Ok, But Who Are You Talking To??
Behind the Book: a look at some of my earliest writing - my middle school diary!
Ever since our house fire a year and a half ago, I’ve been occasionally surprised by the things I do have. Most of these things were bits and bobs that we never moved to the house that burned down, or things that I tried to throw away when we moved but my mom frantically grabbed because she doesn’t believe in throwing anything away ever.
Anyways, some of the weird items include a cursed xanax bottle that is actually filled with children’s teeth instead of xanax (I’ll explain some other time) and well - I can’t really think of anything else that’s really weird right now, but do you really need anything else after that??
One entertaining surprise in the pile of things my mom had saved was my old middle school diary. As I quickly thumbed through the pages and recognized the names of old friends who were so important to me back in the day and the source of so much drama (even though I haven’t spoken to a single one of them in at least 20 years), I was transported back to a much, much younger time.
Man, I really hated middle school. Are there worse years? I don’t think so. Middle school is where kids practice being mean to each other because we’ve been convinced that this is a necessary life skill for adulthood. It’s a time when we go from the comfort of one class with one friendly teacher, to six classes with six exhausted teachers and six times the homework. Our hormones are BONKERS. Our bodies are WEIRD. People start kissing. Well, everyone but you, right? Or was that just me…
Anyways. Being a kid can be really hard and I honestly can say that you couldn’t pay me enough to do that all again.
My youngest was right in the epicenter of his own hellish middle school years (and still pretty much is) when I found the diary, so I handed it to him to peruse through. I figured at best he could read it and see that he wasn’t alone. He could see that these years are shitty for a lot of people and that we make it through into somewhat functional adults. At worst it would provide him with some laughs at his mom’s expense.
Can you guess which experience it turned out to be??
Y’all…this kid had a great time laughing at his mom. He picked apart each and every word of this diary. He sent screenshots to friends so they could laugh with him.
“Mom, why are you SO OBSESSED with boys?”
“Mom? Why do you keep writing like somebody is going to read this?”
“OMG Mom I can’t believe you used to use that word!! It is NOT ok. If the internet got hold of this you would be OVER.”
“I would have thought the grammar of a future writer would be better than this.”
“Ok, seriously mom, WHO ARE YOU TALKING TO HERE? WHO IS READING YOUR DIARY??”
Looking back through the old pages, there is very little indicator that the moody teen writing out every petty grudge against pretty much everyone in her life was going to be the writer I am today - or maybe it’s a super great indicator? I don’t know, I’ll leave that to you, the reader, to decide.
But if you look closely, there were signs of greatness. Here are a few gems:
I started out every entry like I was writing to a person who was just waiting with baited breath for an update on my life. While this annoyed my son to read, to me it signaled the confidence that would come in handy when I first started my blog, and needed to write like people were reading that as well (even though there’s a good chance that more people read my middle school library):
“Guess what? I’m in ASB!”
“Well I’m back. Howsit going?”
“Hi, It’s me again! I’ve gone back to writing in cursive. It feels good.”
“It’s me again! Who else? Sorry that I haven’t written for so long.”
The time my friends and I apparently rated every boy in our class according to “personality,” “grades”, “looks”, “charisma” and “living habits.” In the margins of the ratings I wrote:
“ps. I know that this is extremely sexist and degrading, but hey! It’s OUR turn!”
Am I the man-hating feminist leader that liberals want? Perhaps.
The time I interviewed myself about my depression and my need to escape my “tough rep”:
“Why the tough rep?
Because people respected and liked me. It made me different and gave me power.
Why did I want the power?
So that people would admire me.
Why did I want them to admire me?
So that they would like me.
Why did I want to be popular?
So I could be carefree and funny and rude and straight. [Adult me reading this: um….lol]
How do I feel right now?
What shows that I’m depressed?
Don’t want to work. Sit in my room all day. Don’t participate in family activities. [adult me: I would never be this good at diagnosing my own depression as an adult]
Note: I wasn’t “tough” and my “tough rep” was the result of little more than me no longer fighting the expectations that my peers had for me. I was just a 6 foot tall queer Black girl in a mostly-white school with very little options on how to exist in that space and get any level of approval. But I didn’t really understand that yet.
The fact that I would lecture myself in my diary for being inauthentic in my diary:
“God. Another year with Mr. [redacted]. I’m going to try to get out of his class. No, that’s too fake. I’d only try to get out of it because nobody likes him. You act like a teacher who you might like is a totally awful teacher because others don’t like him or her. Then, when somebody sticks up for the teacher you agree only because you feel totally stupid and cruel. I’m turning fake, like [redacted] and [redacted]. I need to straighten up if I’m going to do good this year.”
I wasn’t very consistent with my diary. There are probably about forty entries over a two year period, and then just a bunch of song lyrics from moody grunge bands that I liked at the time. In the back of the diary are the seven-digit phone numbers of my closest friends (and a few sworn enemies, if you are to believe my diary entries).
There’s not much in there to indicate that I was going to be a writer one day. I was just a teen. A moody teen. A teen obsessed with “authenticity,” who also desperately wanted a boyfriend and yet at the same time had very clearly no sexual interest in boys at the time (but I did write in a fair amount of glowing detail about one of my basketball teammates who had a “really cool” deep voice and “didn’t care what anybody else thought about her” and had a haircut just like Detlef Schremph… so…).
I think that 14 year old me would be absolutely gobsmacked to see where I am now. Somebody actually reads my words! A lot of people! There’s no need to rate boys - they are almost all the worst and their “living habits” really don’t get better with age!! My grades didn’t matter after all! I don’t have to have a tough rep or be straight! I don’t have to be friends with “fake bitches” because I have a car so I can just go somewhere else, and also the internet exists!
Adulthood is a good thing and I’m glad I’m in it.
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