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[September, 1992] Different Yet Still the Same

 

some equations are more complicated...

Friday, September 11, 1992

Dear Journal,

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.

-More Later

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…

[July, 1992] My Dying Soul…Or Something

Saturday, July 25, 1992

Dear Journal,

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).]

“Put the pen down, 14-year old me!”

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?
–Damiella

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.

[December, 1990] Teenage Resolutions

Saturday, Dec. 29, 1990

...

Dear Diary,

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, 1990] LOTS to Tell You

February 23, 2010 1 comment

 

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April 21, 1990

Dear Journal,

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.

[July, 1989] First Date

October 27, 2009 6 comments

7/20/89

Dear Journal,

Francis asked me out!

One of his friends is coming but I don’t mind.

We are going to the movies and they will pick me up.

I’m going tomorrow. I can’t wait.

[Addendum, no date] The date was great

"It's not exactly a normal world, is it?"

"It's not exactly a normal world, is it?"

I was so thrilled to be asked out on a date by a boy I liked that I didn’t question the fact that he brought a friend along.

For some reason my parents did not find it dubious either, and let me see a Saturday matinee of Batman with these two.

I wore what I thought was a terribly cool outfit: a neon green t-shirt and matching short pants with a   pattern of abstract tribesmen across the hem and pant cuffs. Crimped hair and big plastic earrings were undoubtedly involved. Possibly some bangle bracelets, too.

I don’t remember anything about Francis’ friend or what the three of us talked about on the walk to the theater. At the movies, I was so nervous, I said yes to everything the boys asked. Did I want a soda? Popcorn? A hotdog? Yes, yes, and yes (it was the first and only time I ate a hotdog at the movies).

I was blown away by Tim Burton’s vision of Batman, and went to see it a second time with my parents. Later on I got a Batman t-shirt and listened to the soundtrack by Prince ad nauseam. A local video store had a Batman pinball machine and I spent many hours hunched over it that summer, playing badly.

As for the rest of the date, after the movie, the boys walked me home and I never saw either of them again. I always wondered if it was because I said yes to that hotdog.

[June, 1989] Very Very Different

October 22, 2009 4 comments

certifiable

certifiable

6/28/89

Dear Journal,

Today was the last day of school and I got a good report card. Also I had a fight with Nisa because she did not bring in this Certificate of Friendship we were making. I don’t know what is happening. It seems all of the sudden we are very very different. She is trying to be so perfect. I’m beginning to think she is a nerd. I hate her mother, she is such a bitch.

O well, I guess we are finaly relizing our differences. It’s about time anyway.

The difference between me and Nisa:

Her mother = bitch

My mother = not a bitch

I haven’t the foggiest what the certificate of friendship was all about, but I do remember Nisa’s mom and how strict, joyless, difficult, and unpleasant she could be. Any time Nisa was invited to a birthday party, her mother would buy a dictionary to offer as a gift. She demanded academic perfection from her daughter and limited the amount of time Nisa spent watching television, playing with friends, or having any other kind of fun.

I tolerated Nisa’s mother, because her daughter was one of the brightest and most imaginative girls I had ever met and was my childhood best friend. But there was one incident made me dislike her mom once and for all.

One day, she was cooking a foul-smelling  soup and demanded that I try some of it. She spooned a bit of spongy gray matter and held it under my nose. I politely asked her to tell me what it was first, but she refused and insisted that I eat the stinky mysterious spoonful of yuck before me. I complied, and on top of having an awful rubbery texture, the stuff tasted even worse than it smelled.

“What was that?” I asked.

“Tripe,” Nisa’s mother smirked.

“What’s tripe?” I dreaded the answer.

“Cow’s stomach.” Another smug smile from the bi-atch. “Would you like some more?”

My own stomach lurched. “No, thank you.”

I felt mildly betrayed by Nisa, that she hadn’t warned me about what I was going to eat, but her mother told her not to say anything. And while I can appreciate wanting to expand a child’s palate, doing it in such a sneaky way, and with organ meats, is a little mean. I mean, when my friends came over, Mom either made spaghetti and meatballs or let us order pizza. Mom didn’t make my friends eat any of our crazy Russian food unless they wanted to try it.

Nisa and I were able to get over this rough patch, but there would be conflict later on that couldn’t be smoothed away so easily.

[March, 1989] Diet is a Four-Letter Word

3/25/89

Dear Journal,

It is “Spring Break”! This is great! 11 days of no homework and freedom. I am on a diet.

Art by DoA

Art by DoA

The aforementioned freedom clearly did not extend to the fridge and food cupboards.

I went on my first diet when I was ten years old. My mother had recently lost 80 pounds, and along with a sensible diet and consistent exercise, she credited a tea she drank in helping her lose the weight. It was made by a company called Sunrider and claimed to help cleanse the system and rid the body of fat and toxins.

At ten years old, I only needed to lose five pounds. Athletics weren’t my thing, and I was more likely to spend hours reading than running around outside. In terms of diet, mine wasn’t the healthiest. Russian cuisine involves big portions and lots of meats, starches, and other creamy/heavy foods (have you ever had Chicken Kiev? It’s a piece of breaded chicken that has been wrapped around a stick of butter). While Mom was eating more salads, Dad still made sure we had plenty of salami, bagels, and calorie-heavy Russian foods on hand. And let’s not forget those occasional trips to Beefsteak Charlie’s and McDonald’s.

Genetically, I come from hearty Eastern European stock and by age ten, I had a bit of baby fat. I saw Mom had shed her grownup fat drinking the Sunrider tea, so I decided to try it myself. And the following year, when I gained back the few pounds I shed, I decided to give it another go.

Let’s talk about this Sunrider tea. It came in giant canisters in powder form that Mom ordered over the phone. It was easy enough to make once you knew the tea-water ratio, but drinking the stuff is another story. Imagine unsweetened iced tea that’s been brewed with a bunch of sweaty socks and a few heaping spoonfuls of dirt, to give it a distinct gritty aftertaste. That’s about how terrible this tea tasted. Adding sugar defeated the point of its dietary effects though it was slightly less bitter warm than it was cold. Drinking about two quarts a day was necessary in order to reap the full weight loss benefits.

Why would anybody drink such a horrible concoction, you ask? Because you could still eat pretty much what you want and it would help you lose weight. Aren’t those the best diets of all?

I probably chose spring break so that I wouldn’t have to lug giant plastic containers of gross tea to school with me. Drinking the bulk of the tea by mid-day was recommended, so I’d take sips during class and peed at least once an hour. I also probably grimaced the entire time I drank the stuff, so it was easier to make faces and take frequent bathroom breaks in the privacy of my own home.

Dieting at such a young age was not a good idea, especially since when the tea was gone, the weight eventually came back on, but I was none the wiser on proper fitness and nutrition. Of course it was less about nourishment and more about body image and looking a certain way. I was told at a very early age that being heavy would make life harder for me, so I struggled against it. I still struggle. That Sunrider tea was just the beginning.