A Drug User’s Take On The Cat Marnell, Glamorous, Drug-Addicted Writer Thing


I don’t think it’s a big secret around here that I like to indulge in the occasional mind-altering substance. So when I saw the editors debating about xojane writer Cat Marnell and how responsible/irresponsible it is for Jane Pratt to make money off of Cat’s constant updates on her drug problem, I felt compelled to weigh in.

I think some of the things Cat has written about her addiction are really beautiful. In ON THE DEATH OF WHITNEY HOUSTON: Why I Won’t Ever Shut Up About My Drug Use, she makes a convincing case for the fact that it’s better to talk about your drug problems than to hide them, because that kind of silence prevents people from getting the help they need. Cat’s own life is a prime example of this; would anyone have nudged her into rehab if she hadn’t made it very clear that she needed to go? On the other hand, one might make a convincing argument that, as a fairly popular beauty editor who is well-dressed and conventionally attractive, Cat Marnell is making drug use seem cool and glamorous. This line of thinking seems unfair, though, because it arbitrarily silences people based on how they look. Who gets to decide who’s plain enough to write honestly about her life? Seems a bit ridiculous to me.

The thing many people don’t understand about drug addicts is this: they’re sick. They’re not doing drugs to piss off parents, or to lure impressionable children into trying them. They’re doing them because they’re addicted, and when those people make art, that addiction is often a theme, because it looms so large in their lives. Is it okay to enjoy this art, even as you acknowledge the sad circumstances under which it was made? I think so, because otherwise you’re missing out on a lot of great art, music, comedy and writing. This person is going to be a drug addict whether or not they’re successful, and the only exploitation going on here is self-exploitation.

Part of the problem comes when other people (people who are not addicted to drugs) then swoop in and make money off the addicts’ art, obtaining a stake in their continued addiction. After a certain point, I’m not sure if Jane Pratt making money off Cat’s drug-fueled ramblings about beauty products is much different from modeling agencies who continue to fund their models’ heroin habits lest they lose money by putting them on a hiatus to go to rehab. (This happens and it’s really fucked up!) It’s for this reason that I’m glad Jane Pratt (or, more likely, one of the invisible corporate heads of Say Media) decided it was time for Cat to try to get clean.

I guess I don’t have a completely clear stance on this, because I am guilty of writing about drugs from time to time, too. But I hope my readers are smart enough to know that I’m inhabiting an exaggerated version of a certain aspect of myself when I do this, and that 99 nights out of 100, I’m not out partying with rock stars, but chilling at home cooking steamed vegetables and watching Mad Men. I just don’t write about those other nights very much. I will admit that I like documenting the tension between having adventures and actually covering bands when I’m at, say, SXSW, because I want to do something exciting and different from the usual kinds of coverage you see, and also because it’s just more fun that way. Sometimes drugs are a part of the adventures, sometimes they’re not. I guess what I’m trying to say is, don’t boycott my writing because you think you’re enabling me!

But seriously: despite the fact that she sometimes writes things that piss me off, I think it’s clear that Cat Marnell is a talented writer, and she will continue to be so after she gets sober. It’s okay to enjoy her drug-fueled writing, and it’s also okay to feel ambivalent about enjoying it. It’s also okay to ignore her altogether. Mainly, though, I’m just looking forward to seeing how Cat gets her kicks once she no longer gets them from prescription stimulants.

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    • Jlove

      I love this!! Thank you so much for writing this Jamie. With or without drugs Cat leads a very beautiful and glamorous. So for people to tell her to shut up because she happens to have a nice life is terrible. Pain is pain, and Cat is feeling a lot of that and to ignore her pain does such a disservice.

      So thanks again!

    • Abighal

      I read XoJane regularly, since the controversy over the piece on which she admonished the women of new york for using plan B as birthcontrol, while at the same time, outlining all the reasons why she should be allowed to use it as her only form of birth control…
      I am 24, sexually active, intelligent, and was incredibly offended by her article. I thought that not only was the topic incredibly irresponsible to be published by such a website, particularly by someone who was the ‘health expert’, but not even well written, to portray the sexual prowess, pro-choice, almost feminism in it’s flippancy, that taking on that particular stance could have provided.

      I continue to find her posts nonsensical, shallow, trite, and hard to understand, rambling, boring, and ridiculously self-indulgent.

      There is a certain beauty in drug abuse, addiction, and self harm, and she expresses none of it, even in her declarations of being proud of her disease. I wanted so badly to like her, and week after week I diligently read in hopes that something about her will justify her placement in front of such a large readership, but she continues to write herself into oblivion.

      Honestly, there is a part of me that wants to blame Jane for her addiction, allowing Cat to underperform at her job for months and months, not creating any sort of professional: ‘this needs to stop’ that prompts so many addicts to get help… But I don’t know. Maybe she did that. Maybe she picked her up at night, and held her hair back when she puked, or went with her to the pharmacy so many times to pick up plan b, I don’t know.
      When the outrage over Cat’s article hit, Jane clung to her, constantly citing her approval of Cat’s writing, and seemed to truly believe that Cat’s articles were worth placing on the internet, but it’s just come off as enabling.
      In the months past where cat’s greatest article since may have been: ‘PILLHEAD BEAUTY: The Product I Learned About From My Shrink Dad That I Don’t Even Talk To Anymore’, it’s almost painfully obvious the lack of substance the girl has to put into anything that she writes for the site. Where several other writers have written pieces that have given me goosebumps, made me laugh, helped me think about myself in new, more healthy ways, Cat’s writing has always just been kind of a boring trainwreck… one that gives you a headache if you even pay attention to it.

      There becomes a time when glamorizing your addiction just becomes a pointless, exhausting, and alienating experience. Cat’s been told by the whole internet to get help, that they care about her, and that she’s better than this. When someone chooses to ignore that and continue to act like hard drugs are attractive in any real way, to anyone who really matters, it doesn’t make them more interesting.
      I hope rehab helps. I hope she starts doing with herself what someone in her position can do. I don’t know if she’s trying to publicly snort her way to stardom, but it’s not going to do anyone any good if she wrecks herself before anyone even knows who she is.