Monday, November 11, 2013


Lori Gottlieb, the latest Obamacare complainant to take to the op-ed pages, is ... an interesting case. She describes herself as a 46-year-old single mother and a member of the "middle class." But "middle class" may not mean to her quite what it means to you.

When she was younger, Gottlieb attended medical school. She was also a writer; her first book, an anorexia memoir called Stick Figure, was published in 2000, but the movie rights had been purchased for six figures by Disney-Hyperion several years earlier. (Martin Scorsese's film company bought the rights.) Her 2011 advice book Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough brought her a book advance "in the mid-six figures," and the movie rights were purchased by Tobey Maguire's film company.

Gottlieb also worked as a film and TV executive as well as a TV writer, and she's published dozens and dozens of newspaper and magazine pieces (for, among others, the L.A. Times, The New York Times, The Atlantic Monthly, People, Glamour, Redbook, Elle, Seventeen, and Mademoiselle).

Marry Him was her biggest breakthrough; it got her a speaking gig at the 2012 Aspen Ideas Festival.

Along the way she decided to switch careers and become a psychotherapist. When she discovered that clients weren't flocking to her -- fewer people pursue traditional psychotherapy these days -- she branched out and offered executive coaching, media consulting, and reproductive counseling. Oh, and she turned her career adjustment troubles into a New York Times Magazine feature story.

A blogger named Michael Maiello had a skeptical response to her op-ed:
She is a former television executive and is now a practicing pychotherapist in Beverly Hills.... Her book, Marry Him: The Case For Settling For Mr. Goodenough was a New York Times nonfiction bestseller and an Editor's pick. I worked with somebody who wrote a New York Times nonfiction bestseller and the royalties made him a liquid millionaire. Gottlieb conceived her son via sperm donor and artificial insemination, as a single woman. It is great that we live in a world where people can do that if that is what they want to do. It is also an expensive process and one that somebody as erudite and intelligent as Gottlieb would not have done had she not been pretty sure of her own financial security.

I don't believe that Gottlieb is middle class. She is more likely in the camp that my wife calls "Ultra Low Affluent." If she had voiced her complaint that way, I would definitely be more understanding.

"I am wealthy," she might say, "But nowhere near as wealthy as more of my clients and just yesterday somebody driving a car worth as much as my house blew past me on Highway 1..."
I don't know if Maiello realized this when he wrote his post, but Gottlieb published a New York Times op-ed in 2000 that's remarkably similar to his characterization of her:
... I don't know at what age my father joined the Six-Figure Club, but I became a member in my late 20's. To commemorate the occasion, I framed that first pay stub and hung it in the back of my closet. "I've arrived," I thought. "I'm rich."

I invested in stocks. I treated my artist friends to movies. I ate a lot of sushi. I stopped getting stomach cramps the night before the rent was due each month. I even felt confident about putting my unborn children through college one day.

Then, last year, when I was 32, something happened. I moved from Los Angeles to Silicon Valley and learned I wasn't rich at all. In fact, by the valley's standards, some people considered me downright poor.

Nobody said it outright. They didn't have to. I could see the wealth all around me -- wealth that I most certainly didn't have. I paid $2,000 a month in rent and drove a new Acura, but that was nothing compared with the 20-somethings who were buying million-dollar homes in Pacific Heights and Palo Alto, pulling up to restaurants in their shiny, silver, 7-Series Bimmers.
(Oh yeah, I forgot about her brief period at an Internet start-up called Kibu, which crashed and burned after attracting $22 million in venture capital, an experience she also turned into a book.)

Maiello writes:
... to play the working single mother card when she clearly makes so much more than the median income is just not fair. I understand that L.A. is expensive. I live in New York City, which is more expensive (and my city and state tax burdens are higher). I have some sympathy, here. But when somebody takes to the New York Times op-ed pages to claim allegiance with the proletariat, the editors at the Times need ask some questions. The complaints of the affluent but not affluent enough for their tastes should not be lumped in with the concerns and struggles of public school teachers and the floor sales staff at Sears.


Tom Hilton said...

The most hilarious part of all this to me is her appalled reaction to people suggesting that she do exactly what she advised others to do in her book.

aimai said...

Good for you for digging all this up, Steve! You always have the best googlefu. I also agree with Tom that the funniest part was her rage and horror at people suggesting she take her own advice.

There's something insulting about her ignorance of how insurance works: she had a child through in vitro fertilization and actually makes money off of selling her services, such as they are, on the infertility/in vitro circuit and yet she objects to paying (as she imagines it) for other women to have similar services?

Glennis said...

What's really vile about her is her utter jealous envy of others who might possibly have it better than her, even when her lot in life is pretty good.

Victor said...

She's a "psychotherapist" now, and also, apparently, someone who suffers from a terrible feeling of inadequacy.

Maybe Ms. Gottlieb can get a whole slew of new client's by going for a new niche in the market - helping her fellow sufferers cope with THEIR "Bimmer"-envy.

You know, the type of people who are fairly well off, drive around in new Acura's, live in nice apartments, but, who envy people who live in million dollar homes, 'and pull into restaurants in their shiny, silver, 7-Series Bimmers.'

And why would anyone be mad at the NY Times as if this Gottlieb woman was a first for them?
Sure, she rated an Op-ed column, but it's not like the NYT's hasn't spent the last 5 years documenting the "atrocities" of NY Cities 'Not quite rich enough.'

I'm sure we'll be reading a new slew of new columns about people like this in the NYT's "Styles" section, after the new Mayor raises taxes.
You know, the ones about couples in their early-mid 30-something's who live in a 5-bedroom duplex Brooklyn Heights condo, and who combined, make about $600,000. But who, after the new taxes are in place, will have to choose between buying new his/hers luxury cars, alternating between the two of them every two years, going out to dinner in 3+ star restaurants several times a week, getting that 2nd summer home - this one in the mountains - or whether Buffy and Jody can both keep going to exclusive private schools, or will they have to give preference to one of them: A veritable 21st Century "America's Sophie's Choice!"

Will no one think of 'The not quite rich enough?!?!?!' -
American's newest, and most aggrieved, minority.

Oh, the humanities!

Ten Bears said...

"... makes money off of selling her services ..."

That would be a Prostitute". A Whore.

No fear.