I know this word because my mom enrolled me in a CTY Distance learning course, “Crafting the Essay,” when I was 7th grade. She then decided that I should probably keep on doing writing courses, so in 8th grade, I was in “Writing Analysis and Persuasion.”

One of the essays we had to analyze was Susan Orlean’s “The Orchid Thief.” I can’t remember the assignment, but I do remember that that analysis was one of the hardest to write. Orchids. What do I care about orchids? What do I care about Florida and obsessive young men–why weren’t they taking proper jobs, and why didn’t their families tell them to get it together?

It also confused me that the writer’s name was Orlean, reminiscent of New Orleans, but the essay was about Orchids in Florida. Or. Or. Or. My mind jumped from golden place to golden place and couldn’t find anything to analyze in her languid prose. Like the orchid thieves who searched for the legendary “ghost orchid” but not nearly as obsessive, I got stuck in some disgusting metaphoric swamp and couldn’t get out, no matter how many highlighters I dragged over the page.

I don’t highlight anymore. And I realized today that I stopped feeling smart–abhorrent to polite society smart, way too cocky for my own good smart, but also, everything is easy smart–about the same time that I started questioning my mother’s acuity.

At risk of implying causation or subscribing to “every young girl needs a strong female role model” pop-voodoo-smegma, I hope that my observation is totally off the wall. But my mother has said that those writing courses were her best attempt to outsource my education, and stopped because she thought I didn’t like it.

I don’t know if I liked them at the time. I don’t think I took criticism very well then (symptomatic of my retarded development), but writing those essays was never very difficult, never as difficult as churning out an analytical 4-pager on Hamlet for AP Lit, just 3 years later. Those courses probably benefited me unfathomably much. But at the time, I probably showed great displeasure: I simultaneously didn’t want to outgrow my mother’s academic care and suspected that I was; but no one did anything about this conflict, so here I am.

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