Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Elizabeth Wurtzel: the lonely apartment

Elizabeth Wurtzel is a 45-year-old American feminist, most famous for being the author of Prozac Nation.

She is in a state of lament at the moment. She describes in a recent column how last year a female neighbour harassed her to the point that she fled her apartment to a local park:
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...I was alone in a lonely apartment with only a stalker to show for my accomplishments and my years.

...I am harsh and defeated, and I never thought I would describe myself in either way. The list of things I can’t be bothered with goes on forever.

It's not that she didn't have chances:
When I was still in my twenties, for several years I had this wonderful boyfriend; I'll call him Gregg—he's the one we're all waiting for: tall, blue-eyed, with this thick black hair, all smart and sensitive...It was young and romantic. You'd have thought we were happy. I think really we were happy. He was good for me...I could have and probably should have spent the rest of my life with him....

But she wanted open-endedness:
But something went wrong—terribly wrong...I became seasick with contentment...I needed a sense that this wasn't the end of the story...Every day would be the same, forever: The body, the conversation, it would never change—isn't that the rhythm of prison?

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...
But it's now too late to change her mind:
Oh, to be 25 again and get it right...there are some mistakes that one is eventually too old—either literally or spiritually—to correct. I can't go back.
So what went wrong? She gives lots of clues. She freely admits that she is stuck in adolescence:
I live in the chaos of adolescence, even wearing the same pair of 501s.

...I have no ability to my case, it is about feeling trapped when I am doing something I don’t like, and it is probably more childish than anything has also meant that I have not disciplined myself into the kinds of commitments that make life beyond the wild of youth into a haven of calm.

She seems to have picked up on the liberal ideal of autonomy, in which what matters is that choices are your own, rather than that your choices are oriented to the good:
It had never occurred to me before that any of the choices I made, which I prized, I guess because at least they were mine, were crazy or risky; but I was becoming convinced.
Likewise, she believes, as a feminist, that women should be autonomous in the sense of being self-sufficient and independent of men:
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, and I am heartbroken to live through a time where Wall Street money means these women are not treated with due disdain.

Think about what that last paragraph means. She obviously doesn't see men and women as having complementary social roles, with men being providers and women nurturers. To her that's not an equal relationship and it's a cash transaction, rather than an expression of love and a realisation of our distinct being as men and women.

But if men and women can't connect through those drives and instincts, what is left to connect them? Well, one answer is what feminists used to call "free love" - men and women pursuing sex and romantic feeling with each other, but leaving as soon as the impulse fades. And Elizabeth Wurtzel seems to have lived her life on the principle of free love, seeing it as more pure and principled:
I am proud that I have never so much as kissed a man for any reason besides absolute desire... I believe in true love and artistic integrity

....For a while after my first book came out, I went home with a different man every night and did heroin every day...Even now, I am always in love—or else I am getting over the last person or getting started with the next one.  

If you want to cling forever to an adolescent mindset of not choosing but keeping things open-ended; if you believe that the primary good is choice itself; and if you reject complementary social roles for men and women in favour of a floating sexual and emotional connection, then you might well end up with a lifestyle like the one pursued by Elizabeth Wurtzel.

Perhaps there were times when she had some fun with it, but by her own account it has left her lonely and insecure and fearful of the life ahead of her.

And, obviously, it is no basis for a society to reproduce itself. She was only ever willing to commit to a dog, so there's been no marriage and children. If everyone lived on the same basis, a society wouldn't endure for more than a single generation.

One final thought. Elizabeth Wurtzel sees herself as a free spirit; in particular, she likes the youthful feeling of endless, open-ended possibilities in life. But what that misses are other aspects of the human spirit, such as the benefits of "connectedness", such as to family, home, community, people and place. A person who focuses solely on being a free spirit in Elizabeth Wurtzel's sense risks bringing upon themselves a demoralising sense of alienation.


  1. She gets the guy, then cheats on him. Total "autonomy" means "I can always do better". Female hypergamy strikes again.

  2. Randian,

    I agree that there are women who do that.

    And there's no doubt that she is influenced by hypergamy - she gushes in her article about a boss of a big law firm arriving to rescue her from her encounter with her neighbour.

    But I'm not sure that's the crux of it in this case. In her younger and more self-confident persona, she was very aggressive in pushing the mantra of being her own self-defining person:

    "I intend to scream, shout, race the engine, call when I feel like it, throw tantrums in Bloomingdale's if I feel like it and confess intimate details about my life to complete strangers. I intend to do what I want to do and be whom I want to be and answer only to myself: that is, quite simply, the bitch philosophy..."

    It's part liberal autonomy, part ongoing adolescent rebellion. It doesn't sound like a woman who is, in a strategic, mercenary way, attempting to land the big boss man.

    There are hints in her writing of a kind of rebellion against the limitations of reality itself - that she wanted to smash through such limitations - so maybe there's a touch of nihilism in there too.

  3. "And because I was cute all along—it's not like I blossomed into honeysuckle after adolescence—I was given to believe that love would be easy, men would be elementary, and I would have my way. I was meant to date the captain of the football team, I was going to be on a romantic excursion every Saturday night, I was destined to be collecting corsages from every boy in town before prom, accepting such floral offerings like competing sacrifices to a Delphic goddess. It was all supposed to be to the tune of some glorious Crystals song from the early '60s, when everything was still innocent, and my life would be a wall of sound from "Then He Kissed Me." Love would be simpler than tying a string bikini, the kind I wore a lot while waiting on the beach for my ship to come in.

    Alas, love has been complicated.

    The men have piled up in my past, have fallen trenchantly through my life, like an avalanche that doesn't mean to kill but is going to bury me alive just the same."
    Her expectations and choices were so modest and reasonable, and men are being so aggressive and (metaphorically) violent to her, viciously accumulating in her memories as she selects and deselects them, uses and discards them, one by one. (Or often more than one by one, as she is a cheater.) The don't just fall where she throws them down and treads on them, they fall trenchantly! They're killing her!

    It's enough to break one's heart.

    And yet, she's still better off than those other ones, the ones all excellent people like her despise:

    "People who say they have no regrets, that they don't look back in anger, are either lying or boring, not sure which is worse."

    Boring! Boring! Oh how boring the meaningless little people are, with their boring worthy lives made of boring correct choices and boring virtuous deeds, boring faithful spouses and boring healthy children!

    A society that is twisted out of shape so that hostile, destructive people like this can be the influential cultural elite is in a lot of trouble.

  4. A society that is twisted out of shape so that hostile, destructive people like this can be the influential cultural elite is in a lot of trouble.

    Yes, that's one of the things that struck me as I began to learn a little about Elizabeth Wurtzel.

  5. 1) Why doesn't she just accept that she is a free spirit and that marriage wasn't her thing?

    There have been women since the dawn of time who have not gotten married. That's not so odd. (I'm not speaking to you Mark, I'm speaking to her lament. Accept your fate and embrace the roll that you chose for yourself.)

    2) Heroin? Please don't even bother holding this woman up in any way shape or form as part of a trend. Even if she did get married her ovaries are trashed.

    3) I think you missed what she was saying...The men on Wall Street are seeing prostitutes and mistresses behind their wife's back. These type of immoral surroundings would definitely mess up the mind of a young 20 something girl.

    4) Ok Mark...I'm starting to wonder...WHY is the media printing these articles? The media NEVER wants good things to happen to us so why is there a weekly article about the sad ex-feminist woman or the sad woman wishing she had settled for the guy she didn't care for?

    Like honestly...There's a Reason and it's Never a Pure, Good-Hearted one with these people.

    What gives?

  6. It just hit me...

    I think these articles are being published on purpose to set us up.

    The overall message "I'm Childless"

    The second message "Take any dick you can get!"

    The third message "Be self-sufficient!"


    I think we're being corralled into feminism 3.0...Oh yes...

    Have multiple children with multiple men.

  7. WHY is the media printing these articles?

    In part, I think it's just a generational thing.

    Elizabeth Wurtzel is roughly my age. It was my female peers, especially the artsy ones like Elizabeth Wurtzel, who decided to dedicate themselves to the single girl lifestyle and to make family formation a low priority.

    I guessed back in the early 1990s that in 15 or 20 years, as these women aged, that we'd be witnessing the regret of some of these women.

    And in recent years that's what has happened. When these women got to their very late 30s, still unmarried and childless, these articles started to hit the press (Virginia Haussegger's was one of the first - she hit 40 in 2004).

  8. The following "choices" of liberalism:

    A - Childless (whether married or unmarried). No future.

    B - Single parenthood. No family intact.

    C - Have children, but don't have time for them (e.g. most high-status double income professional couples with kids). Family has appearance of success and goodness, but at the end there are deep scarring wounds for children.

    D - A couple of feminist women do the whole housewife thing (after getting their feminist merit badge to distinguish themselves from being *gasp* lower status), with daddies never around, and then whine how they are oppressed. I reject this as well. For most of the populace.

    A couple of classes can do this and all power to them, but I think both fathers and mothers should give importance to the home, as well as work. Not balancing a "high-powered career" with family (how many high-powered careers are there? not a lot) but a low/medium job with family.

    How about we reject liberalism and choices A, B, C and D. It's like four different poisons.

    Here's a post I just wrote at Traditional Christianity.

  9. Another New York neurotic neck deep in narcissism. I'm sure she believes herself insouciant but in reality just pathetic. Will the DSM-5 have a category for her types? More precisely one that not only diagnosis the pathology but correctly recommends appropriate remediation - that they never are allowed attention. One could only wish.

  10. "
    She seems to have picked up on the liberal ideal of autonomy, in which what matters is that choices are your own, rather than that your choices are oriented to the good:"

    Thanks Mark, the whole idea of "autonomy" just clicked with me, I couldn't quite get the idea of it but here's what I've gathered so far:

    Liberalism says that the only GOOD is that you have a CHOICE, instead of you having a CHOICE for either GOOD or BAD.

    Am I close?

  11. Lizzy Wurtzel is precisely my age. She is a larger than life version of many of her peers -- I went to school with women like her, started my career with women like her and so on. Most didn't end up like she did, but that was not because they started from a different place (she grew up quite economically wealthy in Manhattan, btw, herself) but because they made somewhat different choices in their 20s than she did -- she was the kind of girl they all envied in a way, while many of them eventually chose more conventional approaches around the time they were 30.

    In part, she's an outlier because of her previous (and documented) significant mental health issues and drug use (most of which was ritalin prior to the heroin problem). But when she cleaned up her act, chemically and mentally, she still didn't clean up her act in other ways -- likely because she didn't want to.

    She's written about this before as well a few years ago, about how she felt like there was this "yummy thing" about her younger self -- basically her attractiveness (Wurtzel was quite attractive physically in her 20s and early 30s, despite her self-destructive behavior and admittedly bitchy persona) -- that she felt compelled to make the most out of. For her, that meant sleeping around with lots of equally “yummy” men, rather than leveraging her attractiveness to land one man for a commitment. In this sense, she is closer to more of her age peer women who are in similar circumstances (elite educated, Manhattan-or-similar-urban-life, high paying professional job), as I saw this happening literally all around me with my age-peer women over the past 20-25 years.

    Ultimately she is the product of her era and generation – my generation. It was unfortunate to watch this kind of thing happening all around me to my peer-age females, but at the same time having done that it’s quite hard to have much sympathy for the fall-out, because the kind of behavior we see here impacted not just people like Wurtzel herself, but lots of other people of her generation as well.

  12. "I am committed to feminism and don’t understand why anyone would agree to be party to a relationship that is not absolutely equal."

    The answer to her personal conundrum is right there in her commitment to feminism. Its a deeply troubled mind that believes that relationships must consist of absolute equals, or that they even exist. Her misery is sad.


  13. "So what went wrong? She gives lots of clues. She freely admits that she is stuck in adolescence."

    She's a whore, pure and simple. Let's call him Gregg dodged a major bullet. He should get down on his knees and thank God

  14. Elizabeth,

    I agree with you that the model in which the wife stays home whilst the man works a job that makes him almost like an absent father shouldn't be our ideal.

    It doesn't work well for several reasons. First, it's not good for the marital relationships. Second, it's not good for the children. Third, it only allows men to realise one aspect of the fatherhood role. Fourth, it doesn't allow men to play a sufficient role in supporting the mother when the children are small. Fifth, it doesn't allow men to play the role in the wider community that they once did.

    I don't think the answer is so much part-time work for both men and women (I don't think we should underestimate the need for men to uphold the provider role).

    But, ideally, men would work locally (less commute time); working hours for most men would be reasonable; and there would be an attempt to set limits on take home work.

  15. Gregg dodged a major bullet

    Did he ever.

    But the sad thing is that, as Brendan suggested, she is an extreme version of a trend that existed within her female peer culture. So lots of men copped at least bits of a Wurtzel like persona in their dealings with women.

    I mixed with this kind of woman and found it disorienting. It's bad enough dealing with it in public life, but to be asked to relate to it as part of an intimate, romantic relationship was even worse

  16. Liberalism says that the only GOOD is that you have a CHOICE, instead of you having a CHOICE for either GOOD or BAD.

    Am I close?

    As a starting-point in the liberal approach to morality, then yes.

    The moral good for liberals is the act of making a self-determining choice, rather than what you happen to choose.

    The reason I said "starting-point" is that a kind of moral structure then develops once you identify choice itself as the good.

    The point then will be:

    a) to remove impediments to choice


    b) to develop a system in which we might all pursue such choices equally

    But these two requirement then produce a liberal moral universe - i.e. an understanding of right and wrong.

    In terms of (a) it will be thought wrong to make those predetermined qualities which lie outside of self-determining choice matter in a public setting, for instance, our ethnicity or sex. This contributes to the moral force of terms like racism or sexism.

    In terms of (b) it is thought both dangerous and wrong for people to impose their own pursuit of self-determining choice to the detriment of the choice of others. That is thought to be an instance of inequality.

    So the "correct" mental attitude that individuals in a liberal society are expected to adopt are those of respect, tolerance, equality, openness, non-discrimination, non-judgementalism and so on.

    And liberals can make virtues out of these things. For instance, if your focus is on tolerance, openness and non-discrimination, then the most virtuous person will be the one who proves that they are most open to the other, perhaps by taking the side of the other against the less "enlightened" (i.e. less liberal) members of their own side.

    It makes sense too, if your focus is on proving yourself non-judgemental, open and "neutral", that those who see themselves as liberal actors will not assert their own particular loyalties and cultural identities, but will adopt something more like the role of a "looker-on" or "taker-in" of the cultures and identities of others.

    It gets a bit more complicated because left-liberals explain the continuing existence of inequality in terms of some people establishing false categories (white, men, heterosexual) in order to impose their own right to self-determine over other oppressed groups.

    That then means that some people get to argue that, as an oppressed group, their group identity is a positive one, it being used to organise for liberation and social justice, and that their demands should take precedence over those of others, as the other groups are privileged relative to themselves.

  17. I think that slut just called me a prostitute. Perhaps I am mistaken.

  18. So, how did that great free love, self determination experiment turn out for you?

    What a telling article. It says a lot that even after all but admitting her ideology has made her miserable, she still won't give it up. Not only is the family dead - so is reason. Ideology is nothing to do with making society better anymore; it's all about identifying with a clique and sitting in a pillbox to defend its principles. Lack of family contributes to this because ideologues use ideology as a substitute for identity.

    Society is an intricate machine. It needs order to work; the chaos of self-determination is bound to lead to more of this disorder and misery.

  19. I just made the mistake of reading the whole article. Her mental voice sounds about 21 years old. Which is cute at 21.

    I can empathize with the pain of aging, though, especially since she was so pretty before. The prettier you are, the harder it is, because you often aren't used to being valued for anything other than your looks. Even her books have her picture on the cover, which I find incredibly sad. Modeling is so tawdry and demoralizing.

  20. It makes sense too, if your focus is on proving yourself non-judgemental, open and "neutral", that those who see themselves as liberal actors will not assert their own particular loyalties and cultural identities, but will adopt something more like the role of a "looker-on" or "taker-in" of the cultures and identities of others.
    True only if you're white. Only they are required to practice the self-destruction embodied in that ideal.

  21. She's good looking, or was good looking? Compared to Betty Friedan or Andrea Dworkin? We're not talking about the Baltic/Scandinavian context here.

  22. True only if you're white.

    Agreed. But then liberalism has been pressing itself into the mindset of educated Westerners for hundreds of years. The educated white male is the liberal actor (the liberal subject) par excellence.

    ideologues use ideology as a substitute for identity

    Good point.

    It needs order to work

    Yes, and this is one area where liberals get into difficulties. It's not that liberals are incapable of being pragmatic and considering at some level issues of keeping a society functioning.

    But that's not their emphasis. I wrote earlier that:

    the "correct" mental attitude that individuals in a liberal society are expected to adopt are those of respect, tolerance, equality, openness, non-discrimination, non-judgementalism and so on.

    If that's true then that will trump a concern for maintaining the institutional order of a society.

    You can see it a bit in the gay marriage debate. Trads worry about how the understanding of marriage itself will change and what the flow on effects of such a change will be.

    But Libs don't start with this. They start with the idea that it's their moral duty to show respect, tolerance, equality, non-discrimination, openness etc.

    So there's a strong likelihood that they'll support gay marriage on that basis. As for the flow on effects, this becomes a secondary problem which they might deal with by:

    a) concluding that there will be no flow on effects
    b) asserting that there will be major civilisational change, but for the better


    c) very occasionally recognising that there might be detrimental effects but that the moral thing is still to pursue the reform

    In general, it's very difficult for the average person who has taken on a liberal mindset to look too closely at future consequences.

    It's easier for such a person to be a bit blinkered in the way they look at the future - they can look to the future inasmuch as there is a promise of future reform or progress, but it's considered bad form, or impolite, to look directly at the more destructive changes that loom on the horizon.

    Which goes right against masculine instincts.

  23. "Even now, I am always in love—or else I am getting over the last person or getting started with the next one."

    There is nothing "independent" about this individual. Her sense of self is entirely dependent upon how others view her.

  24. randian: True only if you're white. Only they are required to practice the self-destruction embodied in that ideal.
    And for whites self-destruction is mandatory, in that ultimately you aren't even allowed to run away.

    (You can run, and white flight has been reshaping America's cities for decades, but in the long run you can't get away, and that's the point.)

    If there was even one state in America that was explicitly for whites only, white people would start moving there, in small numbers at first. Everybody who has thought about if for ten seconds knows that. The people who moved wouldn't say it was about race, because that's evil; they would always have a reason like the healthy climate. But the trickle would grow into a river.

    That's why anti-white liberalism wants mass immigration and forced integration into all white countries, and within each white country it demands "federal" solutions (in the centralist sense): so that there is no escape, no alternative, no choice.

    The legal elimination of places of white refuge is the Berlin wall of the anti-white left.

  25. She's good looking, or was good looking?

    She started out unusually pretty, but the hard living certainly isn't doing her any favors. And the aging hits all of us eventually.

  26. Rot in your dingy apartment Wurtzel, your demise is hilarious. Chicks won;t learn, no matter how many of their friends and acquaintances crash and burn around them. They'd be better off getting told what to do. They already obey tv and popculture, obeying is easy for them. Enjoy the decline ladies.

  27. This post inspired one from me, that I think you might appreciate, Mark.
    He takes me for granted

    I think women like Wurtzel overrate excitement and novelty, and they chase it right over the cliff like lemmings.

    You've been on a roll lately, BTW, Mark. I suppose the fount of modernist ridiculousness is overflowing lately. So much material to mock, so little time.

  28. Poor Gregg, just imagine the washed up druggie slut he missed out on.

  29. But it's great to be single! Marie Claire says so.

    This was front page on Yahoo News in Australia, so it must be true.

  30. Alte, thanks. I enjoyed your post, it's interesting to get some insight into how women experience things.

  31. What a self-centred boring article. Its all about me, me, me, I, and more I.

    Feminists, homosexuals, bisexuals and transsexuals etc, are obsessed with their own sexuality. And they think that the rest of the world should pay attention to them.