Saturday, June 11, 1994
Carnival was Wednesday and Holly, Hahn, and I left after the first hour (and I thought even that was too long). We went to the movies and saw “Four Weddings and a Funeral.” It was great. What was even better was when I got home my second letter from Ronin was waiting for me. I was expecting it for a week and a half because Anita got a letter from him (I gave her the address) and we mailed ours around the same time.
In the letter to her he wrote: “I think Damiella is wonderful.” Heh-heh. Well this second letter was so worth waiting for. His first quote was from “All I Want is You” which is going to be my wedding song. Then he wrote that I was very pretty (I sent him a photo) and that he thought I was his other half. At the end of his letter he wrote he thinks he’s found what he’s looking for! Then there is all this little stuff that we have in common (except our “other” music tastes vary) such as our favorite version of “Pride” (the original) and our favorite Doors song (“The Crystal Ship” and I’m not even into them!). We also agreed that Achtung and Zooropa have changed the face of music.
There is a catch. I haven’t gotten a picture of him yet. I don’t want to be shallow but it does matter what he looks like. If he’s plain-looking, no problem. If the photo thing turns out all right and he’s being sincere, I think I’ve also found what I’m looking for even if it’s (he’s) in Scotland. Hey, at least I’ll have one hell of a story to tell the kids. We’ll see.
I got home from Anita’s a while ago. I consider her my closest friend at the moment, we get along so well. This summer we will go (as soon as her parents let her) to Lolapalooza together where one of the headliners will be my second favorite group, Smashing Pumpkins.
The year is almost over. Good, I have more interesting things to do.
[Last entry in Teddy Bear Diary. Quote on inside back cover:
“WHEN YOU’RE 16 YOU THINK YOU CAN TAKE OVER THE WORLD—AND SOMETIMES YOU’RE RIGHT.*”]
I remember those nerve-wracking weeks leading up to getting Ronin’s picture. I would look at every guy I passed on the street and think, “if he looks like that, I would be fine with it… if he looks like that, I would be…less fine with it.” I tried to forgive Ronin for any physical flaws he might have ahead of time, tried to remember the connection we quickly established over the course of several letters, which would surely surpass the superficiality of what he looked like. But I did pass quite a few males that didn’t pass my “If he looks like that” test.
Finally, his next letter arrived. I tore into it in the elevator, fishing out the small, passport-photo-sized picture, wondering if I was about to see the face of my soul mate.
I felt like I was on a game show where I picked the wrong curtain and the wah-wah-wahhhhh trumpets sounded announcing my misfortune. When I described him to Anita, the first word I used was “bulky.” It wasn’t just that he was a large guy; I was hardly a waif myself, and have always been forgiving of some extra poundage on male. No, it was his face. Despite having blue eyes, there was something doughy and vacant and unappealing about it. I just wasn’t attracted even a teeny tiny bit to Ronin and no amount of great personality could make up for it.
I couldn’t think of a graceful way to reject him. I was so disappointed that I couldn’t bring myself to write Ronin another letter. It was terrible. I can’t imagine how insulting and upsetting it was to him. He may have hinted some concern in another letter to Anita, but she stopped writing to him too. I still feel a twinge of guilt about the whole thing today.
I hope he eventually did find what he was looking for, because it definitely wasn’t me.
* From an interview with Bono.
Thursday, May 26, 1994
I only have two interesting things to write about. The first is I died my hair purple a couple of weeks ago. Actually it came out streaked pinkish-purple, and a lot of it has washed out already but it’s still really cool.
The other thing has to do with Propaganda (the official U2 world service magazine). In the back there’s this thing Grapevine that lists over 200 addresses. I wrote a whole bunch of letters and have already gotten 5 responses: Carla, an artist from Minnesota, Nia, a dancer from Australia, Marjorie who is practically my soulmate, also from Australia, Stephen, who knows amazing U2 insider info, from Scotland, and Ronin McMullen Jnr who sounds really sweet, also from Scotland. They are all U2 nuts! I’m in heaven.
And my non-U2 friends were in hell.
It’s difficult for me to dabble in something. If I pick up an interest, I tend to do so in a wholly-encompassing way until that interest grows into something of an obsession. This was certainly the case when I was in my teens and 20′s. If I found a band I liked, I had to own every one of their albums (and sometimes b-sides); if it was an author, I tried to collect every book written by them. Sometimes it didn’t work in my favor, like when I discovered Charles Bukowski and learned that a little squalor goes a long way. However, I never burned out on U2, at least not for years. I found such inspiration in their music, and I wanted others to discover the same magic in their songs. So I became a U2 preacher of sorts, and likely drove my friends pretty nuts with my music proselytizing.
Discovering the pen pal section of Propoganda couldn’t have come at a better time. This was before the internet made it easy to connect with like-minded individuals via message boards. This involved pen and paper and postage and waiting up to weeks for a response, depending on how far the letters were traveling. But I didn’t mind, because I finally had an outlet for my obsession that would cultivate new friendships instead of straining existing ones. I was corresponding with people all over the world, including one boy thousands of miles away who I was developing a crush on sight unseen (well, I sent him a photo but was still waiting on his). It didn’t hurt that his last name was pretty close to Larry Mullen Jnr’s, and that Ronin also spelled it “jnr” instead of “jr”–I was a dork for that kind of minutiae (who am I kidding, still am). The fact that we had the same favorite band and that he had what I imagined must be an irresistible Scottish accent was already working in his favor, as were his letters, peppered with sweet and flirty missives. And Scotland was pretty darn close to Ireland…
While I was finding more people to share my U2-holism with, I probably owe some of my friends form back then an apology for inundating them with my musical obsession (especially Didi, who still can’t listen to them today because of me). So if you’re reading this and knew me back in the day, and if you endured one of my U2-are-the-best-band-in-the-world monologues, I’m sorry for the preaching, and I’m grateful you stood by me anyway.
As for the purple hair, I was determined to push the boundaries on just how much my mother allowed me to chemically enhance my tresses. Mom was cool with anything that would wash out, but hennas and other semi-permanent dyes didn’t create the kind of dramatic, lasting technicolor effect I was going for. After frying my hair with sun-in, it shouldn’t have been a big deal for me to dye it permanently, but no matter how much I tried to wear down my wonderful mother, she stood firm on the issue. So I started experimenting with rinses until I found ways to mask my natural bland dirty blonde color. And I haven’t seen it again since.
Monday, April 18, 1994
Last night Anita and I went to a Pearl Jam concert. It was great! It was announced Friday at 6:00 and the only way to get tickets (if you weren’t in the fanclub) was through a radio station. Anita called one for 2 ½ hours and actually got through.
Mudhoney opened up for them and they were okay. Then Pearl Jam came on and for the first couple of songs I was real stiff (I almost felt like I didn’t belong there. I mean my favorite band is U2 and Smashing Pumpkins are way down the line at second favorite). Then I loosened up and just got real into it. I danced, screamed, it was wonderful. I hadn’t been to a concert in such a long time (about 4 years) and it was incredible. I want to go to so many more now.
(Also I should mention the fact that there was an extremely high number of cute guys there).
–“Just Say Maybe” (the back of a cool Smashing Pumpkins shirt this really cute guy was wearing at the concert.
Few things encapsulate the 1990’s as much as grunge. I’ll be honest, I had Doc Marten boots and a few plaid shirts, but for the most part, I hated the sloppy, unwashed grunge aesthetic. In terms of decade trends, I felt completely and utterly cheated coming of age in the 90′s after experiencing the 80′s as a child. The 1980′s were full of so many things I adored: the clothes, the movies, the TV shows, the hairstyles, the music… pretty much all of it.
The grunge that typified the 1990′s didn’t move me as much as the new wave and pop of the 1980′s. Nirvana, Hole, and most of the other bands associated with the scene did nothing for me, as evidenced by my lukewarm response to Mudhoney. There were exceptions music-wise, Pearl Jam being one for a short time (Alice in Chains and Smashing Pumpkins being others). But these bands never felt like a revelation to me, more like a reluctant acceptance, because they were so ubiquitous it was easier to just give in and like them after a while.
While I knew I wasn’t truly part of the scene Pearl Jam represented and didn’t love their music, I did become more of a fan after seeing them live. They sounded infinitely better in concert than they did on their albums, their growling intensity was mesmerizing, and the show reminded me of the power of live music. I don’t listen to Pearl Jam anymore apart from a rare song here and there, but to this day, having attended ~100-200 concerts since that one, I’d still say they are one of the strongest live bands I’ve ever seen.
Thursday, March 24, 1994
I keep going through nice healthy periods when I don’t like Elliot Meyerowitz then something happens to make me start again. This last time I was walking to math and passed by a room he was waiting outside. After repeatedly telling myself not to look at him I did and saw he was staring at me. I just looking into his eyes and that was it.
Today in health (the one class I have with him) I sat a seat away from him until he moved his chair so he could see better (we were watching a movie) or sit next to Cindy J (You know all the guys you consider the cutest in your grade? Well she’s the one who goes out with them). While he was repositioning his chair he brushed by my leg and apologized. Pretending to be deeply involved in a crossword puzzle I mumbled “that’s okay.”
Now he was directly (almost) in front of him and the lights were out so I could only see his outline from the glow of the t.v. A couple of times during the movie (at least 3 or 4) he turned his head in my direction like he was looking at me out of the corner of his eye or maybe he was looking at Cindy. Probably the latter.
After the movie our health teacher took out this fetus preserved in formaldehyde and had a few people at a time come up to her desk to see it. When I went up I made sure I wasn’t standing next to him but then the people between us left. You had to lean over to see it so we both did and he was very close to me. I actually held my breath. I quickly sat down after that. I saw him a lot during the rest of the day. I’m actually beginning to think that I…it’s not possible. How can I if I don’t even know him and can’t even talk to him. No. I do not love Elliot Meyerowitz.
I can’t wait until I leave with my mom Monday. This cruise will definitely clear my head.
“I send a heart to all my dearies
When your heart is oh so dreary DREAM.” — Smashing Pumpkins, “Mayonnaise”
Oh, the teen angst of it all! Being around a boy you liked could sometimes feel like navigating a mine field. So much uncertainty and insecurity and the tiniest gesture or interaction took on an inflated magnitude. It was like being a character in a 90’s version of an Edith Wharton novel, except I felt like I was the only one who took notice of all the nuances, the only one who gave them any meaning. At the time, I would have traded in all those cruises with my mother to have a real connection with Elliot, one that didn’t take place in the wistful corners of my melodramatic brain. Now I can look back on it more logically, I can reason that I hardly knew a thing about this boy and never talked to him, so my crush was mostly based on his looks, and therefore I can’t blame him if he in turn developed a crush on one of the cutest girls in our grade.
I guess crushes by nature are based on superficial traits and a tenuous foothold on reality, at least the ones I’ve specialized in for a good part of my life.
I didn’t stand a chance with Elliot. But at least we’ll always have the fetus in formaldehyde.
Tuesday, January 11, 1994
Let’s go back in time a little bit. My birthday party was really fun. Twenty people came and I had it catered. There was also a caricaturist and a cake with a Harley Davidson on it. I don’t think I stayed in place more than a couple of minutes. On my actual birthday my parents took me to the Harley Davidson Café which is the coolest place. There is this long list of famous people who have Harleys and Larry Mullen Jnr was on the list (though his name was spelled “Jr” not “Jnr,” the way that most people spell it. I like the fact that he tries to be different.
New Years was kind of boring. I stayed home with my parents. I’m happy that I haven’t made any resolutions for this year.
Today I’m staying home from school. There is a story behind this. Lately there have been many storms in New York. Not snow but ice. Yesterday Holly, Tyra and I were going to lunch and were walking down an icy sidewalk. I didn’t realize that we were walking on such flat ice and before I knew it I was falling. I put my hand down to break the fall and landed right on it. When I stood I could barely move my left hand. After school my parents took me to a doctor and he took an x-ray. The verdict: my wrist is very badly sprained. It kind of hurts (sometimes more than others) and it’s a pain doing things with one hand.
I didn’t have the elaborate Sweet Sixteen that a number of my more financially solvent friends had, with a rented hall, a DJ, formal wear, and a giant cake wheeled out for a special candle-lighting ceremony. This didn’t bother me; I was perfectly content with pigs in a blanket, a few balloons, a caricaturist, and a Harley cake. With regards to the Harley Davidson thing, I’ll be honest. It had less to do with my own budding interest in V-twin engines and all about Larry Mullen Jr’s own interest in them. You know how when you like a guy sometimes you start to like the things he does? It was a similar thing, except that the guy in question happened to the drummer for one of the most famous bands in the world.
As for the sprained wrist, part of me still wishes I sued Hunter College High School. The walkways near the courtyard were covered with sheets of ice and it was the school’s responsibility to make sure they weren’t a safety hazard for the students. I still remember how my friends laughed when my feet flew out from under me (hey, I would have laughed too) and how I shook off the injury until the pain was so bad I couldn’t pick up a french fry and I was near tears. I would have had a case if I sued. But whether it was laziness or my parents not wanting any bad blood between me and the school, they ended up footing the medical bill. Luckily, it was the worst bodily injury I ever suffered and haven’t sprained or broken anything since.
Saturday, November 27, 1993
We went to Connecticut for Thanksgiving, but not to my cousin Jenna’s house. We visited The Weinstein’s, the people we met on the cruise. Melanie wasn’t there because she’s in France for the year but Jack came home from boarding school. At first I was a little uncomfortable because I hadn’t seen him in like four months and because I was used to having Melanie around, but that didn’t last long.
We went down to the basement to watch t.v. and only came up for hors d’ouerves and champagne which we each had three glasses of (I didn’t get drunk but I got a little lightheaded which felt great). Jack was sitting on the loveseat (I was on the couch) and he was kind of far away from me. We were watching “Benny and Joon” when Melanie called. I told Jack I wanted to talk to her so I went over and sat down next to him so I could grab the receiver (plus I did want to sit next to him). He had his arm on the back of the couch and when I started talking to Melanie he put his arm around me!
Wait, it gets better!
After he hung up we were watching the movie and I was resting my head on his chest. He kept looking down at me and once he even said something like “I’d kiss you, but I’m really involved with the movie.” Of course after that I could care less what Benny and Joon were up to.
Eventually he did kiss me and it was really nice. At one point he put his hand up to my face which I thought was the sweetest thing (I always wanted a guy to do that). He had a really warm face and neck and smelled good (though I can’t explain how).
The rest of the afternoon we made out, trying not to get caught (we didn’t). After dinner we went for a walk by ourselves. It was really dark and cold out and there were a lot of stars shining (which one doesn’t see many of living in smog-filled New York).
Jack led us to this grassy area near a University where we made out on a hill under the stars. I swear it’s true.
The next day I had to leave so we exchanged addresses and I gave him my picture. He is going to be able to come to my birthday party in 3 weeks. I miss him already.
Jack never responded to the one letter I wrote him and never made it to my birthday party.
I think I his parents mentioned something to my parents about him having a girlfriend. So much the better that we weren’t caught smooching. However short-lived it was, it was the first proper kissing I experienced since the previous spring. It was pretty great to lock lips with an attractive, nice-smelling boy who in retrospect I realize bore a striking resemblance to a gawkier Donnie Darko-era Jake Gyllenhaal.
There’s nothing quite like that nervous anticipation before the kissing begins, and doing it in secret made it just about the most thrilling boy encounter I had experienced up to that point. The champagne, the basement, the starlit walk later on, the stolen kisses the following morning… It was certainly the highlight of my fifteeth year, regardless of the silence that followed.
To this day, I haven’t seen Benny and Joon all the way through.
Saturday, October 30, 1993
Before I write anything else, I must mention that tomorrow Larry Mullen Jnr. is turning 32! Happy Birthday Larry!!!! I don’t know if I mentioned this before but I really want to go to Ireland. The only thing is I have to go in at least a couple of years, ideally after college. At 22 I would be old enough to go to bars (which is where I’m going to meet Larry, God willing) and I would be young and independent.
I joined the speech team about a month ago. I am doing Oral Interpretation which is when you read a prose and poetry piece. My poetry is Little Red Riding Hood and The Wolf/The Three Little Pigs by Roald Dahl and my prose is part of The Princess Bride. Today was my first tournament. I only performed my poetry. There were about 65 people competing and the top 8 Junior Varsity (9 & 10th graders) and the Top 8 Varsity (11th & 12th graders) went on to the Finals. I actually made it to the Finals! In my first tournament! Then, out of those 8, I came in fourth! And I ACTUALLY GOT A TROPHY! My first trophy! I am so happy. It is one of those trophies with the winged women on top of it. Just the kind I always wanted. I feel like I finally found my niche. This is something I enjoy doing and I guess I’m pretty good at it.
I don’t like Elliot anymore. I made myself stop liking him. I am not completely sure why but mostly because I never talk to him.
Pretty good reason to stop liking someone, I’d say. It’s difficult to have any reasonable courtship when no words are exchanged. Besides, I had it all mapped out with Larry Mullen and only needed to wait it out six more years before I’d be on my way to being Mrs. U2 Drummer.
Thank heavens for the speech team, which was able to pry my attention away from U2 and boys for a little while. For those unfamiliar with Speech, it is a subset of Forensics along with Debate. I don’t remember how I ended up on the Speech Team, but it probably involved a teacher scouting me after hearing me read something aloud in class. In elementary school I participated in storytelling competitions, so it was a natural progression to pursue this particular extracurricular (hey, that rhymes!) in high school. While “Oral Interpretation” may have naughty connotations, it simply referred to reading a passage of poetry/prose for 6-10 minutes in an engaging way, but not too over-the-top that it veered into Dramatic Interpretation territory. I’m sure nobody will be surprised when I confess I did a lot of veering (though I never believed myself to be a good enough actress to go full-on Dramatic).
Winning the trophy meant a lot to me because it was the first noteworthy thing I had really done since being accepted to Hunter that did not involve questionable fashion statements. For a while, I felt like the dumb smart kid, like I made it in just under the wire and had to struggle for an A- average (I didn’t have the discipline and work ethic to go for the full A). Attending Hunter was sometimes like being in a prison (our school was even nicknamed the “Brick Prison,” partly for its lack of windows), one that was extremely competitive and ostracizing to me. After years of not measuring up in this academic setting, being rewarded and having a sense of new-found belonging felt nothing short of miraculous. It made me believe high school might not be so bad after all.
Monday, September 13, 1993
Tenth grade has begun and for some reason I like it. Maybe that’s because tomorrow is only my fourth real day. I did not get psychology, I got economics but I really like it.
Now for the guy I like. No, the guy I’m trying not to like. His name is Elliot and he has brown hair, I’m not sure about the eyes and he’s shorter than I am. We were both born in Russia and moved here when we were little (he was around 3, I was around 4) and he has math right before me and we sit in the same seat. Coincidence? Well okay maybe but… I don’t know. I have art tomorrow and if I don’t talk to him I’ll consider dropping this whole liking him business. I heard that he was really sweet though.
Anita came over last weekend and I had a lot of fun w/her. She’s one of those people I know I can be good friends with. Plus she got me started on U2. Later.
I’ve never been much of a math whiz, and even today I sometimes get nervous trying to figure out the tip on a check, but I’ve always had a mild interest in economics (I still have a copy of a paper I wrote in 7th or 8th grade on the 1929 stock market crash which was oh-s0-originally titles “What Goes Up Must Come Down”). In particular, I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of investing. I think of it as a more intelligent form of gambling: there’s risk, but with the right information, foresight, and a bit of luck, a potential for windfall. I was looking forward to this economics class because one of our big projects was to take $5,000 of imaginary money at the beginning of the semester, invest it, follow the stocks throughout the autumn and winter, and write a report on the financial outcome. I invested in Harley Davidson, because I had a thing for motorcycles at the time (which may or may not have had something to do with U2 drummer Larry Mullen’s passion for Harleys) and a couple of toy companies, thinking they’d do well around the holiday season (Mattel did alright, but I remember Tyco tanked). The guy who made the most imaginary money invested in IBM (talk about foresight). For all the grumbling I do about Hunter, I have to admit that was a fun project and a great hands-on way to learn about investing.
In some ways, romance can be a bit like the stock market. You invest your time and emotion into a person and hope it somehow pays off, or at least doesn’t make you want to jump out a window. Sometimes you find great fortune and sometimes you end up broke (insert suggestive/witty pun about “losing your shirt” here). I thought Leon was a good investment, and on paper it was all there, but that lunch date never materialized, and since he was a year ahead of me in school and we no longer rode the same bus together, we quickly grew apart when the school year began. Elliot seemed like a good bet because of our similar cultural background and math desk (I know, I was grasping at kismet straws), and also because he was cute and rumored to be a nice guy. However, considering how many ill-advised romantic picks I made in previous years, I wasn’t ready to do any serious investing just yet. In other words, I didn’t have the guts to talk to him.
Monday, August 23, 1993
My summer has not been that boring. The thing I have been doing the most is writing. I just started one day and now I have 64 pages and seven chapters completed. That is the most I have ever written. I hope to have at least 80 pages done before school starts. School. Ugh. I have to go back in less than three weeks.
It will be great seeing my friends again. And Leon (he’s my friend too but I have to put him in a separate category because I am going to write about him). Thus summer, I have kept in touch with him more than I have with Didi. I think we have become really good friends. In one of my letters I told him that even though we might not see each other on the bus a lot, I wanted to stay good friends and not lose touch. He said he agreed in his next letter.
Also, one night I couldn’t fall asleep and I got this really crazy idea in my head. I thought I should ask Leon out! I wasn’t even sure I liked him but I thought since we had so much in common (movies, books, MUSIC) it would make sense. Plus, I rationalized that we would not see each other a lot anyway so this way we could. And if it didn’t work out, or if he turned me down, I wouldn’t see him much. Then I realized it would be a mistake, especially since I was not sure how I felt.
What I did decide was to invite him to lunch before we went in to get our schedules. I couldn’t ask over the phone so I wrote him a 6-page letter and asked him at the very end if he wanted to have lunch, just as friends. He got it the day he had to leave for Paris and called me a couple of hours before. Before we hung up he said he would call me when he got back so we could get together and have lunch. That made my day.
A couple of days ago I had a dream that made me think about things. It took place right across the street from Hunter and is this area of steps, benches and plants that is attached to this huge building next to it. Leon and I were both there and we were standing face to face. Then we… we kissed. It was strange. The kiss was alright, I guess, but afterwards everything was very uncomfortable. I don’t know, it’s weird.
It’s stating the obvious, but maybe my subconscious was trying to tell me there was no real chemistry with Leon, and that we should stay friends. Of course, I would never take such sensible advice from my subconscious. What would be the fun in that?
Granted, I did not have the most auspicious record of asking boys out. One disaster was followed by a second blow to my ego. Both left traces of embarrassment and disappointment, but obviously not enough that I wasn’t ready to attempt a rejection trifecta–albeit, one in which I lose every race.
Leon was different, though. He wasn’t some boy I developed a crush on because of good looks. He was someone whose personality engaged me, someone who I wanted to have a crush on in a way, because he was someone actually worth liking. Except that there was still something not quite there in terms of romantic potential. In theory, I should have been head over heels, but in practice I…wasn’t. Nor was I used to being so friendly with a boy on a platonic level, which was all kinds of confusing to a self-professed “guyaholic.” So for once, I was going to try to be a bit more cautious and sensible, boring qualities it was becoming necessary to cultivate.
Regardless of this romantic ambivalence and machination, considering the fact that Leon and I are friends today, I must have done something right.
Sunday, July 26, 1993
I’ve been back a week now. Let me tell you about the rest of the cruise before I talk about other things.
In St. Thomas I went scuba diving. It was really great. I felt like I was in another world. I had been snorkeling before but there I was actually down 20ft under the water and breathing. I’d love to do it again. Nothing happened w/Jack. Too young and too immature (besides, he has a girlfriend).
[Blah blah, breathing underwater, blah. As if mermaids don't do it all the time. Okay, so it was pretty exhilarating and a little bit scary, not knowing if there might be a creature that could sting or bite around the corner, depending on a clunky tank of oxygen not to drown, etc. As much as I loved it, I don't think the mermaid life is for me. Oh, and Jack? Yeah, as if his immaturity had anything to do with it and I wouldn't have sucked face with him at the slightest chance. There just wasn't one on the cruise. Just a rumored girlfriend. Bah.]
Anyway on to other things. Before I went on the cruise I spent almost a week at my cousin Jenna’s house in Connecticut. That’s where I got the new U2 tape (“Zooropa.” It’s the best. No “Achtung Baby” is the best. It’s my favorite tape. But “Zooropa” is really good.). When I was there I got a letter. That is not very amazing because I get letters all the time. But not from Leon Lehman.
[Before we go on about boys (and get comfortable, because we will go on. And on. Take a load off, make some tea) a few words on U2. The budding interest I started taking in this Irish foursome around the time of my last birthday had by this point mutated into a full-on obsession (all the way). Achtung Baby was my album of the decade and Larry Mullen Jr, U2's drummer, my (hopefully) future husband despite the fact that Mom thought he had "a nose like a potato."]
I don’t know if I ever mentioned him before. He was on my bus the past 2 years and I’ve gone from fighting with him to flirting with him (I didn’t like him, I just liked flirting with him. It was fun) to being good friends with him. Before I left for Connecticut I wrote to him and when he wrote back I was surprised but very pleased. And the letter was really funny (I read it at least 3 times). I sent him a postcard when I was on the cruise and then I called him when I got back. I had a good excuse but we ended up staying on for more than an hour. The next day I wrote and mailed him a letter.
[Actually, I did mention Leon before in an entry where I said pretty much the same thing about liking to flirt with him. Which goes to show how repetitive consistent I can be. I don't know about you, but I don't think I've ever heavily flirted with someone who I wasn't at least mildly attracted to. Though while I found Leon empirically attractive, and while we had a rapport, I'm not sure that it was a romantic one.]
Anyway, the point is I’ve been thinking a lot about him and how I want to be really good friends with him. We have almost identical tastes in music (except for my little, okay humugous almost out-of-control obsession with U2) and both love those great 80’s songs. It’s almost like (don’t laugh ‘cause what I am about to write is kind of corny) he is my soul mate. I think he is such a wonderful person but I don’t want to do anything too sudden or dramatic for fear of losing what tentative friendship we have. See, when school starts again Leon will only be taking the bus in the morning so I don’t want that to be the only time I can talk to him.
[I think it's rare to want a platonic relationship with someone you flirt with, but in Leon's case, it was true, not a matter of immaturity or having a girlfriend or some other excuse. Up to that point in my life, all my close friends were girls, so developing a friendship with a boy was new to me. Boys were for crushes, not friendships; my brain could not compute this new programming. And music was a big part of it. While Leon wasn't a U2 nut, he was a big fan of 80's music and we often talked of the songs we heard on retro stations, from Crowded House's "Don't Dream It's Over" to Cutting Crew's "(I Just) Died In Your Arms Tonight."]
A lot of this was sparked by some things he wrote in my yearbook. He said he thought that we had become great friends. He also said I was more human than some of the stuck-up snobs he knows, that we made each other laugh and that I was very pretty (Aw! Tell me this isn’t like the perfect, sweetest, most sensitive guy in the entire world). I wrote nice stuff in his yearbook too, by the way.
Now I’m not saying that I’m in love or even in “like” with him but I have been thinking incessantly about him. I want us to be really close (best?) friends.
[I guess what it came down to was that while Leon and I had a lot in common, could make each other laugh, and all that good stuff, I just didn't feel that same sort of spark that I did toward Mark or Jack or even Larry Mullen (but then, Larry was in a class of his own). Leon had all the qualities I wanted in a guy, but I wasn't sure that x-factor was there. I wasn't sure it was missing, or just hadn't developed.]
And if I’m not thinking about Leon, it’s U2. Today I went to a mall and bunch of flea markets with Didi and her parents and I ended up buying a video (“Achtung Baby: The Videos, the Cameos, and a whole lot of interference from Zoo T.V.) and two U2 shirts. I also wrote a letter to Larry Mullen Jr, through Island Records which I don’t expect to get any response. I would give anything to meet them but my next goal is to see a concert.
I’m both deeply regretful and deeply relieved that I don’t have a copy of that letter to fan letter to Larry.
I feel kind of bad for Didi, who bore the brunt of much of my U2 mania back then. She told me years later that I pretty much ruined the band for her with my over-zealousness. How bad was it? So bad that nobody could even utter the words “you too” without me immediately perking up and asking, “U2? Where?” Sorry, Didi.
As for Leon, he is still in my life today and I can safely say he is not my romantic soul mate, though he is a good friend. If and when he reads this post, he may get quite a chuckle out of it.
Lehman, this one’s for you.
Teusday, July 13, 1993
It is our third day on the ship (did I mention I’m on another cruise with my mom? We are on the “Ecstasy”) and I am having a great time. Yesterday we met these two people Melanie, who is 16, and her brother Jack (cute, funny brother I should add) who is 14 (what’s one year?). I thought after last night I wouldn’t see them again but they came looking for me today so we hung out a lot. (By the way, the thing with Mark is over). It was lots of fun. Melanie is fun to talk to and Jack really cracks me up. Did I mention he was cute? He has black hair and hazel-brown eyes. He has medium ears and nose and a nice mouth. I wouldn’t mind getting something started.
They live in Connecticut but he goes to boarding school in Albany (No actually I think it’s Buffalo).
At the Bahamas I went snorkling and I actually got in to the Casino! Yay! I lost $40 in the slot machines already. I love it. Everything here is great.
Considering how detailed and effusive my previous diary entry was, I think “the thing with Mark” deserves more than a single parenthetical, dismissive sentence. I don’t remember if Mark and I spoke even once after our date. If I had to guess, I’d say we didn’t. This is back before cell phones, in the days when doctors, drug dealers, and some teenagers had pagers (remember when we called them “beepers?” Anyone?). While I didn’t have Mark’s phone number, I did have the one to his pager. It was strange to have no direct way to reach him, but prior to our date, he would always call after I paged him. Not so after our date. I paged him a couple of times but he never called me back. A few weeks later, his pager number was disconnected.
While I had fun with Mark and was a bit miffed at his disappearing act, I wasn’t too upset. Being on a cruise ship with lots of fun activities and an attractive guy around my age distracted me from any sulking I might have otherwise indulged in.
Jack looked like a young Jake Gyllenhaal, which might paint a better picture than “medium ears and nose and a nice mouth.” He had a similar smirky smile to the actor’s and a mischievous glint in his eye. Jack was sent to boarding school for some kind of delinquent behavior, though we never learned the details. He and Melanie were on vacation with their parents and we all became friendly, though Mom and I spent the most time with the two kids, who were more interested in the cruise ship entertainment (magic shows, musical revues, stand-up comedy) than their early-to-bed mom and dad. The four of us ended up socializing quite a lot, and I think we all had a better vacation for it.
As for the casino, the ship’s age minimum was 18 and I always got mistaken for older as a teen, so I was able to gamble freely (though I stuck with the slot machines and kept quiet). Dad gave my my first taste for gambling when he taught me to play black jack five years earlier, but slot machines provided a pretty, mindless, colorful way to risk money. I didn’t set out to win, I just enjoyed playing. It was enough to get a rush from winning small, a handful of quarters. In fact, I was even worried about hitting a large jackpot in case I was busted for being underage. It never happened, but I tried to stay close to Mom and watch myself, just in case.
Saturday, June 12, 1993
Today was my date with Mark.
This morning after 7:00AM I had all these terrible nightmares, one where he doesn’t show up and the other where he hates me. I was so nervous.
I was afraid that he would be late but he was on time. My parents just said be home by nine.
First we went to a diner and had bagels. Then we went to Rockaway beach and it was really nice. There weren’t many people there and the sand was almost white. We sat down and talked for a while. He lied down a lot and I was sitting Indian-style. I liked him a lot and was hoping he would kiss me. At one time he was on his knees and kind of leaned toward me and I thought he would but he didn’t. Then he started trying to tickle me a little and I kept brushing his hands away. He also played with my hair, tugging at it and looking up at it.
Then I lied down on the sand and he started taking my hand and stroking it and putting it between his hands. He kept teasing me that my hair color wasn’t real. And then he was on his elbow (but over me) and telling me that it was a wig. His face was very close to mine and that’s the last thing I remember before he kissed me.
I felt like I was in another world. He’s a very good kisser (I hate to admit it but it was the first time I ever french-kissed. It wasn’t gross like I expected it). There we were, on the beach making-out. It was like something out of a movie. Hell, it was better than that, it was real!
Then we left (I really had to go to the bathroom) and drove around some more. We stopped on this quiet block where we kissed some more (he kissed my lips, chin, neck and even ears. It was really cool being kissed on the ear.) and other stuff (I wouldn’t let him get carried away. No further than second).
After that I saw my lip was swollen (it was very passionate) and was a little worried. He drove me home, told me to give him a call, and I kissed him good-bye.
My parents were pretty pissed about the lip (“What is he, an animal?”) and my mom wants him to apologize next time I see him and my dad wants to have one of those “man-to-man” talks with him. Oh boy. At first my mom told me I couldn’t see him anymore but I can on those two conditions. Also she doesn’t want me acting so slutty with him anymore (not exactly her words).
Except for when I got home, I had a really great time. Mark is really nice and very cute. He has brown hair but he thinks his eyes are brown and they are more hazel-green (gorgeous!). Also he has these long, long eyelashes and dimples! *sigh*
Well I better go study my social and science. I hope I have a great relationship with him. Gotta go!
The thing I remember most about my first make-out session isn’t the boy or the beach or the anticipation and excitement of it all. Oh no. What I remember most clearly was really, really needing to pee in the middle of all the kissing. Having such a romantic set-up and beautiful setting for the event, I wanted it to last and last, so I held it in for as long as I possibly could. I mean, how many city kids get to have their first “real” kiss take place on a deserted beach?
Did I say the set-up was romantic? I thought so then, but in hindsight, my mind goes back to Mark’s behavior in the diner. We each had these paper place mats that listed cocktails with accompanying illustrations. There were familiar ones like the Martini and Pina Colada, but Mark kept pointing out and laughing about the “Sex on the Beach.” If he mentioned it only the one time, it would probably not have stayed with me, but he said it a few times, and any discomfort I felt as a result, I brushed away. However now I can’t wonder whether he was trying to plant some kind of subliminal signal. One that wasn’t successful due to my caution, inexperience, and unrelenting bladder.
When I finally couldn’t hold it in any more and asked to find a restroom, the nearest one we could find was at Sizzler, a low rent eating establishment known for its salad bar and buffet which wasn’t quite as cinematic as Rockaway Beach.
Oh, and I had those swollen lips for days. A friend of mine joked,
“That’s not love, that’s assault and battery!”
It turned out to be neither.
Wednesday, June 9, 1993
A lot has happened lately. Saturday, Eddie didn’t call (his strict mom was in town or something and he had to go somewhere with her) but Mark called me three times that weekend. That last time we talked for over an hour and a half! He is so easy to talk to, funny, he’s really nice and I like him a lot. Also, I’m going to see him Saturday! AAAHHH!!!
[Woah, bait and switch much? Was my 15-year-old self going to blindly accept Eddie not calling and let myself be pawned off on Mark like that? Well... We all know the answer to that, so let's let the blind teenage jubilance continue its flow.]
I am nervous about seeing him because he doesn’t know what I look like. Yet I feel like I know him so well, because we talk so much. In the past 2 days I have talked to him four times. That is more than I talk with Didi and she is my best friend. I really hope that things work out between Mark and me. I would love to have a boyfriend this summer and he isn’t going anywhere. Sure he lives in Long Island but he drives so it’s not a problem. Yes he drives. He is older than me by about 2 years. He’ll be 18 March 2. In the fall he is going to Columbia (an Ivy League school!). The only little thing is he smokes but everything else makes up for that.
[Hello, what about the fact that I didn't know what he looked like either? I remembered hot guy Eddie, but not his less mature, non-nondescript friend Mark. Why the sudden enthusiasm? Two reasons. 1. His humor and charm was winning me over, and it seemed like he really grew up in the last couple of years. If he wasn't great looking face to face, his personality would go a long way in making up for it. 2. It had been three-and-a-half years since my last date. For someone as boy-crazy as I was, this was a dry spell of epic proportions.]
My parents are actually letting me see him (though I’m not sure if they know about the age & car situation) but they just want to meet him first. I hope he really likes me. I hope I really like him! Actually I already do but I hope when we meet face to face sparks fly (I’m sorry I’m being so corny).
[And I'm sorry you had to read about me being so corny I was all these years later. At least I had the good sense to be apologetic about it then, too.]
There are only 5 more days of school. Yay! Then, July 11, my mom and I are going on another cruise! Major Yay! I really hope this will be a summer to remember, in the best possible way.
I don’t know about you, but “Major Yay” makes me think of an extremely flamboyant military officer in a pink bedazzled uniform who only makes you drop and give him 20 if you’re not fabulous enough. I’m sure it’s just me.
Moving on. How about this Eddie/Mark situation? I was skeptical at first, but then the naive romantic in me as I thought about the unexpected twisty ways love can find you. It was strange enough to go looking for Eddie all of these years, but then to end up connecting with Mark instead was an even bigger surprise. Who knew, maybe something would come of it. Maybe my life could be a John Hughes movie after all. And hopefully I wouldn’t be Brian, Anthony Michael Hall’s brainy-but-lovable geek, stuck writing the detention essay alone, while everyone else paired off. Time would tell.
Teusday, June 1, 1993
Something surprising happened to me. Let me start at the very beginning.
Three years ago during the summer my parents and I went to this place called Pine (it was like a motel). We spent a little while there and I met this guy named Eddie Klein. He was very cute and I liked him the second I saw him. A lot. I didn’t exactly become his best friend but I talked to him a little. Then I left Pine and just thought about him for a while.
[Pine was a bit more than a "motel." It's like my parents and I shacked up in a dingy hole in the wall along with a bunch of truckers and prostitutes for the summer. Pine was closer to a bungalow colony, but a notch above, with a dining hall, game room, pool, gym, and jacuzzi. It was also the setting for my first kiss.
Eddie was a tall lanky boy with blue eyes, light brown hair buzzed short, and a golden tan. He was friendly and easygoing and a perfect choice for an unrequited summer crush. All I really remember about him is that he once gave a massage the game room, one that was disappointingly platonic.]
Well a couple of months ago Didi was at my house and we were making prank calls. I had this old address book and was looking through it to see who we should call. Eddie’s address and phone number was in there so I told Didi to call him. I remember he told me he went to military school so I didn’t think he would be home, but his mom said something like he’s sleeping so I was very surprised. That was a couple of months ago.
[For those too young to be familiar with the concept of prank calls, there was once a time before cell phones and caller ID, when answering the phone meant not knowing who was on the other end, which made much mischief-making possible. Prank calls were a childish but fun way to pass the time. My favorite was to have several different friends call the same number asking for "Stacey" and being told nobody by that name lived there. The punchline came when a the final person called the number and said, "Hi, this is Stacey, do I have any messages? Hey, we were kids and easily amused!]
About a week ago I happened to be looking through that book again and once again I noticed his address and phone number. I thought “what the hell” and wrote him a letter. I told Didi about this, but I didn’t really expect a response.
[Insert Once Upon a Time Before Emails People Wrote Letters speech here.]
Well he didn’t write back. This afternoon Eddie and Mark (another guy from Pine) came TO MY HOUSE! AAAAAHHHH! I was so shocked. The thing is I couldn’t let them in because my parents weren’t home, but they really wanted me to come out. Instead I gave them my phone number, and they called like half an hour later. I got to talk to Eddie a little but mostly Mark because he wouldn’t let me talk to Eddie until I promised to come out but I couldn’t. I was on the phone for over an hour but at the end of the conversation I talked to Eddie and he said he would call me on Saturday at 6:00. I told him he would have to wait about three weeks to see me (until school ends) and he wasn’t thrilled but I guess that’s good because he wants to see me! Yay! He didn’t really remember me but he came down from Queens to see me! I have to calm down. I hope things work out.
I have to admit, this whole turn of events skates the fine line of cute/creepy. While it was nice for Eddie and Mark to be spontaneous and make the effort to see me, considering the fact that three years had gone by, a phone call would have been preferable to showing up on my doorstep. And while Mom and Dad were overprotective at times, they taught err on the side of caution, which is why I refused to open the door to the two boys while home alone and didn’t go out to meet them, either. I may have been interested in boys, but I was more interested in safety. Points to my parents for raising me to be sensible, at least in that scenario. It makes for a duller story, at least in the beginning, but things did take an unexpected turn…
[I debated leaving this entry out. It was written during a dark time and paints me in a rather morbid, petty, envious, and depressed state of mind. Things were tense at home. But as The Breakfast Club put it, "Everyone's home life is unsatisfying. If it wasn't, people would live with their parents forever." So I'll go easy on the judging if you do. Except for the fact that I was 15 and still misspelling "Tuesday." There's no excuse for that.]
Teusday, March 30, 1993
I’m kind of bored. Even though it’s past 10:00 I don’t feel like going to sleep. Sometimes I wish I would get like no sleep the whole week and get all pale. Then I wouldn’t eat for like a week and get all thin until one day I just pass out in class from exhaustion and starvation. I have a really sick mind.
[That and I read way too many young adult novels about girls with cancer, eating disorders, and less common maladies like cystic fibrosis. I won't say these books glamorized illness, but there was a macabre appeal to the ailing protagonists. They had a sickly skinny beauty, garnered a certain amount of sympathy and attention, and were revered for their strength through adversity. Or mourned for their short and poignant lives if they didn't beat the disease. Either way, I can't deny the allure of being such a tragic and admired figure... except I wanted the fast track where I could just not eat or sleep for a week instead of going the whole illness route.]
Joyce and Duane really like each other and could be going out any day now. Just as soon as she breaks up with her other boyfriend (Bitch. Oops! Did I say that? Oh my. Actually I really don’t have much against her but she just gets to me. I don’t even know why I’m mentioning her in my diary but I need something to talk about.
[Well, we can always talk about my inability to close a parenthesis and the frustrating experience that occurs as a result. What we shouldn't talk about is how unpleasant all this covetousness is. Trust me, I know.]
I’m not in a very good mood, and I don’t really know why. Life, I guess. Just everything. Vacation is coming up soon. Good. I want to just sit around doing nothing for a while. It will be nice not having so much stuff to do. Damn, I’m so moody. I wish I weren’t me.
The more things seem to change, the less they really do. I could say those very same words these days; still moody, still stressed, still need a break now and again. Life still has its moments where it kicks my ass, with one crucial difference: I don’t want to be someone else. Not the sick girl or the popular girl or whatever other girl seems to have a more fascinating life than my own. I’m riddled with imperfections (hello, human here) and might wish some things were different, but overall, I am cool with being me.
Monday, January 25, 1993
I got some new tapes from this Columbia House deal and they are free as long as I promise to buy 8 more within the next 3 years. Right now I am listening to Tori Amos and it is a great tape. She is a poet and most of this stuff is real deep. I don’t get a lot of it but I understand it even though I don’t exactly get the symbolic meaning.
Anyway, I found out Chris Drewski likes me last week. Sigh. It feels good to have somebody like you but, you know, if it was only… Oh I don’t know. It’s kind of bugging me though.
Hahn thinks that I like Leon. I don’t (not really), I just love to flirt with him. Not that I would mind if it was more.
I think I’m pretty much over Will. Moving on. Gotta go.
I remember seeing the video for “Silent All These Years” late one night on MTV. I was utterly intrigued with this strange, full-mouthed redhead tumbling across the screen in a wooden box, singing about being a mermaid (as I’ve hinted at before, I have a soft spot for mermaids). I was struck by lyrics like,
“i got something to say
you know but NOTHING comes
yes i know what you think of me
you never shut up”
(come on, that’s lyric heroin for an angsty teen)
Who was this Tori Amos woman?
I had the chance to find out when my parents let me join Columbia House. For those too young to remember (*sob*), there was a time when you couldn’t pick up a magazine without seeing full page ads for this music club. The ads would be dotted with album covers on perforated paper, so you could tear out the gratis albums you wanted and affix them to the membership form. The lure of all that free music was great and I eventually succumbed, though over time my relationship with Columbia House grew more sinister, until I eventually felt like I was being stalked, manipulated, and extorted through my mailbox. But the early days were sweet, and they did bring me and Tori together.
When I first listened to her debut album, Little Earthquakes, I felt a bit the way I did at my initial listening of U2’s Achtung Baby. It wasn’t immediately catchy and I didn’t understand it entirely, but there was something compelling about it. I respected that it took a numerous listens to find rich nuances in the music and lyrics. Tori Amos was confusing, confrontational, crazy, and other adjectives not beginning with “c” (I like alliteration; sue me). She sang about relationships and sex and female identity in a way I had never come across before (it would be a while before I discovered Kate Bush). I also loved that nobody else I knew was familiar with Tori at the time, and took pride in my musical discovery. Her second album, Under the Pink, would be the one to get her the mainstream attention, which I had mixed feelings about. I wanted others to love her as much as I did, but I also wanted her to be something of a secret to share with a select few. And for a little while, it was. In early 1993, finding Little Earthquakes was like unearthing musical buried treasure.
Tuesday, December 29, 1992
Alright it is now time for my annual tradition of… New Years Resolutions! Yes boys and girls, these are the outrageous promises you make and never keep! Let us have a moment of silence…..
Okay, here goes!
1) Lose Weight (how much? Enough)
2) Be nicer and more respectful of my parents (They made me write that. Just kidding!)
3) Be more considerate of others.
4) Be less sarcastic (maybe even a little less cynical).
5) Do unto others…
6) Get a boyfriend. (?)
Well Didi’s comin’ over tomorrow. See ya!
If my New Year’s resolutions were adapted into a film, it would star Bill Murray and a groundhog. Except that I wouldn’t go about things in such a deadpan way (what’s the opposite of having a poker face? Because that’s what I have) and certainly wouldn’t chase after Andie MacDowell (no offense, she’s just not my type). But making the same mistakes over and over again and trying to learn from them? That’s pretty much the theme of my teen years (okay, and some of my 20′s too).
Well at least I was finally recognizing the futility of those resolutions. After not one, not two, but THREE nearly identical lists, it was time to start getting a clue. I do enjoy the fact that I used sarcasm in item 2) in light of item 4) (unintentional irony? I prefer to give my 15-year-old self the benefit of the doubt this time). Being less sarcastic is a resolution I have not kept to this day, with no regrets. What surprises me is that I referred to myself as cynical, since I’ve often professed myself to be one of the least cynical people you’ll ever meet. Hey wait, does that mean I actually stuck to that resolution? Hm…
In any case, hopefully I was on the way to realizing that change should come when the resolve is truly there, not when a calendar dictates it to be there. Or to take stock more than once a year.
(And I can only hope that the question mark after item 6) indicated that I was finally starting to realize what a goofy thing it was to put on a list of resolutions.)
Tuesday, December 29th, 1992
My birthday was great. I got a lot of great presents from my friends. All together I got 6 U2 tapes! I also got some great jewelry and an engagement/planner type book full of Van Gogh paintings (he is my favorite artist).
Even though it is vacation, I have been thinking about Will so much. For the past 5 days I have dreamt about him.
[Traditionally, I only dreamed of a boy if I really liked him (at least according to a previous diary entry). In this case, it was more than just the crush on Will. The day before winter break, he somehow found out I liked him. Didi caught him writing about it in a note to a female classmate he was friends with. I was horrified, especially since this discovery clearly indicated he did not reciprocate my feelings. It was a special brand of teenage mortification, hence the five nights of being tormented by his guest appearance in my dreams. Let the nightmarathon roll!]
Day 1: Didi and I are sitting in a café and Will is there. There have been some new students that have entered our school and somebody was reading down the list. When the person got to a girl named Viola he said:
“Yes, that is the girl I’m going out with.” He said in the obvious way so I would hear and get upset.
Will and I moved to a smaller table and I thought that I was going to cry.
This is where it gets weird. We move back to the big table where other people join us. Then somebody spilled all these beans or lentils or something and we all start trying to clean them up. I start sweeping them off the table and the waitress goes: “Why don’t you make more of a mess?”
[Not a whole lot to interpret here. I mean, somebody actually spilled some beans. More text than subtext, really.]
Day 2: Will was sitting many, many seats away from Didi. Yet there he was, all of the sudden, sitting next to Didi. He wanted to sit next to her because he wanted to tell her something. What he told her is that he didn’t like me. And I don’t mean it that way. I mean at all. How rude.
[Yeah, figment-of-my-dream-Will! Learn some manners! Maybe that'll make you appreciate how delightful my 15-year-old self is, dammit!]
Day 3: I don’t remember specific things but I know he was there in class and I was talking to him.
[And what really matters is that he was there, torturing my subconscious with his mere presence. Insert wistful adolescent sigh here.]
Day 4: I was going to walk to Radio City Music Hall to see the Christmas spectacular and it was raining. Will was talking to Didi and he goes, “She’s going to walk there all by herself in the rain? Without an umbrella?” He was genuinely worried about me (or at least as genuine as you can get in a dream).
[This one is my favorite, because it has a nice mix of pathos, restraint, and paranoia.]
Day 5 (yesterday): I was in art class and we were drawing these strips that were all different colors. We had to do 24 of them and I did my 24. Since I was done, and kind of sad I decided to go in the closet for a while because I was really not in the mood to face anyone (especially Will).
After some time I came out and saw that Tyra was sitting next to him so I asked her if she would move over so I could sit next to him. She did, I sat down and then he begins to insult me! I don’t remember what he said but it was this whole long monologue/list of insults. I put my hands over my face and was going to cry.
Clearly, my dream self should have never come out of the closet.
This diary entry went on for pages and pages swooning about Will, which I have edited out (you’re welcome).
As for Didi’s presence, she was instrumental in what little contact I had with Will before the dream- and proverbial beans were spilled. We both shared several classes with Will and Grant, in classrooms where there were no assigned seats, and chair-desks were arranged in a loose circle. Didi and I would get to class early and engage in a subtle-but-painfully-calculated ritual in which we would move around the chairs in order to maximize the possibility of having our crushes sit next to us. It may sound a little crazy (agreed), and I couldn’t tell you the methodology behind the madness, but I swear it worked about 80% of the time.
Until Will found out I liked him. Then I tried to sit as far away from him as possible.
Monday, December 21, 1992
My birthday is tomorrow and I am very excited. Yesterday my mom and I went to Manhattan and it was great. We went to the “Gap” first and I got a whole bunch of new stuff. Then we went to A&S where I got a tape for myself (U2, “Boy”) and one as a present (Genesis, “ABACAB”). I also got a book there. Then we went to Macy’s where I got a new watch (it is a really pretty Swatch). Also my starter jacket and Doc Martens were part of my birthday/Hanukka presents. I love all the stuff I got. Oh yeah. My parents also got me “Poison” (it’s a perfume by Christian Dior and it smells really good).
[After many, many, many instances of exhibiting what some might consider questionable music taste, I finally got to fulfill somebody else's sonic guilty pleasure. Whether Genesis surpasses Samantha Fox in cheesiness is up for debate, but I vote hell-to-the-yes. I'd rather listen to "Naughty Girls (Need Love Too)" over Phil Collins any day.
As for The Gap, starter jackets, Swatch watches and Doc Martens, welcome to the 1990's, where plaid shirts, combat boots, puffy sport-related outerwear and colorful plastic timepieces reign supreme. It was the year I was a slave to the trends, though I still kept a bright palate. Despite never seeing a basketball game in my life, I selected a jacket for the Charlotte Hornets, simply because it was teal and purple and I found it pretty. (Full disclosure: I even had to double check that the Hornets were in fact a basketball team. Just now. True story.)
I got some of my presents already from my friends. I got a U2 tape (“The Joshua Tree”) from Linda. In case you haven’t noticed, I am really into the group U2 right now.
[Though clearly I still hadn't noticed that my diary was an object incapable of observation, not being a living thing and all.]
At the moment, they are my favorite. I also got some jewelry from Renee and Erica (both on the bus). Last but absolutely, posotively not least Didi gave me a Swatch too! I was expecting a plaid shirt and was really surprised. It is really pretty, pinkish purple with anchors and square knots all over it. That is just the beginning. I am going to get even more presents tomorrow and the day after that.
Well, I really should try to get some sleep for tomorrow because not only is it my birthday, but we also have a big science test. I don’t think I’m gonna do well. Oh well. ~See ya!
So let’s review. I was 14-going-on-15, my fashion philosophy could best be described as “Technicolor lumberjack,” and I was become increasingly obsessed with U2. I guess it could be worse.
Considering my girly-pop musical track record, it still surprises me that the first band that would form the backbone of my musical evolution would be a straight up rock band like U2. The best way I can describe it is like falling in love. You might have a type, you might have inclinations, but you can never predict what will capture your heart. Something about Bono’s earnest and feverish voice, The Edge’s soaring guitar riffs, Larry Mullen’s brooding handsomeness and adorable eyelashes drumming really captivated me (Adam Clayton was okay, too, I guess). Never before in my life had I found so much passion in music.
And while we’re on the topic of music and passion, here’s something else I was stubbornly fervent about: cassettes. I was building up quite the tape collection, despite a supposedly superior music format that was becoming increasingly popular. I resisted the “compact disc” hype, refused to pay more money for CDs (“we’ll see how long they last…” I’d scoff and roll my eyes) and swore loyalty to my cassettes. Because surely they would be around forever…
Thursday, November 17, 1992
Today I found out some very shocking and unexpected news concerning Will (Grant too). It started during 3rd period. Betty Michaels told me that she had to tell Tyra (who also likes Will) and me something very important about him. Automatically I assumed one of two things happened, he either found out that I like him or he is going out with somebody. But it was even worse.
[Mind you, either one of those two things would have been a Ginormous Teenage Tragedy, so it was hard to wrap my mind around what could possibly be worse than that. Armed robbery? Murder?]
Betty pulled us into an empty classroom and started telling us about this party she went to Friday. Will and Grant were there and the two of them and a couple of other people were, were—Okay I’ll just spit it out. They were smoking POT!
[Teenage boys smoking weed??! What kind of nonsensical and cruel world is this??]
When she first told me I didn’t even react and I said that Didi has to know about this.
[Didi had a crush on grant, and it was part of our friendship code that news on either of our crushes was reported immediately.]
We told her and she was like WHAT!? Then later we told Hahn because we didn’t want to leave her out. She thought it was really disgusting and just kept saying how gross it was. She was right but she kind of annoyed me because Tyra and I were focusing on how shocked we were and how we never expected it and how upset and numb we were (especially in science the next class, when it really set in.). But what we did for the end of that period was really cool.
Didi had two extra candy cane papers that she didn’t know what to do with.
[Every year for the winter holidays our school would sell candy canes. The way it worked: you bought a folded slip of paper for either a small or large candy cane, wrote a note inside, and the recipient's name on the outside. The following month candy canes were handed out during Official (Hunter's version of Homeroom) with the notes stapled to them.]
We decided to send one to Will and one to Grant. What we did was cut out letters out of a newspaper to spell out (on the inside of both of them) “Don’t do pot or else…” It looks really cool, like a death threat or something. We were all really happy that we did it and I said when they see it they will piss their pants!
[Look, our hearts were in the right place. Sending a ransom-note-looking threat in place of a holiday greeting was the best we could come up with at the time.]
I am still pretty upset. Didi told me how she knew Grant was a little messed up but she never expected Will to do it. I always thought he is as close to perfect as a person can get. I mean, I knew he had to have flaws just like everyone else but THIS!?!
I decided earlier today that I am going to forgive him. I mean, if this was a one time thing, then I can forget about it but… let’s just really hope this is a one time thing.
Those police officers who gave a talk at my elementary school about the dangers of drugs really had an impact on me. I can still remember the suitcase full of samples and their somber attitudes. They made it sound like a single tab of acid or line of cocaine could end your life and I believed them at the time. That terror they instilled stayed with me for years to come, even about marijuana. In turn, Didi and I hoped to instill some of that same fear into our two crushes.
Smoking pot was something I associated with “bad kids” doing, so it was shocking to discover that Will and Grant weren’t the “good kids” my friends and I thought (hoped) they were. My attitudes about that sort of thing have changed over the years, but back then I was one dismayed goody-two-shoes.
At least I found it in the goodness in my heart to forgive the boy I liked for doing something that had nothing to do with me… as long as it was a one time thing, of course.
Friday, September 18, 1992
Yesterday I got a tape from Fran. It was a letter one she didn’t feel like writing. Anyway I was so happy to get the tape from her that I asked if I could send one back and my dad suggested that I invite her to sleep over during the weekend instead. I was so happy.
Then today I come home and my dad says I have to do all my homework for the weekend tonight if I want her to sleep over. I griped about it a lot and even my mom agreed with my dad.
So after dinner I was about to go into the other bedroom to do my homework when I go into my room (where my dad was playing Nintendo) and I told him I wanted to study in my room. He said I could when he finished playing and I got angry and I told him I would be up all night if I did (I did exaggerate a bit). I was so pissed that when I left the room I called him a hypocrite. He called me back into the room and asked me what I said. Finally he dragged it out of me and what did he say? Surprise, surprise!!! Fran couldn’t come over.
The weird thing about it is that my mom starts defending me saying Fran is coming over but later she comes into the room I’m in and starts yelling at me! As usual she threatened to leave so I would be all alone with him and would have to live just with him.
The thing I don’t understand is why she defended me when she probably agreed with him. She thought I was wrong anyway so why didn’t she just back him up and make him happy? Why is she disagreeing with him then yelling at me? Well I know I did deserve it.
“I ask myself too many times why don’t you ever learn to keep your big mouth shut?” (Annie Lennox, “Why”)
I’m used to getting my hopes up and then fucking things up.
To complicate matters further I think I’m beginning to like Will Davidson. I really don’t want to because he is IMPOSSIBLE to get. They all are. I ask Didi to hit my every time I think of him, or I dig my nails into my skin. LIFESUCKS!
Fran did not end up coming over.
I wish I could say this was a rare family occurrence, but I just chose not to write about them in my diary often. It was easier to stick to lighter fare, like crushes. The dynamic at home could be turbulent, and while being a smartass didn’t help matters, I know now there were circumstances that added to the tension which I had nothing to do with.
My parents tried to do their best. We all did. Let’s just leave it at that.
Friday, September 11, 1992
School has started. Everything is different yet still the same in a weird way. My schedule isn’t too great. Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday I have no free periods except for 8th (which doesn’t really count). Didi and Hahn are in my class. Last year’s class was better but some of the girls in this class are really nice. Joyce is in my class again. We have two cute guys in my class. Will Davidson and Grant Simpson.
I lost a little weight and hope to keep the diet up. It’s getting late now so I better sign off. I still want to read a little.
Even after all these years being out of school, I still associate the autumn and start of the academic calendar with new beginnings. More than January 1, it’s the turning leaves and cooling fall temperatures that signal the potential for change. After two shaky years at Hunter, I was ready for some change, hopefully for the better.
I remember 9th grade as the year I tried to blend in more than stand out. After being mocked for my outlandish style, I had enough. No more neon colors, no more bold patterns, strange dresses, or wacky hats. Instead, I asked my parents to take me to shops like The Gap, where I stocked up on generic clothes like plain t-shirts, Doc Marten boots, jeans, and flannel shirts.
Joyce and I drifted apart in the middle of 7th grade and over the next year-and-a-half, I watched her undergo something of a transformation. She was a frustrating girl to be friends with, because despite her good looks and talent, she had a crippling amount of insecurity which morphed into a funnel for reassurance and praise. There are only so many times you can tell a thin and pretty girl that she’s not fat and ugly, especially while struggling with your own self image (and real weight problems instead of imagined ones). I eventually found it exhausting to bolster her self-esteem, but by the time we stopped being friends she didn’t need me. She joined the track team for which she had a natural affinity, trimmed her dancers body down even further, and was quickly embraced by the popular crowd.
I knew I wouldn’t have a transformation like Joyce did, having neither the grace and agility for dance/sports, nor the discipline and twisted headspace for the eating disorders for which some of my female classmates were being treated. Instead I hoped that dressing like the other kids would provide some social respite. Would it actually make high school life easier for me? Time would tell…
Wednesday, August 7th, 1992
Boston was really cool. The hotel was the best. The baseball game was totally dull but we (Tabitha, Anita, Didi and I) stayed up almost all night seriously talking and acting a bit wild. We found out more about each other and had a blast. Oh, yeah. After the baseball game, at about 11:00pm we went bowling! That was weird but kinda fun.
[By "a bit wild" I mean we jumped on the beds and ate lots of junk food. There was also a bit running around the motel hallways and a late night pillow fight. And lots and lots of giggling. I know, such crazy party girls we were. Amazing we didn't end up in rehab, right?
Seriously, though, that night was like something out of a Sleepover Friends book. While nowhere near as popular or beloved as The Babysitters Club or Sweet Valley High/Twins series, I briefly read these books in the late 80's. They centered around a varied group of female friends who have weekly (...wait for it...) sleepovers. The only thing I remember about these books is that one of the characters' favorite colors were black, white, and red (to the point where her entire room and outfits were bedecked in the three pigments) and that there were pages and pages of descriptions of the various junk foods consumed. Somehow a plethora of plots unfolded around these slumber parties, whose location alternated between the girls' houses. However, I can honestly say I doubt any of the books revolved around late-night spirited hijinks in a Boston hotel. Us Brooklyn girls know how to live it up.]
The next day we went to a museum and shopping at a place similar to (but much bigger than) South Street seaport.
[That trip to Boston was one of the highlights of my year. And while I ended up living there years later, it was a while before I realized the shopping center we visited was Quincy Market. To date, it was the only time I've been there, which is so much the better, because I'm sure nothing could have topped the small joy I had shopping for t-shirts, candy, and kiwi-flavored lip balm.]
I don’t know how I feel about Ricky Klein at the present time. I mean, if you would have asked me this morning how I felt about him I would have said that I love him.
[Insert *cringe* here.]
Maybe I did love Ricky.
[I really didn't.]
Or maybe I just enjoyed the thought of loving him.
[Could be. I was subjected to a sundry of sappy movies and books at a tender and impressionable age.]
I do know that at one time I had very deep feelings for him.
[Lust + Infatuation = A 14-year-old's "Very Deep Feelings"]
After all I don’t write poems about just anybody!
[Fast forward ten years and we'll all have a good laugh about that one.]
To be honest I was all ready to include a note in the envelope with his tip that uncovered my feelings. I would have given him the poem too.
A moment ago I felt guilty and fickle for feeling this way but now that I think about it I am glad that I began to get over him before I got hurt or embarrassed. I did not tell anybody who I liked (although I think Didi pretty much figured it out) and now I don’t know if I will. I think another reason I began having strong emotions for him is because we were both born on the same day so it was like destiny or something. I guess it wasn’t.
If the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, I was surely straitjacket-bound at that point. Luckily I came to my senses and just gave Ricky the cash. Thank goodness I had clarity and good sense in that moment when I didn’t on numerous similar occasions.
Don’t worry, though, there will be many more lapses in judgment when it comes to boys and many more notes/poems/stories and all around questionable behavior. Guess being sensible this time around was like destiny. Or something.
Monday, July 27, 1992
As I am writing this, we are on our way to Boston.
Right now I am sitting next to Anita. She is really nice (& cool) and I like hanging out with her. Didi is acting nice toward me.
I am feeling pretty restless and a little bored. In the front of the bus the councelors are playing Donna Summer songs and Anita knows the words to almost all of the songs because her mother listens to her a lot. Anyway, I am very bored. I don’t know what I should do next. I’ll probably listen to my walkman. I can’t wait until we arrive at our destination. I’ll write more later. See ya!
A moment of silence for the walkman.
Before it was possible to carry hours, days, weeks worth of music in a portable device the size of your palm, there were cassettes, boomboxes, and walkmans (according to Sony, they prefer the device be pluralized as Walkman Personal Stereos, but I prefer saying “walkmans” or “korvalappustereot” which is how they say it in Finnish. Those wacky Finns).
Back in the early 1990′s, CDs were starting to appear on the scene, but the cassette tape was still my preferred music medium. Not only were tapes less expensive, but you could buy blank ones and fill them with songs taped off the radio.
I was around nine when I discovered this clever and elusive way to capture music, except that I had a stereo that only had one tape deck and no record functionality. However my parents did have a clunky tape recorder, which I was able to hold up to the radio to capture two-thirds of Europe’s “Carrie” (not the most auspicious musical beginning perhaps, but I’ve always had a soft spot for power ballads.
Luckily, my parents noticed my emerging passion for music and started buying me tapes, and eventually a stereo with two tape decks. The first piece of music I ever owned was George Michael’s Faith (followed by Cyndi Lauper’s True Colors). I remember one awkward summer day listening to “I Want Your Sex” with my mother; she grew thoughtful and said “I think he [George Michael] is light blue,” in Russian. She then explained “light blue” in our native language meant “gay.” I didn’t know what to think of such a statement at the time, considering that back then I associated homosexual men with the flamboyance of someone like Liberace or Elton John. I also developed something of a crush on the tight-jeaned, 5 o’clock shadowed, aviator-shade-wearing George Michael of 1987, and was completely under his hetero-spell. Who knew Mom had such dead-on gaydar?
In addition to the tape player, my parents bought me several walkmans (take that, Sony!) over the years, and much of my allowance was spent on cassettes. For the next five years, my music tastes grew but remained limited to pop selections from the Top 40, and often the cheesier end of the spectrum (though I did stop after one Paula Abdul album, so a little credit for that, right? No? Okay). The later models of the walkman I owned had fancy features like Auto Reverse, which would start playing the second side of the tape without the need to manually remove and flip the tape. Back then this was considered pretty high tech.
The summer of 1992 expanded my musical horizons beyond Donna Summer (who was fun for bus trips, but not anyone whose albums I sought out). I remember the counselors also played a lot of Billy Joel and Meat Loaf (Anita couldn’t believe I hadn’t heard “Paradise by the Dashboard Light” before), neither of which I was crazy about. It wasn’t until Anita let me borrow her cassette copy of The Joshua Tree that I started to understand how intriguing and captivating music could be. “With or Without You” was the song that hooked me, more than any other song had in my life. Compared to the more straightforward catchy tunes I was used to, I found this song haunting, ambiguous, and deliciously tortured. I didn’t bother listening to the rest of the album, just that one song, over and over again, recording it onto a blank tape repeatedly until it filled up all of Side A. I was slowly discovering music that made me think and feel on a level I never had before and was on the cusp of a music revolution, one that would help me survive some dark days ahead.
Later on, “With or Without You” would the first piece of music I owned on CD, when someone gave me the CD single as a gift. However I was so stubborn about remaining true to my walkman and growing collection of cassette tapes, it would be a while before I had anything to play it on. The discman would not be part of my reality for a few years yet…