“My writing desk is right out in the middle of the living room. That’s how it often is in Manhattan apartments, where space is tight, and it only really matters when we have overnight guests who feel a need to sit at the breakfast table or on a couch, which are also in the living room. It mattered for a while when my husband, a college professor, wanted to do his work at home occasionally, and brought his laptop to that same breakfast table or couch. I didn’t want him in my line of vision. For a while I would make him turn around so he wasn’t facing me. When that didn’t work, I made him wear an invisibility cap when he was working. Finally I exiled him and his laptop to the little TV room down the hall. I don’t feel guilty about kicking him out of my work space; he has a perfectly fine office at the university that he can use.
In my line of vision now is basically the empty room, and, out of six big windows, views of Morningside Park and Harlem. I recently added a 26-inch monitor to my desk, which is a lot easier on my eyes when I want to read magazine articles or blogs online, and when I do my email. But I’m not very happy with how the monitor looks, hulking there on a corner of my desk. It’s not especially pretty from behind, which is how my guests see it when they’re sitting in the “living room” section of the room, staring at the room’s “Robin’s study” section. I tried to gussy it up with some paper flower bouquets that my older daughter made as table decorations for her wedding two years ago. The bouquets are cute, but they don’t hide all the wires and plugs at the back of the monitor.
The desk is made of wood with a granite-patterned Formica top. I clear it off entirely every Thanksgiving and turn the desk into a buffet to hold all the serving dishes to accommodate dinner for 13. For next Thanksgiving, I’m a little worried about whether this new big black monitor is going to gum up the works.”
Robin Marantz Henig is a freelance journalist, book author, and contributing writer for The New York Times Magazine. She has written eight books, most recently Pandora’s Baby: How the First Test Tube Babies Sparked the Reproductive Revolution (Houghton Mifflin, 2004; Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press, 2005), about the early days of in vitro fertilization research. She co-edited the Field Guide for Science Writers (Oxford University Press, 2005), and articles of hers were chosen to be in the Best American Science Writing anthology in 2005 and 2007. Her articles have appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Civilization, Discover, OnEarth, Scientific American, Smithsonian, and just about every woman’s magazine in the grocery store. She also writes book reviews and opinion pieces for The New York Times and The Washington Post, and from 1998 to 2000 was a member of the board of contributors of USA Today. For the past ten years, she has served on the board of directors of the National Association of Science Writers.
Robin moved to New York City in 2002 after spending 25 years in Washington, D.C. They have two grown daughters, Jess Zimmerman and Samantha Henig, and a son-in-law, Dan Zimmerman.
Robin has one terrific view of the city, and coupled with the “invisibility cap” looks to have a smart (albeit quiet) writing space. Inquiring minds: Who doesn’t fight over the The New York Times Magazine on Sunday morning? You’ve probably stared angrily as your partner beats you to it. Luckily, Kate was the blue medal winner the morning of August 22nd. Robin wrote the terrific, engrossing piece What Is It About 20-Somethings?
She writes, “It’s happening all over, in all sorts of families, not just young people moving back home but also young people taking longer to reach adulthood overall. It’s a development that predates the current economic doldrums, and no one knows yet what the impact will be — on the prospects of the young men and women; on the parents on whom so many of them depend; on society, built on the expectation of an orderly progression in which kids finish school, grow up, start careers, make a family and eventually retire to live on pensions supported by the next crop of kids who finish school, grow up, start careers, make a family and on and on. The traditional cycle seems to have gone off course, as young people remain un tethered to romantic partners or to permanent homes, going back to school for lack of better options, traveling, avoiding commitments, competing ferociously for unpaid internships or temporary (and often grueling) Teach for America jobs, forestalling the beginning of adult life.”