So I finally saw the Joel-Peter Witkin exhibit at the Guggenheim (this was Saturday, with Anita). It blew my mind. Very twisted, very dark. Brilliant. How these could be photos is baffling. There’s some collage work but the rest is just sick, fabulous imagination.
Also finally bought a Rosetta Stone CD, The Tyranny of Inaction. Great album.
Went online for the first time at Anita’s. The Industrial/Goth chat room was a bit dull at first, but got better. Was Instant Messaged by this cool guy in AZ, OrpheusBlack. There sure are a lot of people into Marilyn Manson and NIN. Not nearly enough Bauhaus fans, at least from when I was on. It was fun, but something I could definitely live without. I prefer letters.
I’m listening to Christian Death at the moment. They have grown on me a lot. I told Anita to tell me if I ever start to annoy her w/this whole Gothic thing, the way Claudia did with Punk. I depend on her to keep me grounded, like when I told Anita to make fun of me for wanting fangs (which I do).
Today I went to Didi’s. Played Monopoly with her, Leon and James. They said they’d go to The Bank with me the next time they come back from college (Leon in March, James in May). I must go back soon. Maybe I can beg Anita (doubt it). I’ll find a way. I always do.
Entered my portfolio in the Scholastic Writing contest (the same one I won last year for Short Story). This is the big one, $5,000. I’m hopeful.
Had a dream the other night about asking Nathan back on Sally Jessy (as if I would learn). In the dream he had a girlfriend. I’m basically over it, but not completely, not until that absolutely final time I go there.
So, to summarize my18-year-old self: getting fangs = good idea/The Internet = bad idea.
Man oh man oh man. So much to mock, I don’t even know where to begin. I remember how much I loved that Joel-Peter Witkin show, which to date is one of the best museum outings I ever had. I also remember there was a little girl there, which I found troubling. Five years old is too young to be looking at photos of cadavers, amputees and hermaphrodites (call me old fashioned, but six should be the minimum age for that sort of thing).
Rosetta Stone = Sisters of Mercy rip-off band with some catchy songs that you probably don’t know about unless you were a goth in the ‘90s-‘00s.
Going online! Oh my. It figures my sole purpose would be to find gloomy kids around the world to chat about Peter Murphy, Siouxsie Sioux and the other main players in my counter-culture obsession. But then again, there were no other goths at my high school, my best friend was going the Brit-Pop/Indie route, and I was dying (no goth pun intended) to share this interest with others. Because somewhere out there were people who also wanted to get fangs and could recommend more broody music to listen to.
I was a luddite for the longest time. I was one of the people who believed the Internet was a fad or just for uber-tech geeks and wouldn’t really take off. Just call me Little Miss Lack-of-Foresight. I was also adamant that I would not forgo letter-writing for emails and yet in the last decade, I have hand-written and mailed exactly one letter that was longer than a greeting card. Maybe two. And living without the Internet today? Yeah, I think I could go longer without food.
Now let me explain the fangs thing. It wasn’t about vampires so much. I appreciated their aesthetic but I didn’t actually want to be one, nor did I have any kind of bloodlust. Plainly put, I just thought fangs looked really neat. And I thought it would be cool to have some bonded to my teeth. Of course, it was above and beyond ridiculous (I mean, I can only imagine showing up to a job interview with FANGS. Oy.). Let’s just file that in the Thank-GOD-I-Didn’t-Indulge-THAT-Dumb-Teenage-Whim folder.
Also, I have no doubt that annoyed Anita with my goth fixation as much as Claudia annoyed me with her punk phase. Probably more. But it would be a long time before I outgrew that phase (and by “a long time” I mean “never completely”).
[Preface: I debated leaving this diary entry out, because there’s a chance that the person it’s about will read it. And while I’ve written about my friendship with Claudia and my disdain at her punk evolution, I don’t think I’ve ever properly delved into just how much fun we had, too.
Claudia was a big reason I actually started enjoying my later years at high school. We went to concerts and parties. We had boozy adventures. We went trick-or-treating on the Upper West Side (I was a gypsy, she was zombie Marilyn Monroe). We talked about music and boys and bonded over the fact that we both felt like oddballs in a sea of conformists. But more than that, having grown up with some pretty overprotective parents, Claudia gave me the freedom to finally start enjoying being a teenager living in New York City. She was always generous with letting me stay over her house, even when I lied to my parents about where I was going that night.
So when she became progressively more immersed in punk, it was frustrating to see her becoming destructive and what I perceived as disingenuous, and also hurtful to see our friendship beginning to wane. But instead of talking things through with her, I channeled a lot of those feelings into anger and overwrought writing. Case in point:]
out of faux-cus. locks of primary colors minus the sunshine. don’t become. she does anyway. shoplifting sweetness, but it doesn’t make her genuine. a pathetic echo, a the acid princess emerges and is swatted away, the playfriends tired of this game. she really tries to mean it when she’s bad, full of angst, doing wrong. now they’ve seen her fake passport and won’t let her past the gates. by rejecting stability for a wilder ride she flies in careless circles. she is hated for not being. the silence will pull her back into her skin.
So yeah, more annoyance at Claudia. She listened to Green Day and Hole and got her hair dyed blue in expensive salons. She lived in a gorgeous house in Manhattan and I never saw her parents be anything other than loving to her. She got busted for shoplifting candy with $40 on her (which is likely what prompted this entry).
I don’t know what drove the need to try to pass herself off as a punk and, looking back on it, it shouldn’t matter, but at the time it came off as so phony to me. It felt like she was trying too hard and not being herself, whereas hanging out in the freak hallway freed me up to be more myself. But who knows, at the time, Claudia might have felt the same way about her heavy-handed foray into the punk scene. And truth be told, there was probably a part of me that was jealous at her ability to be a “badass” because I never had the guts to subvert authority like that. Lying to my parents about what I was really doing when I slept over her house was as subversive as I got (at least in high school).
I got Marilyn Manson’s CD, which is great (listened to it twice in two days). The music isn’t half as scary as they are visually. In fact the song lyrics are very interesting. A sample:
“You want me to save the world
I’m just a little girl
pseudo-morals work real well
on the talk shows for the weak
but your selective judgements
and good guy badges
don’t mean a f$%# to me.”
That one is from “Get Your Gunn,” one of the best songs on Portrait of An American Family.
Right now I’m listening to the Cure (Head on the Door).
I have some random lines for poetry. Might as well put them down here… my thoughts collide with tomorrow, wait, I had more. It’s not as inspiring writing on ordinary paper. Plus I have the Cure blasting in my ear so that doesn’t help much.
Hey, today is Neil’s birthday. He turns the big 14. Haven’t been hanging out with Claudia that much lately. I don’t know if we’ve been actively ignoring each other or what. Oh well, I’m not all that upset, people drift away and sometimes it’s a good and natural thing (Geez, I sound like a shrink. What is my problem?).
I remember seeing Marilyn Manson open up for Nine Inch Nails to a hostile/indifferent crowd. Before the lead singer became the pseudo-subversive spokesman for disillusioned alterna-goth youth, he was still in Trent Reznor’s shadow, being booed at by teenagers waiting for the main event. In light of that, I felt like I was supporting an underdog when buying Portrait of an American Family. The shock value was obvious but some of the songs were catchy to me (and yes, I was a sucker for some of those lyrics; hey, I was the target audience to a degree). When I went to college and the second Marilyn Manson album was released, the band became huge, and I lost interest, casting them out of my musical canon. By that point, I was cultivating more obscure musical (let’s say, “organically goth”) interests and was quick to disdain a celebrity that was so obviously pandering to a certain type of demographic.
But since, at the time of this entry, I was still part of that demographic, let’s take a moment to cringe at the “random lines of poetry” bit. Just… oy. The “ordinary paper” refers to the fact that I used to draft a lot of poetry on top of photos in magazines; but yeah, let’s blame the “ordinary paper” and loud Cure music for not being able to craft a better line of poetry.
As for Claudia and Neil, I was pretty much over my inappropriate crush on the latter, and continuously uncomfortable with the former. Aside from my irritation at her becoming what I perceived as a phony punk, Claudia was getting more involved with drugs, which was a bigger problem for me. I realize a lot of teenagers experiment with drugs, but in high school, apart from alcohol, I was pretty much a goodie goodie. And it wasn’t just the fact that she was smoking weed more; I witnessed her becoming a different person as a result of it. She made foolish choices, her school work declined, and she behaved more like a spacey degenerate. The sharp, funny girl that I initially became friends with was evolving into someone I couldn’t relate to anymore and didn’t have an interest in knowing.
But who knows, maybe Claudia saw me as a square, evolving into a “spooky” girl who wrote cheesy poetry. Maybe she would view my buying that Marilyn Manson album as a foolish choice.
I don’t really feel like dealing with anyone today. I’m not in a bad mood or anything, just the opposite, actually but I just want the day to flow.
Right now I really wish I was a senior so I could join the walkout these next two periods.
I want to write a poem about poseurs, it will definitely have “pseudo” in it somewhere. Poseurs are so annoying, sometimes they even fool everyone into thinking they are actually cool. How sad. I’d rather be uncool than pretend to be something I’m not (as horribly clichéd as that sounds). Being yourself is truly cool, however non-trendy or interesting or boring that is.
My friendship with Claudia was getting strained, at least on my end. While I had an open fascination with alternative lifestyles and cultures, as cool as I thought punks were, I knew that I wasn’t one and didn’t try to be one. There were certain associations with it that turned me off entirely, like the vandalism and drugs. And while I liked the aesthetic, I didn’t love the music, and I didn’t have enough of a sneering nihilism to be a proper punk.
Neither did Claudia, but she still tried. Her favorite band was Green Day, which might have been punk for five minutes back in their early pre-Dookie days, but whose commercialism and accessibility quickly became its antithesis. Claudia also loved Hole, which was apt, because I always found Courtney Love calculating and phony in her efforts to co-opt angry youth—and the “alternative” pop culture movement in general—for her own gains. And while Claudia did seem interested in discovering the more authentic musical side of punk, there was something I found disingenuous about her efforts to be punk. From where I stood, she had nothing to rebel against. She came from privilege but with the freedom to do as she pleased. She was an Upper West Side kid pretending to be from the gutter and trying too hard. I couldn’t put my finger on exactly how she was a poseur, it was just a feeling that her efforts weren’t sincere and weren’t really her.
Claudia and I often referred to ourselves as “little Fonzies” and I did write a poem about how we were evolving in different directions, which I oh-so-poignantly entitled “Little Fonzies No More.” She wasn’t in my creative writing class, so she never saw it, but here’s how it ended:
you’ve moved beyond me now
doing cooler things
evolving into a pseudo-you
ignoring (or not seeing) my disgusted smiles.
so what’s wrong here?
everything is too polite and strained…
i guess you’re just too cool for me.
In retrospect, I may have been too harsh in my judgment of her, because by the end of the year I’d be all-goth-all-the-time, which comes with its own special set of pretensions. At the same time, I resisted the goth trappings as much as I could because I didn’t want to be perceived the way I did Claudia (though for all I know, I still was). But who is to say I was being true to myself and she wasn’t? My arrogant/insecure teenage self felt justified making such claims, but she may not have been the most reliable narrator…
Yesterday was St. Patrick’s Day, a holiday where huge amounts of drinking goes on. I’m home from Claudia’s house and still a tiny bit groggy, as I always am the morning after sleeping over. I told her all bets are off and no one has dibs on anyone.
A Liz Phair line comes to my mind, I think it’s from “Strange Loop.” I don’t remember the exact thing but it’s something to the extent of “I wanted you, I wanted more than I knew.”
Right now I’m listening to Anita’s Superchunk tape (who are opening up for Belly), it’s pretty good.
I got the song right but for clarity’s sake, the exact lyric is,
I always wanted you
I only wanted more than I knew
That St. Patrick’s Day was one I’ll never forget, despite the vague diary entry. Claudia called me after school, when I was already home in Brooklyn, and told me Neil, Adrian, and a couple of their friends would be coming over to her house to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. By celebrate, we all know that meant “drinking a bunch of booze.” She invited me to join her, but I didn’t think my parents would allow me to go since it was dark out and I knew they wouldn’t want me to take the subway after rush hour. But I was beyond desperate to go. I had to think of a good plan, and fast.
I told my father that Claudia’s parents invited me to go out to dinner with them for St. Patrick’s Day and would even pay for a taxi to the Upper West Side, where they lived (and of course I was also invited to stay over). It’s a good thing that Mom was still at work, because chances are she would have seen through the ruse. But it was easier to lie to Dad.
“I’ll let you go…” he said. I held my breath. “…But they shouldn’t pay for your taxi.”
Not only did he grant permission, he gave me money to take a car all the way uptown (over an hour’s drive from where we lived in Brooklyn).
I couldn’t get to her place quickly enough.
When I arrived, Claudia was already tipsy and Neil and Adrian were there with their two friends. I had met Adrian before; also a punk, he was a little older than Neil, wore his hair in purple and blue liberty spikes and was kind of ridiculously gorgeous. Claudia handed me some Midori (hey, it was green and boozy, St. Paddy’s-appropriate) and introduced me to the two I didn’t know: a pretty blue-haired girl (my immediate envy of her must have erased all memory of her name) and a cute punk guy named Mark. All I remember about him was that he was less overtly punk—at least aesthetically—than the others (his hair was shaved on the sides, but a simple brown color) and Russian like me, even speaking the language.
It wasn’t long after those chugs of Midori that a giant make-out-fest broke out. (That’s around the time I told Claudia, “all bets are off, nobody has dibs on anyone.”)
At first, we all rolled around the floor of Claudia’s room in like a pile of kittens. Finally, after all the months of pining for him, I got to lock lips with Neil. So how was it? Like many overly-anticipated things: disappointing. The only thing I could think of the entire time we smooched was how small his mouth was. It was a wonder this kid could eat anything bigger than a jellybean (no wonder he was so skinny!).
I had better lip-compatibility with Adrian, and loved making out with him, but Mark and I just really clicked in terms of chemistry (just goes to show, better-looking doesn’t mean better physical compatibility). As the night progressed, we ended up pairing off (Neil with blue-haired chick, Adrian with Claudia, Mark with me) and heading off to separate rooms.
Mark and I ended up downstairs on the living room couch, making out in the dark for what might have been hours and murmuring to each other in Russian. It. Was. Awesome.
Lots and lots and lots to write. How vague to be remains a dilemma.
I dyed my hair purple. The top is VERY bright and noticeable, the bottom is darker but looks violet in the sun. Combined with bluish-purple lipstick, blue mascara (& nail polish), turquoise eyeliner and glitter (silver) below my eyebrows. I looked like such a freak and loved it. The strange stares, the hushed conversations as I walked by, the halted comments (“that’s an…interesting look you have there”), it was wonderful. I felt this great power and release. I finally spelled it out (Anita gets confused every time I use that phrase).
A month of stalking the hallway and nothing but brief glimpses. Ooh, I need a code name. Claudia got a great one: Mercer. Perfect.
So we were walking through the hallway and as I’m walking I’m staring at him (I’m switching tenses now). This time he’s looking at me too (with a look of—as Claudia described it—interest). I said hi to Didi and looked back down at him (again looking at me). Claudia and I started walking and I knew he asked who I was because I heard Didi say my name.
Saw Mercer later in the day too. Damn those 3-4 years.
This marked a turning point for me in high school, so I remember it quite well. I even remember what I wore that day: a purple tie-died t-shirt, cut-off shorts, and two pairs of tights (torn-up black nylons over fuchsia ones). It was hardly scandalous, but the combined look was drastically different from the generic fashion of my classmates and marked a dramatic departure from my days of trying to blend in and look like them. It should be noted that I started wearing the glitter make-up before it became fashionable, when it was only sold in alternative and specialty stores that catered to club kids and drag queens. In fact, I bought my crazy make-up at House of Field (the shop she owned years before Patricia Field went on to do wardrobe for shows like Sex and The City and Ugly Betty) from a stunning effeminate blonde man who would go on to be the transsexual cult figure Amanda Lepore (pictured below). Kind of fitting, looking back on it.
I don’t know what there was to spell out. I felt apart, different, freakish even, and wanted my outward appearance to finally reflect that. It was the physical manifestation of my I-am-not-like-you-and-nobody-understands-me teen frustration. The feeling of release came from no longer caring about conforming to my high school’s standards of appearance and asserting my individuality. At 17, it felt pretty powerful. I was teased and bullied from 13-14 for the way I looked (not something I chronicled in my diary, because it was too awful to recount), but I no longer worried about being made fun of because I was owning my freakishness. I walked those halls with a confidence I hadn’t felt in years. And my self-empowerment must have shown, because I was never bullied at school again.
“Mercer” was the code name for Neil, who I referenced before, but not directly until now. Neil was not just a punk, but the only punk in our entire school. He wore dirty clothes riddled with tears and safety pins, had green and orange hair, and a baby face that was often masked with a look of disdain. Unfortunately, he was considerably younger than me (a few years in high school matter more when the age difference is more than a year or two), so I felt immensely guilty having a crush on him. But the crush was born out of intrigue more than anything else. There were so few kids at Hunter who so blatantly defied convention in their outward appearance that Neil provided the same relief from the homogeneity. And sure, I thought he was super-cute, but more than anything I just wanted to know him.
And now that I was coming into my own and not afraid to stand apart from the masses, I also caught his attention. And maybe, just maybe, he wanted to know me, too.
“You don’t need my voice girl you’ve got your own.” – Tori Amos
I just needed to reemphasize what a great day it was. The feeling is like after I take an especially lovely trip to the village. It’s been one of the best days of the year, with everything just falling into place. Imagine how I’d react if something truly phenomenal happened. I don’t know how long it’s been going on, but Anita and I are best friends. I remember telling her once but it wasn’t until her candle-lighting ceremony that it was really…confirmed. We have an immense amount of private jokes between us, I guess that’s one indication. Also when I got home today (to a mailbox more packed than I remember) I knew I would just burst if I didn’t talk to her and tell her about my day. Something totally random but wonderful happened. I’ll call it a one-time fluke, but it was still pretty cool.“Sleep, sleep tonight
And may your dreams be realized.” – U2
This is where once again I wish my father hadn’t read the diary so I wouldn’t have felt the need to be so cryptic. Granted, the random but wonderful thing that happened was almost definitely boy-related, and specifically related to Neil. He was this really young kid (13 to my 16) who I started seeing around school. He was hard to miss because he was a punk in a sea of preppies, with dirty torn up clothes, spiky hair a different color every few weeks, and a playful badass attitude. He was the only true punk in his grade and one of maybe a dozen alternative-looking people in our entire school. Claudia was heading in a more punk direction, while I was alterna-chick with hints of goth, but neither of us were fully formed whereas Neil was all punk all the time. I’m almost positive that I finally met and chatted with Neil that day. I (unsurprisingly) ended up developing a crush on him that, despite his maturity, made me feel guilty because of our age difference. 20 years later a three-and-a-half year age gap isn’t such a big deal but in high school even thinking about him made me feel like he was the Lolita to my Humbert Humbert.
Whatever the happy incident was, for me to compare it to a trip to The Village is major. Anita and I visited Greenwich Village as often as we could. It was all about shopping for music, which was one of the cornerstones of our friendship. We’d start with Record Runner on Jones Street, and maybe stop by Bleecker Bob’s (which is not on Bleecker Street as its name would have you believe), which was almost always had a disappointing (and overpriced selection). Next it was on to Second Coming, a tiny place on Sullivan Street where we found tons of used tapes and CDs. The guy who worked there had a shiny shaved head and a crush on Anita, and we nicknamed him Lysol because the bald head made us think of Mr. Clean and therefore cleaning products in general. My personal favorite record store was Generation Records on Thompson, where I consistently found lots of obscure, sought-after CDs and was intimidated by the tattooed, haggard, too-cool-for-you staff. We usually walked up 8th Street up to St. Mark’s place, where we stopped by Venus (another favorite) and once in a while, Sounds. There was usually a stopover at BBQ for a late lunch and early dinner and then, broke but content with our musical acquisitions, we’d take the subway back to Brooklyn, perusing liner notes on the train home.
It’s funny how friendships can take on the intensity of an affair. Anita and I spoke on the phone several times a day, spent most weekends together, and would even bring each other to school (one of us would cut classes to visit the other—crazy, right?). It’s rare to have that kind of connection on a platonic level, and rarer still for it to endure. But I guess I felt especially close to her since her recent Sweet 16 (what the candle-lighting ceremony is in reference to). I don’t remember what kind words she said about me at the party, but I know that was the moment I fully realized we had become best friends.