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  • Writer's pictureSarah Gibbs Underhill

Hothouse Child

Updated: Jan 25, 2022

Noun. Hothouse flower. A person who is very fragile and vulnerable as a result of having been sheltered.

Journal entry, May 15, 1976. Age 17.

Last night was prima facie evidence of how Americans rule the planet. We are the most powerful and luckiest people on this earth, which sucks. Last night me and Bruce- young, healthy products of penicillin, vitamins, and free public education- were alone, nonchalantly lying on Styrofoam comfort, slightly high, deliciously naked, watching a TV that someone else set up for us. Watching “ State of Siege”: brutality, oppression, injustice, America, CIA. Good show. Eating chocolate cookies, lazily seducing each other.

When it was over we strolled next door to a feast of fudge ice cream, processed cheese sandwiches, pasteurized milk [some for the cats too] and more cookies. Warm, stuffed and sated with good food and sex and just plain all around physical euphoria, we went back to bed and fell asleep fearless.

My body was aching, glowing with the comfort of it all, how very pleasant, how easy, how good. But I couldn’t smile because my mind was detached and puzzled and somehow sad and maybe deep down furious at my incapacity for fury.

I saw myself as a pampered, cultivated, careless, naively sinister hothouse child. A juvenile menace to this planet. America’s sweetheart, but for thinking this. And like it or not, that’s what I am.

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