September 10, 2009

"My Own Private Tailhook"

Okay, I just finished reading what may be the most callous and obnoxious article I've read in a mainstream magazine this year, courtesy of Marie Claire and essayist Lea Goldman. A sample "witticism":

Thankfully, I married a guy who can't keep his hands off my, ahem, generous curves; walking around him naked invites relentless poking and prodding—my own private Tailhook.

(No, I'm not a regular MC reader--I followed Jezebel's lead.)

The Jezebel commentary focuses on the actual validity of criticizing women's locker-room hygiene. Since I don't frequent them, I don't have a take on that. What interests me is how this article got so off track. Writing humor ain't easy, and Goldman's only 32: she's not a seasoned writer. I wonder if there's a decent personal essay here--on boundary issues in the locker room--that got buried under some tonal missteps, when she was trying to get a laugh and made the joke too broad, or the judgment too harsh.

Though there's really nothing defensible about a description that includes "nipples the size of salami slices." Sigh.

The commenter response reminds me, a little bit, of the disgust expressed in response to this article by Rachel Beckman, from last year's Washington Post Magazine Wedding Issue, about her efforts to encourage her boyfriend to propose. In trying self-deprecate and play herself off as the buffoon, the author came off as a shrew.

I've been there. Sometimes I've reviewed a first draft of an XX Files column and thought Jeez, that girl sounds high-strung. Never a good sign when you ARE that girl.

But here's why there's no excuse: that's what second drafts are for. And third drafts. And editors. Sure, maybe the writer is still learning the ropes--but what's Marie Claire's excuse?

1 comment:

giulia said...

MC editors have no excuse. I'm not a preening priss & I love to laugh, but that was coarse, vulgar, & unfunny. No wit, no style.

Now I'm worried about swimming laps today. Yikes. I don't sashay around a locker room but I also do not look at others as they perform their ablutions. I wonder how the writer finds the time to cast her glance more than (very) lightly on others in that setting. I'm usually in a hurry.

Hmmm.