- New York Magazine
- Here she is contemplating her “one-night stand of a life”
In a time when countless articles are published arguing whether or not women can have it all, it seems like it should be refreshing that Elizabeth Wurtzel flat out admits that she doesn’t have it all. In fact, she writes in New York magazine that she has nothing—”no husband, no children, no real estate, no stocks, no bonds, no investments, no 401(k), no CDs, no IRAs, no emergency fund…no assets, no family.” What does Wurtzel have then? Well, she has a lot of names to drop. So, at least there’s that. She’ll always have that.
In the grand tradition of profoundly privileged women who just can’t pull it together and need rescuing over and over again but still want you to feel bad for them, Elizabeth Wurtzel took to the pages of New York magazine to complain about what a terrible time she’s having because of all the terrible decisions she’s been forced to make because she is a “free spirit” who “doesn’t know any other way to be.” Oh, to be a free spirit, to be pure at heart, to be the kind of person who “chooses pleasure over what is practical” and “goes to law school on a lark.” What would it be like to have that kind of freedom?
It sounds like it would be pretty excruciating, actually. It sounds like it might be just about the worst life ever, because even though Wurtzel has the luxury of frittering away her Wednesday mornings eating “paprika biscuits” in bed (which, gross, just think about all those brick-red crumbs in her sheets) with some random guy, she also complains that she is “so done with 2012. What a wretched year it was.” Aw. Poor Lizzie. What happened? Well, apparently, Wurtzel had the landlord from hell, a woman dubbed “Hooker Maria” whose animosity toward Wurtzel is explained away by the fact that Hooker Maria is old and jealous. This is just one instance where Wurtzel demeans other women on the basis of what they look like, which, is just about the quickest way to lose any credibility in my eyes. When Wurtzel calls two policewomen “fat,” she doesn’t help her argument that these cops were ineffective, she only proves that she isn’t imaginative enough to come up with better insults than a somewhat slow 3-year-old who missed his nap could.
Anyway. I wish I even understood what the intent of Wurtzel’s essay was—especially because Wurtzel herself clearly points out that she herself “live(s) specifically, with intent” and has “no ability to compromise.” But I can’t. She just sounds like a real asshole. She sounds like the kind of woman who identifies with the quote that states, “I’m selfish, impatient and a little insecure. I make mistakes, I am out of control and at times hard to handle. But if you can’t handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don’t deserve me at my best.” That quote—which, I guess Marilyn Monroe said?—is the provenance of teenage girls with Borderline Personality Disorder who like pretending that they’re this close to suicide in order to get as much attention as possible. It is, in a word, sad.
But don’t waste any time feeling too badly for Wurtzel because she also wants you to know what a truly amazing life she has led. For example, did you know that she went to Harvard and Yale? You might know that if you Google the name “Elizabeth Wurtzel” as she seems to obsessively do herself. And did you know that she knows not one, not two, but THREE smart people named David? Well, she does. And she mentions them all in this essay. (It’s Boies, Foster Wallace, and Remnick if you can’t get through the whole long slog of an article.) Also, she had opportunities to live a more normal life, one where she might have squeaked by on an income in the low-six figures, but she couldn’t compromise herself in that way. She’s just too pure at heart.
So, instead, Wurtzel finds herself in her mid-40s, basically homeless, without any real friends and writing rambling essays for New York magazine. But at least she has her integrity? Am I the only person who thinks that integrity might be completely overrated if what your “pure heart” is advising you to do is create turmoil and despair in the lives of those around you? Wurtzel, and people like her, deserve empathy, of course, but only if they want to change the ruinous behavioral patterns that Wurtzel so explicitly embraces. She doesn’t want to change. She wants other people to pick up the pieces after she blows thing up. That is not an essential part to an artistic temperament or a “free spirit.” That is just being an asshole. And it’s not that unique, either. This is probably the last thing that Elizabeth Wurtzel would ever want to think about herself, but, as it turns out, she is just another run-of-the-mill asshole who happened to get lucky with a book deal in the mid-90s and is still riding that wave, talking about Birkin bags and one-night stands as if those things mean something anymore, as if they’re relevant. They’re not. And neither, really, is Elizabeth Wurtzel.
Follow Kristin Iversen on twitter @kmiversen