Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Slips through my fingers like water...




"There were twelve of us at the hotel. 
We had all won a fashion magazine contest, by writing essays and stories and poems and fashion blurbs, and as prizes they gave us jobs in New York for a month, expenses paid, and piles and piles of free bonuses, like ballet tickets and passes to fashion shows and hair stylings at a famous expensive salon and chances to meet successful people in the field of our desire and advice about what to do with our particular complexions. 
I still have the make-up kit they gave me, fitted out for a person with brown eyes and brown hair: an oblong of brown mascara with a tiny brush, and a round basin of blue eye-shadow just big enough to dab the tip of your finger in, and three lipsticks ranging from red to pink, all cased in the same little gilded box with a mirror on one side.  I also have a white plastic sunglasses case with colored shells and sequins and a green plastic starfish sewed onto it....
So there were twelve of us at the hotel, in the same wing on the same floor in single rooms, one after the other, and it reminded me of my dormitory at college.  It wasn't a proper hotel-- I mean a hotel where there are both men and women mixed about here and there on the same floor.    This hotel--the Amazon-- was for women only, and they were mostly girls my age with wealthy parents who wanted to be sure their daughters would be living where men couldn't get at them and deceive them; and they were all going to posh secretarial schools like Katy Gibbs, where they had to wear hats and stocking and gloves to class, or they had just graduated from places like Katy Gibbs an were secretaries to executives and simply hanging around in New York waiting to get married to some career man or other.
 
These girls looked awfully bored to me.  I saw them on the sunroof, yawning and painting their nails and trying to keep up their Bermuda tans, and they seemed bored as hell.  I talked with one of them, and she was bored with Yachts and bored with flying around in airplanes and bored with skiing in Switzerland at Christmas and bored with the men in Brazil. 
Girls like that make me sick.  I'm so jealous I can't speak.  Nineteen years, and I hadn't been out of New England except for this trip to New York.   It was my first big chance, but here I was, sitting back and letting it run through my fingers like so much water. 
I guess one of my troubles was Doreen.   
I had never known a girl like Doreen before."


Excerpt from The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath, 1963.

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