There are two Pat Benatar songs stuck in my head right now, both from the same album, “Tropico,” which is my favorite Pat Benatar album. I had a copy of “Tropico” way back in the day, bought from the local music store. It was scratched, right out of the sleeve. Couldn’t return it. So I kept it and listened to it anyway. Loved it. A few years ago I finally got rid of it, only to immediately regret it. I recently lucked into another original copy, one that isn’t scratched. Collecting vinyl again is still another post I’m not quite yet in the mood to write. Nonetheless, this song has been stuck in my head all day, while I’ve been thinking about any number of things, including the death of author Elizabeth Wurtzel.
If author Elizabeth Wurtzel and I had ever sat down to discuss politics, we probably wouldn’t have agreed on everything. I had not kept up with her story in the many years since she burst onto the literary scene with “Prozac Nation” and the follow-up, “Bitch: In Praise of Difficult Women.” I’ve read part of her first book, watched the movie based on it, none of “Bitch” nor her subsequent efforts, though over the years I’ve read several of her essays and articles for various publications. Looking at her social media feeds earlier today after having learned of her death at the edge of fifty-two from complications of breast cancer, it’s completely apparent to me that our ideologies on many subjects were probably miles and miles apart. I tend toward the classically liberal, that is the support of constitutional rights and freedoms, with the knowledge that our rights are inherent to our beings, existing because we exist and not as a gift or a granting from any government, etc., etc., blah, blah, blah. But then there’s what else I could see.
Elizabeth Wurtzel’s Instagram is loaded with pictures of her and her dog, Alistair, she took the dog everywhere with her. There are pictures of her in her cluttered apartment, sitting on a purple sofa. I like clutter. I like walls covered with art and pictures like in a Paris parlor/salon. There’s her ridiculous collection of CDs and all her books. There’s this fantastic photo of her wearing a red dress that was taken by Stas Komarovski that accompanied a piece in Interview Magazine in 2017. There’s this essay she wrote for Elle magazine about “When Beauty Fades” which is just a great piece of writing. There’s that whether you agreed with her or not, liked her or not, she had the guts to say things about things in a way no one ( woman) of our generation had yet. She wrote about her life, about being a woman as a member of Generation X, unflinchingly. Her humanity is obvious. Her doe eyes betraying her vulnerability. She didn’t do what we were all taught to do, us Gen-X gals, she didn’t bury her anger, she let it loose, and then she embraced it until she owned it, instead of it owning her. In a world full of copies, of cheap knock-offs, robots, and automatons, Elizabeth Wurtzel was an original, with a great, big, voice. Those are getting to be fewer and farther between. Elizabeth Wurtzel had tons and tons of heart, but what’s more than that, she could access it. If Elizabeth Wurtzel and I had gone to the same high school, we’d have shared a cigarette lighter in the girl’s bathroom, for cigarettes and burning our eyeliner, and seen each other at the same keggers, and other places. We’d wouldn’t have hung around together, but we’d have always ended up at the same places, given each other a nod and said “Hey.” Then she’d have gone to college. She went to college, while I got married and became a mom. All your soul sisters aren’t people you know or totally agree with, it’s a commonality of some feeling, it’s a being from the same place, in this case, a place in time, in this case, Generation X.
I logged onto Twitter in the afternoon and the first thing I saw was that Elizabeth Wurtzel had died at the age of fifty-two. And I’m feeling my own fight. How I get up limping every morning for an hour or so and how I can’t lift weights to work out anymore because it wrecks my neck and back, how everything hurts a little and I need to lose twenty-five pounds this year because the extra weight is stress on my joints, and how I’m not drinking, I’m still sober, and how I’m fighting to keep from the stupidity of some kind of childish mid-life crisis that I cannot afford in any way. Wurtzel wrote on one of her Instagram photos, before going into surgery, that 1987 was worse than breast cancer, that was before she knew it would be the thing she was fighting from then on. Still, though, that’s just flat-out brave. I’m fighting the feeling that I haven’t “lived enough.” But what is that? That I haven’t loved enough, or said enough, or written everything I want to write, or published it, or what, what, what? I’m fighting the feeling that my generation is too quickly becoming shadows and ghosts. And no, no, no. Mortality is a bitch.
Then, are we on the brink of war?
What do I need to buy if we’re on the brink of war? A velvet dress? A vat of tequila? Gallons of red wine? Some smokes? The ingredients for making our own bread? Fuhhhhuck!
I hope she got to keep that red dress. It was fabulous.
This is the other song on going on in my brain.