Apparently, self-abuse is so prevalent among the younger generation that it needed a poster child. It has now found one. Her name is Cat Marnell.
Marnell has written for websites I do not frequent on topics that I mostly ignore. But, Simon & Schuster sees something marketable in her verbal ramblings and has given her a book deal worth $500,000.
Let’s hope that Marnell does not spend it all on drugs.
In her book Marnell will regale us with stories of her drug abuse and of her thrilling sexual escapades. One wonders whether she could have indulged her sexual appetites as much as she did without her biochemical support system.
For what it’s worth, Marnell’s parents are therapists. Her father is a distinguished psychiatrist and her mother is a social worker-therapist.
One can be forgiven for comparing Marnell to Lena Dunham, whose parents were both artists. Clearly, Dunham got the better of the deal.
Anyway, Marnell was introduced to drugs by her father. When she was 14 he wrote her first prescription for Adderall.
For those who think that psychiatrists believe that there is a pill for everything, Dr. Marnell's behavior will help buttress you opinion.
Jenna Sauers of Jezebel has read Marnell’s book proposal. It’s not a portrait of a lady and it’s not a portrait of the artist. I would like to think that it’s more an anomaly than a norm, but I suspect that Simon & Schuster did not put down half-a-million on an anomaly.
Sauers summarizes Marnell’s opening biographical sketch.:
It details her childhood in Bethesda, Maryland, and her relationship with her psychiatrist dad ("a rage-filled narcissist to us but an upstanding conservative Republican and Washingtonian magazine 'Best Psychiatrist' to everyone else") and therapist mom ("a diabetic, anorexic...an emotional vacant lot, 95 lbs. all the time with dead eyes.") Her childhood sounds like a monied, WASP-y kind of hell: domestic violence, a father screaming "Real silver doesn't go in the dishwasher," and filet mignon in a Frank Lloyd Wright-designed house. Marnell mentions the family dining table cost $5,000. "All I've ever wanted my whole life," she says, "was a way to escape and get numb."
I’m betting that she will not be dedicating the book to her parents.
I am intrigued by Marnell’s wish to get numb. Someone who works so hard at being outrageous and accumulating cringe-worthy thrills is probably seriously desensitized, thus, numb to life’s joys.
Jezebel allows us to examine Marnell’s prose style. In her proposal, Marnell wrote:
Senior year was more of the same. I bought ecstasy in bulk from legendary teen drug lord Sketchy Ralph, and sold it to underclassmen at an AIDS Day Awareness dance. I was kicked out — "asked to leave," as they say — a month before graduation, over three months pregnant with the student government president's baby. At the time of my dismissal, I had the top GPA in the class (tied with the German genius Marcus, natch) and was Tatania [sic] in "A Midsummer Night's Dream." [...]
Oh yes, and that pregnancy? Turns out I'd let it go to the second trimester and had to have a violent, no-anesthesia abortion in a ghetto clinic somewhere in the District, where I shook, wept, and sobbed in agony on a table. My mother accompanied me and in the "recovery room" said very little — she is not a nurturer, that one! — but did hand me a bottle of Xanax prescribed to me by my father, a prescription written in advance that I didn't ask for. And that, my friends, was how I was introduced to my good friend benzodiazepines, a family of pills I have taken daily nearly every day of my life since.
Presumably, Marnell is telling these sad stories in order to titillate the masses. Unfortunately, some people will read them and think that hers is a life worth having.
Happily, Sauers does not count among them. She understands the Marnell is offering a portrait of someone who has no sense of personal responsibility.
Sauers describes it well:
Marnell's interest in drugs is broad and catholic. Here's Marnell on taking anti-psychotics, which are "easy to score from psychiatrists" because they're not narcotics: "I always welcomed any feeling that legitimate mental illness was finally overtaking me (it's never stuck, alas), for this would explain my bad states and also protect my pills, my pills, my pills."
Marnell seems to want very badly to be seen as a victim — of her parents' emotional distance, of their preference for expressing care in the form of pharmaceutical prescriptions, of her user boyfriends. But her proposal describes her being afforded the kinds of second, third, and fourth chances that most people don't get. Coworkers cover for her when she can't even bring herself to write "200 words, say, on the new spring lipstick shades." Frankly, Marnell gets the kinds of first chances people not of her background are rarely offered. Her bosses defend her to higher-ups. Media companies she works for — Condé Nast, Say Media, and Vice — pay for her stints in rehab and hospital care. Even as Marnell remains the type of person who stops to apply "some sort of gooey red raspberry mask" to her face when she wakes at 9:37 on the morning of a very important 10 AM meeting, for which she is completely unprepared.