Excerpt 82

I was eighteen years old and a college freshman before I was allowed to select my

own clothes. My mother “owned” me; I was not a human being,  but her personal property.

There was a small shop in the “ville,” as we college students called it.

I purchased a cerulean blue-and-white polished cotton long-sleeved blouse in October of my freshman year.

It should have been framed in ornate gold and hung on the wall for posterity, as though it were an expensive handmade kimono from Kyoto.

One more step away from my mother had been taken.

In Memphis, Nancy had dragged me to several enormous discount warehouses with names like Atlantic Mills, after our cafeteria dinners. She spent hours digging through piles of scruffy clothing and periodically commanded me to try something on. When I tried on a pair of slacks, she made me bend over to check the fit; it was humiliating. I had to follow her around—for hours—with a shopping basket.

To this day, I will do almost anything to avoid shopping. After college, I became an avid catalog customer, even though I lived in the middle of Manhattan. And later came the Internet and Ebay, smartbargains.com, and overstock.com—gifts from the clothing gods for sure!

Excerpt 81

This Be The Verse


They fuck you up, your mum and dad.   

    They may not mean to, but they do.   

They fill you with the faults they had

    And add some extra, just for you.

But they were fucked up in their turn

    By fools in old-style hats and coats,   

Who half the time were soppy-stern

    And half at one another’s throats.

Man hands on misery to man.

    It deepens like a coastal shelf.

Get out as early as you can,

    And don’t have any kids yourself.

Philip Larkin, “This Be the Verse” from Collected Poems. Copyright © Estate of Philip Larkin.  Reprinted by permission of Faber and Faber, Ltd.

Source: Collected Poems (Farrar Straus and Giroux, 2001)