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[January, 1995] Like The Breakfast Club

[The following journal entries are sponsored by great big globs of disdain.]

1/13/95

“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. 

MS. DONALDSON:

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.

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[June, 1993] Major Yay!

 

...

Wednesday, June 9, 1993

Dear Journal,

A lot has happened lately. Saturday, Eddie didn’t call (his strict mom was in town or something and he had to go somewhere with her) but Mark called me three times that weekend. That last time we talked for over an hour and a half! He is so easy to talk to, funny, he’s really nice and I like him a lot. Also, I’m going to see him Saturday! AAAHHH!!!

[Woah, bait and switch much? Was my 15-year-old self going to blindly accept Eddie not calling and let myself be pawned off on Mark like that? Well… We all know the answer to that, so let’s let the blind teenage jubilance continue its flow.]

I am nervous about seeing him because he doesn’t know what I look like. Yet I feel like I know him so well, because we talk so much. In the past 2 days I have talked to him four times. That is more than I talk with Didi and she is my best friend. I really hope that things work out between Mark and me. I would love to have a boyfriend this summer and he isn’t going anywhere. Sure he lives in Long Island but he drives so it’s not a problem. Yes he drives. He is older than me by about 2 years. He’ll be 18 March 2. In the fall he is going to Columbia (an Ivy League school!). The only little thing is he smokes but everything else makes up for that.

[Hello, what about the fact that I didn’t know what he looked like either? I remembered hot guy Eddie, but not his less mature, non-nondescript friend Mark. Why the sudden enthusiasm? Two reasons. 1. His humor and charm was winning me over, and it seemed like he really grew up in the last couple of years. If he wasn’t great looking face to face, his personality would go a long way in making up for it. 2. It had been three-and-a-half years since my last date. For someone as boy-crazy as I was, this was a dry spell of epic proportions.]

My parents are actually letting me see him (though I’m not sure if they know about the age & car situation) but they just want to meet him first. I hope he really likes me. I hope I really like him! Actually I already do but I hope when we meet face to face sparks fly (I’m sorry I’m being so corny).

[And I’m sorry you had to read about me being so corny I was all these years later. At least I had the good sense to be apologetic about it then, too.]

There are only 5 more days of school. Yay! Then, July 11, my mom and I are going on another cruise! Major Yay! I really hope this will be a summer to remember, in the best possible way.

I don’t know about you, but “Major Yay” makes me think of an extremely flamboyant military officer in a pink bedazzled uniform who only makes you drop and give him 20 if you’re not fabulous enough. I’m sure it’s just me.

Moving on. How about this Eddie/Mark situation? I was skeptical at first, but then the naive romantic in me as I thought about the unexpected twisty ways love can find you. It was strange enough to go looking for Eddie all of these years, but then to end up connecting with Mark instead was an even bigger surprise. Who knew, maybe something would come of it. Maybe my life could be a John Hughes movie after all. And hopefully I wouldn’t be Brian, Anthony Michael Hall’s brainy-but-lovable geek, stuck writing the detention essay alone, while everyone else paired off. Time would tell.

[April, 1992] Cool Things are Going to Happen

 

Nothing says "cool" like the illusion of wearing a tuxedo.

Wednesday, April 15. 1992

Dear Journal,

Tomorrow there is a dance and I am actually going! My dad finally loosened up a little. I’m not too nervous (more excited, actually) and I hope that I have fun. Also, I guess it couldn’t hurt if I dance with a nice guy, or two, or three!

Let’s be honest here. I didn’t want to go to a school dance. I wanted to go to a school dance in an 80’s movie. Preferably one in the style of John Hughes, where the adolescent caste system was flexible and inner beauty would eventually shine through and win over some seemingly unattainable attractive teen.

But we all know John Hughes painted a fantasy world of what high school was really like. The dance I attended in 8th grade lacked the romance, adventure, and good music of one in an 80’s movie. The DJ played cheesy pop, rap, and hip hop that I wasn’t into, and the gym was full of students I didn’t know, which made me shy and uncomfortable. That dose of social awkwardness was enough to keep me away from all ensuing school dances until the senior prom.

Actually things are going great for me, apart from not having a boyfriend (which I won’t talk about now). For example: my grades are substantial, my friends are great and everything else is just as it should be (except my weight! Ha, Ha.). I’m pretty happy because cool things are going to happen.

Brace yourself for this “coolness.” Are you ready? Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

I’m probably going to day camp this summer! It will be really cool from what Didi told me (she’s going too). We go on trips every day to places like roller skating, bowling, beach, etc. There are also going to be late night trips to Action Park and Dorney Park. But wait! There’s more! There is also going to be a three day, two night trip to Washington, D.C.! This is really great! Finally I’m not going to have a boring summer. For five days a week, for eight weeks I am actually going to have (as my friend Haley would say) “Gobs of fun!” I’ll keep ya posted. See ya!

I know, I know. On the scale of Things That Are Cool, day camp might not rate highly for most. But for me, it meant finally being around kids my age that weren’t the same 200 students I was stuck with for six straight years at Hunter College High School. And I never had the sleepaway camp experience, which seemed to breed a special brand of nostalgia in those who did, but day camp seemed like the next best thing. If not even better, because I’d get to experience daily activities without the risk of homesickness or (more likely) television withdrawal. Having fun without sacrificing creature comforts seemed like a pretty cool thing to me.

[September, 1991] John Hughes Lied to Me

 

...and they never spoke to each other again...

Tuesday 9/17/91

Dear Journal,

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.

[September, 1991] Bad Deja Vu

Wednesday 9/11/91

...

Dear Journal,

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?)

[February, 1991] Prepared for the Worst

Thursday, February 21, 1991

Dear Journal,

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

Dear Journal,

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.)

[February, 1990] Valentine’s Day: Guess What Happened?

January 19, 2010 1 comment

“What is essential is invisible to the eye…”

2/15/90

Dear Journal,

Yesterday was Valentine’s Day and guess what happened? Mitchell gave me a bracelet! It’s so beautiful! I’m wearing it now. It has a thin gold chain with a heart on it studded with diamonds. I absolutely love it.

I remember being in class that day, and wondering whether Mitch would acknowledge it in any way. I don’t know elementary school dating conventions in this day and age, but 20 years ago, going on two dates in the sixth grade practically meant you were going steady. At least, that’s what it meant to my possibly-deluded 12-year-old self. Even so, I didn’t want to get my hopes up that Mitch would do anything romantic, because he seemed generally shy of showing any public displays of affection (considering that 99% of the time we spent together was in public, I should have seen this as a potential problem).

The school day finished uneventfully, and I resigned myself to the fact that my Valentine’s Day would be nothing special.

I was on my way home, just passing the school yard, when someone came running up behind me.

He probably said something like “I got this for you” when he gave me the bracelet. I probably thanked him.

I held it tightly in my hand until I came home and then put it on. The heart shifted around my skinny wrist when I wore it, so I frequently adjusted the chain until I could see the “diamonds” glimmer in the light. Sometimes I put the bracelet around the neck of the puppy Mitch had given me, so that it looked like the stuffed animal had a fancy collar. But mostly I wore the hell out of it, pleased to have received jewelry on Valentine’s Day, which seemed a terribly romantic and grown-up gesture.

No, they weren’t real diamonds, nor did I believe they were, but I had never been given such a beautiful gift from a boy before in my entire life (unless you count that Tiffany tape, which I don’t).

That day, I felt like Molly Ringwald at the end of a John Hughes movie, triumphing in a happy ending after so many disappointments. It wouldn’t last (it rarely does), but I had that moment of surprise and joy, and that was enough to carry me for a little while.