Looking for someone new to scorn and loathe? Last Thursday, New York Times reporter Janny Scott served up a heaping portion of Bonnie Fuller, the recently appointed editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan magazine. Faced with Fuller's show of "having it all" (great job, great family, great marriage, great 87-year-old house under restoration), Scott wrote the kind of profile that savages even as it feigns to fawn.
Fuller, who was then working full-time at home while her office was being redecorated, makes an easy target. In the story's second paragraph, she is performing no fewer than eight activities at the same time, including nursing her newborn, planning a trip, "talking by telephone to her office, organizing a birthday party, charming her husband and editing the top-selling women's magazine in the world." I left out watching a reporter and "collaborating" on the work going on in her house. Probably she was also breathing. At least we hope. But we get the point. Fuller can juggle.
Her cold-blooded confidence permeates the profile. Edit copy while nursing? No problem. Drop the maiden name because it takes too long to sign checks? Why not? Leave the house at 8 a.m. and return 13 hours later? "I consider, like the Cosmo philosophy, that I'm doing it all, I've got it all," she says.
Now factor in the three kids. They're there too, somewhere, only Dad takes care of them, mostly. Along with the nanny and the "uniformed nurse" for the newborn. But don't think for a moment that Fuller feels as though she's neglecting her children. "I think at a certain point, you have to give up on the guilt," she says.
Our faithful winking reporter, Scott, sneaks in just enough clues to the article's tacit angle: "Ms. Fuller is nothing if not practical ... With characteristic efficiency, she gave birth right before sunrise, 17 days ahead of schedule."
By now we all see Fuller for what she is, right? An overachieving, overscheduled, professional upper-middle-class dragon mother who cynically peddles irrelevant, demeaning junk like "Seven Moves that Will Make a Man's Mouth Water" to the teenagers who buy Cosmopolitan. Thank you very much, Janny Scott.
This profile allows us to exercise our scorn on two levels. First, right in stride with the New York Times, we can jeer freely at Fuller and her madcap schedule. After all, it's not like she's racing away from her family every morning to perform brain surgery, to overhaul and rebuild the welfare state or to adjudicate criminal trials. She's devoting her waking hours to proofreading "What Kind of Sexual Vibes Do You Give Off?" and "What I Did for Lust." If you're going to employ a bevy of private backup in order to manage and raise the family you created, you'd better be up to something mighty meaningful when you head for the car. The world, and certainly the life of the average woman, is no better for Fuller's business in it.
Second, when the paper of record pillories somebody, even between the lines, it pays to examine the effect. In other words, what cause is served by our collective mockery and scorn of a person like Bonnie Fuller, who may simply be living out an extreme (and particularly detestable) version of the choices many of us make every day? If you've ever answered the phone when you should have been reading a story to your kid, or sorted mail at the dinner table as your mate was trying to share his day with you, you've committed a Fullerism. On this level, we scorn Fuller as a scapegoat, heaping our share of Philistinism on her back as she makes her way each day to Radu, "the celebrity fitness guru of medicine-ball sit-ups fame."
The problem seems to be our continuing obsession with "having it all." The Times and the rest of the media may call the enterprise "a high-wire act" or "a juggling act." But why must the average person be challenged to perform practically impossible circus routines? A person cannot attend to the needs of small children and practice a profession at the same time. Is this really so awful to admit? Bonnie Fuller cannot possibly have it all. She may be having her career, but she's not having her kids. Her husband, the nanny, the nurse and their school are having them. That's her choice. Fine. So why does she blather on about the mythical "having it all?" Because it makes people, typically women, feel bad. And why should we all feel bad? Maybe so we'll buy stupid magazines like Cosmopolitan and seek the enlightenment we need by reading "Immediate Help for 'I Hate Myself' Days."