A creepy ad for Love’s Baby Soft, JFK Jr. and the Peter Pan Bus

I remember the day I fell in love with magazines. It was 1983, and I was in sixth grade. My family was stationed in Spain because my dad was in the Navy, and my best friend Belle and I were hanging out on her bed in her room. I was flipping through her older sister’s Seventeen magazine, which I had just rescued from the trashcan; American magazines were hard to come by. I took it home with me and spent hours reading it, poring over the…


For every pet owner, there’s one animal against whom all others are measured. For me, it was my dog Abercrombie. Then we got Brian.

Photo by Chris Mills on Unsplash

Abercrombie was a black lab mix puppy my dad brought home after he saw a note posted on the bulletin board at the Pentagon where he worked. We’d always had black lab mutts in our family, their fates a sad mix of heartbreak. Smokey, the dog my parents had when I was born, who I was told marched to the beat of polka music, escaped our yard one day and was shot in the heart with a tranquilizer dart because the animal control person called to the scene perceived him as rabid.

We briefly had one dog whose name I…


About that viral essay

This is my dog Brian who is an excellent therapist.

As it turns out, many of you do care.

A confluence of events led to my publishing that essay. The previous week I’d heard that one of my former colleagues from a different magazine had been fired from The Atlantic. She was my idol. She’d once written fearlessly about her 3 abortions. When I worked with her at Elle she would always include everyone in ideas meetings, and if someone had an idea, no matter who they were, from the most junior editorial assistant to the researchers, she’d champion them and their ideas. She was fired…


Photo by USGS on Unsplash

I had the plum job. The top of the masthead of one of the most prestigious and respected publications with more than a 150-year-old history. I left because I blew the whistle on my boss for doing something unethical then abusing the staff and undermining the editorial process during which time I was assured he would be fired but instead he was promoted and after threatening me privately in his office, he marginalized me to the point of being completely invisible. In addition to being my boss at this prestigious publication, he was also the president of the principal organization…


It’s cats in wigs. Cats in wigs!

Handsome Badger dressed in his finery awaits you

I’m a 49-year-old lady who still doesn’t know how Instagram Stories work, and I’m not going to learn. So it came as a surprise to me to discover that I love TikTok. Like most people my age, I ignored it for a while. Sarah Cooper’s Trump videos made it to my inbox without me having to concern myself with what the kids were doing in the latest online craze. But then I saw a man and his kid parodying a woman named Elizabeth from Knoxville Tennessee who got maced while “storming the Capitol…


Getting adequate sleep is romantic.

Feel free to entertain whomever you like in your boudoir

My preference is to live in a gothic estate where my bedroom features a wood burning fireplace and my night-time routine includes brushing my hair in front of my vanity while wearing an ostrich feathered robe. As I am a normal person and not Lady Mary from Downton Abbey, I settle for my ordinary bedroom. Just so long as it’s mine. All mine. At least when it comes to sleeping.

The idea that people are meant to sleep together in the same bedroom — let alone in the same bed — night after night is absurd.


You are all invited.

Do you prefer turrets or gables?

I’m starting a writing retreat for worn-out women. There is no application process, and everyone is welcome. It will be modeled after Jenny’s shingled Fisher Island home in The World According to Garp but it will be a gothic estate with a hedge maze and a glass conservatory. It will be the Lilith Fair of writing groups.

The house will be worthy of haunting when you die, and you are welcome to take up permanent residence with the sister spirits who already reside within. Sylvia Plath enjoys sunning herself on the wrap around porch. We will…


We’re both moving forward after leaving careers we loved before we were ready.

On the surface, I guess I knew I had a lot in common with Jenna Lyons. I’m also known as Jenna to my older family members; we’re nearly the same age and so are our sons, both of whom enjoyed having their toenails painted; we both worked in fashion in NYC and have a passion for blending sparkles with drawstring pants; and we were both forced out of careers we loved before we were ready to leave.


For girls who grew up way too fast. Let it serve us well now.

If you haven’t seen Swinging Safari (also titled Flammable Children) you should watch it immediately

For those of us who read Flowers in the Attic and the rest of V.C. Andrews’s oeuvre in the third grade, it is perhaps understandable that we grew up a little too fast.

For many girls born in the ’70s, rites of passage included being responsible for your younger siblings from the time you were nine — gaining experience not limited to but including figuring out how to clear their air passages by freeing a chunk of hotdog they ate for lunch, which you cooked for…


The uplifting power of magical thinking during bleak times

These are dark times. We need something to look forward to. You are all invited to my 50th birthday party in Amsterdam. Please start planning now.

I turn 50 on January 5th, 2022. Because January is a crappy month to be in The Netherlands, I’m also going to have a 50th birthday party six months after my actual birthday during the surreal days of Amsterdam summer when it stays light out past 11pm and the cornflower skies are filled with fluffy white clouds featured on all the master painters’ canvasses in…

Jennifer Barnett

Former managing editor of The Atlantic, Teen Vogue, Redbook, and Elle. Now I’m writing. Expat in Amsterdam.

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