Wrapped Up In Books

More, now, again [Elizabeth Wurtzel]

One of my favourite authors when I was a teenager (and probably still now if I read it) was Elizabeth Wurtzel. She’s the clever and acid-tongued wordsmith who penned Prozac Nation for which she received international acclaim (and criticism).

I think I read three of her four books in the same summer – once I had a taste of one, I lapped up the next (More, Now, Again) and then another (Bitch: In Praise of Difficult Women [and my god, was I ever a difficult teenager; nay, I’m still difficult]). I read The Secret of Life: Commonsense Advice for Uncommon Women some years later and it made less of an impression on me than did its predecessors.

In all likelihood I was so touched by Wurtzel’s words then because I felt, probably like any other teenaged girl, misunderstood, full of some inexplicable angst, and somehow stifled by my all too familiar surroundings. I did not know then that the key to what I thought was me being so complicated was held by any female who had lived beyond adolescence and realised the error of their ways.


It was a bit like stepping back into this memory lane when I learned that she had written an article for Elle magazine, which fortunately was published in its entirety online. Its most Wurtzelian title is, of course, Beauty Fades, Loneliness is Forever. Instead of viewing her as a peer, this time round I’m taking in what she says as wisdom I have yet to acquire (the trials and tribulations of my future should teach me well).

She has not lost that trademark inherent bitterness, but even she is not immune to hindsight being something closer to 20/20 than some glossed-over glaucoma (doubtless because her past is not so sweet).

“…Age is a terrible avenger. The lessons of life give you so much to work with, but by the time you’ve got all this great wisdom, you don’t get to be young anymore. And in this world, that’s just about the worst thing that can happen—especially to a woman. Whoever said youth is wasted on the young actually got it wrong; it’s more that maturity is wasted on the old. I was both emotionally unkempt and mentally unhinged—deeply depressed, drugged, sensitive, and nasty all at once—during the years I was supposed to be spousing up. My judgment was so lousy, I probably deserve plentiful wedding gifts—Tiffany silverware to serve several dozen—for all the people I didn’t marry, because the men I dated were awfully bad choices, and I was not such a good bet myself.

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…”

Read it. She’s flawed but I still admire her.

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