"On Reading Emerson as a Fourteen-Year-Old Girl," 3 Quarks Daily, January 20, 2014.
It was once practically an American rite of passage to read Emerson’s “Self-Reliance” in high school. Its forcefulness seemed to affirm the abundance around us. We lived in new suburbs, on land that not so long before had been open fields, and before that wooded plains. Subdivisions and gleaming, glassy shopping malls sprang up with the confidence of new money—our twentieth-century Manifest Destiny. Our world was contained within brick facades and putty-colored siding on streets with names like Kensington Cross and Buckingham Place. Bright curbs, smooth black pavement—but no sidewalks, so as not to disturb the “colonial feel.” From my Middle America blossomed entitlement and palliative consumption. Our parents had arrived. A daughter of affluence was expected to display the fruits of her parents’ achievement. Short skirts, school spirit, an absurd accumulation of extracurricular activities—the only appropriate response at the time seemed to be a feminine compliance. A silence, really. I had no language yet with which to reject the dumbing effects of material comfort.
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