So I was going to get all uppity about this New York Times piece by Cintra Wilson. I was going to make fun of her name for a little while and then make fun of New Yorkers. I was going to compare everyone to that sharp-shouldered, smarmy bitch at the advertising agency Carolyn works at in Mr. Mom (though, yes, I know, that's not New York – it's the essence I'm going for).
Then I was going to do some riffing on Sex in the City and Parsons and finish with a valiant attempt to explain how pasty, chubby Middle Americans are maybe not all floating around on their WALL-E-style deck chairs drinking Big Gulps and wishing they could could be anorexic New Yorkers who live in gentrified tenements and eat cigarette sandwiches. I was going to say that maybe Times writers should think about who helps create the pop culture that feeds their city and infuses their businesses with tourist dollars. I was going to say that in these Trying Times it is extra uncool to insult people for trying to buy affordable clothes – or *gasp* find a job – even if those clothes are a size 14 and made out of polyester, and even if that job is with a company that uses an "ancient Helvetica Light logo."
I was going to do all that, but then I thought that might be a little hypocritical.
I, on occasion, as a writer who enjoys hyperbole and insulting people, have overstepped the bounds of decency in trying to make people laugh. I have also accidentally offended people when something I've written has come across a lot harsher than it sounded in my head. This makes me sympathize ever so slightly with Ms. Wilson. I understand what it's like to sit, chortling at your desk, while you come up with some jokes that make you laugh out loud even if they'd make the Farrelly brothers punch you in the neck. I can even understand how you might get swept up in the moment, piecing together prose about obese mannequins, and not realize that you're about to unleash a firestorm upon yourself (because, yes, the models for obese mannequins do read the things you write).
I understand these things. But I also understand that writing in the New York Times about having to inject insulin-epoxy into fat mannequins to keep them from losing their mannequin limbs to mannequin diabetes-induced gangrene is a touch… over the top. I mean, really. Does JC Penney selling affordable clothes threaten the New York way of life at all? Does it promise to steal jobs from acid-tongued waifs who think they're being charming when really, maybe, people who have to buy XL pants don't want to be compared to Voltron? I don't think so.
Instead, it all just comes off as mean. It comes off as the written version of high school taunting. It comes off as unprofessional.
I do give Cintra Wilson a little credit, though. When the scuffle about this piece escalated, she channeled her best Diablo Cody for a wry little self-deprecating non-apology apology. And then when that didn't work, she said she was sorry for real. Sort of. You can tell she hasn't changed her mind, and mostly she's a little more "oh shit" about the whole thing than she wants to be. As another acid-tongued writer waif, I can understand how she didn't didn't quite comprehend how her cleverness could backfire so tremendously. But it did. I'm glad she said she was sorry.
And here's something that might get me in trouble – I'm also glad that people like her are not afraid to make off-color jokes that leave fumes on the page. I just don't think it's OK to do it in the newspaper, under the guise of reviewing a new store.
I think, to be really honest, I might enjoy having drinks with her and giving her shit about her cigarette sandwiches. I might even get vaguely drunk and call her retarded.
But I wouldn't do it in the newspaper.