As I hurled through my senior year of high school, I filled up the red spiral notebook I had since being forced to keep a journal in my life-changing creative writing class. By that point, I no longer felt coerced into chronicling my life; I did so willingly. I felt life was getting interesting and worth noting for posterity (and, unbeknownst to me then, future blog content).
I got a smaller, 6 1/2×9″ three subject spiral notebook for my next journal. Black, of course. On the front cover are three stickers: Bauhaus, Sisters of Mercy, and Skin Crawl (an East Village purveyor of gothy accessories; the shop’s logo was a white skeleton). The back cover is covered entirely in Skin Crawl stickers.
March 20, 1996
So tonight is the night I choose to begin my new journal. No quotes to start it off like the last one, just my writing. I like this notebook, its narrowness appeals to me.
[My pretentious attitude toward a notebook I probably paid a couple of bucks for at a drugstore does not appeal to me.]
Ok, on to more important things. Less than 15 days until Alaska. Ugh, I don’t know how I’ll be able to wait (silly thought, I have no choice but to wait, and besides, this will probably be the best thing I ever waited for). While I’ve mostly thought about the wonderful time I will have there, I can’t help but once in a while think about how depressing it will be to leave (“depressing” even seems too mild a word, but perhaps “tragic” is a bit melodramatic).
[Yes, “perhaps.” Perhaps there’s also some foreshadowing here.]
There are things to look forward to before Alaska, however—namely The Bank this Saturday. A whole big group of us are going (Leon, Jennifer, Ellie and Cynthia—well it’s more people than I usually hang out with all at once). I am the only one with a serious interest in the Goth stuff, the others will dress up however. I will finally get to wear my new black velvet cape. Yay. And my chiffon and velvet black dress, also new—sheesh, I’m such a girl.
A GOTH girl, that is!
A little bit about the way I operate: When I find something I really love, firstly I become deeply obsessive and immersed. I learn everything I can about said thing, collect what I can, etc. Once I have absorbed everything that I can within reason, I become an evangelist and try to get everyone I can to drink my Kool Aid. My U2 obsession was a perfect example of this. First I became hooked on their albums, then I started buying the singles, books, t-shirts, and other memorabilia, and once I felt enough of a U2 expert, I began preaching the gospel. I talked about them non-stop and made numerous U2 mix tapes for people, trying to “convert” them (yes, I used that exact phrasing).
My goth phase was pretty similar, though considerably more intensive and far-reaching. There was the music (which was first and foremost to me) but also literature, fashion, general aesthetics. And the nightlife. I did try to get friends and acquaintances into the music, but it was easier to convince them to go to the club with me. Because, unlike me, most of them weren’t music snobs.
I don’t remember this particular outing, but I do still have photos of us prior to going out, posing in Jennifer’s room, our whiteface make-up blotchy in the flash’s glare. We took exaggerated poses of gloom and despair (hand-to-forehead, that sort of thing). But the best shot was of the group of us posed on the bed, with the rope from her overhead light hanging in front of us looking remarkably like a noose. Good times.
I had the best time last night. I had more fun at The Bank than at any concert I ever attended. But before I talk about that, I must recount what happened when Anita and I were in B. Dalton earlier on.
[The Bank was one of NYC’s main goth clubs. There will be many many many mentions of The Bank in future diary entries, so remember it has nothing to do with financial institutions.
A word on B. Dalton. Located on the busy corner of 6th Avenue and 8th Street, even though it was a chain, the bookstore had it’s useful role in the Village landscape, at least to me and Anita. They had a decent magazine section upstairs and we could just hang out upstairs and read without getting hassled by anybody. That night, we were both in full goth garb, heavy eyeliner, all of it, and had some time to kill before meeting a friend for dinner, so we stopped by there.]
The two of us were just sitting there on the floor reading magazines when this guy comes up to us and introduces himself (his name was Brad). Brad was pretty attractive and at first I thought he was trying to pick me up (he was talking to both of us but standing nearer to me. Plus I was flirting—sorta). Then he says he’s from Alaska and to prove that people over there also dress up like that [gothy] he takes a Polaroid out and hands it to me. The photo was him in full goth make-up and clothing (the make-up was gorgeous. Tons of black eyeliner coming in streaks of lightning from his eyes). He looked amazing. Then he asked if he gave us his address would we write to him. I enthusiastically said “of course!” and he handed me a slip of paper with his name (in parenthases he had written “guy from bookstore” and Anita and I did wonder how long he observed us before he came over).
Actually, he’s from New York but goes to school in Homer, AK (!). He wants to be a screenwriter. I asked what he listens to and he took a tape out of his Walkman that said “this is just goth enough” and showed me the case (it was a mix). Then he said I could listen to it and mail it back to him. Then before he went he said if I really liked it, I could just keep it and make Anita a copy. I told him it was really hard for me to give the picture back and he said he’d make me a color photocopy of it.
This was just such an incredible thing to have happened, especially in New York. Brad said that living in Alaska for a year changed him, that a year ago he wouldn’t have been able to approach us like that. Well, my evening was made, and before we even got to The Bank.
[Talk about meeting cute. For a girl who grew up on a steady diet of fantastical tales of modern romance, having something like this happen was a dangerous affirmation on two fronts. First, it made me believe that if something like this could happen, that all of those movies I watched, all the love stories I absorbed and fell in love with myself, were real. Second, it made me believe that the rest of my life could be like a movie: well-scripted, perfectly-timed and plotted, and (most importantly, but of course) romantic. It’s dangerous for something like this to happen to someone so young and prone to flights of fancy, but also tremendously wonderful. I’d pay the price with many doses of reality later on.]
But before that, a few words on my birthday. It’s the best one I can remember. I love being 18. On Friday my parents took me to Atlantic City where I was able to sneak into a casino (the Showboat) and gamble for hours at this computer that had 10 different games. I lost but it was still fun. In the evening we had a lovely dinner at Nino’s, where I got a bit drunk on Margaritas and Frangelico. It was a great day. Yesterday was cooler, though!
[I realize my family is unlike other families in that gambling was one of the few things my parents and I had in common and a deep passion (the few other things the three of us loved being ABBA, unagi sushi, and the movie Ishtar—yes really). Never mind that the legal gambling and drinking age was 21, my parents thought 18 was a more appropriate age to start really partaking in vices, and I thank them for it. In the years that followed, no matter how badly we fought, Mom, Dad and I could always guarantee a peaceful, fun day if it was spent in a casino.]
OK, The Bank. We got there early. First, Dava and I went to a deli for a while. We came back and were told it would be another half hour before it opened. But they did let us come inside to wait instead of making us stay out in the cold. And a guy who worked there asked if we had passes and we said no, but he told us he’d give us pass price anyway (let us pay $7 instead of $12).
I’m not in the mood to finish this write [sic] now, but I will eventually.
Aren’t you so glad I took the time to write about the very beginning (and boring) part of the story of going to my first goth club in those last few sentences? And then stopped? I debated leaving that part out, but I couldn’t deprive you, dear reader, of not knowing what happened in that suspenseful half hour when we reached the club early (which is nothing!). But “fun” fact: the deli we waited in was Katz’s, a New York institution and the setting for the “I’ll have what she’s having” orgasm scene in When Harry Met Sally…
Anyway, that night. That entire weekend. Possibly the best in my life up to that point. Meeting Brad set the tone for what would be a year filled with tremendous surprises. I don’t want to spoil any of them here, but I will say I still have that piece of paper he gave me scrawled with his name and number and “guy from bookstore.”
I really, desperately, need to be studying for my Calculus Test tomorrow, but these past few days have been so so strange…
It was probably more than a month ago that I called the Sally Jesse Raphael Show (the topic was revealing secret crushes). I left my name and number and pretty much forgot about it.
On Monday they called me back. I spoke with one of the producers and told him the Nathan story. He loved it, especially the part about how at first I didn’t find him at all attractive, but as I kept seeing how sweet he was, I liked him more and more. I asked what my chances were and Mr. Laurie said “pretty good” (for being on the show). I gave him the number to Record Rabbit and the next day Mr. Laurie called back (in the morning I was at school) and spoke to my father. He asked my dad if he wanted to attend the taping of the show and he said “of course” (not even knowing or asking what the topic was). Later that night I don’t him he couldn’t go, but assumed (since I came home too late to speak with him) that I’d be on the show.
I finally got through at about 3:30 the next afternoon and was told Nathan was so excited. That he asked “who is it?” and “what does she look like?” (Duh—of course they couldn’t tell him). So it was on.
I gave my address (a car would be picking me & Anita up) and was told to call the next morning to confirm everything.
Just before Anita and I left the Village, I called home and Dad told me the show (my being on it) was “in jeopardy.”
Oy vey, where do I even begin?
For one thing, it should be obvious that I watched way too many talk shows back in the day. Ricki Lake, Jenny Jones, Maury Povich, Montel Williams… I wasn’t even above watching Jerry Springer from time to time. It depended more on the topic than the host, though Jerry really was did go over the top more than the others and there were only so many times I could see dumb girls yelling at each other over an even dumber guy and trying to pull each other’s cheap extensions out. The other shows usually attempted to have at least a teeny tiny grain of integrity and once in a while actually were actually helpful, like finding runaway kids or showcasing drug and alcohol horror stories to show the nefarious power of addition.
My favorites were episodes involving makeovers, reuniting lost loves, and of course revealing secret crushes. Sick days and long weekends—when I could binge on a full day of watching those trashy shows—were the best. I mean, I knew it was brain junk food and I tried to balance it out by watching foreign/indie films and reading tons of books and [insert pretentious activity here] but I won’t deny my deep and utter fixation on talk shows for a period of my teenage life. It’s probably why I don’t watch most reality TV today: between those shows and MTV’s The Real World, I got my fill of that “real life” drama back in the ’90s.
After asking out a couple of (popular—what the hell was I thinking?) guys (with no success) I guess I was building up too much of a healthy ego and felt the need to up the ante when it came to rejection. Why get turned down in private by a guy you like when you could do so in front of a studio audience?
I had no illusions that Nathan saw me in a romantic light, but here’s the great thing about those particular shows: if the person revealing their crush was turned down, they always got an enormous amount of sympathy from the studio audience and host for their honesty and
stupidity bravery. Always. So I figured, I might not win the object of my (inflated and unrealistic) affection, but I did have a shot of getting some heartfelt “awwwwws” from the crowd and Sally Jesse herself. The whole embarrassing-myself-on-national-television aspect never really factored into it.
Right now I’m listening to Afghan Whigs’ Congregation, which I finally got (on CD). So far, better than Up In It but not as good as Gentlemen (which is expected. Gentlemen is great).
I’ve been looking at colleges for a while now and have decided that Emerson is the best school for me. If I can’t (well refuse to) go to school in New York, the next best thing is Boston. BU is okay, but Emerson seems just fabulous. It’s a school for communications and not at all a stick-up-the-butt school. Though it’s pretty small (just under 2,000 people) it seems like the place for me. Emerson offers writing scholarships and is full of misfits and freaks (in other words, people I would most likely want to hang out with).
Here’s a cool Whigs quote:
“hey, baby there’s a vampire moon
scaling the sky shine in your room
your eyes are open you got nothing to do
come outside and play with me tonight “
— Afghan Whigs “Tonight
I saw that [giant arrow drawn in journal pointing up] on an address label once. There’s a hidden track on Congregation it’s coming up now. Actually, it’s really good, better than most of the songs on this. Anita told me that a hidden track is the entire CD played backwards. I love hidden tracks and linear notes (well, the lyrics). This one has both.
Hidden tracks and album packaging have been a sad loss as music has undergone a digital revolution. I’m sure somewhere (I’m looking at you, Buzzfeed) there’s list about “Things You Miss If You Came of Age in the ’90s” or “Stuff People Who Bought Cassettes & CDs Are Really Bummed About” that mentions these things. For those who can’t relate, it’s a shame you will never experience the triumphant rush of joy of purchasing physical music and finding the printed lyrics to the songs included in the liner notes, to say nothing of the obsessiveness required to decipher lyrics of when they weren’t included (the most insane one I ever tried to transcribe, from the cassette version, was R.E.M.’s “It’s the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)”).
Then there was the special thrill of discovering a hidden track. In some cases (like Nine Inch Nails’ Broken EP) I didn’t even know of the hidden tracks for months and stumbled upon them rather than look for them. This was much more satisfying than being told about the hidden track (music spoiler alert!). Nowadays, it’s rare for me to buy a full album or listen to one all the way through. I download most of my music and I barely glance at the packaging of the handful of CDs I do still acquire annually. It makes me sad; music used to occupy such a predominant role in my life and now it’s little more than a background soundtrack when I’m writing or working out.
As for college, if I wasn’t local, NYU would have probably been my dream school. It had a robust liberal arts program and was in the greatest city in the world. But I was determined to leave New York and have college be my reward for enduring six academically rigorous years at Hunter. While my classmates were fond of asking, “What Ivy’s did you apply to?” I wasn’t much interested in those “stick-up-the-butt” schools. Brown was vaguely enticing but Providence, Rhode Island was not, and neither was attending yet another school full of competitive braniacs. I wanted a big city with a good writing program.
It was actually Anita who mentioned Boston as the perfect place to attend college. It was far away from home but not too far, a big enough city, but not too big, and was filled with plenty of matriculation options. So I got a Princeton Review guide and started browsing colleges. As soon as I read that Emerson was known as a school “for freaks and misfits”, where many students had crazy hair, piercings, tattoos, etc., I knew I found my future four-year academic home. Before I even visited the campus or did more in-depth research, I just knew it had to be Emerson. And so it would be, but it would be a bumpy road getting there…
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.