Jennifer Barnett
10 min readFeb 6, 2021

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 over a mistake. But then I also learned that the former editor of The Atlantic who had forced me out of my job, and who had also made what some might consider a colossal mistake at the New York Times that led to his resignation, was in talks to possibly write for The Atlantic. As it happens, I had also just finished reading an article by Gaby Moss about leaving her job and her writing was so direct and unflinching it inspired me to tell my story, in my own voice, finally.

I’d written the story over the years so many times I’ve lost count. I’ve written so many different drafts. I say drafts and not versions because it’s always been the same story, it’s just I’ve written it in different ways, with different starting points with different framing, depending on whatever had triggered me to bring it all up again, and the triggers came from everywhere. But the story was so long and convoluted it was hard to tell. Especially when I tried to do it in a more measured way, adding in links and supporting evidence and arguments.

I didn’t even get out of my bed to write that essay. I wrote it with the fury of a thousand suns, my fingers typing so fast, the words screaming out of me. I don’t remember how long it took me to write it but I was vaguely aware of my husband popping his head into the bedroom to see if I was coming down for breakfast, then lunch.

I sent the draft to a friend to have her look it over, and in the meantime my friend Anne* called to chat. I told her I’d written it, it was still pulled up on my screen, but I still hadn’t heard back from the person I had emailed it to approximately 30 seconds ago, and I had lost all patience.

I’m going to publish this, I told Anne. Okay, but do you maybe want to wait an hour? Come back to it in a few…



Jennifer Barnett

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