I’m Too Old to Write About My Life
I used to be known for personal writing. Now I can’t bear it.
I’ve recently had a revelation that should have been obvious but for some reason wasn’t; the older you get, the less charming it is to tell stories about yourself.
As someone who spent at least the first half of her career mining her life for interesting/funny/embarrassing/emblematic-of-larger-cultural-phenomena anecdotes that I could write up for magazines or whip out at dinner parties, this sparked a bit of a crisis. Who am I if can’t take my daily micro-dramas and recast them as zany antics for fun and profit? What happened to the girl who could turn a bad date into a 1,500-word women’s magazine article? Why am I no longer inclined to produce endless verbiage about the various rooms of my home? (I wrote an entire book about my obsession with houses.) Is it because I currently live in what is essentially a one-room apartment and have a Murphy bed?
Or is it because I’m old enough to know better?
(For the record, I could write about my Murphy bed if I wanted to. I happen to love it. Murphy beds—now typically called “wall beds,” which is much sleeker terminology—are well-designed space-saving devices that, at least in my case, still allow you to sleep on the expensive, extra-firm mattress you have leftover from your previous life as a bonafide grown-up living in a real house.)
But I digress. Let’s get back to the question of being old enough to know better. It begs more questions. Old enough to know what better? And is this knowing, whatever form it takes, actually better, or does it signify a worsening relationship to the material facts of my life?
The late legendary writer and filmmaker Nora Ephron famously said that “everything is copy,” but she was young when she started throwing that line around. (The phrase, it turns out, had come from her screenwriter mother, who would say it to her young daughters as a way of helping them see that even the worst situations can be made into great stories.)
Ephron may have written a hilarious tell-all about her first marriage, but she was a younger woman then, telling the story of her even younger self. As she got older, she wrote…