I was sixteen the summer I started eating oatmeal and reading Sylvia Plath. Both seemed to be remarkable ideas at the time, but only Plath prevailed. Oatmeal and I had paths that crossed but never for very long. But my love affair with Plath was far deeper than my fleeting interest in oatmeal.
I wanted to like oatmeal; I loved the idea of it. There’s something about the kind of food that’s that versatile which appeals to me. I’m fascinated by tomato soup for the same reason. You can throw anything into it and it never tastes worse because of it — crackers, raisins, pickles, whatever.
I’ve never been crazy about tomato soup either. I don’t think it’s insane enough for me.
The type I fall for is invariably the same; on some level they’re always going to be troubled. I want to help them work through something; I call it my “therapist complex.” There were the gay boys who wanted to believe they were straight, the people that weren’t sure where they were going with their lives, the tormented poets who were really only famous posthumously for their prose works. It all worked for me.
Sylvia Plath wasn’t oatmeal; she was an iced coffee from Starbucks. There was nothing bland or Quaker Oats about her. She’s a little overrated but completely delicious — refreshing and the perfect match for a pastry.I started a love affair with a writer unlike any other I’d ever experienced before. I’d had the mandatory crushes on L.M. Montgomery and Madeleine L’Engle, the brief fling with Augusten Burroughs, and the “our eyes met across a crowded room” thing with Kate Chopin, but there was never anyone quite like Plath.
“She died before I had time,” is the phrase I like to repeat to myself when her works have put me in the right sort of mood for reflection on her death.
I would have liked to know her. To have her speak to me of mundane things as we sit in front of a fire. I would have tried to “fix” her and it wouldn’t have worked and I would spend the rest of my life wondering where I went wrong.
I wonder if it’s enough to just read her words.