[I debated leaving this entry out. It was written during a dark time and paints me in a rather morbid, petty, envious, and depressed state of mind. Things were tense at home. But as The Breakfast Club put it, “Everyone’s home life is unsatisfying. If it wasn’t, people would live with their parents forever.” So I’ll go easy on the judging if you do. Except for the fact that I was 15 and still misspelling “Tuesday.” There’s no excuse for that.]
Teusday, March 30, 1993
I’m kind of bored. Even though it’s past 10:00 I don’t feel like going to sleep. Sometimes I wish I would get like no sleep the whole week and get all pale. Then I wouldn’t eat for like a week and get all thin until one day I just pass out in class from exhaustion and starvation. I have a really sick mind.
[That and I read way too many young adult novels about girls with cancer, eating disorders, and less common maladies like cystic fibrosis. I won’t say these books glamorized illness, but there was a macabre appeal to the ailing protagonists. They had a sickly skinny beauty, garnered a certain amount of sympathy and attention, and were revered for their strength through adversity. Or mourned for their short and poignant lives if they didn’t beat the disease. Either way, I can’t deny the allure of being such a tragic and admired figure… except I wanted the fast track where I could just not eat or sleep for a week instead of going the whole illness route.]
Joyce and Duane really like each other and could be going out any day now. Just as soon as she breaks up with her other boyfriend (Bitch. Oops! Did I say that? Oh my. Actually I really don’t have much against her but she just gets to me. I don’t even know why I’m mentioning her in my diary but I need something to talk about.
[Well, we can always talk about my inability to close a parenthesis and the frustrating experience that occurs as a result. What we shouldn’t talk about is how unpleasant all this covetousness is. Trust me, I know.]
I’m not in a very good mood, and I don’t really know why. Life, I guess. Just everything. Vacation is coming up soon. Good. I want to just sit around doing nothing for a while. It will be nice not having so much stuff to do. Damn, I’m so moody. I wish I weren’t me.
The more things seem to change, the less they really do. I could say those very same words these days; still moody, still stressed, still need a break now and again. Life still has its moments where it kicks my ass, with one crucial difference: I don’t want to be someone else. Not the sick girl or the popular girl or whatever other girl seems to have a more fascinating life than my own. I’m riddled with imperfections (hello, human here) and might wish some things were different, but overall, I am cool with being me.
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.
In the late ‘80s/early ‘90s, I was fond of the show Doogie Howser, M.D. in which a young Neil Patrick Harris played a prodigy whose impressive memory and passion for medicine helped him become a doctor at 14. On top of dealing with the stresses of being a practitioner, Doogie had to navigate the everyday pressures and dramas of puberty. Keeping a journal helped him make sense of it all, only he didn’t use paper, he used a computer (twenty years ago, this was pretty damn revolutionary). At the end of every episode, he would type away his insights. As the white words scrolled along the blue screen, many a night I felt like I learned something from his experiences too.
Around the time the show aired, my parents got me a computer. It cost about $3,000 (!) and I used it to write a handful of term papers and play hundreds of hours of Tetris. For a couple of months, I also used it to keep an electronic journal. I thought it would be fun to experiment with a new format and figured it would provide a safe place to keep my private thoughts private (how things change). Tucked into the back pages of the composition book journal are several printed out pages (dot matrix style) from my “Doogie diary.” This is the first entry:
April 2, 1990
Today in Music (class) we saw the tape of some of the talent show and during my act Mrs. Angelo said to me and Elaine
“Look at Mitchell (Also known as: two-timing sleaze-ball), he’s blushing!”
So we turn sideways and he was all red!
I wonder what that means…maybe he kind of misses me after all…
Well since we’re on the topic of sleaze-ball, and sleaze-ball is going out with Rose I’ll tell you what’s up with her.
First of all, I had a fight with her, so we’re not really on speaking terms. Also, some of Sam P’s friends are having a surprise birthday party for him and I’m invited to it. I kind of have a crush on Sam, and I know that he just likes me as a friend, but after the surprise party, who knows what could happen!
Also, Passover is coming soon and I am going to my cousin Anna’s house on April 10 and sleep over. I just can’t wait until Spring\Passover\Easter vacation!
For the talent show, I sang what was at the time my favorite song: “Foolish Beat” by Debbie Gibson. I don’t know whether my sentimental musical rendition had anything to do with Mitchell blushing, or what the fight with Rose was over, but there was tension between the three of us. None of us could communicate it in any real way, so instead the awkwardness grew.
Meanwhile, I plotted my revenge…
We are on the bus back.
Yesterday we had square dancing and I danced with Mitch and we held hands for the first time. His hands are really warm.
I also had a dream with Mitchell. I usually dream about a boy I like if I really like him.
Well anyway this was the dream and what I think everything stands for.
First I’m in this store buying an apple (not to eat but we have these kinds that are pins that we have to wear to school).
Then all of the sudden I’m at this small party. I guess Rose was the one that threw it. Well anyway we were all drinking seltzer (yuck!) and there was a song playing. It was New Kids on the Block “Please Don’t Go Girl.” Well Mitchell was just standing there. Then Rose comes up to me drags me over to a corner and says
“He’s really tough isn’t he?” and then the teacher wakes us up. Weird Huh?
Alert David Lynch, because he obviously has some strong competition for strange dream sequences.
For some reason, despite pronouncing myself an expert dream interpreter, I didn’t actually bother to interpret the dream in the diary entry. Twenty years later I can make a cursory guess at what it stands for. I rarely had any privacy with Mitch–or “Mitchell” (it made me feel more mature to call him that for whatever reason). I felt frustrated that our courtship was being stunted by the crowd of our classmates and developing an intimacy was proving difficult. Nevermind the fact that we had only been out on one date.
Either that or I loved my “cool” New Kids on the Block jeans so much, my subconscious brain was paying the price.
Today I went out with Mitch and we had a lot of fun.
We saw Jason, Charles, Yanmei (the bitch!), Rose, Penny and Elaine at the movies.
What a coincidence! Really! But it was really fun anyway. And I think that me and Mitch will have something going. Also at the movies (we saw “back to the future II”) I found out that Charles wants to go with (make-out with) Rose but I know that Charles is just desperate (someone told me.) so he asked Rose and they will probably go out. He might like Rose but I still know that he’s desperate. Elaine is really upset because she really likes Charles and thought that he kind of liked her too, so now she’s depressed because she wanted Charles to ask her out. Oh well. I hope things work out between them because if they don’t things can get messy between Elaine and Rose.
Between these type of diary entries and watching old episodes of Dynasty via Netflix (if you’ve never seen a catfight between Krystle and Alexis you are missing out, my friend), I have about all the 80’s drama I can stand.
There’s nothing like going on a date only to find out that you’re being stalked by half a dozen of your classmates. That sort of thing only happens when you’re a kid or a character in a movie filled with wacky misadventures. As annoying as it was to have the group sitting a few rows behind us at the movie, I found it even more irksome that the entire crowd also followed us on the seven-block walk back to my apartment building. It gave us something to laugh about, but made the date more awkward by a factor of ten. The only real privacy Mitch and I had was the elevator ride up to the fifth floor and the three foot walk to my apartment door. There was no kiss and I don’t think we even held hands, so I’m not sure what made me believe that the two of us might “have something going.” But at least I was completely over my crush on Charles and could be a mere bystander in the unfolding love triangle surrounding him.
A few words on Back to the Future Part II. I remember enjoying the movie but feeling cheated that the it ended with a cliffhanger which reduced the film to a trailer for the third installment (the first movie did that too, but still felt more complete). I did love all the special effects, including the hoverboards, flying cars, and holographic theaters, and managed to suspend all disbelief regarding the time travel logic, so that I could enjoy the movie for entertainment’s sake. It’s something I wish I could do more often today.
I am so worried about you. I heard about you trying to kill yourself by jumping in front of a car or jumping out the window but luckily people could and did stop you from doing it but I guess it was too late to stop you from taking those 11 high blood pressure pills.
But Why? Why did you take those pills.
I know things aren’t going too well with you getting pre-suspended but that was no reason to try to kill yourself. That will never solve any of your problems, it will just increase them.
I really hope that you will be alright and please don’t do anything like that again. You really scared me.
I know you will get better and I know things will get better so just hang in there.
Love, Your very sympathetic and worried good friend,
While I was seriously worried about Chen-chi and her multi-faceted suicide attempt, I wonder if some my concern stems from leftover feelings of guilt at narcing her out on Halloween. I also wonder how I managed to believe so many theories as to how she tried to off herself. A car, a window, and an overdose of high blood pressure pills? Really? Really?
I can look back at the situation with a healthy dose of skepticism and question whether reports of Chen-chi’s suicide attempts were greatly exaggerated–if not completely fabricated. Back then, I didn’t question any of it, probably because I was too busy being a “very sympathetic and worried good friend.” One who never sent this letter or came clean about the Halloween incident.