My Letter of Resignation Was an Entire Issue of a National Magazine
I knew I was going to quit and leave my sexist boss behind. I just needed to do it in the biggest way I could.
The conference above shimmering Lake Zurich was an intoxicating affair. Attended mostly by European literary lights and public intellectuals, plus a smattering of Americans, it was convened to explore new ideas and ways to tell stories in a world that had suddenly cracked open. The Berlin Wall had come down a few years before, and ideas once thought sacrosanct and immovable were falling away.
I’d given myself a year to start a new magazine in Berlin to capture the zeitgeist, enjoying the city’s cultural foment while facing the expected challenges raising the necessary cash. I was in Zurich to network.
Over the course of the weekend, I met an American magazine publisher seemingly intrigued by my idea. He planned to expand his publication’s reach by publishing a European version, he said. He convinced me that together we could achieve our respective editorial vision. I’d come back to the United States and work with him for a year and then launch a Eurocentric version focused on culture and politics.
I moved everything I owned from the vibrancy of post-wall Berlin to the cultural monotony of the upper Midwest, and on the very first day realized I had been hired by a New Age man-sprite who had misrepresented the terms of my employment. He refused, in my presence, to sign the contract I’d faxed ahead that codified our numerous conversations. “Let’s see how it goes,” he said as he pushed the contract back across his desk in my direction. He also neglected to tell the other editors that he was bringing in someone who would be above them on the masthead. It is an understatement to say there was no welcome mat.
Rage mixed with misery and embarrassment that I’d gotten into this fix kept me stuck for two consistently subzero winters. The original horrid boss was replaced by another. This was in #MeToo prehistory, I was the only female editor, and the new boss came from a magazine that thought gender parity meant putting a half-naked woman on its cover once a year. I didn’t fit into this new regime, either, as evidenced by the fact that he…