To my surprise/relief/whatever I think I might just be over Nathan. Was in the Village yesterday shopping/job hunting (might end up working in a store about 50 feet away from Record Runner actually). I didn’t stop in. I think I was afraid if something did happen I wouldn’t care anymore. Do I still? Now that there’s Bradley… not that much. It’s better if I stay away.
Damn, I am so tired. I bought the most wonderful book, Lost Souls by Poppy Z. Brite. I’m only about 30 pages into it and already it’s one of the best books I ever read.
I can hear my parents arguing in the other room, about money. This college financial aid stuff is such a headache. I hate even thinking about it, I just want to be there already, in college, in Boston.
I don’t have the energy to write any more.
Blah blah blah boys blah blah now that I was smitten with a boy in Alaska I was over my crush on the record store manager blah blah.
Moving on to books. I’ve never been a big fan of vampires in general, but Poppy Z. Brite’s modern goth vampire novel really got under my skin. I don’t think I could have found anything more perfect to read as a still-newly-minted-but-quickly-becoming-thoroughly-immersed goth. It made New Orleans sound like a deliciously dark, romantic, magical place and the young vampires she described sounded just gorgeous and swoon-worthy. Plus, they listened to Bauhaus, how could I not love that? (Get it? The vampires, an icon of gothdom, were goths themselves. 18-year-old spooky mind=blown.)
As for financing college, that’s the real horror story. Things got pretty scary for a while. Dad was adamant that I apply to Ivy League schools and be pre-law or pre-med. I was interested in schools with solid liberal arts programs and wanted to focus on writing, preferably in a big city. The only Ivy I even briefly considered was Brown, but decided Providence would be too small a city for me, so I didn’t even apply there. Of the four schools I applied to, two were in Boston, which seemed like the perfect location: large enough to be bustling and diverse, but small enough that I’d find my way around easily; far enough that I’d get away from home, but not too far in case I got homesick. Getting there would be another story, though, because Dad didn’t want to pay for an education he thought would be useless instead of one that would set me up in a high-paying career as a doctor or lawyer (it just goes to show how old school he was that those were the only two professions that epitomized a lucrative career for him). Mom also worked, but her salary was low enough to just cover basic household expenses but high enough to prevent me from getting significant financial aid. It was a stressful time at home, with a lot of arguing. Apart from getting a crappy summer job and earning some pocket money, I didn’t see how I could really improve our financial situation. I just had to hope everything would work somehow work out and I’d be able to get the education I truly desired.
Wow. I won a Gold Award in that contest. I’m going to Washington D.C. to read an excerpt from my story at the library of congress. June 17 (Saturday) there will also be an awards ceremony. The awards will be mailed to the winners by the early summer. I think that means moolah. A scholarship maybe. I still can’t believe it. This is one of the biggest accomplishments of my life, winning a National award in a writing contest. Maybe this means I’ll have a good shot at Emerson’s writing scholarship. It’s so great how my parents are leaving this entire college thing to me. I have yet to find a more perfect school for me than Emerson. I think it would be a cool place for Tim too.
The writing award was a pretty big deal and just the affirmation I needed as an aspiring writer. I don’t remember whether I got any scholarship money, though since I was light on extracurricular activities, it was a nice thing to add to my college applications. But I cared less about that as much as this was an indicator that writing was something I was decent at and should stick with. I’ve gone back and forth on that matter in the years since, but at seventeen it was an unexpected and flattering accolade.
It’s funny how I glaze over the parental college issue, because while my mother supported my liberal arts trajectory, my father wanted me to apply to Ivy League schools and refused support unless I was either pre-law or pre-med. As a struggling immigrant, he wanted me to pursue a lucrative career, whereas my mother wanted me to pursue what made me happy.
I told Anita that when the Cure tour again (and since there will be a new album in September that may be soon) we will dress up as major goths and go (It will be so great I can’t even wait!). It will be even more fun than doing the stuff for the NIN-turned-Killing Joke show. I’m getting a lot more into the Cure (talk about them more, want more albums), I’m beginning to also get that feeling again, the same one I had with U2 and NIN. I think that Tim has (at least partially) converted me. Well I have to wait a while to see the effect it has on me.
“I’m bent out of shape desperate to whine screaming so loud that I don’t make a sound
strung out on speed maxed out on lies I know you’re to blame but I can’t say why.” – Moist
I love that quote and wrote it down even though its sentiment doesn’t express my current mood. I feel kind of hyper.
(What I really love is how I totally missed the reference to methamphetamine in the song lyric, while saying it didn’t match my own hyper mood.)
The musical evolution was well under way, as was the continued flirtation with gothdom.
I was fascinated by the punk and goth subcultures much more than the grunge scene that was emblematic of the 1990s, but I had long since realized I didn’t belong with the punks. And while I loved the goth aesthetic, I was naturally an upbeat optimistic person, and I loved colors, so I didn’t think I’d be suited to the black-black-always-black gloomy world of the gothic people. I also wasn’t familiar with the music beyond the popular bands that fell into the genre’s fold like the Cure, Nine Inch Nails (more industrial, but related) and Cocteau Twins. I also didn’t want to come across as a poseur like I thought Claudia did to me with the punk scene, so I was cautious making any firmly committed affiliations.
I also had it in my head that being goth meant listening to nothing but gothic music, and I still had numerous other bands I listened to (apart from U2) like Belly, Radiohead, Afghan Whigs, and more obscure gems I was happy to discover, like the Canadian band I quoted above, Moist. Terrible name, but their album Silver was an immense discovery to me, full of sharp guitars, vocals on the verge of a nervous breakdown, and lyrics worth scrawling on classroom desks. Being a fan of such an unknown band was both a blessing and a curse, because on one hand they felt like my special secret, but on the other hand, I wanted them to find wider appreciation so that they could tour and release more albums.
And there was also that ambivalent desire for a band to be popular, but not too popular. Belly struck the right balance: they toured small enough venues but had a decent following. But Radiohead… well, I don’t need to tell you about them.
Friday, April 10, 1992
I got my report card yesterday: 95, 95, 96, 90, A, 94, 96, 98. My parents were happy. I was thrilled! My average: 94.5. Wow! I just hope there isn’t some computer error or something.
Speaking of computers, there’s a new show on television. It’s called “Mann and Machine.” I haven’t seen a whole episode yet but it’s something like a futuristic cop has a robot-ish partner. She’s a computer (perfect) but can feel emotions on a very low level. It wouldn’t be that awful being something like that. I would be gorgeous, have a perfect body, be a genius, and other good stuff. I wouldn’t disappoint anyone and live up to people’s expectations. My mom especially would probably love it because the dishes would always be done, my room would always be spotless, the house immaculate and she knows I would treat her and dad with utter respect. I would probably have more guys liking me (since I wouldn’t be fat anymore) as well as my mother off my back to lose weight. My dad would never have to lecture me seeing as I would be the perfect student. I’d never let my temper control me and when I would open my mouth, just the right words would come out. I would be like a blank sheet of paper without a line, spot or crease in it to ruin it.
When I grow up and have children of my own, I hope I don’t wish them to be perfect. That’s what makes people individuals. The fact that they have imperfections.
I’ll start my diet Monday.
Ever have one of those days when you wished you were a robot?
Yeah, life at home was tense even when I got good grades. The high marks, while a source of pride for my mother, still left something to be desired from my father, who wanted me to be the overachiever he never was. I was generally an A- student but he wanted me to be an A+ student. And if I applied myself more, it might have been possible, but I was tired of feeling like I never measured up, and threats and lectures were not a motivator for me. My father even resorted to bribing me for good grades, but that only went so far. Studying extra hours to earn ten or twenty bucks just wasn’t worth it after a while and felt kind of demeaning.
And then there were body issues. I still had some extra weight that I couldn’t shed, because I only had two modes: Diet Mode and Eat What I Want Mode. Nothing in between, no sense of moderation, no understanding that any weight I lost through a fad diet would be put back on if I didn’t learn new eating habits. My parents warned me that being overweight would have a negative impact on my adolescence, and they weren’t wrong. But I was too clumsy for sports and found too much comfort in food when things were tense at home, which they were a fair amount.
While all of this family drama was going on, there were all these ads being broadcast for a new TV show, Mann & Machine, about a male human and female android (albeit one capable of learning emotions) who fight crime together. It seemed every time I turned on the television, there was the beautiful Yancy Butler flaunting her robotic perfection at me. At the time, being an automaton would have solved all my problems.
Saturday, July 6, 1991
As it turns out, I’m not going to Israel. First of all, it’s expensive, and I’m not even going to see the sights. There’s not too much point.
My parents are doing stuff for me to make up for me, not that they need to or have to. Like they ARE TAKING ME TO SEE LES MISERABLES on July 13. I can’t wait! I am going to try to lose as much weight as I can before then, so that I can look good in this outfit that I got.
This doesn’t sound like me. Either I was censoring myself to be far more cool-headed out of paranoia that one of my parents would read my journal, or they did really good spin on that Israel trip and actually convinced me that it wouldn’t be fun. Either way, something about the way I calmly reacted and turned my excitement to the Broadway show makes me suspicious.
To be fair, I was dying to see Les Miserables (or “Les Miz” as it was more commonly called) ever since I saw a spine-tingling talent show performance of “I Dreamed a Dream” in the sixth grade. It was one of the biggest Broadway musicals of the late ’80s/early ’90s, with a heavy duty advertising campaign including posters, bus ads and billboards, and television commercials featuring grimy, earnest singers in rags that made the French Revolution seem so darn tuneful and romantic. While tickets to this show were not a substitute for tickets to Israel, at the time they were pretty good as far as consolation prizes go.
I don’t recall the outfit that prompted yet another diet, but it didn’t take much to fuel the desire to lose weight. This was the summer I tried the cabbage soup diet. The soup, which I sprinkled with copious amounts of Mrs Dash for “flavor,” was pretty vile, and nothing that a human being with taste buds could subsist on for more than a few days unless truly masochistic. It wasn’t the first fad diet or the last that I tried, but, hey, I had a date with some musical French ragamuffins and I wanted to look my best!
Saturday, May 19, 1991
My grades are improving and so is my relationship with my parents. Especially my father. I know I haven’t been writing for a while, but I don’t know what’s stopping me. Laziness, I guess.
[It took some time to make my father realize that the string of perfect grades I got in elementary school would not be easily replicated at Hunter. Mom was more understanding, but Dad was the kind of disciplinarian who would look at a grade of 95 I proudly held before him and ask, “What happened to the other five points?” He decided to see if bribing me would produced better grades and offered a certain amount of money A’s or grades of 95 or better. Eventually, my more frequent A-minuses and B-plusses were recognized for the good grades that they were, but I could still sense my father’s undercurrent of disappointment at anything less than perfection.]
Let’s start with my love life. What love life? The guys that I like don’t know me, and there is no chance they will like me. I’m not sore, though (well, not really) because I know the right guy will come along some day. I just hope “someday” comes soon! On to other things.
[Wow, other things beyond boys and my non-existent romantic life?? What sort of eclectic topics could I possibly devote to the rest of this diary entry?]
That’s the way I am. I go through lots of mood swings. It’s really amazing how fast my feelings can change. I’m not a flake, I just go through mood swings.
[I wasn’t a flake, I was a teenager.]
Today my parents and I went to Manhattan, because I had to go to the American Museum of Natural History for school, and anyway, when I’m in Manhattan, I get this feeling of how cool it would be to be indepandent and living in Manhattan on my own.
[That’s one thing I can say in favor of Hunter College High School. Part of the rigorous academic curriculum included assignments that required us to go to museums, which I always loved doing. Not only did these trips provide overall cultural enrichment, but they helped me develop a passion for art and science. This particular exhibit I had to see and report on was about the rainforest. The museum replicated the sights and sounds of the habitat which, paired with the multitude of of specimen and sobering facts on deforestation, had me utterly captivated. As did the sights beyond the museum walls: the street vendors, boutiques, and outdoor cafes of Manhattan’s affluent Upper West Side.]
Well, I think that next weekend will be lots of fun because it is Memorial Day, and my parents, their friends, my cousin Anna and her parents, and me are all going upstate. It should be fun, chaotic, or both! See ya!
I still remember parts of that weekend. My parents’ friends had a young daughter, around nine years old. Anna and I spent much of that weekend dodging her. She followed us incessantly and at one point even ended up in tears because of our less-than-subtle avoidance (there are only so many times you can use the excuse of having “private things” to discuss before it gets taken personally). It was a tough situation. On one hand, she was bratty and immature and Anna and I did have older girl things we wanted to talk about. On the other hand, I was no stranger to being excluded and left on my own, so I could empathize with this little girl all too well. It felt only marginally less terrible to be the one doing the ostracizing.
April 2, 1991
Nobody understands me! At least my parents don’t. They don’t understand that some things I want might seem minor to them but are important to me.
I really hate being so restricted! I know my parents love me, want the best for me, etc., etc., but they just don’t understand! (I know I’m being repetitive, but it’s for emphasis.)
It’s really strange, but by restricting me, they just force me to rebel. I don’t even feel guilty when I rebel, because I feel this is what my parents brought me to, so I feel justified.
Let the teenage clichés begin! The post above undoubtedly had to do with my parents infringing on my freedom in some way. At one point, when my grades started slipping, they forbade any social activity during the week. What they didn’t realize is that my grades started slipping because I was unhappy and lonely and thoroughly unmotivated to excel at school. They didn’t know that I was being teased by my classmates and getting into fights on the bus. They just knew what the report cards told them. Luckily I had my journal to vent my frustrations. Which I did with posts like these:
April 12, 1991
MY FUCKING PARENTS ARE MAKING MY F$%*ING LIFE A F#^&ING PRISON AND I DON’T EVEN F@*$ING DESERVE IT!
Feb. 15, 1991
Sigh! I’m really happy (I know it doesn’t sound that way but I am.) because my parents are going to Atlantic city on business and I am going to spend three days (we have a long weekend) with Rose! Yay! The reason I’m sighing is because my mom is mad at me. Same old thing: I’m never satisfied and I’m unappreciative.
The reason my mom considers me unappreciative is this: Tomorrow Rose and her friends were planning to go shopping at Ceasar’s bay. Rose invited me to come along, and I really want to, but my parents say that if they leave later, they will just drop me off at Rose’s house while I’m left with her parents waiting for Rose to show up. The only good thing is that my parents don’t exactly know what time they are leaving, so there is a chance that I might go. Yeah, like a one percent chance! My mother said that she doesn’t want me to go shopping with Rose and her friends because there wouldn’t be any adults with us and my mom is afraid that something would happen to us.
Sh#t! What a gyp! It’s like hardly anything goes exactly the way I want it to. F#ck! Oh well, at least I’ll spend a few days with Rose.
Yay! I just found out that I am going shopping tomorrow after all. YES!
If you’re happy-frustrated-angry-pouty-and-then-happy-again-because-you-got-your-way and you know it clap your hands…
Yes, I realize this entry does not paint me in a spoiled and bratty light. I could try to make excuses, about how the long commute to Hunter and heavy academic workload left very little time for socializing. I could mention that at thirteen years old, it was a big deal to be able to spend time with friends without adults hovering nearby. That it was a big deal to go shopping. That I was having so little fun in 7th grade I didn’t want to miss out on what little chances for it came my way blah blah blah. But let’s call it what it is: I was being kind of awful. The terrible teens were setting in, and it would get worse before it got better.
Also? Ceasar’s Bay Bazar is where I got those New Kids on the Block jeans, so not allowing me to shop there might have prevented further fashion disasters. Kind of like the wardrobe equivalent of not allowing me to get that perm. But either fortune favored me in that moment or my adolescent moping wore my folks down and I got my way. Go me?