Yesterday was probably the best day I ever had at Hunter.
Claudia and I finally broke out of our awful locker hallway. We moved to the third floor art hall, where David and Neil are after being banned from the other hallway for threatening to shave some girl’s head.
There’s so much to say but I have no way of being vague about it. All set for next year. I never actually thought that… wow. On to other things.
Dandelion were great. I felt so bad because so few people were into it. There were more people for Po’ Boy Swing (who were eh).
I’m not 100% sure what I meant by “all set for next year” but I’m guessing this locker hallway had something to do with it.
To give some context, every grade was assigned its own locker hallway and then there were a few additional, more sparsely-populated hallways. One of these was dubbed the “freak” hallway. As the name would suggest, it was where many of the weirdos hung out, those generally (dis)regarded as being outsiders, either for their physical differences (being abnormally tall or otherwise unusual-looking), their interests (listening to heavy metal, playing Dungeons and Dragons) or anything else that might set apart an individual from the culture of homogeneity high school typically encourages. There were even rumors of a polyamorous relationship among several of the hallways members, which was regarded as particularly scandalous and distasteful.
In my earlier years at Hunter, I was put off by that hallway. There was all the PDA among the less-than-conventionally attractive students. There was also the greater fear that I was ever in their ranks, it would put me in an ever lower social caste, and for a while I held on to my Sweet-Valley-High-esque delusions that popularity at school was important and attainable.
Once I started wearing oddball outfits and dyed my hair purple (and developed an inappropriate crush on Neil, the too-young punk a few grades below me) fitting in was no longer desirable and I sought out other fellow weirdos at school.
David was another fellow oddball and put the rest of us to shame with his outlandishness. He was notorious at our school for having a starring role on a cable show (I won’t say which one, but it was something of a cult hit in the 1990′s) as well as a minor part in a an immensely popular family film and its sequel. His style was akin to homeless indie bike messenger and he was always pissing off the Hunter administration one way or another, like this latest incident. I even added one of his shenanigans to his IMDB page (I think I write about it in a later journal entry, so I won’t spoil it here). Being in the company of such misfits as David and Neil felt like being admitted into a club that I realized I wanted to belong to more even more than the popular crowd. These were my people.
I don’t remember exactly how Claudia and I ended up in the “freak” hallway but I do remember the excitement I felt and the relief at packing up my things and leaving the locker hallway designated for our junior class. This other hallway was sunnier, quieter, and all-around more inviting. There were not too many moments during my tenure at Hunter where I felt truly at ease and welcome, but this was one of those moments.
[Oh, and for anyone wondering, Dandelion was a band that I most likely didn't tell my parents I was out seeing one night when sleeping over a friend's house. The usual.]
I’ve been listening to WSOU a LOT lately. Got this ‘zine “POPsmear” that has celebrity phone numbers (including Lisa Loeb’s! Ooh! Maybe I’ll give her a call.)
I really like the word silverbitch. If I get a band, maybe that’s what I’ll name it. I’m working on a poem called “silverbitch smitten” all about Mercer. I hope it comes together, gels.
Oh, I saw Sandra Bernhard in the Village today. She was going one way (with some guy she was walking with) and we were going the other (Anita didn’t see her).
Oh god oh god oh god. This entry provided me with a special double dose of shame, once for believing I was so clever by coining a word as utterly ridiculous as “silverbitch” and a second time when I dug out and read the ensuing poem. But more on that later. First up, Lisa Loeb.
For those who are too young or need a refresher, Lisa Loeb was a bespectacled singer-songwriter and one-hit wonder whose song “Stay (I Missed You)” was featured on the Reality Bites soundtrack and, much like the movie, represented a special blend of irritating-but-not-wholly-unlikable ’90s angst. Except in Lobe’s case, there was a dose of perkiness mixed into the angst (let’s call it “pangst”). The video was directed by Ethan Hawke and couldn’t have had a budget of more than $20, because it just shows Loeb walking around an empty apartment. See for yourself:
If I ever had the guts to call Lisa and leave her a truthful voicemail, it would have gone something like this:
Hey Lisa, it’s Damiella. Listen, that song “Stay” was ok the first few times I heard it, but it’s getting pretty played out now. Since the damn thing is your handiwork, is there any way you can tone down the air and video play a bit? Seriously, I am starting to get a twitch every time I hear the words “you say.” Thanks, Lisa. You’re a peach. P.S. Nice glasses. Years from now, I’ll date a guy who’s still a big fan of yours and say to him ‘Lisa Loeb seems smart.’ And he’ll say, ‘you just think that because she’s wearing glasses.’ And he’ll be right. Anyway, that’s all I got. Peace.
And now for the part that we’ve all been dreading…
Let’s face it, no blog about about a girl’s diary is worth its salt if it doesn’t include at least one poem penned by the diary’s author. And while I’ve resisted sharing more than a little bit of the creative writing I did back then here and there, that changes now. The poem I wrote about my crush on Neil (AKA “Mercer”) came together alright, for
better or worse. Here it is in its cringe-inducing entirety:
thirteen years to confusion
and you take a turn into the
(thank you and hello).
here i float
on the cusp of madness
pushed along by a flow of
creativity and delusion…
i want you
to take me to that dysfunctional whirlpool
behind your flaming blue eyes
i love to watch you
lash out at the bastards, sinking your fangs
into their papery skin
rage on, baby
(it’s part of your charm).
now you are the only one here
who can save me from
my stagnant corner,
my dissolving thoughts,
my pretentious poetry.
slap me asleep.
Well, at least I had enough self-awareness to actually call my poetry pretentious… in one of my poems… does that make me meta-pretentious?
Lots and lots and lots to write. How vague to be remains a dilemma.
I dyed my hair purple. The top is VERY bright and noticeable, the bottom is darker but looks violet in the sun. Combined with bluish-purple lipstick, blue mascara (& nail polish), turquoise eyeliner and glitter (silver) below my eyebrows. I looked like such a freak and loved it. The strange stares, the hushed conversations as I walked by, the halted comments (“that’s an…interesting look you have there”), it was wonderful. I felt this great power and release. I finally spelled it out (Anita gets confused every time I use that phrase).
A month of stalking the hallway and nothing but brief glimpses. Ooh, I need a code name. Claudia got a great one: Mercer. Perfect.
So we were walking through the hallway and as I’m walking I’m staring at him (I’m switching tenses now). This time he’s looking at me too (with a look of—as Claudia described it—interest). I said hi to Didi and looked back down at him (again looking at me). Claudia and I started walking and I knew he asked who I was because I heard Didi say my name.
Saw Mercer later in the day too. Damn those 3-4 years.
This marked a turning point for me in high school, so I remember it quite well. I even remember what I wore that day: a purple tie-died t-shirt, cut-off shorts, and two pairs of tights (torn-up black nylons over fuchsia ones). It was hardly scandalous, but the combined look was drastically different from the generic fashion of my classmates and marked a dramatic departure from my days of trying to blend in and look like them. It should be noted that I started wearing the glitter make-up before it became fashionable, when it was only sold in alternative and specialty stores that catered to club kids and drag queens. In fact, I bought my crazy make-up at House of Field (the shop she owned years before Patricia Field went on to do wardrobe for shows like Sex and The City and Ugly Betty) from a stunning effeminate blonde man who would go on to be the transsexual cult figure Amanda Lepore (pictured below). Kind of fitting, looking back on it.
I don’t know what there was to spell out. I felt apart, different, freakish even, and wanted my outward appearance to finally reflect that. It was the physical manifestation of my I-am-not-like-you-and-nobody-understands-me teen frustration. The feeling of release came from no longer caring about conforming to my high school’s standards of appearance and asserting my individuality. At 17, it felt pretty powerful. I was teased and bullied from 13-14 for the way I looked (not something I chronicled in my diary, because it was too awful to recount), but I no longer worried about being made fun of because I was owning my freakishness. I walked those halls with a confidence I hadn’t felt in years. And my self-empowerment must have shown, because I was never bullied at school again.
“Mercer” was the code name for Neil, who I referenced before, but not directly until now. Neil was not just a punk, but the only punk in our entire school. He wore dirty clothes riddled with tears and safety pins, had green and orange hair, and a baby face that was often masked with a look of disdain. Unfortunately, he was considerably younger than me (a few years in high school matter more when the age difference is more than a year or two), so I felt immensely guilty having a crush on him. But the crush was born out of intrigue more than anything else. There were so few kids at Hunter who so blatantly defied convention in their outward appearance that Neil provided the same relief from the homogeneity. And sure, I thought he was super-cute, but more than anything I just wanted to know him.
And now that I was coming into my own and not afraid to stand apart from the masses, I also caught his attention. And maybe, just maybe, he wanted to know me, too.
[The following journal entries are sponsored by great big globs of disdain.]
“This is the first day of my last days” – NIN
Roller coaster is beginning its slow descent. At least I might be able to write something decent again. The writing activity helped a little. Actual interesting ideas would help more. Maybe one brilliant line that just sparks an entire story. The first day of Creative Writing we just wrote anything that came into my head and the first thing I put on the paper (which turned out to be a quote) ended up being the opening sentence for Raphaela.
Here I am in Physiology watching a ridiculous film on muscle. I can barely see this as I’m writing.
Had a dream with Wonderfully Random, don’t care. There was a round candle lit and I was looking through a couple of CD’s (that were Anita’s friends’ or something) one of which was an old Lemonheads, one of which was an old Killing Joke CD. On the way back to WR’s house we mentioned the amazing way in which the radio switched on.
The mood I’m in now would have been the perfect time to write a letter to Tim, but I already mailed it.
H.S. is so much like “The Breakfast Club” it makes me sick.
Keeping this log is not helping me at all. I hope Ms. Donaldson reads this.
THIS LOG IS NOT HELPING ME AT ALL!!!
[note from Ms. Donaldson in green pen: “This is pretty hard to miss. Perhaps you need to alter your expectations of what you should get out of writing a journal.”]
I stopped keeping a diary for a reason, I hardly ever wrote about nice things. For the most part, it was a depressing read. There are some things I’m glad I wrote about, like events that I want to remember.
Right now I’m listening to “Just Like Heaven,” I never realized that the Cure could in any way be uplifting. Just ordered Disintegration from Columbia House (nasty scam artists). This will have to be my last entry now, seeing that I’m sitting outside of Creative Writing.
“’I wanna be just like you. I figure all I need is a lobotomy and some tights.’” – The Breakfast Club
Writer’s block is the worst. You can try to discipline yourself as best as you can as a writer (never something I did effectively) but if the ideas aren’t there you just can’t force it. When inspiration struck, I could spend hours lost in putting words to paper/word processor (it would be a few years before I got another computer). When it wasn’t there, I endured a limbo fraught with frustration and insecurity that I wasn’t cut out to be a “real” writer. I still get that way today.
Social divisions in school were getting to me, which meant I probably had a crush on a popular boy. Again. The fact that I can’t remember who it was today could only mean he wasn’t that special or worth all the agonizing I did over him, but really, how many unrequited crushes really are? My depressed penpal Tim was another crush, even though I knew he was too gloomy for me.
As I mentioned before, the headline for my high school experience was John Hughes Lied to Me. While the films accurately portrayed high school to an extent — especially the cliques represented in The Breakfast Club — I was growing more dubious that an 80′s magical makeover and/or happy ending was in store for me. I had given up on popularity and tried to take ownership of my misfit-but-not-quite status and develop my own identity. Which would have been easier if I was able to channel continuously channel all that teen discontent into creative outlets, but I was being failed on that front. I had nothing new to articulate, and the journal we had to keep for Creative Writing wasn’t providing any comfort or catharsis.
Ms. Donaldson had a good point. My expectations for the journal were unrealistic, much like my expectations for lots of other things (love and life, to name two). I thought the log would be some magical source of insta-inspiration, but it often became a chore to fill those lined pages. Much like writing of any form can feel like a chore. It didn’t dawn on me just how much discipline — and even tedium — was involved in being a good writer. It’s something I still struggle with.
Luckily, I was still expanding my pool of musical muses, with the Cure, patron saints to angsty teens everywhere, entering into the rotation. Nine Inch Nails was my gateway drug into goth/alternative music, but the Cure was another catalyst. Robert Smith provided a musical prism of bipolar despair and a catalog a less agressive than Trent Reznor’s, but more nuanced in its emotion. It was still taking me some time to adopt the classics, but slow and steady I was getting there.
And a film on muscle? 17 years later and that still sounds ridiculous to me.
“See faces frozen still against the wind” – U2
Ellis Island was not the huge bore I expected it to be. Mom and I had an… interesting train adventure on the way back. The blind leading the blind.
“Glitter Over Disintegration” is the title I decided upon. I made it an acronym on purpose (sort of). This one moved along fairly quickly. It’s relieving to know I can write outside of life experiences.
Anita and I have already scheduled our first trip to the Village, this Friday. I want these next 4 days to be over with more than anything. Anita heard that Larry Mullen Jnr was at the DRE acoustic Christmas concert. It’s a little frustrating, yes, but it just wasn’t meant to be, like with the backstage passes.
I’m in the process of dying my hair (reddish-blond, so the box says). “That tingly feeling means it’s working.”
“Destiny protect me from the world” – Radiohead (one of the bands at the DRE thing)
WDRE was a fantastic radio station based out of Long Island that used to be known as WLIR. It was known as the listening destination for alternative music, but balanced the more popular bands at the time like Green Day, Pearl Jam, and Stone Temple Pilots with 80′s alternative that was rarely heard on other stations, like The Smiths, early Cure, and Madness. Back in the day, radio stations used to give out concert tickets, usually to the caller that corresponded to the station’s ID (i.e. Z100 awarded its 100th caller). I wore out my phone’s redial button trying to win all kinds of tickets, but unfortunately, I was never lucky when it came to shows I really wanted to see, like the DRE Christmas concert. Instead, I won tickets for artists/bands I had no interest in, like Barenaked Ladies and Paul Weller. In fact, I won Paul Weller tickets twice and didn’t go to the show either time. I listened to DRE in the last years of its heyday, because a couple of years later it switched format to adult contemporary, which made me pretty much give up on radio.
“Glitter Over Disintegration” was about a couple, Rob and Tera, trying to have a picnic on a boat, except for the threat of “shadows” which periodically appear to Rob and slowly drain his humanity. It was my none-too-subtle metaphor for depression. Here’s an excerpt from the last page:
I sank my teeth into my lip to hold back the rising bile and hysteria. Each time the shadows came they took a little bit more of Rob, leaving me with less to look after. I hated compensating for this gradual annihilation.
I reached my arm out but he wouldn’t let me touch him. The gnawing of my frustrated teeth cracked open my thin skin and blood poured over my lip and chin, leaving both wet and sticky. I sat back and lifted my tired eyes when—
It was as if ink was slowly staining the sky, pretty blue being eaten by darkness. The trees shriveled, becoming ash, and the water coagulated into murky gelatinous lumps. The boat spiraled into different directions, pieces of it chipping off and flying into the blackness. I started to scream then abruptly stopped when Rob took my hand. The sadness in his soft face became a resigned fear as he placed his other hand around our wrists.
We kissed as the pandemonium crashed down on us.
Reading that last line so many years later makes me chuckle at all the intense drama I was trying to invoke.
The story was inspired by Tim Wunderlich, a pen pal whose acquaintance I made via a friendship book. Tim was an alternative kid living in a small town full of people who were intolerant of him. Whether it was circumstance, biology or a bit of both, Tim had some pretty intense depressive episodes. His negative rants at the world worried me, but also added to his mystique. And also made me determined (let’s say it all together now) to be the one to save him. Of course, sometimes my optimism just couldn’t withstand his pessimism and his letters left me depressed, but the good kind of depressed where I was able to channel it into fiction, even if it does read more than a bit melodramatic today.
“I’m drunk and right now I’m so in love with you.” – NIN
NIN COUNTDOWN: 28 DAYS
Yes, the countdown has moved up 2 days because I’m going to the Wednesday show (after Claudia the Wonderful gets us tickets). It was an up day. Don’t care about randomness too much. T.W. Wrote back, just what I need. Wonders indeed (I use that word too much. Even though I don’t use it all that often). Chorus sub looks like a Depeche Mode reject. Bad thing? Naw.
“Love comes in colors I can’t deny” – S.P. [Smashing Pumpkins]
More of my teenage code in this entry, but I’m actually able to decipher most of it.
Collecting crushes became something of an inadvertent hobby for me when I was 16. It was rare for me to go more than a couple of months (or even weeks) without having at least one target for my boy craziness, but sometimes I accumulated a few. I remember a lot of them today, but still can’t recall who “Wonderfully Random” was. If it wasn’t Neil, the younger punk kid, it was some classmate I decided was cute and crush-worthy.
However, none of that mattered because I was smitten with Tim Wunderlich from his first letter (and because of his last name, I was fond of making bad puns using the word “wonders.” Sorry.). He was frustrated and jaded and had the furious male scrawl of a teenage malcontent. Tim lived in a small town full of ignorant people, where he was called a “faggot” because he wore his hair a little long and listened to bands like The Cure and Cocteau Twins. He felt imprisoned and misunderstood, which was something I could identify with (as could just about any other adolescent, I imagine). Even though I lived in one of the most dynamic cities in the world, Hunter was a small school which felt like a microcosm unto itself, a brick prison full of kids who were smart, but not wildly eclectic or unusual–at least not on the surface. And while I had momentary escapes from the school, it dominated my social existence for a long time, and I felt more pressure to fit in than stand out. Tim did as well, but fought back against that pressure and did not pretend to be something he wasn’t. That quality in both Tim and Neil were big reasons I had crushes on them (on top of finding them generally attractive, of course).
Then there was, of course, the “Depeche Mode reject,” which was in reference to a substitute teacher who bore a striking resemblance to Dave Gahan, the band’s lead singer. Even though I was not a fan of the group as a kid, I did gradually like them more and more as my music tastes evolved. And while Dave Gahan was no Trent Reznor, he did have a certain physical appeal at times. And having a temporary chorus teacher who had a similar slender, dark-haired, broody, pale British look to him made me… rather uncomfortable. It was the first–and possibly only– time, I felt attracted to a teacher (not counting my girl crush on Ms. Donaldson, which had no sexual component to it). I was embarrassed by this crush, because it felt taboo to have lustful feelings for a so-called authority figure. Much like the crush on Neil felt wrong because he was so much younger than me, this felt wrong because Mr. Pseudo-Gahan was considerably older than me… and because I kept picturing him starring in music videos wearing leather pants. I could barely even look at him in the classroom for fear of blushing. Luckily, he only subbed for a few chorus sessions.
“You don’t need my voice girl you’ve got your own.” – Tori Amos
I just needed to reemphasize what a great day it was. The feeling is like after I take an especially lovely trip to the village. It’s been one of the best days of the year, with everything just falling into place. Imagine how I’d react if something truly phenomenal happened. I don’t know how long it’s been going on, but Anita and I are best friends. I remember telling her once but it wasn’t until her candle-lighting ceremony that it was really…confirmed. We have an immense amount of private jokes between us, I guess that’s one indication. Also when I got home today (to a mailbox more packed than I remember) I knew I would just burst if I didn’t talk to her and tell her about my day. Something totally random but wonderful happened. I’ll call it a one-time fluke, but it was still pretty cool.“Sleep, sleep tonight
And may your dreams be realized.” – U2
This is where once again I wish my father hadn’t read the diary so I wouldn’t have felt the need to be so cryptic. Granted, the random but wonderful thing that happened was almost definitely boy-related, and specifically related to Neil. He was this really young kid (13 to my 16) who I started seeing around school. He was hard to miss because he was a punk in a sea of preppies, with dirty torn up clothes, spiky hair a different color every few weeks, and a playful badass attitude. He was the only true punk in his grade and one of maybe a dozen alternative-looking people in our entire school. Claudia was heading in a more punk direction, while I was alterna-chick with hints of goth, but neither of us were fully formed whereas Neil was all punk all the time. I’m almost positive that I finally met and chatted with Neil that day. I (unsurprisingly) ended up developing a crush on him that, despite his maturity, made me feel guilty because of our age difference. 20 years later a three-and-a-half year age gap isn’t such a big deal but in high school even thinking about him made me feel like he was the Lolita to my Humbert Humbert.
Whatever the happy incident was, for me to compare it to a trip to The Village is major. Anita and I visited Greenwich Village as often as we could. It was all about shopping for music, which was one of the cornerstones of our friendship. We’d start with Record Runner on Jones Street, and maybe stop by Bleecker Bob’s (which is not on Bleecker Street as its name would have you believe), which was almost always had a disappointing (and overpriced selection). Next it was on to Second Coming, a tiny place on Sullivan Street where we found tons of used tapes and CDs. The guy who worked there had a shiny shaved head and a crush on Anita, and we nicknamed him Lysol because the bald head made us think of Mr. Clean and therefore cleaning products in general. My personal favorite record store was Generation Records on Thompson, where I consistently found lots of obscure, sought-after CDs and was intimidated by the tattooed, haggard, too-cool-for-you staff. We usually walked up 8th Street up to St. Mark’s place, where we stopped by Venus (another favorite) and once in a while, Sounds. There was usually a stopover at BBQ for a late lunch and early dinner and then, broke but content with our musical acquisitions, we’d take the subway back to Brooklyn, perusing liner notes on the train home.
It’s funny how friendships can take on the intensity of an affair. Anita and I spoke on the phone several times a day, spent most weekends together, and would even bring each other to school (one of us would cut classes to visit the other—crazy, right?). It’s rare to have that kind of connection on a platonic level, and rarer still for it to endure. But I guess I felt especially close to her since her recent Sweet 16 (what the candle-lighting ceremony is in reference to). I don’t remember what kind words she said about me at the party, but I know that was the moment I fully realized we had become best friends.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Saturday, July 25, 1992
No more diet or exercise for now. Don’t stay with Fran too much, mostly with Jessica, Mindy, sometimes Cheryl and ALWAYS Winona. She is such a tag along. She looks like she’s ten years old and says immature things. I don’t mean to be nasty to her but sometimes she gets on my nerves.
[Actually, I did switch eating plans to something I like to call The Summer French Fry Diet of 1992. I know it's quite a switch from the Fonda-full fitness plan I intended to keep, but let me explain. Day camp outings did not make healthy eatings. We went to movie theaters, bowling alleys, amusement parks, and every Friday fed pizza for lunch, all of which meant sustenance of the greasy/fatty kind. This was before fast food healthy menu options, before air popped movie theater popcorn, before the ubiquity of Subway sandwich shops. On top of that, my pocket money was limited, and french fries rank high on the Affordable Plus Yummy Plus Reasonably Filling scale.
Never in my life did I eaten fries from so many different places. And for the most part, they all tasted the same (with a few exceptions where the mediocre steak fry was served in place of the far superior shoestring).]
One of my councelors, Ricky is very nice. He is cute but there is a special thing about him. He shares my birthday. That makes him exactly six years older than me (20). My parents have 8 years between them.
[Subtle, no? I think we all know in this case "very nice" means "I have the hots for my tall, tan, blue-eyed, good-natured, dolphin-loving camp counselor who was born on the same day of the year I was, which is obviously a cosmic sign that we are meant to be married and live blissfully ever after. Or something."]
I need to write some poetry. Bear with me.
And boy, do I mean bear with me. In case you’re not yet aware of my bad poetry capabilities, let me take a moment to warn you and apologize for the dreadful verse you are about to endure. Have you braced yourself? Are you sure? Okay, you asked for it. Actually, you didn’t, but I’m giving it to you anyway:
With a single gaze
He strips me of any all barriers
Until I am left without a protective
Façade to protect me
And every time his eyes meet mine
An ache courses thunders deep inside me
As he unknowingly steals another piece of my soul
My eyes cast down, I hope he did not see
The brief desperation in them
For when will he realize
That he has my heart at his fingertips
And my dying soul in his palm?
We are going to Boston Monday. I’ll write about it. Gotta go now! See ya!
But enough about my dying soul…
Let’s talk about what a complete and utter teenage cliché I was by having a crush on my camp counselor. It wasn’t the first time I had a thing for an older guy (that was back in elementary school) or one who was somewhat-to-extremely unattainable, nor would it be my last. But oh, Ricky, he was so fine. He was so fine, he blew my mind. And he never took me by the hand, but he did take me by the heart.*
*Toni Basil, if you ever read this, please don’t sue me.
I did it. I gave Hahn a note to give to Archie. She told me that he laughed and said, “Damiella wants to go out with me?” Well I’m taking that as a “no.” I’m telling myself it doesn’t matter because I’ll forget it ever happened. It doesn’t matter. It’s too bad, though. I was hoping it would be different this time. Sigh. Oh well. I’ll live. No big deal. See ya!
Of all the reactions you can get when asking someone out, laughter is not high up there. It’s kind of like that movie cliché where a guy calls a hoity-toity restaurant for a table that night and the maître d’laughs in derision to emphasize the restaurant’s popularity. That’s exactly how I took Archie’s laugh.
Even though I tried to hide my disappointment in my journal, it was still an ego blow and a letdown. Sure, I set myself up by asking out a guy I knew was out of my league. Back then I wanted to think it would have been possible for someone like him to go out with someone like me. I was fed a steady diet of romantically improbable fiction and cinema, and really and truly believed life could mimic a John Hughes movie. At least, I wanted it to.
The Hughes films that made up my adolescent core were Weird Science, the Molly Ringwald Trilogy (Sixteen Candles, Pretty in Pink, The Breakfast Club) and Some Kind of Wonderful. All of those movies showed that no matter how quirky, different, nerdy or unpopular you are, you can still get the hot guy or gal that will see you for who you are. In Hughes’ world, the pendulum can swing either way. Popular kids can turn out to be down-to-earth, sweet, and willing to date outside their caste (Pretty in Pink, Sixteen Candles, Some Kind of Wonderful) and unpopular kids can show hidden talents and blossom and turn out to be rad and hot-in-their-own-special-way (Weird Science, Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, Some Kind of Wonderful), or at the very least get a makeover from Molly Ringwald that makes them generic and pretty enough to catch the eye of the dopey jock, (The Breakfast Club).
In the real world? Not so much. At least not in a school like Hunter, where you were stuck with the same 200 or so kids for six straight years. I saw a few cases of extreme talent/beauty being accepted into the fold of the popular kids, or “survivors” as they were known. However, things weren’t shaping up for me to be one of those exceptions, and the sooner I accepted that the better.
He laughed. I laughed. Then our eyes met. He glanced away. My gaze lingered. I never thought I felt this way about Archie. Even at orientation I felt this little attraction. I think it was that moment in art class that I decided considering asking him out.
It is only the first day of school, so I have plenty of time to decide.
When I read over these diary entries, I find some many of them worthy of mockery. Sometimes they make me laugh, sometimes they make me cringe, but this one makes me react in a different way. It’s more akin to watching a horror movie and wanting to shout at some dimwit not to go up the stairs where the killer awaits. Or wanting to scream “WATCH OUT!” to an ignorant pedestrian stepping off a curb into the path of an oncoming truck. In this case, I want to travel back in time and tell my thirteen-year-old self,
“Don’t do it! Please, for the love of all that’s holy, decide to NOT consider asking him out. Just think of all the 80′s teen movies you’ve ever seen and understand that real life will kick your ass if you think they’re indicative of what adolescent life is really like. DO. NOT. DO. THIS!”
After the disaster of asking Justin out, I don’t know why I thought things would go any better with Archie. Especially considering that Archie was one of the most popular kids in our grade and I was… well I was going through a phase where I wore a lot of Blossom-esque hats.
I took a random moment with a cute boy, exaggerated it into something it wasn’t, and was about to do something regrettable. This could only have a happy ending on Planet John-Hughes-Movie. The problem was, I had yet to learn that I was no Molly Ringwald…
(And when I wrote “I have plenty of time to decide,” I think we all know this is going to play out real soon, right?)
Wednesday, August 28, 1991
Boy! It has been a while, hasn’t it? For a boring summer, it hasn’t been so bad. I did go to Ohio for like 10 days & I spent some time with Fay. During that time we grew pretty close & even though we haven’t seen each other in a month, we are now not only pen pals, but are best friends, too! Let me describe her to you. She is 11, tall and thin. She is very pretty, and she acts mature for her age.
[I bet Fay just materializes out of the ether before you the way I paint her with words. Such vivid description!]
What I like about her is that, although we have a couple of things in common, we have our differences, too. Plus we can talk about anything. It’s funny. I thought that Nisa was my best friend, but how can we be best friends when I feel closer to a person hundreds of miles away than I do with one just a block away. I feel that I’m just not connecting with Nisa the way I am with Fay. I haven’t been for a while.
[It had been years since I'd seen Fay and even longer since I mentioned her in my diary. Becoming insta-best friends with her was easy, because we didn't have to deal with each other on a day to day basis. Given enough time, I'm sure we would have had our ups and downs and maybe even some drama involving a Certificate of Friendship. Alas.]
Well. I’m on a diet. I’ve already lost around 10 pounds & I’m praying (not literally) for another 10. I’ve also cut my hair. It looks like the same style as Chynna Phillips. I feel & look like a different person. If I just lose those 10 little pounds before school starts. I will be complete.
[If you lived in America, have a pair of ears, and were alive in the early 1990's, chances are you heard Wilson Phillips smash hit "Hold On" more times than you ever want to for the rest of your life. For those too young (or unborn) to remember, you may have heard the song in Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle, when the square-burger-craving duo sings along--nay, rocks out to the chirpy anthem. Back in the days when my musical taste was of the more sugary pop variety, I was a fan of this "supergroup" who were initially more famous for their Beach Boy daddy (Carnie and Wendy Wilson, daughters of Brian Wilson) and Mamas and the Papas mama (Chynna Phillips, daughter of Michelle). That, coupled with the fact that I was growing out a bad perm and had a catastrophic 'do that was straight on top and curly on the bottom made me look to Chynna as something of a hair role model. My eighth grade class photo bears the exact same haircut as the one above, only light brown instead of blond. In my defense, it was the early 90's and it was still a marked improvement over the perm-plus-small-hedgehog-made-of-hair-and-Aqua-Net-that-I-called-bangs.
The ten pound weight loss came from a ridiculous but temporarily effective seven day diet that included one day of nothing but fruit, one day of nothing but vegetables, one day of nothing but bananas and milk, and a couple of days of nothing but meat and vegetables. Every once in a while Mom would come home with a grainy photocopy of some fad diet that one of her coworkers swore was the best way to lose weight fast. My parents and I tried this one and all of us lost weight...and eventually all of us gained it back.]
Gosh am I looking forward to school! It starts September 11, but orientation is September 6th. I will get to see all my friends (and the cute guys in my grade!) that day! I’ve been thinking about Justin all summer. I want to see if I still like him. And if I do, I want to see if he has matured a bit & if he likes me. I also want to see if any of the nerds I knew last year have turned into hot studs. (I can hope, can’t I?!) Well just wanted to fill ya in. See ya!
So much excitement and optimism for the beginning of eight grade. If I had known it would be one of the most wretched years of my life I would have gone easy on those exclamation marks.
Saturday, March 2, 1991
I have some news, but before I go on, I have to backtrack and tell you what happened the day after I threw Justin The Note.
In the morning, Justin got on the bus, and he did not say one word about the note, so I wrote him another one that said: “Justin, did you get my other note? If so, do you have an answer for me?” I gave this note to Hanh to give to Justin in class.
In the afternoon, for practically the whole bus ride, Justin didn’t mention the note. Then when we were about to reach his spot, Justin took out the note and said “Is this a joke?”
I said “No” and he said “Well then O.K.” And the rest is history.
I got his phone number and we talked about going out. He said that lunch period is too little time to go out. Then he took my phone number. Nothing has happened yet, but I’m sure something will.
Something really funny happened on the bus yesterday. Luke turns to Justin and asks “Do you know who Damiella likes?”
Hanh, Linda, Justin, and me started cracking up hysterically! It was so obvious!
What should have been even more obvious, to me at least, was that Justin was a non-starter.
The fact that I had to write a follow-up note to get an answer from him should have been the first clue. The fact that he thought lunch period was not enough time to go out should have been my next clue. We got a full hour for lunch, which offered ample time to go to a diner, deli, or pizzeria. At the time I took it as a sign that he wanted to spend more time with me than we were allotted during school hours, that 60 minutes would not be enough time to begin to get to know me. Now I can look back and understand his excuse was a way to cover up his discomfort/disinterest. But back then, I didn’t let any of that register.
Instead, I accepted Justin’s reluctance as shyness and spent weeks waiting for him to call and set up a proper date with me. Every time the phone rang, I would hoped it was Justin. Every time the phone rang, it was someone else.
Thursday, February 21, 1991
I know I didn’t tell you about the weekend, but I really don’t want to talk about it. Let’s just say that I think Rose thinks more of her new friends than she does of me.
Anyway, I want to move on to something else. I think that I can finally say that I don’t like Danny anymore. No, I really mean it! Actually, I think that I like Justin, again. Well, the truth is I like Justin a lot. It’s hard to explain, but I know that I have feelings for him.
It’s really not that hard to explain. Justin was cute, smart, and a little shy, end of story. He teased me on the bus and we got into fights, but I got it into my head that it was some kind of demented form of flirting. You know, classic story. Guy is mean to girl, girl hates guy, but has bad self-esteem so starts liking him anyway. I developed a crush on him shortly after he got a good haircut that showed off his hazel eyes. This time, however, I decided to take action…
Teusday, Feb. 26, 1991
I did something today that I can’t believe I did. As Justin was walking off the bus (well actually he was off the bus) I threw a note at him. The thing is, in it, I wrote asking him out! I am going to be prepared for the worst tomorrow, but I’m really hoping for the best.
In case I didn’t stress it enough above, there was absolutely nothing in my interactions with Justin that indicated he might be interested in me. Therefore, I don’t know what kind of temporary madness led to my asking him. The fights we had weren’t play fights and he ran with a more popular crowd. But I guess I saw one too many John Hughes movies and wanted to take my own fate into my hands after years of having crushes that went nowhere. At least this time I wasn’t going to cop out and go the secret admirer route. Oh no, no more anonymous notes for me this time (there would be more in the future, though, don’t worry). Nope, this time I decided the best course of action was to throw a piece of folded up paper at my crush from a moving vehicle. That’s me, keeping romance alive.
Was it the wisest thing to do at the time?… (Let’s pretend we don’t all know the answer to that one.)
Wednesday, Jan. 16, 1991
I can’t believe this is happening, but a war has begun. The middle east is involved. I am so thankful that I have no relatives or friends fighting in this war. God, I really want peace for our world. I don’t want people to die. I don’t think that problems should be solved with death or violence.
[Trite much? Let's be honest. I did not follow the Gulf War, and was one of the least political teenagers you could have known in the early 90's. You want to know what inspired the above paragraph? Hearing George Michael's "Praying For Time" playing over recorded messages to the troops from their families on the radio. No, really.]
I am such a hypocrite! Here I am saying that problems should not be solved with violence, when I go around hitting people all the time. Sometimes actions speack louder than words. Maybe war is the best thing for us after all. My father said that the only to have peace is to be prepared for war. Maybe he is right. I hope this war is over soon.
[There was a second, much smaller war going on, taking place on a small yellow bus during trips between Brooklyn and Manhattan. To be exact, the private bus my parents made me take because they thought the subway was too dangerous for their 13-year-old daughter (insert eye roll here). There were a handful of boys on the bus who teased me, and the verbal sparring became physical sparring. I'd punch or scratch them, they'd punch me back (never in the face, mostly in the arms). While I was still sharpening my acerbic wit, I had my trusty nails which were plenty sharp. Since I couldn't reciprocate the mental anguish back then, I had to work with what I had. Considering all the violence I was wrapped up in at the time, how could I resolve these conflicting feelings about war and its role in society? I really couldn't, so the safest thing to do is to go back to talking about boys.]
Well things are so-so for me right now. Nothing too bad (excluding the war) or good is happening to me right now. I have no idea who I like. I think that I don’t like Tyler, but I just like to flirt with him, and smack him around a little.
[There, isn't that much better? And as much as I might sound like a bully, I have to stress that this was all self-defense (against mostly verbal attacks, but still).]
Danny is a different story. I have no idea how I feel about him. I feel very furious with him at times and my heart melts at others. Right now I am SO MAD at him! First of all, I have only begun to realize what a major ego problem this guy has. Not to mention what a wannabe he can be sometimes. I really get annoyed by people who try to act cool. Usually they end up looking and acting like fools. Either you are cool or you are not. There is no in between. Sometimes the way Danny acts ticks me off. He can be such a putz! I guess I don’t like him anymore. Then again, who knows? -Bye-
I think we all know where I stood when it came to acting like a typical teenage boy. The only thing worse is when that typical teenage boy is one you have/had/who-the-hell-knows-anymore a crush on.
Being cool is such a subjective thing. I thought I was so cool in elementary school. I was the first girl in my grade to get a perm, wore edgy outfits like giant button-down shirts as dresses with wide belts (a trend which has since returned, I’ll have you know), and had a collection of big colorful earrings to go with my big colorful personality. Within the first few months at Hunter, I went from being a big fish in a medium pond to a small fish in a tiny pond… full of piranhas. My big personality diminished by kids who all looked the same, acted the same, and dressed the same (Gap, Banana Republic, etc.) and made it clear that I was different–and not it a good way.
Guys like Danny started out different but tried to assimilate with the “popular” crowd. He was one of those borderline kids who was friendly with some of them, but wasn’t truly one of their own. Seeing his efforts to belong infuriated me. Back then it was the phoniness that ticked me off. Now I can look back and admit that part of it was probably jealousy, too, that he was closer to being popular at Hunter than I ever would be.
My big hair, odd outfits, and Brooklyn sass seemed to have no place in a smartypants school on the Upper East Side, but I wasn’t ready to give up just yet.
Thursday, Jan. 3, 1991
God, I have to straighten out my emotions. I have no idea how I feel or how I’m supposed to feel. I just feel weird and kind of breathless. I can’t explain it.
[I can: I'm a friggin' drama queen!]
I’m a guyaholic. I’m addicted to guys.
[Where's my support group, dammit?]
When I went back to school on Wednesday, Danny was absent because he was in Club Med and won’t be back in school until Monday. We have Friday off so I only would have to manage two days without him.
[Two. Whole. Days. Without a boy who barely paid attention to me. However could I survive such a painful absence?]
As it turns out, those two days were not too hard to bear. Actually, I think that I kinda-sorta fell for another guy. The crazy part is that the guy is Justin. I don’t know what happened, but after vacation he just seemed like a changed person. His hair looks great since he had it cut.
[Let's not forget the power of a good haircut. It could turn a guy from being nondescript to being full-on crush material. Let's be honest, Justin was not a "changed person" after his vacation, he probably just had a tan to go with his new haircut. But I appreciate my attempt to make these new feelings less shallow than they actually were, which was very.]
And how could I have not noticed those georgeous (god I’m a bad speller.) hazel (yes they change colors!) eyes before!?!
[More importantly, how did I get accepted to a school for the so-called gifted and talented when I still couldn't spell a word I used to describe EVERY cute boy with decent hair? How could I have not noticed a, you know, dictionary?!]
He acts a lot nicer to me also.
[Yeah, right. More likely his hair acted a lot nicer to me, by looking so darn good.]
Am I falling for Justin?*
Did two days (could two days) make me forget Danny?
Well, I haven’t forgotten him, I just need to see him again to make sure I like him.
[I told me so!]
Why doesn’t anything happen when I think of Danny?
[Like what, spontaneous human combustion?]
Why do I get a funny feeling in my stomach when I think of Justin?
Am I that fickle?
Could 2 lousy days make me forget one guy and fall for another?
[Yes and no.]
I’m not sure. Am I just using Justin as a substitute for Danny in his absence?
[No, I'm using them both as a substitute for my boredom and frustration toward a school that's a struggle for me academically and socially.]
If I were to give me advice I would tell me to wait until Monday and see how I feel then. And to enjoy the attention I’m getting. I think I’ll take that advice.
If I were to give my thirteen year old self advice, I would tell me to take up some hobbies to take my mind off boys, and just grit my teeth and bear the next couple of years.
* As I type this, “Is this Love” by Squeeze is playing. Ooh, synchronicity!
Saturday, Dec. 29, 1990
Well, I have some bad news. I did not go to Jenna’s house because some of her father’s relatives died. Too bad! Major bummer! I hope, though, that I will still go to Anka’s house for New Years. That should be lots of fun! Speaking of New Years, I always like to make a New Years resolution list. This year I’ll make it in my new diary. Here goes:
1. Lose some weight (like 20 pounds.)
2. Get Danny (god, he’s sooo cute.)
3. Grow out my hair.
4. Get really good grades. (like mostly A’s.)
5. Get my parents to let me wear make-up.
1. My first diet was not all that pleasant. You know how most diets result in gaining back all the weight and then some? So true. I had unrealistic expectations of fad diets plus no sensible ideas on how to sustain weight loss (I thought once the diet was over I could go back to eating all the hearty Russian foods I was indulging in pre-diet). Within a couple of years, I went from needing to lose a few pounds to being around 20 pounds overweight. And every time I came across a new weight loss system, I was convinced it would be the magic bullet. Did I really think something like the cabbage soup diet would make me skinny? I really did…until I tasted that cabbage soup.
2. Spoiler alert: it didn’t happen.
3. Within less than a year I’d chop it all off.
4. I maintained an A-minus average, which I was happy with. My parents, used to my perfect string of elementary school grades, sometimes found this lacking. It took a while for them to realize that getting a 100% on a 20-word spelling test was immensely easier than getting a 90-95% on a Physiology or Social Studies test that covered many chapters worth of dense material.
5. No make-up until sixteen was Mom’s firm rule, so until then I had to sneak it. Just a bit of lipstick from time to time. The sparkly wacky stuff would come later.
April 21, 1990
I have LOTS to tell you!
[This is the beauty and also the danger of keeping a typed journal: it's easy to write quickly and to produce a greater volume of words...which is maybe not always the best thing for a twelve year old.]
Let’s start with Thursday. Well Chen-chi said that she didn’t want to do it because she didn’t want to hurt Mitch and Rose, so I told her that it was O.K. and not to tell ANYONE.
So we told Rose and I guess that she believed it and she said that she just wanted to date him for fun. (SLUT!!!)
[A. I should have had misgivings the second Chen-chi backed out. Half of a revenge scheme is no scheme at all. B. Yeah, I don't know why I considered Rose a slut when Mitch was the one asking every girl in Brooklyn with a pair of acid washed jeans out on dates. And heaven forbid a pre-teen girl want to go out with a boy for fun. Not like I was still bitter or anything.]
Anyway, we didn’t tell Mitch about Rose yet because we couldn’t really think of a way to tell him so that he would believe us.
Well anyway, in the afternoon a lot of us had to go to the gym for “Jump Rope for Heart*” and afterwards I found out that Chen-chi told sleaze EVERYTHING!!!
I was (and still am) FURIOUS! That Bitch has such a big mouth!!! I hate her!!!!!!!!!!!
[Hm, karma much? Somehow I had conveniently forgotten ratting Chen-chi out for that egg on Halloween. Not that she knew it, but I absolutely had it coming.]
Well on to Sam’s surprise party. He was SO RED when we all yelled “Surprise!”!
It was SO much FUN! His parents even ordered a five foot hero! And later we played “Spin the Bottle”! (Sean’s mother even offered it!) I couldn’t believe it but I even had to kiss Mitch 3 times! 2 times on the cheek and once on the LIPS! And Elaine even had to go with him (as in French, tongue to tongue!)! If Rose found out about it she would be SO mad!
Sam was really nice to everyone (as usual) but I think that he was being especially nice to me. I really hope that he likes me because I’m beginning to like him more than I ever did before!
Nothing says “fun party” like a sandwich you need two people to carry and impromptu smooching games. I don’t know what kind of liberal mother Sam had that she would actually suggest a game of Spin the Bottle to a bunch of kids. I’m no parenting expert, but isn’t that, you know, the exact opposite of what you hope happens at your child’s party? Don’t you want your little boy to stay one for that much longer instead of throwing him into a circle of prepubescent girls with a bottle? I remember Mrs. P even went into the other room when we started playing, to give us privacy. I can only imagine what she organized for his thirteenth birthday (strip poker?).
Also, the irony wasn’t lost on me that Mitch and I did more kissing after our break-up than during the entire time we went out. Maybe Mrs. P should have tagged along at one of our dates.