used to have an anti-Superbowl
party when we were in high school. Every year, she'd invite her friends from her visual and performing arts school (and me, the best friend from elementary school who'd gone to the "regular
" high school) over to not watch football
The first such gathering was probably when we were in the tenth grade. I found a picture on an old website recently, me in my Pink Floyd t-shirt. We sat around the table eating peanuts and discussing the lyrics of Teenage Dirtbag by some band named Wheatus.
That's not the party I remember.
The following year, when we were all 16 (and some had already turned 17 by this point), most people fancied themselves different than they had been the year prior. Once again, we were all invited over to not watch the Superbowl, but some of the guys got bored with the rest of our antics and put it on anyway, just in time to see Celine Dion sing God Bless America. The rest of us went upstairs; I wanted to watch an old "star in your own" music video we'd made with some friends a few years earlier. She was mortified, but we laughed at it before heading into her bedroom, where others had gathered and were sitting on her bed.
Reading her diaries.
Now, most people might freak out at this, but she had always prided herself on being inordinately honest with people. Thinking, perhaps, that there was nothing she'd ever written about her friends that they couldn't read, she seemed unmoved. "Go ahead," she said. So they did. Some of them were stunned to find that she'd been so brutally honest when it came to the things she didn't like about them; at one point, she'd vented pent-up frustration with her social life by "grading" each one, listing their pros and cons and what she'd change about them if she could.
Sara, a nice but somewhat hyper girl, had probably done something particularly aggravating when she wrote this particular diary entry, for next to the words "positives," she had written "none."
Everyone does this, of course, and everyone censors themselves when they know others will have access to it. Few people show others their true feelings. Sitting on her floor, I wasn't sure whether she was crazy or just principled.
The girl sitting closest to me handed me the volume -- an older one -- that she'd just finished flipping through, clearly scanning for any reference to her and finding none. Lex looked at me, wide-eyed. "I don't think you should read that one," she said. It was the only disclaimer she issued during the entire process. But I had already opened it and realized that it was her diary from the eighth grade, and I don't know what made me automatically skip to June, but I did.
When she and I were just finishing elementary school, we had ourselves a bit of a dilemma. She wanted desperately to be popular, and the popular kids were not about to let this happen. I was a geek, perfectly comfortable in the social wilderness. For some reason, the popular kids respected that. As one quasi-popular boy once told me, our class functioned using "circles of popularity." The first circle, he explained, was reserved for the exceptionally cool people, the second for people slightly less cool then them, and so on. The fifth circle, he finished, consisted of people who just weren't cool at all.
"So that's where we are?" I asked, not really caring about the answer.
"No," he said. "You two are outside the circle system entirely."
Towards the end of that year, however, these people had caught on to the fact that she wanted to be accepted so badly and that I was much less interested. They sort of turned me into their special project, the nerd they could turn cool if they could only get her to stop talking about Russian history and the Rolling Stones. When we graduated, they invited me to their party. She was, of course, not invited even though it was being hosted by her childhood best friend.
She got mad at me for going and for not running away when they dragged me over to their side of the school yard (yes, the divide was that blatant) during recess on our last day. I went to the party because I'd been invited and I said I'd go, but I sat there awkwardly and balked when they suggested I change into something, well, cooler.
We were friends again by the next day and she was over every day that summer for swimming and bike riding and numerous viewings of Star Wars. Still, that tiny blip in our friendship is one of the only regrets that I have.
Reading about it in her diary, however, made it sound as though I'd personally caused the breakup of her parents' marriage and told every boy in school that she had crabs. I was a traitor and a bitch, she'd written, and she couldn't believe that I could do this to her. I sat there and read, silently, about how the entire thing had been my fault even though we both knew it was a ploy by the cool kids to turn us against each other. On and on it went, and the pages were crisp in parts, as though they'd been wet in spots at one point.
As though a 13-year-old girl -- and a socially awkward one, at that -- is really to blame for just wanting to be liked for one brief, shining moment before accepting that there are more important things in life.
But there were other diary entries about me, too, and while I probably should have understood that there is something cathartic about letting loose and furiously scribbling one's thoughts onto an empty page, I wasn't ready for this. She'd questioned and mocked the guy I liked so much, wondered why I was so averse to trendy clothes and makeup and lambasted me for being so shy.
First, I was awful for not shunning acceptance when it came knocking. Then, once she was with a different crowd and more comfortable in her own skin, I was the nerd who could use a makeover.
I sobbed hysterically.
Meg, who she met in high school but became a friend of mine as well, grabbed me by the shoulders, looked over at her and said "This really wasn't a good idea." I don't remember who else said what, but not one to disregard the lessons of a social experiment such as this, she dug out her then-current diary and told us all to dictate how we felt.
I felt terrible, and I told her so. But given just how hard I was crying, I think she understood me to mean I felt guilty. No, I just felt bad. The only other response I remember was Sarah's: "I guess I wish you'd been able to say one nice thing about me."
When I went home that night I chronicled the event in my diary. It was the one time I can ever remember crying onto a diary entry, though it landed on the previous page and I felt the need to draw an arrow from the stain to the entry. It was strange, that, writing a tear-stained diary entry about having been one.