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 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.
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.
* For those who never participated in a Jump Rope For Heart fundraiser, it is just like a race or walkathon or whatever way folks physically exert themselves for a cause nowadays. This fundraiser involved spending an afternoon jumping rope in shifts after going around the neighborhood pestering everyone we knew to sponsor us. Our meager proceeds went to The Heart Foundation and the entire thing was a nice way to get a yellow t-shirt and make us feel like we were making a significant contribution to society. One jump rope at a time.
Today was horrible!!!!
First I went back to school but our teacher was absent so we had to get split up.
But guess whose class I had to go to?
The same class Marcela’s (the bitch, snob, a@#hole, and f$%^ed-up piece of sh&*) sister is in.
I still have a cold and take cough drops, so in the afternoon when we had glee club rehearsal my coughing began. I could only stand one song at a time without coughing. It’s good that nobody noticed or I might have been a goner. Finally I got through.
I saw Nisa too. I haven’t seen her 5 days so I asked if she could come over my house. She said she’d ask her mom but in the afternoon she said she was busy and couldn’t come.
Neither could: Elaine, Jess, Penny, and Yanmei’s line was busy.
I tried to make french toast for dinner but the handle of the pan broke off. I tried to make toasted bread with cheese but the toast was burned. I have had the worst day.
For some reason, I get this mental picture of my eleven-year-old self stumbling around, with my clothes disheveled and my hair mussed and dusted with flour. When I think of some of the bad days I’ve had as a (so-called) grown-up, burning some toast or having a coughing fit is hardly cause for sympathy. But I also know how those little things can have a domino effect, when one thing after another seems to go wrong. In which case being sick, stuck all day with my enemy’s older sister, coughing through a pastime which normally gave me joy, having no friends to play with, and not even being able to make a tasty dinner at the end of all the misery would add up to a perfect storm of suckiness.
There were worse days in my childhood, ones that involved car accidents, robberies, torment at the hands of mean kids and even meaner teachers, loneliness, boredom, and other things I didn’t bother writing down. But as a young girl, this was one day I was happy to vent about in my journal and even happier to put behind me.
Yesterday I gave Marcela her book and the letter she gave me, she didn’t say anything and I really don’t care.
I am not Nisa’s friend anymore either because she never cares about my feelings, only hers.
By the way I still really miss Jonas. And I still love him.
In case it’s not beyond obvious at this point, I was (and still am, truth be told) a fan of the dramatic gesture. It wasn’t enough to have Marcela storm out of my 11th birthday party. I couldn’t let her have the last word and wanted her to know the friendship was well and truly over. There was no better way to do this than return a book she lent me along with the letter she had written less than two months earlier asking us to be friends again. Much in the same way the end of a romance is often punctuated with personal belongings being returned, I found that such a gesture gave the end of my friendship with Marcela the gravitas (or, let’s face it, good old fashioned drama) it deserved.
Nisa was my best friend in elementary school, though I was also on shaky ground with her. It’s funny, because I remember being surrounded by friends during those years, but I don’t remember having so many damn conflicts with them. Were my preadolescent social skills that flawed? (Don’t answer that.) Is it common to have frequent quarrels with friends or was I that tempestuous and oversensitive? (Definitely don’t answer that.)
Whatever the case may be, Nisa and I would make up, but this was it for Marcela and me. Which always made me a little sad, because I thought she was so cool; not just because of her perfectly Aqua-Netted bangs, pretty handwriting, and the sassy way she snapped her gum. Marcela and I shared a resemblence, so I sometimes liked to pretend we were sisters. I also admired her sense of humor, smarts, and boldness. But in the end, I think we couldn’t find a way for our strong personalities to mesh. It’s a shame, because we had a hell of a lot of fun when we did get along.
(And let’s not even get into the whole Jonas thing. I’ll spare the excess entries where I’m mooning over him.)
Today I had a fight with Tolya and then somehow I got mad at Tina.
It was all through swimming and I felt mad and sad. I don’t know what I’m going to do.
Luckily, I was able to set my anger toward Yanmei, Marcela, and George long enough to develop hostility toward not one but two new targets. Tolya and Tina were a year older than me and the children of two Russian families my parents were friends with. For a while, they were like the older brother and sister I never had. They probably didn’t feel the same way, because whereas I was an only child, Tolya had an adorable younger brother and Tina had an older brother who was a jerk (he once set his t-shirt on fire with hairspray and a lighter to freak me out gave tedious soliloquies on how R.E.M.’s Green was the best album of all time). For the most part I got along well with Tolya and Tonya, and the three of us took weekly swimming lessons. Mostly these “lessons” meant listening to the instructor for the first 10 minutes, and spending the rest of the hour splashing around with my two friends and pretending to be a mermaid.
Naturally, I don’t recall what they said to me during our swimming that set me off, but if I had to guess, I’d say it had something to do with my height. Tolya and Tina, being ahead of the puberty curve, had their growth spurts early and enjoyed gloating about how they towered over me. Even though I would grow up to be nearly 5’7″ (three inches above the average female height), at the time, I was self-conscious about my smaller stature and found it offensive when those two freaks of puberty called me short.
Whether it really was about my height, whatever it was they said or did burned me up so much that it brought out the vengeful poet in me:
I made up this poem about them:
Tolya and Tina you’re going beserk,
Some people may like you, but I think you’re jerks,
Teddy and Tanya, you think you’re so hot,
I used to be you’re friend but now I’m not.
Move over Byron, Keats, and Shelly! There’s a new wordsmith in town…
So far my day is not the greatest. First of all, my mother probably won’t let me get bangs. I really really want to get them.
And I am not Marcela’s friend any more because she is such a fair-weathered friend and very much a bitch! I hate her, she always expects me to call her and Marcela started acting really stuck up because she skipped a grade.
She is definitely not coming to my party. I am beginning to hate Marcela even more than I hate Yanmei.
But when I went home for lunch my mom cut my bangs and they look great!
So much for Marcela being a lifesaver, those 50 names she helped obtain for my election petition now long forgotten. I didn’t think it was possible to hate anyone more than Yanmei at the time, but Marcela proved me wrong. In restrospect, I wonder how much of my ill will was caused by her being snobbish and wanting to distance herself from her former classmates and how much of it was my jealousy. I was offered the chance to skip fifth grade as well, but didn’t want to leave my friends and face a greater academic challenge, so I stayed where I was. It’s quite possible I felt some resentment toward Marcela for having the guts to do something I did not. It’s also possible that she was “very much a bitch.”
At least I was able to take comfort in the fact that I was able to finally convince my mother to allow me to get bangs. I don’t know why she resisted as long as it did. It might have had something to do with wanting to protect me from bad hair choices or from ruining the ozone layer with the copious amounts of hairspray I’d end up using in the late 1980′s. Whatever the reason, I managed to wear her down.
I was eager to get the bangs so that I could tease them up real big into a shrub-like curve on top of my head and tame them with tons (and tons, and tons) of Aqua Net. The look was even more, um… effective when the rest of my hair was crimped.
It’s nice to see that despite all the hostility toward Marcela, I was able to set aside my hatred long enough to rejoice over my new hair. All’s well that ends in embarrassing elementary school photos and the greenhouse effect.
I forgot to tell you one thing yesterday, I got my seat changed and I am very very close to Charles and Nisa sits right next to him (lucky!) but, I can call Charles to call Nisa so I can talk to her.
Today, later we are going to get split-up and I get stuck [with] the big jerk Yanmei. Ugh! I’m stricken with bad luck! And to think Charles almost got split up with us, almost! that is!!!
Seating arrangements in school were so important. Proximity to crushes, friends, and enemies could make all the difference as to whether a class would be enjoyable or torturous. Even the most tedious lesson could be made bearable by knowing a cute boy was sitting nearby or within ogling distance, or that a note expressing boredom could be easily passed to a friend. Even being briefly split up with the wrong people for a class project could spell disaster and ruin a day. Like this one.
Despite being studious and well-behaved, my penchant for socializing in class was a talking point in parent-teacher conferences. Nevertheless, I was willing to risk a good grade in Conduct on my report card if it meant having an excuse to talk to Charles. He still didn’t know who wrote the secret admirer note, so I had to be careful, but I didn’t want to be too careful. Except that particular day I didn’t have a chance to mouth off, because of the cursed events that followed.
Yanmei was present at my McDonald’s birthday party less than a year before, but I don’t recall what grievous act she committed that made her my nemesis at this point. Back then having a grudge on at least one friend and a crush on at least one boy was pretty much status quo. And being split up with Yanmei for a class project was actually a good thing academically, because it meant I would talk less in class. Smart teacher, that Mr. Adams.