The first Sylvia Plath poem I ever read was Mirror, and I read it out loud in English class my senior year of high school, sometime during those long days between winter and spring. I don’t think I ever stopped reading it.
I was dying to get out of high school then. I’d long since quit being captain of the cheerleading team; the vice principal had called me and my sister into his office to make sure we weren’t heading down a wrong path — since obviously quitting something as important as cheerleading is a blazing red flag, a sign that we were about to go out big, burning everything in our path — and everyone was annoying me, with their fake nostalgia for childhood. Like they weren’t desperate to escape our tiny town, too; like they weren’t equally terrified the way I was.
So I found Plath, thanks to a teacher who passed away last year. She’s the same teacher who introduced me to the New Yorker. She was a gem, that lady.
The year of Plath is also the year I became close with a friend who, despite our drifts, despite the bad turns our friendship occasionally took, is still someone I think of often. She, like Plath, marked me in concrete ways. The two are oddly intertwined in my mind; today, the day of Plath’s suicide, is my old friend’s birthday. It’s like some kind of fate.
I think of Plath as a rite of passage; a book of collected poems, a bell jar, handed down between generations of college women. Maybe my friend is, too — someone you love even though you’ve both done wrong, even though you communicate by text only once a year or so. They’re both treasures in their own way.
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