying-out husk of a woman like Elizabeth Wurtzel, but it is useful, I think, to point to this as perhaps the most vivid example of why Elizabeth Wurtzel is such a horrible, miserable person. She is incapable of really loving anyone but herself. I think of how my life works, with my wife — the same way every family I know in which the mom stays at home works — and I instantly grasp that what Elizabeth Wurtzel doesn’t know about love and marriage is a lot. I have a good career as a writer, and provide well financially for my family. Because we have been blessed in particular ways, it’s been easier to make that choice. But we made that choice for me to be the sole breadwinner as soon as we decided to start a family — and I was making a lot less money then. It’s one of the main reasons we decided to leave New York City back in 2003: we knew we couldn’t afford the number of kids we wanted to have, or the security we owed them, if we stayed in New York on my writer’s salary.

Julie said to me one night as we were walking home from dinner on Smith Street in Brooklyn, pushing our son in his stroller: “New York is your first love, and it’s so passionate, but the day finally comes when you realize this is not the one to marry.” And then she said something like, “Living in New York is like living in Disneyworld: everything is more intense than real life, and costs five times as much.”

Don’t misunderstand: we absolutely loved New York City. I cried like a baby on the day I left for good, and several times after that too. Those were some of the happiest years of our life together — we started our married life together there –and we have no regrets about them. But we knew that they would have to end someday, because our own lives had become less intense and more prosaic, and the pleasures available to us as parents were different, and frankly, more attractive. This is one of those things that’s hard to see when you’re single, or newly married without children. But for most of us, once we cross the line into parenthood, we see the world differently. That is, if we’re doing it right.

Anyway, the only way I could have the life I have, professionally and personally, is because my life is not my own: I am one half of a conjoined life. I support my wife financially; she supports me in every other way. If she weren’t here to give that support — tirelessly, faithfully, without faltering or complaint, even when I give her every reason to complain — the successful, fulfilling, meaningful career I’ve built for myself would probably fall apart. I know I personally would fall apart, because I knew what a sad, lonely, intensely anxious man I was before I married her, and that I would be again without her. Without her and our children.

As I was reading the Wurtzel essay last night, my six-year-old daughter padded into the bedroom in her flannel pajamas. “Goodnight, Daddy,” she said, and bent over the bed to kiss me.

“Goodnight sweet girl,” I said, drawing her close and kissing her forehead. “You make me so happy.”

She hid her grin behind the curls falling over her eyes, and ran back to bed.

My wife — my homeschooling, bill-paying, family-organizing, house-managing wife — makes this life possible for me. For all of us. And, I think it worth saying, by the work I do to bring money into the house, I make the good things she has and does possible for her. For all of us. If either of us were to go, it would come close to falling apart. With luck, skill, and a lot of help from our friends, it wouldn’t fall apart, but it would be deeply diminished.

Every single family I know in which the husband is the sole breadwinner works the same way. I know some who make a lot more money than I do, and I know others who make a lot less than I do. But all of us husbands and wives — maybe because we’re all serious Christians, I dunno — understand love in marriage as a mutual sacrifice. The thing is, I’d say most of the families I know in which both parents work, either by choice or necessity, see marriage in the same way. These days, given how easy and common divorce is, if you didn’t see it that way, I don’t know how in the world you’d make it.

Prostitute. What does Elizabeth Wurtzel know about prostitution? It seems to me that one who makes money, status, and power relations the measure of the integrity of love between a man and a woman is a lot closer to having a prostitute’s mindset than she may think.

Marriage and children are the ordinary means to fulfillment, but they aren’t the only ones. The people to pity are those who desperately wanted marriage, but never found it, or had it taken from them by death or divorce. But to pity or admire someone like Wurtzel? Forget it. It’s not everyone’s desire to marry or settle down with a partner, but if that’s the choice you make, then own it. Regretting that you took the wrong path is a way of taking responsibility for your own freedom. I suppose you could say that Wurtzel is taking a kind of responsibility for her choices by writing an essay in which she concedes that she’s pretty much ruined her life, but doesn’t regret it because she has been true to herself. I don’t buy it. She thinks she’s saying, “My country, right or wrong,” but, to steal a line from Chesterton, she’s really saying, “My mother, drunk or sober.”

To recall the shmaltzy song stylings of the lovely Charlene, the problem with Elizabeth Wurtzel is not that she’s never been to Me. The problem with Elizabeth Wurtzel is that she’s only ever been to Me — and on evidence of her writing, it’s a pretty sorry and hopeless place to be stuck in. It’s not going to end well with her, and she’s already had more chances in life to get it right than most people do. Every day offers a chance to change, to choose life, not death. But every day you spend choosing death — in her particular case, the death of imprisonment to the Self — makes it even harder to choose life, while you still have a life to choose.

On the other hand, maybe Elizabeth Wurtzel’s destiny is to serve as a cautionary tale. In that case, send a link to her essay [2] to your teenage or college-age children. Tell them its title should be, “How To Lie To Yourself And Waste Your Life.” I’m actually serious about this.

UPDATE: David Mills at First Things comments on Wurtzel’s piece, and this post. [5] Excerpt:

I think he’s right about this and everything else, but that he’s a little too hard on Wurtzel. Her beliefs about herself and the world are intensely stupid, not just foolish but stupid, but she is her stupidity’s main victim — and more to the point, we don’t know why she is as she is and whether with the same temptations we wouldn’t have wound up much the same as she did. The conviction that one must satisfy the self, whatever the consequences, and no matter what the evidence that this does not work, is never very far away from any of us. One can imagine one’s own face at the top of the article, or one like it expressing one’s own particular brand of self-deception, had things worked out differently.

The reality’s hidden for her and from her by the ideas behind that stale cliche about the purity of her heart. The “pure heart” Wurtzel thinks she has heroically served and for protecting whose integrity she’s suffered — the “pure heart” of contemporary Romanticism, also known as “authenticity” and the like — is just the expression of ego and desire and want, pure only in the sense that the self’s drive to assert itself remains unmixed with caution or prudence or concern for the needs of others or submission to any external authority.

Good points. As I said in a combox remark earlier today, it is hard to reach somebody like Wurtzel, who is driven so powerfully by her emotions. Beyond the sad case of Wurtzel (side note: it’s interesting to think about the kind of home environment that produces such a basket case), we live in a culture in which emotivism [6] reigns supreme. Every age has had its Wurtzels, but we happen to live in a time and place in which her way of thinking (“thinking”) is particularly popular.

 

87 Comments (Open | Close)

87 Comments To "Elizabeth Wurtzel Has Only Been To Me"

#1 Comment By Pete S On January 8, 2013 @ 3:40 pm

I do not know that I agree with the idea of marriage involving a lot of self sacrifice. Marriage is an option, and any self sacrifice is really just my decision to take actions that support a bigger goal (life with my wife and daughter). I may not be living a completely hedonistic and self centered life, but I am living the life I have chosen and doing my best for myself and those are on the path with me.
The only real sacrifice I see is the same sacrifice we all face when we are considering from two mutually exclusive options – to be married with a daughter I have to “sacrifice” being single and childless. But that is not really a sacrifice to me. I am the same age as Elizabeth Wurtzel and it sounds like I am happier with where I am than she is (obviously), but I also think that I probably enjoyed the process of getting here more than she did too. It was different for sure, but very satisfying.
Note I am not saying that I am better than her, either in my choices or my destination. I know there is a lot of luck involved too – when my wife was a young teenager her parents had moved out west then were returning to our area when that didn’t work out. Her parents literally sat at a highway offramp and debated whether to come back here or move to the east coast where her father’s family was from to start over. How different our lives would be had that discussion ended differently! But at least I have been moving along the path I wanted to be on, so that when I turned 44 a few months ago I didn’t look around and complain about where my life had come.

#2 Comment By phil On January 8, 2013 @ 3:52 pm

My wife resents stay-at-home moms hah. She admits it’s jealousy but also because the ones we know (my sister, her sister, friends of our children) are so by choice and are the most self-righteous zitches you’ll ever meet. Republican, anti-tax, whole foods shoppin’, yoga doin’, lunches with girlfriends havin’, always complaining about how little time they have. Oh and most of them only have ONE child. Meanwhile my wife and I both work and we can barely afford to take one vacation a year with our three kids.

[Note from Rod: I’d agree with you, Phil, if that’s the example I saw of SAHMs. They’re not all like that. — RD]

#3 Comment By thehova On January 8, 2013 @ 3:55 pm

I’m glad Rod took David Mill’s advise to be more sensitive by calling Wurtzel a “basket case”.

Ugh. This is part of the reason why many young Americans dislike social conservatives. It’s a simple lack of consideration and manners.

#4 Comment By MH – Secular Misanthropist On January 8, 2013 @ 5:09 pm

M_Young said:

I think she’s still pretty hot.

During my dating years in my 20’s I occasionally encountered attractive women who made you wonder why they were single. After getting to know them you realized that they were emotionally volatile and would drive you crazy. Really young men will tolerate a hot/crazy woman because of inexperience coupled with hormones, but once you’re past 26 you know to steer clear of the type.

#5 Comment By FL Transplant On January 8, 2013 @ 5:10 pm

My reaction on reading her essay was meh.

Pretty typical mid-life crisis blues. If she had chosen the SAHM track she’d be writing about the exciting times living in the City she’d missed, the travel she’d wished she done, the experiences she’d missed, nothing to show for her life except some Tiffany silver that’s never used, an underwater house, and a life of missed opportunities. (Except there’d only be a dozen or so of relatives/friends reading her blog). If she was financially well-off she’d be resenting the Park Slope Brownstone, heafty retirement accounts, and Mercedes Sports Sedans as meaningless possessions she’d traded her life’s passions for.

Is your circle so limited that you don’t know anyone in the same situation as you and your wife–happily married w/kids, living the 50s Ozzie-and Harriet lifestyle–who suddenly left to (guy) buy the sports car, take up with the younger girl, start skydiving/scubadiving/rockclimbing, or (woman) ditch the family, move into the City, take up the long-neglected pottery/jewelry-making/art and embrace the free, bohemian life?

Middle-age crazy is so stereotypical because it’s so…typical. It’s just that when most have those sleepless nights full of regrets and what-ifs, watching the clock move from 03:00 to 04:00, we don’t document it and if we did almost no one would read it.

#6 Comment By SketchesbyBoze On January 8, 2013 @ 5:13 pm

Rod, this is a really moving post. You have a great life.

#7 Comment By Chris Roberts On January 8, 2013 @ 5:36 pm

On Being Elizabeth Wurtzel Or How Reading Her Essay is Like Committing Intellectual, Cultural and Logical Suicide

#8 Comment By Roger II On January 8, 2013 @ 5:36 pm

Calling SAHMs prostitutes is ridiculous and disgusting, and Wurzel just seems like a completely absurd person. But grumpy realist is also right. A woman takes a big risk when she completely absents herself from the job market for many years. If the marriage falls apart — something that is not wholly within her control — she will have a very difficult time. I know more than a few women who face severely strained circumstances and difficult retirements when their marriages dissolved after many years, and they had not worked while raising kids. And even if the woman is able to find a decent job, she will have foregone 10+ years of retirement savings. In other words, being a SAHM can be a great option for many women (or being SAHD is an option for an increasing number of men) but no one should agree to the role without a full appreciation of the risks.

#9 Comment By David J. White On January 8, 2013 @ 6:02 pm

Count me as one of the leftovers, I guess, but sometimes life just doesn’t turn out how you expected. I’m a 34-year old single man who wonders how time got away and why everyone else seems to have gotten the memo about life.

I hear you, Orthodoxdj. I’m 50 years old, I finally got married (for the first time) about 20 months ago to a wonderful woman, and I’m finally finishing up my Ph.D. this year. For the first time in about 20 years it feels like my life is (back) on a real track. Of course, the fact that I was, in some respects, in a holding pattern for 20 years is, in large part, my fault; but, on the other hand, I’ve done a lot of things over the past 20 years that I would probably never have done if I had stayed on the projected path and one what was “expected”of me when I was younger. So things tend to balance out.

I guess my point is that you at 34 and Elizabeth Wurzel at 44 have a great deal of your lives ahead of you (at least as much as any of us have our lives ahead of us), and just because you having accomplished something by some arbitrary sell-by date doesn’t necessarily mean that you will never do it, or at least that you’ll never make something of your life.

Granted, if someone had told me this 16 years ago when I was 34 I probably wouldn’t have believed it, but then that’s the nature of things.

#10 Comment By Aerys T. On January 8, 2013 @ 6:06 pm

Rod, when it comes to hating strangers, you are a true virtuoso. I must learn from the master…

#11 Comment By cecelia On January 8, 2013 @ 6:51 pm

What thoroughly ticks me off about this essay – besides the self pity that permeates it – is the remark abut prostitution.
There is a brand of feminism – well – maybe feminism period – that demeans the traditi0nal work of women. I am sure Sharon Astyk would do a better job of articulating this and why this is so wrong. But I shall try.

The noti0n that the only way to be a free and equal woman is to have a career – that a woman who chooses to be a homemaker is therefore not free and equal, that she is even a prostitute, is so lacking in common sense and so anti choice, so insulting to other women and demonstrates an utter lack of any understanding about what marriage is. But she also demonstrates a failure to get how her definition of freedom and female equality is tied into supporting a very particular culture and economic system.

But what really infuriates me is the demeaning pf traditional women’s work. When a woman gardens and raises chickens – it isn’t some charming past time or hobby – it is an economic contribution to the family and it is work. Sewing is work, laundering and housecleaning is work, child rearing is work. And why do nit wit alleged feminists like EW persist in thinking that working as a lawyer for someone else is liberating yet working for one’s own home and family is prostitution? Why is the contribution one makes as an attorney more valuable than the contribution one makes as a raiser of children, a cultivator of the soil, a seamstress or cook? And does she for one moment ever contemplate that the homemaker is probably a more sustainable (in the ecological and communitarian sense) way of life than the two car because we both commute to work, kids at day care, no time to make meals from scratch liberated woman lifestyle? Does it occur to her that we have constructed a economic model that is all about consumption and that the single career girl and her bachelor male counterpart is a lifestyle that supports this unsustainable consumption? That she has been brainwashed into believing this is “liberation” ?

What Julie does is 1) her choice and for a woman like EW who is so wild about choice it is infuriating to read her deny and invaliadate the choice that other women make 2) is a more productive and certainly more sustainable way of life than the $3,000 rug buying, weekend shopping in Milan single liberated woman is living.

#12 Comment By Orthodoxdj On January 8, 2013 @ 7:51 pm

David White,

Thank you. I appreciate the encouragement.

#13 Comment By elizabeth On January 8, 2013 @ 7:53 pm

“I have a number of atheist friends in contented, committed marriages with children.”

Thanks ossicle! I’m one of those. Married for 25+ years, together 8 before that. One child (no judgement on our fertility, please – one takes one what gets) who was both unexpected and welcomed.

I’ve also worked the entire time (only 10 weeks of maternity leave, but a very flexible employment situation), building a cooperative business that thousands of people count on to provide them with wholesome food.

Which is the more fulfilling? Hard to say. Our son lights up our lives. I worked 30-hour weeks most of his childhood and cooked family dinners every night except for the weekly pizza/game night. We gardened, to an extent, but I got so much free (slightly worn but fine) produce from work that food was cheap. My husband or I read to our son an hour nearly every night from age 3 through the summer before his senior year of high school. We like to cook together now.

The business I’ve spent three decades with employs nearly three hundred persons (25 when I started). We’ve been part of the growing awareness of the impact of good food on health. We’ve helped farmers and other small businesses expand their reach.

Both work and family have been fulfilling. But the kid is on his own and I will retire in a few years. Then it won’t matter which choice I made, because I’ll be home, forgotten by all but a few, living with my husband as long as we manage to stay healthy. The past will be past. I can think about the son and the business, but both will mostly have moved on. Okay, the kid will have dinner with us sometimes and if there are grandchildren, that will be fun.

We’ll still die. We’ll still wonder if we could have done better or more.

Why this intense need to judge?

#14 Comment By Aerys T. On January 8, 2013 @ 8:17 pm

Since my perusal and prior comment, I gave the article a close read.

Here’s what stirs up my hate: mainly jealousy.

This woman has gotten at least five life-changing lucky breaks. She won the physical attraction genetic lottery. She won the brilliant neuron genetic lottery. She won the literary career lottery. She won the Yale Law admission lottery. She won the I’m-best-buddies-with-a-superlawyer lottery.

How can she whine about this? How can there be any proper response to such whining other than white hot rage? If her Yale-JD-wielding, Boies-name-dropping, Potter-Stewart-punning, lovely golden dazzling friendswithDavidFosterWallace life is a tragedy, then where the f*ck does that leave the rest of us? And, frankly, how dare so much luck and fortune be dumped on top of one person?

Like I said, it’s mainly just bitter envy on my part. But I enthusiastically subscribe to this hatefest nonetheless.

#15 Comment By Sam M On January 8, 2013 @ 8:40 pm

“In other words, being a SAHM can be a great option for many women (or being SAHD is an option for an increasing number of men) but no one should agree to the role without a full appreciation of the risks.”

Yes. There’s a risk that you might one day wake up, without a husband, and find it hard to support yourself. But aren’t there other, different risks to being a working DAD in a traditional marriage? If the marriage breaks up, there is virtually no chance you will get the kids unless your wife has been thrice convicted of running a murderous drug cartel. So you wake up and… the family is gone, except you still write the checks.

Life is risky.

#16 Comment By AnotherBeliever On January 8, 2013 @ 8:56 pm

I don’t think she’s stupid, or sad, or horrible. She’s just human. Nor is it necessary to have children or a large 401k to have meaning in your life. There are plenty of childless people who contribute greatly to their extended families, local communities, and/or our society. I count several of these people among my colleagues, close friends, and relatives. Plenty of other people are happily raising children on a shoestring in the heart of major urban centers. No harm, no foul.

Wurtzel still has plenty of time to find a passion or a cause or a vocation or a faith or a lifelong lover or some combination thereof. She could go on to adopt a child, or she could “adopt” and become close to a niece or nephew or godchild, offering moral and financial support and seeing to it that the child grows up well and succeeds at what matters in life, not least because it took her a while to learn those lessons.

Besides, there are many of us with fat 401Ks and children or any other number of marks of success who are lost and do not even know it. Far better to be a penniless drifter fully aware of your spiritual lack, if the Gospel is to be believed.

“I have seen the sun break through
to illuminate a small field
for a while, and gone my way
and forgotten it. But that was the pearl
of great price, the one field that had
the treasure in it. I realize now
that I must give all that I have
to possess it. Life is not hurrying
on to a receding future, nor hankering after
an imagined past. It is the turning
aside like Moses to the miracle
of the lit bush, to a brightness
that seemed as transitory as your youth
once, but is the eternity that awaits you.”
– R.S. Thomas

#17 Comment By Rosie Land On January 8, 2013 @ 9:06 pm

My goodness. She must have been most astonishingly beautiful when she was young. Smart beauties plan ahead for when the beauty’s gone. The dumb ones end up like Elizabeth.

Women everywhere use the tools, as we ladies say amongst ourselves, till time empties the toolkit. And it’s always saddening to see a case like this, where the empty toolkit reveals just that–emptiness. (I exaggerate slightly to make a point; physically, her kit isn’t empty, yet. I bet she could still flirt or weep her way out of a traffic ticket.)

#18 Comment By Glaivester On January 8, 2013 @ 9:18 pm

I do not know that I agree with the idea of marriage involving a lot of self sacrifice. Marriage is an option, and any self sacrifice is really just my decision to take actions that support a bigger goal (life with my wife and daughter)

I think that’s the point, that people are not willing to sacrifice now for later.

#19 Comment By Johan On January 8, 2013 @ 9:40 pm

“whose hardening middle-aged face, with those perpetually self-adoring eyes, you can gaze upon above…” You must have very particular standards. This photo is not hard to gaze on at all.

#20 Comment By David J. White On January 8, 2013 @ 9:47 pm

During my dating years in my 20′s I occasionally encountered attractive women who made you wonder why they were single. After getting to know them you realized that they were emotionally volatile and would drive you crazy. Really young men will tolerate a hot/crazy woman because of inexperience coupled with hormones, but once you’re past 26 you know to steer clear of the type.

That reminds me of something I heard or read once: For every beautiful woman, there is a man who can’t stand the sight of her.

#21 Comment By AnotherBeliever On January 8, 2013 @ 9:57 pm

As far as the prostitute thing goes, David J White has a point. You can get sex in any number of arrangements from wedded matrimony to one night stands to hiring a prostitute and several gradations in between each. So it makes sense to say that you merely pay a prostitute to go away afterwards. 😉

As far as calling a SAHM a prostitute. This is just the most extreme commentary I’ve ever heard in the drag out, knock down, flame out “Mommy Wars.” I pay little attention to any of that commentary, and the loudest “Mommy War” statements the least attention of all. Culture war verbal battles are downright Shakespearean in their sound and fury, signifying nothing. It is not likely that any of the most histrionic commenters on both sides are anything but trolls, and if any of the most extreme commenters actually mean what they say, than they are not even worth acknowledging. The reasonable middle is drowned out entirely. The contrast between that silliness and the kind of people drawn to comment on Dreher’s blogs could not be greater.

#22 Comment By RB On January 8, 2013 @ 11:21 pm

Working in the Peace Corp, starting a business, becoming a whistleblower in a corrupt corporation or nation, and driving are all risky. But we usually consider those who take the risks either normal or noble, and not foolish. Maybe we could offer similar support to those who take the plunge into marriage.

cecelia–amen.

Aerys T.– I so totally agree. I think today’s sexual culture pits women against each other, not that I needed the encouragement (meow).

But I think you put your finger on exactly why her regrets are so poignant–she had every chance in the world to be happy and successful and she STILL blew it.

It’s got to make her crazy to know chubby nobodies in Flyover, America have captured a happy contentment that she couldn’t, and that her looks, brains, money and connections ultimately availed her nothing. No wonder she feels like she needs to lash out.

She sounds like someone in a religious crisis. I don’t agree with her church, but I have to admire her dogged persistence in keeping the faith with the church of Mammon.

#23 Comment By Richard Parker On January 9, 2013 @ 3:27 am

“I think she’s still pretty hot.”

Agreed and I dated versions of her over and over again until I figured out the look of crazy. Took 55 years to do so; slow learner!

#24 Comment By VikingLS On January 9, 2013 @ 10:37 am

[7]

If you read this piece she wrote for Elle she describes the wonderful man she dated when she was in hear early 20s. She says she felt sickened by contentment and thus cheated on him widely and repeatedly until he finally found out and they broke up.

What I can’t figure out is what the attraction is of reading something written by someone so self-centered and oblivious. Is there really a market for it? Why? Would anyone want to read a good looking and lucky man lament that he screwed over a string of women and that as he’s getting older he’s feeling somewhat lonely?

David Mills is probably wrong that the main person she hurt was herself.

#25 Comment By Just Some Guy On January 9, 2013 @ 11:59 am

Rod, your response to this essay has been nagging at me since you posted it, and I have been struggling to suss out the reason why. I know that I am late to the conversation and low in the thread and that this story will soon drop “below the fold,” as it were, so who knows who will see my comments? You, maybe.

First, some preliminaries. You were out of line to mock Wurtzel’s appearance, calling her the dessicated husk of a woman and the like. Such is maybe fun to write and to read (for some), but it is not an argument and is utterly beneath a writer and thinker of your quality. And you have pulled that stunt before, when Helen Gurley Brown died — said she looked like a “ringwraith” if I remember correctly. You might consider you have never, to my knowledge, made fun of the appearance of a man you disagreed with. Once is an accident, twice a coincidence, three times a pattern. Please be careful. You are better than that.

Second, part of the problem is less a moral failing than a craft failing. In other words, Wurtzel is a bad writer, at least in this piece. For what it is worth, there is an essay over on Slate that lays out that argument pretty well: [8]

Third, please remember that she might be sick. I do not know her mental state toady (nor do you), but I do know she has struggled with mental illness in the past. I do not know if she is getting help, seeing a therapist, taking her meds. But mental illness is no joke. It is a hard cross to bear. That does not give her a free pass from being a nice person, and, yes, she did present her personal struggles to the scrutiny of the whole wide world, but, still, I hate to see people piling on the weak, wounded, and ill. Maybe it is best to avert your eyes and say a prayer for her, but that is between you and the baby Jesus.

Now, for the heart of my trouble with this post, and others of yours that treat the topic of singleness and childlessness: You often couch your critique in the language of selfishness. Single people are selfish for refusing to enter into the dance of Christian marriage. Childless couples are selfish for refusing to enter into the sacrificial giving of parenthood. You warn such people of the desolation and loneliness they will surely reap in their old age, the just punishment of their selfishness, and everyone tut-tuts along with you.

Again, fun to write and to read. But not helpful. Not helpful because it is not true, and not true because it is incomplete. And the incompleteness is, I think, a theological one.

What I think you are overlooking is a theology of vocation, especially in its full Reformed richness. (I know, you are not Reformed, but please humor me.) Such a doctrine teaches, to paraphrase the early puritan William Perkins, that a vocation is a kind of life imposed by God on man for the common good. All a Christian’s activities ought to be bounded by and oriented to this vocation. And the vocations are multiform, in harmony with God’s various ways of working in the world. So one can marry, or not, or have children, or not, and remain obedient to God and in service to the world through the outworking of one’s vocation.

You write, “Marriage and children are the ordinary means to fulfillment, but they aren’t the only ones.” That is not quite right. Your error is in saying that life is primarily about fulfillment. It is not. I know you know this, but it bears pointing out. Life is about obedience to God, both in the general contours of the Christian life and the specific requirements of one’s vocation. Which is another way of saying that life is about service. And, what is more, it is about gratitude, which is the impetus, milieu, and telos of our service.

Again, this can be done faithfully by someone single, or by someone married and childless, or by someone married with children. Those statuses are less important than the question, How is this person serving God? How is she doing God’s work in his world?

In practice, I know, this can be complicated and uncertain. Open to doubt. Tempted by regret. These complications are places where faith comes in, the great letting go. We strive to be mindful of God’s presence, to remain in the light. We make the best choices we can, as obediently as we can. We move forward. We see what happens. We give thanks.

I will bet you do not disagree with much of what I have written above. But sometimes, in posts like this one, it is not as evident as it should be.

#26 Comment By Grady On January 9, 2013 @ 1:06 pm

Not that it really matters, but Wurtzel is 45, not 44. Here is a series of photos of her from 2012. While in my opinion, attractive, she resembles very little the highly filtered photo we’re looking at.

[9]

#27 Comment By RB On January 9, 2013 @ 1:16 pm

In the spirit of Understanding The Other, what do you suppose she meant by “prostitute”? Did she choose that term for its impact on social conservatives like me? I am under the impression that to a woman like her, the worst thing a woman like me could possibly be is a prude, not a prostitute. Her vitrolic epithet sounds downright Puritan.

According to many in the chattering classes, prostitutes are valuable sector of the international service industry, after all, deserving of special recognition and support by doctors and law enforcement, right?

So is she concerned that traditional SAHM’s like me are having too much fun, or not enough?

#28 Comment By Consequences On January 9, 2013 @ 3:33 pm

She mentions being a heroin addict, albeit a high-functioning one, and her problem is that she’s a feminist?

One can only hope she finds a cowboy…

#29 Comment By Tyro On January 9, 2013 @ 8:17 pm

Second, part of the problem is less a moral failing than a craft failing. In other words, Wurtzel is a bad writer, at least in this piece.

And in general, Wurtzel is a good writer. What’s nagging me about this is that Wurtzel’s story is more of a tragic one in the old sense rather than a cause for mockery. Wurtzel ostensibly has everything that we want: smarts, ambition, an acceptance to Harvard, success in a writing career, admission to Yale Law School, etc.: her accomplishments are in many ways the ones people dream of having, and no doubt she was the envy of her high school and college classmates and the pride of her parents. But she also came with a self-destructive streak that she couldn’t get over and, in fact, indulged in. I’ve seen more than a few hyper-talented classmates who blew me out of the water intellectually implode or simply burn out or in other cases trying to scrape by and trying to finally “make it.” It upsets me , personally, more than anything else, and I don’t have the, “hahah! that’s what you get!” reaction Rod seems to have.

[Note from Rod: I’m not having a “ha ha, that’s what you get!” reaction. I’m having a “you stupid twit” reaction. It comes not from Wurtzel’s travails, which are sad, but because having suffered so much, she nevertheless affirms her path, and puts down people who have taken a more conventional path — including calling women like my wife and my female friends whores. My pity is limited to the pitiful. — RD]

#30 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On January 9, 2013 @ 10:13 pm

Much ado about nothing.

#31 Comment By Pat On January 10, 2013 @ 8:06 pm

Rod, when it comes to hating strangers, you are a true virtuoso. I must learn from the master…

Brilliantly put, Aerys T. (and I see what you did there). I assume Dreher’s just overreacting to the word “prostitute” (and, really, if you’re that delicate, do yourself a favor and stay off the internet. Strong words abound.), but every bit of emotion expended on this over and above that sentimental outrage is just weird.

#32 Comment By dewdropvelvet On January 11, 2013 @ 11:08 am

It’s crazy to criticize a writer on what they dont know. Writers write about what they know. You say she hasn’t been married, there’s so much she doesn’t understand.. But you probably don’t understand what it’s like to do everything for art, including throw your life away just to make a good painting, (etc). How could you? Those are things you would never think about. So just as you say she doesnt understand marriage, you don’t understand Wurtzel.

#33 Comment By EliteCommInc. On January 14, 2013 @ 5:13 pm

Note to David,

I applaud your marrige, the wholeness and renewal you find in it at fifty . . .

May you and your wife be the same to each other as she seems to be for and to you.

Sweet comments.

#34 Comment By Jodi On January 24, 2013 @ 11:42 am

Having married to a hard-driving career man, raising three closely-spaced children, watching five lively neighborhood boys after school nearly every day, and taking in three foster children (as teenagers)…I dunno; if that was “prostitution” then I was seriously underpaid:<)

#35 Comment By Lennard On May 24, 2013 @ 3:08 am

Why all the hatred, Mr. Dreher? At least Wurtzel is capable of examining and criticizing her own life choices in an open and honest way. But all you do is attack, attack, attack her for it.

I come out of reading your post with much more appreciation and sympathy for Miss Wurtzel’s point of view than your own. Perhaps she is not the one who needs to grow up, so much.

#36 Comment By Annabelle On April 9, 2014 @ 5:24 pm

Hello my name is Annabelle Gardner. I am 18 years old and find your description of your wifes support interesting. I am going to paraphrase for sake of scrolling up because I am far at the bottom of the comments. She is your helper, teacher to your children and bill paying. Those types of phrases are bothersome. Is your wife simply a robot with no real qualities you appreciate? I am stunned that when describing her you use words that one would use to describe a coworker or even an employee. How about you describe your wife as a devoted, loving, spiritual and amazing woman who has volunteered to stay at home with yalls children rather than pretending that she is satisfied with being treated like a business partner.

#37 Comment By dedicatedreader On May 9, 2014 @ 8:15 pm

I thought that “More, Now, Again” by Elizabeth Wurtzel was one of the best addiction memoirs of all time. I was rather disappointed, however, to read several pieces written by Lizzie in recent months where she pontificates about the virtues of drinking wine. I don’t think it would be good advice to tell an addict that s/he can drink carafe after carafe of wine after giving up the dry goods. Addiction doesn’t work that way.