Well, I’ve disappeared again. It seems like I have been opening my posts with the same “apology” (almost as pathetic as Qwikster), but I’ve learned so much while I was away. I have been burying myself in tons of life-shaking literature that I couldn’t get away from, and I’m happy to share with you what I have picked up.
I withdrew myself some time ago from continuing to read the Bell Jar, a semi-autobiography by Sylvia Plath, because it hurt me so darn much to read it. It was like revisiting my nightmares—nightmares that more often than not creep into my waking life and torment me. Some people can read a piece of literature for the sheer enjoyment of it, observing a fictional account of a life from a distance. This novel in particular, however, grabbed a familiar, stale knife from my quiet kitchen and insidiously stabbed me with it. It is a funny feeling, however, to want it but at the same time hate it. Plath is like crack to my brain, but I’m making the best out of my experience with her writing by using this whole personal attraction to tragedy for good.
It was just recently that I was introduced more formally to Plath’s friend Anne Sexton. Sylvia and Anne were both literature classmates, confessional feminist poets of the late 50s to early 60s, mothers of two children, and sadly, victims of the same tragic fate. For the style enthusiasts, Sylvia was a guest editor in 1953 at a prestigious fashion magazine called Mademoiselle (later bought by Glamour‘s publishing company, Condé Nas), and Anne was a model for a time. For those unfamiliar with either Plath or Sexton’s work, the themes of their poetry revolve around death or suicide, madness, hate or anger, and depression. It was interesting to read a particular poem from each woman centered on the joy of having children.
Plath wrote a poem called “Child” that may have been about her son Nicholas or daughter Frieda, while Sexton wrote “Little Girl, My String Bean, My Lovely Woman” about her daughter Linda. These two poems are not only similar in topic—they are also surprisingly off-theme and mostly delightful. We’ve all heard people sometimes say that children are glue to a troubled marriage. In this situation, for a short but significant time, children helped alleviate these women’s insanity. How marvelous was it that even for a moment in time, these women felt immense joy in their children despite their concurrent turmoil? It’s beautiful. Sadly, the women did not endure their hardships. Sylvia still separated from her husband, and she and Anne still eventually gassed themselves to death. Even when Sylvia “protected” her children from the gas by keeping them in another secure room, her protection only lasted for so long. Her children grew up not having the comfort of a mother and not having a good example to live (or die) by. Eventually, her son committed suicide himself in 2009, and her daughter got divorced three times. The mistress that Sylvia’s husband was with also took her life along with her child a few years after Sylvia died.
You can call these occurrences a genetic disorder or a venomous curse—you decide. What I was more interested in hearing about is how children can affect someone’s life—in a marriage situation or not. Do you have children or plan to have them? Why or why not? How have children changed your perspective in life when times were rough?