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Sexist Beatdown: Youth Is Wasted On the Young, and Also on GREGG Edition

Oh, Elizabeth Wurtzel. So readable. So relatable (NOTE: this is more true if you are a thirteen-year-old girl). So seriously, seriously problematic and scary.

Like, for example: have you read this new essay of hers, about WHEN BEAUTY FADES? Well, Amanda Hess of The Sexist and I have! It is chock full of the self-loathing and the inappropriate messages for ladies! In it, she states, many many many many times, that she would seriously rather die than not be pretty or get laid any more, laments her age and withered, haglike condition (she is forty-one years old – yep, time to put Grandma in a home) and shares her regrets about the men that got away, AFTER they punched her, threw glass bottles at her, and chased her down the street with frying pans. Because, you know, it’s a shame she didn’t settle down with those dudes. Before it was too late.

Oh, and also, there’s GREGG. GREGG, you see, is the perfect boyfriend. He comes equipped with an extra G on the end of his name, a heaping helping of boyfriendly condescension, and a bottle of Body Shop peppermint foot lotion that he may or may not throw at your head in a fit of pique.

Seriously, you guys. GREGG is so terrible.

ILLUSTRATION: GREGG totally has one of these. He will wear it on all your dates. With his “special” flip-flops.

AMANDA: hello!

SADY: hello lady. your beautiful dream of talking to me while i’m all hopped up on the cough syrup is about to come true. and also we get to talk about how wacky elizabeth wurtzel (still) is! is she not wacky?

AMANDA: she is, Sady. I was introduced to her wackiness at a tender young age, when my mother bought me Prozac Nation. I was maybe 13, so I loved it.

SADY: yes. I recall reading Bitch in junior high. and hiding it from my mom, due to its provocative cover!

AMANDA: looks like she hasn’t “aged well,” though! ha ha … hmmm.

SADY: well… she still has mermaid hair! actually, this article is weird, because it is like, “i am old and ugly now. i should have settled down. however, i am neither old nor ugly, and still have lots of dates and sex.” so, when you’re reading it, it’s like… “sad! umm… happy! umm… happysad?”

AMANDA: but those dates want her for what she used to be (young and not ugly), which leads me to believe, you know, it may be a personal problem. but i think she admits that throughout.

SADY: yeah. i think she still misses gregg. can we talk about how gross gregg, the perfect boyfriend, sounds? is that cruel? “sensitive, an inveterate graduate student who used to rub my feet at the end of the day with a lovely pink peppermint lotion from the Body Shop.”

AMANDA: yeah, who was surprised when he threw a bottle at her face?

SADY: that was a shocking twist! he also pronounced that he was “her only chance at happiness,” and that she would now fail at life, due to not dating GREGG. GREGG is a witch! He laid a curse on her!

AMANDA: i found that part really interesting. a few of the commenters were chastising her for “bragging” about her looks, but i thought she made an interesting point about societal expectations for young women … i definitely identified with that, not with the “beautiful” part, but with the “smart young woman” part. not that i’m old and ugly or anything, but it was always like “you’re so smart, why are you [with him]?” or you’re so smart, why [aren’t you happy]?” stuff like that. and in her case, it turned out to be, you’re so smart and beautiful, why aren’t you with someone like GREGG who doesn’t fucking understand you at all and who does not make you happy? (and throws bottles). (like all your other boyfriends).

SADY: yeah, seriously. i mean, i get that she felt like the world was offered to her – and it was! she was elizabeth wurtzel! – and it still didn’t make her happy, and that would be enough to send anyone into a tailspin. i can identify with that. but also: tying it to your looks seems to gloss over sooooo many of the other problems. like, there’s this undercurrent of abusive bottle-throwing (or lamp-throwing, or frying-pan-chasing-with) relationships that i think it would be worthwhile to get into. yet she seems to blame herself for MAKING the dudes be all abusive, like so: “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.” Ummmm… maybe they did that because they were jerks? Also: maybe it’s good that you DIDN’T STAY WITH ANY OF THEM? Due to the jerk thing?

AMANDA: yeah man. i’m not sure she takes away the same lesson from GREGG—beautiful, perfect, peppermint foot-rubbing, complete jerk—that we might, either. Surely, she can’t be serious that she ACTUALLY THINKS her one chance of happiness was with GREGG?

SADY: Right? I mean, she’s all like, “if only I had stayed with GREGG – a dude i was so unhappy with that I cheated on him, multiple times, and also he broke into my computer, and also he threw a bottle at my face – I would be happy.” Um, probably not. Probably you’d be begging him to throw away his damn hemp necklaces. And then banging the mailman. Interesting fact: Elizabeth Wurtzel passed the BAR EXAM! She became a LAWYER, for a LAW FIRM! I find it interesting that this whole “I wasted my life” thing does not take into account the fact that she has had two separate careers that require a pretty tremendous amount of work and intelligence to pursue. Apparently, if you’re not with GREGG or a GREGG analogue, it’s all for nothing.

AMANDA: points for honesty i guess

SADY: yeah, and wurtzel always gets those points. i just think it’s weird that we have this narrative for women – and you see these pieces ALL THE TIME, it’s not just her – that are like, “i once thought i could date around and not settle down and pursue my career, but now I know I should have SETTLED. For I am SAD, SAD, SAD.”

AMANDA: yeah, but based on her earlier work, i mean, she’s been sad throughout. the essay is just a sequel: “Sad at 40.” that’s not to belittle it — i like her work — but given what we know, i can’t say that 40 has much to do with it.

SADY: exactly. i like a lot of what wurtzel has done, too. yet: it doesn’t make sense to position oneself as a cautionary tale about regret and wasted youth, if your youth was also spent feeling sad. i guess it’s just the positioning of this piece – as a one-more-lady-regrets-not-

settling thing – that i have a problem with. that and the “i’ve finally learned how to make dudes not punch me in the face, because before it was my fault that they did that” thing.

AMANDA: that one little aside … she puts it in parentheses! i would like to read more about that little aside and why it is the case.

SADY: Exactly. That aside, for me, is the story.

AMANDA: i, too, have a lot of problems with this essay, but i think she’s writing about what a lot of women experience and don’t talk about. it’s not acceptable for women to feel that this is “their fault” — but it’s understandable to me why they would feel that way, and productive to talk about that feeling existing. she should write a book about that aside, though.

SADY: Yes, definitely. I would buy that book. Even without the provocative cover.

AMANDA: she should interview all the dudes. that would be great. where is GREGG now?

SADY: Playing acoustic Bob Marley covers on the subway.


  1. snobographer wrote:

    I never read ‘Prozac Nation’ or any of her other books, but Wurtzel sounds like she’s got a lot of self loathing going on for someone as successful as she is.
    I have a theory that beauty compliance in women does more harm than good, but I haven’t managed to get many people to agree with me.

    Friday, May 29, 2009 at 1:34 pm | Permalink
  2. Cait wrote:

    Fuck, my life had barely started, as far as actually enjoying it, til I hit 40. Some people just need a serious attitude adjustment. There’s more to life than getting men shallow enough to only fuck you because you’re young and pretty..

    Friday, May 29, 2009 at 1:39 pm | Permalink
  3. Intransigentia wrote:

    Wow, that’s really sad. I think I need to take her home and feed her tea and cookies and make her read The Beauty Myth. And then introduce her to my mom (63) and her boyfriend (70) and ask her what part of their happiness has to do with being young and hott.

    Friday, May 29, 2009 at 1:54 pm | Permalink
  4. Linnea wrote:

    I kind of love Elizabeth Wurtzel’s ability to make me feel like no matter how awful and stupid my self-inflicted woes are, hers are ten times more awfl and self-inflicted. And she’s smart too. It’s a little of there but for the grace, and a little of wow, at least I’m not that fucked up. Does make me feel bad for her as a person, living through that, because self-inflicted woes are no less woeful.

    Friday, May 29, 2009 at 2:25 pm | Permalink
  5. Sniper wrote:

    Hmmm. Wurtzzel. That would be the same Elizabeth Wurtzel who called the destruction of The Twin Towers “a pain in the ass” and compared it to performance art.

    Under controversy. By the way, I recommend Lunch With Jan Wong to anybody who enjoys a good interview.

    Friday, May 29, 2009 at 3:14 pm | Permalink
  6. Mireille wrote:

    I’ve seen comments that she’s just pretty and dumb, but in my experience, dumb people are happier. “Ignorance is bliss” is a cliche, but I think it’s so true. People tell me I’m smart, but I’m not happy, even on anti-depressants.

    Friday, May 29, 2009 at 6:58 pm | Permalink
  7. jeannie wrote:

    I have no fucking idea what this woman’s article is supposed to be about. Like, “HUZZAH FOR ME I HAD TEH PRETTEH” and then some SAT word that I had to look up that sounds totally awkward (“redound”???? And like, sweetness and sunny days????? I think I just threw up in my mouth a lil’ bit.) and a random pop culture reference and then “I WISH I COULD SEDUCE WAIT I AM SUCH A SEDUCTRESS WAIT I CAN’T SEDUCE ACTUALLY BECAUSE THEN I WOULD GET WHAT I WANT WHICH IS NOT A RELATOINSHIP BUT WHEN I DON’T GET ONE I HAZ A SAD, YA KNOW????” and then some split infinitives and then, “I HAZ TRADED MY BRIGHT EYES FOR BIG TITTIES SO I RECKON IT’S ALL GOOD BUT NOT REALLY”…….WHAT?

    Also, have you ever read anything so masturbatory in your life? “ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME.” Like, why must I be told that it was peppermint foot lotion? And why do I care about all your modeling shots and whatnot packed into boxes?

    And lastly, her OH SO POIGNANT parting shot, “if you say you have no regrets, you’re either lying or boring” – again, all I can say in reply is a resounding WHAT IN THE FUCKY FUCK?????Oh, and, actually lastly, what is her advice to the overwhelming majority of women that are NOT conventionally beautiful at any point in their lives? From this article, I extrapolate the following kernel of wisdom – “Hang up your hats, uggos. Happiness, it just ain’t for you!”

    Friday, May 29, 2009 at 7:01 pm | Permalink
  8. C. L. "Cat" Minou wrote:

    Like you guys, I found the article weirdly disturbing–well written, but something about it just left me queasy. Besides Greggggggg. Maybe it’s the whole “I was pretty and fucked lots of good-looking guys and wrote best-sellers and became a laywer and now I write pithy elegies for a magazine that pays an obscene amount per word but WOE. IS ME.”

    I dunno, I guess that’s tragic; I mean, it’s not like she started living as a woman (and dating men) at the ripe age of 36, and only then realized how much living her life the old way had cost her. Because that might suck. You know, for her.

    You could try that sense of regret and lost opportunity on for size, Mme. Wurtzel.

    Friday, May 29, 2009 at 8:57 pm | Permalink
  9. meerkat wrote:

    Wurtzel seems to have a lot of “not considered hideously ugly for entire lifetime” privilege. Poor her! She only got ONE youth of being sought after and considered youthfully beautiful!

    Saturday, May 30, 2009 at 3:00 am | Permalink
  10. Sniper wrote:

    I extrapolate the following kernel of wisdom – “Hang up your hats, uggos. Happiness, it just ain’t for you!”If you pressed her, she would probably agree with that assessment, but as for the article, unattractive people don’t enter into it because we don’t exist. The world consists of only Elizabeth, her boyfriends, and that amorphous blob of humanity that praises her good looks.

    Lest I sound bitter, I should note that I was odd-looking as a child, hideous as a teen, briefly “almost cute” in my twenties, and am now a very plain adult. And I have an adorable husband, a great job, money in the bank, and hilarious friends. Obviously, I have the life to which Elizabeth Wurtzel’s beauty entitles her. Too damn bad.

    Saturday, May 30, 2009 at 8:30 am | Permalink
  11. William wrote:

    I will go off and read the article carefully, and with all due consideration. However, all this GREGG action is giving me flashbacks to a British comedy, The Mighty Boosh, which has a segment about OLD GREGG. Perhaps it might even be the same GREGG:

    And given that the sketch’s humor is driven partly through relationship and gender issues, it’s not totally out of place here.

    Saturday, May 30, 2009 at 9:29 am | Permalink
  12. Brigid Keely wrote:

    Thank you. I thought I was the only one who found GREGG appalling. He spies on her! And throws shit at her! And verbally berates her! Oh, what a sweetie. *swoon*

    Saturday, May 30, 2009 at 11:21 am | Permalink
  13. Anonymous wrote:

    I got the impression that her panic about losing her youthful beauty is actually a symptom of a more generalised fear of mortality, and that she is well aware of this – as when she’s talking about how she cheated on Gregggg because the thought of knowing who she would be with for the rest of her life was like a coffin lid clanging shut or whatever. I think maybe she comes off as very narcissistic because she doesn’t censor or qualify her ‘first thoughts’ – most of us know logically that beauty doesn’t entitle you to a better life but in the society we’re in I think there are very few of us who haven’t thought at some time or another that things would just be indefinably *better* somehow if we were prettier, thinner, sexier. I might just be reading her in an overly charitable way thiough, since I’ve struggled with many of the same persistent, illogical thoughts (well, not the ones about being a ‘hot number’, book-cover-appearing beauty, but the fear of mortality being expressed as panic about commitment/desire to fuck around and anxiety about looking older).


    Saturday, May 30, 2009 at 6:06 pm | Permalink