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Author Archive: "Alicia Oltuski"

Awkward: On Language and Mortification

When I was about 10 years old my parents signed me up for tennis camp — an aspirational gesture, since I was neither a gifted nor passionate athlete. I spent most days chatting with about 15 other girls on a sunny tennis court. At the end of the session, I teamed up with the basketball coach to create a rap song about our camp. What I remember most clearly about that summer, though, was a day early on when I asked my mother if I might buy one of those bright plastic accessories I'd seen the pros and other campers string through the bottoms of their racquets. I had few real hobbies other than reading, writing, and noncommittal stamp collecting, but I relished the trimmings and accoutrements that came with having tangible interests — ski gear, scrapbooking albums, glove oil.

My mother waited in our Jeep that afternoon while I ran into the tennis shop, a small carpeted room near the canteen that was staffed by a young man and woman. It was only when I got to the counter that I realized I had no idea what ...

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