The other night, quite belatedly I admit, I watched the 2001 movie Prozac
Nation, based on the 1994 bestseller by Elizabeth Wurtzel. Correct me if I’m
wrong, but isn’t that a pointless tale about a mean-spirited, completely
self-absorbed brat with an excuse note from her parents (yes, yes, they are both
certifiable and poor little Lizzy had to excel to please her crazy mother,
resulting in a scholarship to Harvard...real child abuse. Discuss it
with the Tiger Mother.) Elizabeth feels she has a right to be co-dependently
Afterward, I wondered what had become of her since her ride into
To my surprise, I found that pill-popping, suicidally-challenged Elizabeth is not only still writing, but mentoring, using her own
life as an example.
In I Refuse to be a Grown-Up: Secrets to Looking
young at 45, published on April 11 in The Atlantic monthly, Wurtzel tells us she
was at a party in Williamsburg with much younger people and a man was astonished
when she told him her age. Yes, she has found the fountain of youth and is kind
enough to share her secret with us: Never marry.
Never have children you
will have to nurture, or (God forbid!) breast - feed.
Do drugs. Scream and yell about what bothers you, apologize
when you’re wrong. Be “vicious when necessary, sometimes just for
If one follows her advice, one can hope – using her own life as an
example – to live alone with a dog and cat and “die screaming.”
am relieved Elizabeth is still alive and kicking, and obviously still writing,
the article gave me pause.
While years ago such advice would not have
been taken seriously, let alone published, today it seems to represent the
thinking of a good many young people.
One need only pay attention to the
lyrics of the latest pop hit: “I crashed my car into the bridge/I watched, I let
it burn/I threw your s--- into a bag and pushed it down the stairs/I crashed my
car into the bridge/I don’t care, I love it/I don’t care.”
It is no
secret that marriage (at least that between a man and a woman) is in deep
trouble. Need I cite statistics on divorce and one-parent families?
It did get
me thinking during the forced introspection of the recent Days of Awe. I am 64,
and no one looking at me would doubt it. Still, I prefer my own life. And for
those who are looking for lives to emulate, might I suggest another model than
I married my first boyfriend, who is still the love of my
life, at 21, and had four children. But my wrinkles, except for the laugh lines,
don’t come from them. To give birth, nurse a child, raise him or her is to feel
yourself connected to the deepest mysteries of the universe: life, love,
creation. It brings a joy that no one can convey to you, that you simply must
To find a partner in life, to take care of them, put up with
them, become one with them during a long, eventful marriage in which both of you
are tested to the limits of your being, is to be shown the true mirror of your
You can never, ever know yourself as deeply in any other
way. It is one of the great experiences of being human and being
And whether that bond lasts forever, or for a time, you are a more
whole human being because of it. And while I admit this means I have forgone the
sexual adventures of my century, I can say I am glad I never shared my body or
my bed with anyone who knew me less well, and cared for me less deeply, than the
man I married.
Except for rallying for the presidency of Barack Obama,
the young in America seem to have lost all interest in politics.
Wurtzel, who basically says politics is all a fraud that gives you wrinkles, I
care deeply about whom I vote for, because I care deeply about the world I am
While I share her loathing for politically correct
pundits and those who mindlessly repeat conventional wisdom, that doesn’t mean
one can forgo the struggle of fighting the forces of evil that exploit the poor,
damage the weak, hurt the defenseless.
I have exchanged many a
non-physical but wounding blow with those who hate me for the stands I’ve
Admittedly, my life would have been much less complicated and
stressful if I’d switched on the television and had a beer instead, but the urge
to make the world a better place before we leave is a grown-up goal, and one
that is worth the battle scars.
Perhaps if I had a cat and a dog like
Elizabeth instead of 12 grandchildren, I might care less.
Let me tell
you, Elizabeth and your followers, about grandchildren. They come along just
when the end of your life looms into view, closer than you ever
Their young bodies and young minds, their innocent beginnings
in the world give you a second chance to help nurture and contribute. Just when
you begin to feel old and useless, you have little hands to hold, curious minds
to fill with hardearned wisdom, and a place to put all the love you have to give
while you are still alive. It gives you a new goal. To live to be at their
birthdays, soccer games, plays and graduations, and to dance at their
Unlike Elizabeth, sometimes I do what other people want me to
do, because other people are important to me.
Sometimes I invite people
over whom I don’t like because they are lonely. Sometimes I make dinner for
family members who have hurt me because there is a chance for reconciliation and
life is so short.
I am also, like Elizabeth, interested in everything,
even some things that on the surface don’t appear very interesting.
a child’s drawing, or an old man’s tale of youth.
Yes, Elizabeth, people
Sometimes, they have good reason, because no one is
given anything in this world. But the fact that you are alive at this time and
in this place is enough for me to care about you, to connect me to you wherever
you are in the world. Self-indulgence isn’t a crime, except when it is
all-consuming and leaves nothing in your mind and heart that can connect with
others. When that happens, it’s not a lifestyle; it’s a tragedy.
care about how I look. I vainly dye the gray out of my hair. I put on face
cream, although I’m pretty sure it’s useless. But at family gatherings in which
photos are taken, I find that when surrounded by the large group of people that
are my blood relatives, my husband, my children and their spouses, and my
grandchildren, even though I don’t have botox or nice teeth, I have a very
And when I die (hopefully in peace and silence), I hope
it will be on my face as I survey what I have left behind during my brief
sojourn to this complicated planet.