Diaries: Firsts

The beginning of my teen years. Romance gets less vague, but no less confusing. I become obsessed with the size of my person. And there are firsts.

1/1/1981  Well, the first day of 1981, and it’s a great one. I spent the whole day watching football. The Cotton and Rose Bowls. A few days ago I went on my first date. It was with T.M. We saw a movie and that was it. It was fun, even though I felt funny. I knocked at the door and L. answered and said she wasn’t expecting me. When I told her T. called she stood as if paralyzed, it was funny. Today marks the first day of starting the Pritikin Diet. I think it’s going to be fun. I met Rob, he’s lots of fun and I really like him. Bye-bye!

My first date was with the older brother of a friend of mine. I was just thirteen. A couple of months before the first date, but unremarked on in any diary, was the first time a boy told me he thought I was beautiful. It was T.M. I was sitting at their kitchen table with my friend, L., and he walked into the kitchen, leaned over so his face was level with mine, and blurted it out. I made a snarky comment in return, and he replied, “No, really.” I was that squirmy little mix of embarrassed, pleased, and confused about how to proceed so I brushed it off again. It wasn’t the best timing, but it was a big deal to me.

That same week, I happened to read an advice column in Seventeen magazine about the importance of accepting compliments — that it’s rude to the complimenter to disagree with them. Which made sense. T. wouldn’t have said that to me in front of his sister if he didn’t mean it. I decided to always accept compliments, and, in general, I have. I might deflect a little bit, depending on what’s said, but a compliment is a lovely thing, and “thank you” is easy to say. Not as easy is believing the compliment.

I do still remember L.’s reaction to seeing me at the door for her brother. Uncomfortable. I also remember wearing light blue eyeshadow and mascara that smudged under my eyes by the time I got across town to their house. I scrubbed it away while I waited for my friend to fetch him. Why I was the one who had to take subway and streetcar to his house when he was the one who invited me, I don’t know, although I suspect it had something to do with wanting to avoid alerting any member of my family to the happening of this date. Did I even tell my mother? I could easily have said I was going to a movie with L.

I also don’t know which movie we saw, but here are a few possibilities: Nine to Five, Seems Like Old Times (with Chevy Chase, Goldie Hawn, Charles Grodin), or Popeye (with Robin Williams). I saw each of these in theatres, and on January 4, I note that I saw Seems Like Old Times for the second time.

The comment about the Pritikin Diet is a sign of my family’s times. My father had been diagnosed with high cholesterol, and his father had died a few years before this of a heart attack, so he became part of the clinical trials for statins and we went on the Pritikin diet. This is also the first of  a depressing number of comments about diets and fatness in my diaries.

1/2/1981  I went to Esther’s house and helped her babysit N. He’s so easy to babysit. Esther and I made a chocolate cake with really thick choc. icing. We also ate chocolate syrup. That’s called cheating on the diet. It was freezing cold. I had dinner at Est’s. It’s not pleasant. Esther and K. acted up and were sent to their rooms. That’s why I went home directly after dinner. Bye-bye.

My cousin Esther was only 39 days younger than me, and we spent a lot of time together as kids. It pains me how much of our lives and energy we wasted feeling fat and then researching and going on ever more insane diets. Once, at the cottage, we decided we’d only eat 500 calories a day for the whole week and exercise every day. The first day, we walked for miles and miles, stopping only to suck on some bitter crab apples, which we debated because of the unplanned calories. When we got back to the cottage, legs shaking, her brother was eating liverwurst on saltines. In reaction to the ridiculous deprivation, we gorged ourselves.

There was nothing wrong with how either of us looked. I wish I could’ve seen myself accurately, but that belief that if only I were a leeetle bit thinner, things would be better won’t entirely leave me, even now. My rational brain knows the facts and likes the size I am now, likes the things my body can still do, but a little dark corner of my brain makes me compare myself to the itty-bitty women at the gym and tells me I’m enormous. Which is no more ridiculous now than it was when I was 13.

Some firsts are good, some not so good. Anyone else want to share?