Interviews May 2006

A Woman's Place?

Caitlin Flanagan, America's feistiest stay-at-home mom, shares her thoughts on gerbils, gay marriage, and Robert Graves

I think one reason modern women continue to read your writing is that you tend to be very naughty. You may have traditional notions about family life, but you’re not a prude. Do you ever worry that your sons are going to read some of your spicier essays?

If you notice in the back of the book in the acknowledgements, it says, “Patrick and Conor: I don’t know why the publisher didn’t call it ‘To Heck with All That,’ like we decided.” I don’t use language like that around my children. Fortunately, I don’t think these essays about domestic life will be of any interest to my sons until they are so grown that they will find my occasional naughty language kind of cute.

But I would never fear their reading my book, because what they will find there is how much I love them and how much I love their father.

I did read somewhere, though, that you’re planning to expand your recent Atlantic piece on oral sex into an entire book called On Their Knees. Is that the case?

That is the title of my next book, but it’s going to be about teenage girls and how we have sold them out. Only one chapter will be about oral sex.

I wanted to ask you about your appearance a few weeks ago on Comedy Central’s fake news commentary show The Colbert Report. Steven Colbert is famous for his shtick of pretending to be a dyed-in-the-wool Republican while actually ridiculing conservativism. Somehow, though, you managed to play along with his game and even one-up him. Did you decide beforehand how you were going to approach that particular interview?

The Colbert Report is a serious piece of television journalism, and all of the information and opinions expressed on the Report are to be taken at face value. Steven is well aware that there is a lunatic fringe who believe the Report is a “goof” or a “gas,” the same kind of America-haters who were firing up doobies when he and I were studying presidential history. When Steven and I discussed my book on-air, we were talking journalist to journalist, American guy to American gal.

Your mother seems to be the heroine of this book; her personality comes through even in the essays that aren’t explicitly about her. You began your magazine writing career around the time she died. Do you think your writing might have been different if your mother had still been alive throughout this time?

When I came home the day after my mother’s death, there was an envelope waiting from The Atlantic. Inside were copies of the very first issue where one of my articles appeared. I never told my mother I’d written it. I was waiting to bring it to her. The only real difference is that if my mother were alive, The Atlantic would have the largest circulation of any magazine in history.

Jump to comments
Presented by

Jennie Rothenberg Gritz is The Atlantic's digital features editor. More

Jennie Rothenberg Gritz, an Atlantic senior editor, began her association with the magazine in 2002, shortly after graduating from the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. She joined the staff full time in January 2006. Before coming to The Atlantic, Jennie was senior editor at Moment, a national magazine founded by Elie Wiesel.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

What's the Number One Thing We Could Do to Improve City Life?

A group of journalists, professors, and non-profit leaders predict the future of livable, walkable cities

Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus


Adventures in Legal Weed

Colorado is now well into its first year as the first state to legalize recreational marijuana. How's it going? James Hamblin visits Aspen.


What Makes a Story Great?

The storytellers behind House of CardsandThis American Life reflect on the creative process.


Tracing Sriracha's Origin to Thailand

Ever wonder how the wildly popular hot sauce got its name? It all started in Si Racha.


Where Confiscated Wildlife Ends Up

A government facility outside of Denver houses more than a million products of the illegal wildlife trade, from tigers and bears to bald eagles.


Is Wine Healthy?

James Hamblin prepares to impress his date with knowledge about the health benefits of wine.


The World's Largest Balloon Festival

Nine days, more than 700 balloons, and a whole lot of hot air



More in Entertainment

More back issues, Sept 1995 to present.

Just In