Although I have been accused of becoming “distraught” and “demanding” when speaking on the phone with various bureaucrats, administrators, managers, corporate agents, and ignorant members of the general populace, I am quite skillful at writing successful letters of complaint to their bosses.
Thus, I going to post a new letter and its result every day, as a part of a series I am calling “Letters of Complaint: The Art of Getting What You Deserve as a Human Being.”
You can make your voice heard too!
Here’s number one!
Letter to the Editor
On “Mommies, You Bastards” (Harper’s Magazine, August 2009)
I take deep offense to anonymous Mother #1’s opinions on the poetry of Sylvia Plath. Plath’s poetry saved my life in high school, “Daddy”, “Lady Lazarus”, “Poem for a Birthday”, and others – which are now part of my M.A. Sociology Thesis on women and madness, soon to be published in an international journal of sociology.
I suppose the insult is personal – I happen to share the same birthday as Plath, I have been hospitalized 5 times for various “mental disorders”, and attempted suicide twice in 2005 – I did this because I felt that I was hurting those that I loved so deeply that they would be much happier if I no longer existed. I was lucky enough to emerge from the darkness feeling very alive and able to reciprocate love.
On Plath’s wishes for her son to be “common” – for us “disordered” artists, writers, and poets, the world can seem an unbearably tragic and unfair place, and each day can be a struggle to cling to worldly existence. What she seems to want for her son in this excerpt is for him not to suffer as “abnormal” women and men often do. I would not chose to raise a child until I was absolutely sure that my pain would not spill over into his/her development and life, but for a married woman to make such a choice was much more taboo during Plath’s generation.
A Correction – Sylvia Plath never slit her wrists. At age 10 she almost drowned in the ocean. At age 20 she overdosed on sleeping pills. At age 30 she indeed stuck her head in an oven. Feeling a connection to her spirit, I believe she did this to end a miserable marriage to a narcissistic man, and to no longer subject him or her child to the by-proxy effects of her illness.
I will continue studying women and “madness” in Vancouver, hoping eventually to bring the topic to a larger discipline, and I will take some inspiration from this online discussion – in the forms of rage, compassion, and a desire to make people understand.
_____ ______, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Result: Published in the October 2009 issue of Harper’s Magazine in the Letters Section.