O Magazine once called actor and author Annabelle Gurwitch "slyly subversive," and she never ceases to live up to that description. One of America's more clever and funny social critics, Gurwitch's witty insights on politics, art and pop culture have made her an in-demand guest on The Today Show, The CBS Early Show, Showbiz Tonight, CNN In the Money, Fox and Friends, Real Time With Bill Maher and National Public Radio.
In her book, You Say Tomato, I Say Shut Up: A Love Story, which she co-wrote with her husband, Emmy Award-winning comedy writer Jeff Kahn, Gurwitch daringly takes on marriage in a hilarious "he said, she said" deconstruction of the sacred institution. And, in her inimitable candor, she recounted the humiliation of getting fired by Woody Allen in her book Fired, and followed it up with an equally entertaining documentary of the same name.
This time, Gurwitch has middle-age in her cross-hairs with Autumn Leaves, an exclusive e-book short from Zola Books about getting a Mrs. Robinson-like crush on a 26-year-old Apple store "genius" named AuDum ("like the season").
Annabelle was kind enough to spare a few moments from her breathtakingly busy schedule and talk to us about motherhood, marriage, being technologically deficient and what it means to stare down the barrels of middle-age with dignity.
I laughed my ass off reading your e-book, but have to admit that I felt like such a guy not knowing certain references. For example, I had to Google [designer] Eileen Fisher since I didn't know the name.
AG: That's funny... every woman knows who Eileen Fisher is -- it reminds me of that old saying from the back seat of your parents car on a road trip, "Are we there yet?" Eileen Fisher is the "Are you there yet?' for women and aging.
Do you find it odd to fit into that age-range/category now?
Oh my God, it's crazy. I consider it a failure of imagination -- mine and our entire culture. The idea of somebody crossing that threshold into middle age (laughs). It's like the first time I got an email from the AARP. I wanted to set my computer on fire. The women in those AARP ads are always wearing pastel sweaters and pleated khakis and I consider the pleat in the khaki to be the white flag in the defeated waist line.
There's a part in the story where you say, "I hate the word cougar." Were there cougars among your parents' friends when you grew up?
I think there always were. When we were growing up, they were sort of the "day divorce" or people your parents didn't see anymore that moved to the fringes of society. Now there's a cultural celebration of "cougars" in the abstract
Why did you decide to write this story?
This story was sort of a reaction to 50 Shades of Grey. I didn't read it. I'm holding out because I'm afraid I won't be able to get it out of my head -- kind of like Real Housewives of New Jersey. The whole point was to say what really turns me on: anonymity and someone who can fix my computer.
Has having a teenager made you any more adept at figuring out computers?
Not at all, I have to ask him things or else I just outsource it. It's definitely embarrassing. I've actually heard that women get crushes on their Apple geniuses. I hear that the Trader Joe's baggers are getting a lot of action.
I'm absolutely certain that my Apple Genius wasn't thinking about what I was thinking about or that my follow-up appointment was a second date.
You do have the ability to make mundane computer rituals sound lascivious.
You realize that a lot of computer language sounds like that. It was a whole process that I went through with him and the computer language had such an intensity to it. I've always thought words like that were sexy "RAM," or "you need more Ram" were sexy. Um, really? Do I? OK! There's a kind of sexuality and poetry in that.
What did your husband and sometimes writing partner think of this story?
Jeff hasn't read any of it. He lives with me, isn't that enough?
Does it work better that way?
Normally, we would be reading each other's stuff. I usually go to see readings of his and normally he'd come to mine. I think we just needed a work divorce. That kind of divorce would be a lot cheaper than a life divorce.
Has motherhood become inextricably linked with your identity. Is it something you keep private from your professional life?
I was someone who never wanted to have kids. I just thought I was going to lead some kind of different life from my own parents. But as a writer, motherhood gives you so many great stories. It's not to be missed, because the material my son gives me is just so rich, I couldn't make it up myself. And it is who I am now. And that's what's so interesting about this particular sex fantasy that I write about -- any connection it had toward my kid, it destroyed the fantasy for me. It has become so much more a part of my identity than I thought it ever was. And it's interesting to see how the story title dovetails into motherhood. Like, my son is in a jazz ensemble and that any ambient jazz music would ruin the mood
OK, before we finish we have to discuss your provocative cover photo.
It's pretty funny... you know when you're being naked is in the service of comedy, that's how you know you're old.
This winter Annabelle will be seen in the world premiere of Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Donald Marguiles' new play Coney Island Christmas at the Geffen Playhouse in Los Angeles.
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