‘I Believe in Love’: Elizabeth Wurtzel’s Final Year, In Her Own Words

The difficult final year of a much-loved and legendarily difficult woman

Elizabeth Wurtzel
Published in
19 min readJan 8, 2020


Photo illustration, Source: Neville Elder/Getty Images

Introduction by Garance Franke-Ruta. Jump to the start of Elizabeth Wurtzel’s essay here.

TThe late Elizabeth Wurtzel was best known for her memoirs and essays, especially Prozac Nation and Bitch: In Praise of Difficult Women, but after attending Yale Law School in her late 30s she also enjoyed having a voice in the political arena. She was as much an original there as everywhere else, and between 2010 and 2012 she wrote a series of pieces for me at The Atlantic.

A feminist and a New Yorker who had really lived, she looked at the world in a different way from all the boys on the bus in Washington. And she was funny. She would send long text messages written on her smartphone while she was walking through Washington Square Park, an emissary from a more vivid and creative world than the boxy K Street buildings I would pass en route to my office in the Watergate. Sometimes her stories would come in like that too, texted in graf by graf, and I’d knit the passages together in what seemed like the right order and ask for some connective language. The thoughts were always razor-sharp; the understanding of human nature acute.

Over time our editing relationship moved into a long-distance friendship. We met for dinner at a restaurant in Chelsea, outside of course so her dog could be nestled at her feet. She had somehow managed to find a lipstick with my name on it — Guerlain’s Garance — and purchased us two tubes encased in elegant silver that sat heavy in the hand. She wore hers to dinner, and when I went to the restroom, I changed my color too, making us lipstick twins. It was how she was and in many ways the secret to her success: In addition to being wildly talented, she overcompensated for being so difficult and never totally in control by being astonishingly thoughtful, and kind, and, well, seductive. She was a seductive personality; hard not to love even as she could be hard to be close to.

When I started working at GEN this fall and living in New York full time, I reached out to her. “I’m in remission!” she’d said brightly when we first reconnected, three years after last seeing each other…