December 21, 2012
Robin: Yep — hi, sweets
Samantha: hi. ready for a gchat self-interview?
Robin: Sure. Since that’s how we’ve done so much of our communicating about this book anyway. Maybe I can start by asking you if you have a thing about our co-authorship that you remember as your favorite part? or your least favorite part?
Samantha: um, i don’t like this so far
Robin: Okay, you start
Samantha: ok so, when you bring up the book with friends, do you feel like they’re more interested in the process of writing a book as a mother-daughter team than they necessarily are with the topic itself?
Robin: Yes, definitely, especially if they have kids about your age.
Samantha: have you gotten down an elevator-pitch response?
Robin: Yes. But I’d like to hear yours first.
Samantha: i feel like even though i know that the question is coming, i’m still always a little thrown by it
Robin: Well, I usually just say that it’s been great, and they usually express surprise, and that they couldn’t imagine doing this with their child
Samantha: i think it was easier at the beginning, because i could always say “yeah…we’ll see how it goes…it could explode and be awful…”
Robin: So are you feeling sort of apologetic for it not having exploded? (it hasn’t exploded, right?)
Samantha: not necessarily. i mean, i do think it was hard at times
(no, it hasn’t exploded. but the paperback isn’t out yet, so there’s still time!)
Robin: So what DO you tell them now?
Samantha: well sometimes i talk about how it’s been funny to get intimate with your writing quirks — how we disagree on transitions — whether they should come at the end of the previous paragraph or the beginning of the new one. high drama!
Robin: ha! Is that what you mean by writing quirks, my transitions? or do you mean what happens to me personality-wise as I’m writing?
Samantha: well i’ve always known what happens to you personality-wise when you’re writing. i remember witnessing your writing agony at the dinner table growing up. you’ve never been shy about displaying your angst. i think part of why i don’t have it in me to be a writer, really, is that i DON’T agonize in the same way that you do.
i agonize plenty about my job – about what a magazine should be online, that sort of thing – but when it comes to actual writing, i’m more inclined to spit it out and move on.
which maybe is partly why we’ve worked well together.
i guess there were times that our shared dropbox felt like maternal nagging
Robin: You mean seeing the notifications when I was editing files?
Samantha: yeah, all those little pop-up messages saying all the updates you were making just made me feel guilty if i was, say, at home on my computer watching netflix
Samantha: and you’re over there futzing and just renaming everything which means the updates are coming like 10 per minute
Robin: That’s funny, I found the co-dropbox thing so comfortng– when you were saving things, it motivated me to keep working.
Samantha: well yeah, it was good motivation if we were both actually working. but a guilt trip for me if you were working when i wasn’t
Robin: Sorry for the inadvertent guilt tripping! I worried that sometimes I was doing some ACTUAL maternal nagging, of the deliberate sort
(advertent? why isn’t that a word?). I tried to minimize that.
Samantha: yeah — i could tell. that you were trying to minimize it. and then i felt guilty about that!
Robin: Well, I think the reason we haven’t had explosions is that we both have been careful
Samantha: yeah i think that’s true
Robin: Do you think this two-generation approach to the topic made any kind of difference in how we looked at the studies?
Samantha: i’m not sure. i do think there were certain studies that you found surprising and i found obvious, and vice versa
like that study about how members of the older generation tend to view their relationships with members of the younger generation as rosier than the younger person does — you thought that was very very interesting. and i didn’t.
Robin: now THAT’S interesting
Samantha: and all the stuff about the cohabitation effect – how studies repeatedly show that couples that get engaged when they’re already living together, as opposed to deciding on marriage before moving in, tend to have less happy marriages and higher rates of divorce. i feel like you’d maybe heard it all before, but i kept bringing it up with friends, and it was new to them
Robin: I hadn’t actually heard it all before — I used to always say that I hoped you girls would live with a guy for a while before marrying him. That always struck me as the only rational thing to do these days.
Samantha: yeah i remember you saying that about cohabitation. HOW WRONG YOU WERE.
Robin: In terms of large-scale studies, maybe. But I don’t think I was wrong about you and M. — I think the trial run kept you from making a bigger error.
And I wasn’t wrong about Daddy and me!
That one has pretty much stood the test of time.
Samantha: it’s true. i wonder how the cohabitation effect comes into play when you are cohabiting in secrecy, like you and Dad were.
Robin: I can’t remember — were the data mostly from contemporary couples, who were living together when it was more generally accepted?
Samantha: yes, and at least one thing i read argued that as cohabitation becomes more and more normalized, they expect the cohabitation effect will disappear
Robin: But the parents’ rosy view seeming obvious to you — that’s a little sobering!
Samantha: yeah, sorry
to get back to the collaboration and the lack of explosions
i think one of the helpful ground rules for the whole process, i don’t know if you remember me laying this one down, was that me writing something was not an invitation for us to have a whole conversation about it
Robin: I do
Samantha: because that would have really been exhausting and annoying
Robin: might have also made you pre-censor the things you wrote
Robin: Did I manage to stick to that OK? or were there times you wished I would just drop it?
Samantha: you mostly stuck to it. there were times you didn’t, but i felt like because the ground rule was there i could just remind you about it, and then you’d let it go
Robin: I actually can’t remember what you’ve written that could have opened up an annoying conversation — I think you actually DID sort of pre-censor yourself in the dating sections. Didn’t you?
Samantha: well, not from YOU necessarily, just from the world
but no one wants to hear about what worked well. what else can we reflect on in the way of drama?
Samantha: do you think i come off as a bit of a drunk slut?
Samantha: (that’s a good high-drama question, yes?)
Robin: You do come off as liking your booze
or, as I like to call them, liquids.
Samantha: it’s true. i’m an equal-opportunity lover of liquids
For more about Samantha’s love of liquids — as described in her budget calculations in chapter 3 — check out Twentysomething, which also has an “Are You an Alcoholic?” quiz in chapter 6.
ROBIN MARANTZ HENIG is an acclaimed science journalist, the author of eight books, and a contributing writer to the New York Times Magazine. In 2010 she received a lifetime achievement award from the American Society of Journalists and Authors, as well as a Guggenheim Foundation grant.
SAMANTHA HENIG is the online news editor of the New York Times Magazine.
Twentysomething: Why Do Young Adults Seem Stuck? is available from Hudson Street Press.