You Say Tomato …

My husband, the produce expert (left) with recent acquisition
My husband, the produce expert (left) with recent acquisition

My own father – a physician and man of science who spends his days treating critically ill patients at a world-renowned medical center – could not pick a pasta strainer out of a kitchenware line-up and would rather buy a whole new set of unmentionables than figure out how to do laundry. Once and only once did Lew do the grocery shopping when we were little (at the Kings in Garwood). Needless to say, we left with $100 worth of Pringles, Chips Ahoy, Tastykakes, Cookie Crisp cereal and bubble gum-flavored Kissing Potion, a very delicious rollerball lip gloss. Most. Awesome. Supermarket. Trip. Ever.

In short, Lew is a great man who is not such a great help to my mother. As such, I witnessed — on many a childhood weekend — a meltdown during Jan’s Saturday morning cleaning process. I would start to hear angry but unintelligible muttering whilst eating my bowl of Honeycombs. The volume would increase and Jan would start naming random New Jersey countrymen who didn’t get their hands in hot water because they were pritzas.  (Pronounced “preet-zuhs.” I don’t know what this Yiddish word really means, but Jan and Grandma Ethel used it as a derogatory term for  women who were thin, pretty and/or rich). Soon she’d be full-fledged yelling about the lack of help she had around the house, referring to herself as “Tillie the Toiler.”  Meanwhile, “Tillie the Toiler” was actually a smokin’ hot cartoon office worker and part-time model who, according to Wikipedia, had no trouble finding men to escort her around town. Some would argue that Tillie was even a pritza.

The whole thing was most unfortunate.

But I was used to it, and assumed that all households functioned like this. So when Keith and I moved in together, I was shocked to learn I was wrong: not all men drove their wives to faux Tillie the Toilerhood.  If I start emptying the dishwasher, Keith feels guilty and immediately comes to help. Sometimes he even does it before I get out of bed. He also does his own laundry, irons from time to time and assists with fitted sheet folding. And by far the most helpful contribution Keith makes is food shopping. He says he finds it satisfying. I give him a list, he adds to it as needed, then heads to the store and calls me if he has any questions. Rather cutely, he then presents me with the groceries and eagerly waits for me to approve his purchases, which I always do.

Last week, one of the items on the list was iceberg lettuce. When I took it out of the bag, it felt really heavy and was so big I had to clear a shelf in the refrigerator  to accommodate it.  Keith looked very proud. The next eve, I went to prepare our salad. The lettuce was freakishly hard to cut. Its leaves seemed thick and rubbery and as I struggled to get the knife through them, the mysterious scent of Brussels sprouts wafted up to my nose. At first, I attributed the cutting difficulty to a sudden onset palsy that was obviously causing me to lose muscle control. The smell had to be a side effect – didn’t stroke survivors report experiencing strange aro… wait a minute. This wasn’t palsy. This was CABBAGE!

Frick on a leafy green stick.

I jumped away from the counter immediately, afraid that even the slightest contact with it would cause global thermo-gastrointestinal disaster.

Keith apologized profusely, but I told him it was an honest mistake and not to worry. Iceberg and cabbage bear an uncanny resemblance and really, only a seasoned shopper and vegetable-chopper would easily recognize the difference. Frozen green beans to the rescue.

This week, I put zucchini on the list. Keith handed me the bag, which also seemed heavier than it should have. A quick look inside revealed what appeared to be three ginormous … and purple … zucchini. Or, as you might know them, EGGPLANT.

Le sigh.

There would be no roasted zucchini with olive oil and breadcrumbs for dinner that night. I knew Keith would feel terrible if I told him, but I also knew he’d feel bad if I just left the purple “zucchini” I’d requested rotting in the refrigerator. So I did what any good wife would do. I made a lifetime supply of mediocre eggplant parmesan. And baba ganoush. And ratatouille (sans zucchini).

Keith is an amazing husband (especially for letting me make fun of him in this post) and never, ever causes me to refer to myself as Tillie the Toiler or to anyone else as a pritza. But no man is perfect – and clearly, he needs a bit of tutelage in the produce department. Perhaps I am at fault here – perhaps I failed him by not preparing him better for the world of supermarketry.

I am off to enroll him in Edible Vegetation 101.

You Say Tomato …

Some Day Comes

Why yes, that IS Mexican corn from Dos Caminos in the background

For review, please see Sunday’s post.

Greetings from “some day!”

After learning that place-holders would not be allowed at the book signing — i.e., no paying unemployed friends to stand in line so you could sleep late and then roll in at 11 — Rachana realized it didn’t make sense for her to come in from NJ.  Between this, the crack-of-dawn rising, the four+ hours of line-waiting with strangers, and the possibility of crushing disappointment, I really wasn’t sure I could do this anymore. But I kept hearing my dad’s words … Some day … on the street in New York … and I knew I had to try.

Armed with an Olive & Bette tote bag containing non-perishable rations and my finest Duran Duran memorabilia, some with original scotch tape and mauve wallpaper fibers, I headed across town. On 54th Street, nothing looked out of the ordinary — I had been expecting a squatter’s village and tents. That was a good sign. Inside, there was no line to buy the book – “In the Pleasure Groove” (favorably reviewed by the HuffPo, I might add)  – either. Upstairs, a kindly older woman escorted me to the end of the line and told me I was roughly number 40. SCORE! If I could deal with four hours of mind-numbing boredom, I would almost certainly make it to the front of the line.

Very weirdly, the time passed quickly and pleasantly. I made myself comfortable in the aisle where they’d stuck me (Personal Growth). I enjoyed a nice cup of coffee and mediocre bagel, I became BFFs with ladies in front and in back of me, and Barnes & Noble had curated a special Duran Duran soundtrack for the occasion. The camaraderie was incredible! We spelled each other for bathroom breaks. We shared iPhone chargers and Tide pens and hand sanitizer. I killed a stink bug that had waddled out from under “IBS for Dummies,” accidentally spraying one of the other “Duranies.” We passed around our BOP and Tiger Beat and 16 posters. We told stories about the 80s and assessed the various girlfriends of Simon Le Bon and John. We talked about why we loved them and why we still loved them. We talked about our favorite albums and videos and the stupid things we used to think.  We talked about the different times we’d seen them live, what it was like being 12 and how, in some places that shall remain nameless Scotch Plains, a girl was a traitor to Bon Jovi and could get thrown in locker for loving Duran Duran. My modern-day friends cheered me on via Facebook and text message.

You can do eeeet! You can do eeeet!

Exactly at 12:30 we heard the front of the line start screaming and I knew that “some day” had come. Up until that point I had been a mix of excited and sad (about lost youth and how much time had passed since the first time I heard “Rio” on the way to school in 5th grade). As the line moved along, I realized there was a pretty good chance I would puke, pass out, or lose the power of speech. My hands were shaking too hard to take pictures and I tried desperately to think up something hilarious to say to him.

Then I could see him and then I was in front of him! He was gorgeous and smiling and felt like an old friend I hadn’t seen in eons. This is how the conversation I’d dreamed about for 30 years went down:

OMFG OMFG OMFG OMFG

JT: Hi Traci, how are you?

Me: The only thing I can think to say to you right now is ‘Holy Fucking Shit.’

JT laughs

Me talking very fast and trying to squeeze a lifetime of chit-chat into 10 seconds: I have two books for you to sign but I also brought some potentially horrifying stuff from my personal collection I know it’s a little creepy this has been in my family for 30 years it actually hung on my bedroom wall you can see the tape.

JT views the ancient pictures of himself. He actually puts his hand on the faded posters that Rachana and I bought in 1984 at Baron’s in Westfield.

JT: Wow this stuff is like heirlooms!

Me: I apologize for any New Jersey molecules that might have contaminated you.

JT laughs or at least I remember it that way. Then he signs both books, shakes my hand and says it was nice to meet me. I tell him it was SUCH an honor to meet him.

Downstairs, my new friends and I realized we were starving and bordering on hysterical in a totally mature way, so we headed to Dos Caminos for sangria and guacamole. Then, we parted ways and I returned to the “Ordinary World,” running errands on the rest of my day off and wondering what Keith would want for dinner. Nothing had changed, except that it kind of had.

And now I’m thinking about a conversation between me and my 12-year-old self. I know what she would say and ask. She would want to know if she gets married to someone nice and cute (she does); if she ever gets her braces off (she does, but could use another round); if she will always be friends with Rachana (she will); if she moves to New York (she does); and if she’ll barf at her bat mitzvah (she won’t). She will be impressed that she eats sushi and drinks sangria! She will love finding out that a Gear bag is in her near future. And now of course, I can tell her when she asks that some day, on the street in New York, her dream will come true.

Some Day Comes

Ordinary World

From the private collection of me.
Note that John Taylor is a total fox.

It was the spring of 1984. I was 12, the clothes were Esprit, the hair was bi-leveled, and the night was sultry. (Or maybe it wasn’t. I was in the basement watching Suburban Cablevision for most of it, so I can’t say for sure.) John Taylor, Simon Le Bon and the rest of Duran Duran were the reigning MTV Friday Night Video Champions. It was during this reign that my middle school bestie Rachana and I became obsessed with the band Tiger Beat and BOP used to call “The Fab 5.” Ours was to be  an unrequited love story that would span three pathetic decades and media from vinyl to cassettes and CDs to iPhones. Chuckle away. But you will never convince me that “Rio” isn’t one of the greatest masterpieces of all time.

A few years in, Duran Duran paid a visit to Z-100 and listeners were invited to call in with questions. What this really meant, if you were lucky enough to get through, was that for a few seconds, John Taylor and Simon Le Bon would know you existed.  So I redialed and redialed and redialed and got only a busy signal. I was devastated. Trying to console me, Lew said, “You never know. One day, you could just be walking down the street in New York and bump right into them…” And it is those words — that tiny possibility  — that still gets me through my darkest days.  I don’t know why, but I never got over this obsession. They are my first loves. They taught me nothing I know about eyeliner. And when you have loved something as long as I’ve loved them, even without a shred of personal contact, they kind of become part of your psyche.

Cut to 2012. Rachana and I are 40. The clothes are J. Brand, the hair is flat-ironed, and the night might or might not be sultry. But it doesn’t matter, because John Taylor is signing copies of his new memoir in the city on October 16th.  Dressed in our finest skinny jeans, uber-stylie fall tops and shiny new booties, Rachana and I planned to hit the bookstore, experience the nirvana that is John Taylor, capture the whole thing on our iPhones, then enjoy a delightful ladies’ lunch as we analyzed our interactions

For some reason, I pictured this going down at the famed Fifth Avenue bookstore Rizzoli. Rizzoli hasn’t actually been on Fifth Avenue since 1985, and the book signing is really taking place at a non-descript Barnes and Noble in a midly depressing part of town. Tuesday is also supposed to be way too warm for booties. I might have to meet John Taylor in … GASP … ballet flats. Since my other long-running friend, Nicole, lives in Germany, she’s obviously not coming. That feels wrong. Then came the big blow. The signing starts at 12:30. The store is opening at the inhuman hour of 7 am to accommodate the massive line of screaming ninnies expected to show up. Most likely, I was told, those who arrive much later than 7 will never make it to the front of the line. This seemed like the gods of childhood dreams playing a cruel trick on me. Really?! I had to choose between sleep – my most beloved body function – and JOHN TAYLOR? REALLY?! Thankfully, this disaster was averted when Nicole’s sister Rebecca suggested I pay someone to hold our spots in line. I hadn’t known this was a thing, but apparently opera fans do it all the time for tickets. Brilliant!

Yet with so many of the details unraveling, I started to question the whole thing. Assuming we even make it to the front of the line, it will take him two seconds to sign his name. Photos might not even be allowed, and if they are, I’m entirely confident I’ll look grotesque and cross-eyed in mine. There is no possible combination of words we could conjure to leave any kind of impression in that situation. He probably won’t even look up.

But what really concerns me is the end of the fantasy. What if he’s a total douche bag? What if he looks like a sad, washed up Happy Ending Sundae Story? I don’t want to meet that version of him. I want to meet him in 1984. I am so used to looking forward to this – how will I feel when I have to look back instead? When the thing I’ve waited for all these years has happened, will I be happy about it? Is it better to have the hope than the memory? Is this a really bad idea?

Maybe. But fuck it. We’re meeting John Taylor on Tuesday!!!

Ordinary World

40 Going on 14

Horrible hooves

You may say otherwise, but it’s true. I’m a shallow person with the emotional IQ of a middle schooler. Since I can’t go to confession, I am going to use the blogosphere to admit my childish behavior.

The feet you see in the photograph above were ‘cured and painted with the new OPI shade “Red Lights Ahead … Where?” on Sunday.  When I arrived at the nail salon, I was escorted to the pedicure chairs and seated next to a very pretty girl who looked roughly my age. She was dressed in expensive workout clothes that revealed her flawless physique, and it was obvious to me that she had been one of  the popular girls  in her youth. In other words, the tell-tale scent of Eau de Bitchay radiated from her pores.

She was choosing between two pepto bismol pink shades. At first glance, both were hideous, but the idea that the pretty, popular girl liked them made me question my initial assessment. Should I be getting pepto pink too? Was THAT where I’d gone wrong in life?! Would it look creepy and weird if I too just “happened” to be getting that color? Just then my nail lady stabbed my badly picked pinky toe cuticle and I winced in painful silence. I certainly didn’t need Popular Girl glancing over and seeing the gruesome self-inflicted wound. Surely she had never experienced a day of malaise or panic in her whole popular life, and thus, had no malaise- or panic-sparked habits to hide.  I bet her parents bought her a car when she turned 17, and I bet she had no trouble taper-rolling her stonewashed jea…

I slapped myself mentally. For the love of god you freak, you’re turning 40 in two weeks. You’re not sitting at lunch tables in the multi-purpose room anymore! 

But in a way, I will always be sitting at the lunch tables in the multi-purpose room.

In walked a very peppy, tall and extremely large-boned girl with a strong mid-western accent and an exceptionally loud voice, yapping on her cell phone. She sat down next to Popular Girl and me.  Excerpts from the conversation she was having:

Debbie, he invited you to SEDER. Of course you have to try gefilte fish! He invited you to SEDER! [For those unfamiliar with the term “seder,” please see Wikipedia. For those unfamiliar with “gefilte fish,” please consider yourselves fortunate. Or read about its royal grossness here.]

Do I like gefilte fish? I mean it’s not my FAVORITE thing but I’ll eat it. 

Debbie! You NEED to eat more foods. You can’t eat pasta all the time. No one will marry you if you don’t eat more sophisticated things.

You tried it?! You tried GEFILTE FISH?  Oh Debbie I am just so proud of you! I am SO proud of you! I mean he invited you to SEDER, of course you had to.

Now, it’s hard to imagine that anyone seeking a  little R&R wouldn’t find this conversation a smidge grating. I certainly wanted to smack Debbie’s friend upside her head and possibly drown her in the lavender-scented water. But at some point during almost every pedicure I’ve had, someone in the salon has taken or made an audible cell phone call.  If you want complete and utter silence, you go to a  real spa — not the neighborhood nail joint. It’s annoying, but it’s something I accept. Additionally, Debbie’s friend was so awkward and clueless that I felt a little sorry for her. She was probably a lot nicer than Popular Girl in middle school — she was probably the kind of person who would have sat at MY lunch table.

Popular Girl was not taking it as calmly as I was. I could hear her repeatedly saying “Uch” with the kind of absolute repulsion I imagined all the SPIFFY High cheerleaders felt for me. Then she mixed in a few snide comments and some seriously dirty looks, all of which went unnoticed by Debbie’s oblivious friend. Popular Girl’s nail lady told Popular Girl to sit back and relax. Popular Girl said she couldn’t possibly relax with THAT in the background.

Then Popular Girl addressed ME.

“Can you believe this?”

I was paralyzed. What should I say?! What would make me sound cool?! Or wait…Shouldn’t I stand up for Debbie’s friend? Didn’t all former looz-airs have an obligation to support one another?

Maybe, but fuck it. I had a chance to get in.

I sold her out and said to Popular Girl, loudly, “It is SO annoying.”

I guess that was an acceptable repsonse, because Popular Girl offered me her magazines as she got up. And for a fleeting second I felt like it was 1989 and I’d been invited to the cool kids’ party. Then I felt bad about shafting Debbie’s friend. Then Popular Girl’s phone rang. It was her boyfriend or husband and she spoke to him at the top of her lungs, in a tone so mean I didn’t understand why any man would stay with her. I looked to my right and saw Debbie’s friend now quietly reading her book, not rolling her eyes, not cursing under her breath.  I wanted to ask her what she was reading and/or pet her sympathetically.

But I didn’t. I let my nail lady paint my toes a bright coral Jan didn’t approve of and hoped I would get to dry next to Popular Girl.

40 Going on 14

Pins & Needles

Chrismukkah Bush, 2011: Dancing Snoopy is visible in the foreground

In the 70s, “they” used to say that kids who were completely forbidden from eating junk food ended up becoming the equivalent of cookie crack heads when left to their own devices later on. I was not forbidden from eating junk food but ended up becoming the equivalent of a cookie crack head anyway. And in today’s day and age I’m sure “they” no longer say that. My point is, growing up Jewish in my town meant growing up with Christmas tree envy. Sure, we had menorahs and mezzuzahs and clear, golden plastic dreidels filled with gelt.  But they didn’t cut the deli mustard.

Christmas trees just never struck me as religion-specific. Their German appellation — tannenbaum — is, after all, a common Jewish last name, is it not? To me, they simply symbolized the good side of winter, an impending 10 days off from school, the festive mood of the holidays, and most important, being like everyone else. The smell, the tinsel, the lights, the colorful balls, the popcorn strings, the personal significance of each little ornament … they were the most beautiful home accessory I could imagine. I fantasized for years about what kind of tree I would get in the unlikely event Jews ever started getting Christmas trees. And it was always the tackiest, most over the top tree — white plastic with shiny silver garlands, blue spruce, sparkly orbs, blinking bulbs, battery-operated ornaments out of which came dancing Snoopy … in short, I was a Christmas tree crack head.

So it was kind of a dream come true when I married someone of Italian descent and at long last had justification for securing an actual Christmas tree. (Of course, plagued by Jewish guilt, I remain compelled to refer to them as “Chrismukkah bushes.”) And as it turned out, the tree selection tradition in Keith’s family was just as I always imagined such an activity would be. On the crisp Saturday morning after Thanksgiving, everyone caravans to an idyllic-sounding tree farm in western New Jersey. We partake in mediocre free coffee and cider, plus homemade donuts and cookies, and we walk the land. Afterwards, we return to my MIL and FIL’s house to make turkey sandwiches on white bread. This year, it happened to be 65 degrees, my nephew peed in his pants and my niece was painfully constipated, but that just added to the charm.

There was so much for a Jewish girl to learn! I’d never realized that not all trees were created equal — I’d thought, ignorantly, that the choice was merely real or fake. Blue spruce had a lovely color but painfully prickly needles, for instance, while Balsam fir gave off that iconic piney smell.  And who knew?! You actually had to water the trees! Tinsel was a nightmare, as it shed out of control and left its DNA in random places until Memorial Day. Getting a tree topper to stay on? Not so easy. Those balls I had so admired as a girl? They broke if you breathed on them. (Perhaps this is not the case if you buy them somewhere other than Target.) Also new to me? The idea of bases and skirts, available in different sizes to accommodate whatever type of tree you had.

Selecting ornaments, however, was pure joy and came easy to me. I found the strength to resist my own tacky taste (sort of). I pinpointed a plethora of interfaithy options, including my personal favorite, a ceramic disc featuring Santa Claus, a Hassidic rabbi and the text “Oy to the World.” Kiki brought us a Jonathan Adler piece sign. Katy imported a Latvian doggie. We have crystal doves, sparkle snowflakes, silver pine cones and, I am proud to say,  a battery-operated dog house out of which comes dancing Snoopy.

But with the joy of the Chrismukkah bush comes the darker, more sinister side as well: the de-ornamentation and the removal of the dying icon. Keith was more than willing to assist in this process, but I felt, as a rite of marital passage, that I had to go through it alone. Last eve, while Keith attended a spin class, I forlornly packed up the aforementioned ornaments and called “The Guy” downstairs in our lobby who had said he would come fetch the tree carcass. When he arrived, he asked me if I wanted to keep the base.

Um … er … are bases disposable?! Do most people keep them?

“The Guy” looked at me like I was insane, which prompted me to explain that I was Jewish and thus dense, which prompted him to look at me like I was insane. It seemed to me that the base might be reusable, so I told him I wanted to keep it. Unfortunately, that meant someone had to actually separate it from the tree. Fortunately, it was pretty obvious that someone wasn’t going to be 5′, 100-lb me.

The Guy spent several minutes trying to dislodge the tree trunk, to no avail. Then I suggested he drag the tree in the base out to the cart and remove the base while the tree was upside down. The Guy agreed this was wise. What he’d neglected to ask – and what I’d neglected to think about – was that the base was still full of needly water. So, as the tree fell into the cart, the hallway got an unplanned bath. I felt terrible and did the first thing I could think of: I got my wet/dry Dust Buster and handed it to The Guy. The Guy looked at the size of the wet spot and then at the size of the vacuum and laughed. That seemed mean, but I tipped him nonetheless.

I felt like a very bad neighbor and, quite frankly, a moron. I had no choice but to wonder if maybe the genetic lack of handiness that afflicts my people is the very reason we do not have Hanukkah trees. There was only one place I could seek solace. I went to the plastic box in which I’d stored all the precious ornaments and pulled out the battery-operated dog house to see Snoopy dance one last time until next year.

Pins & Needles

Haiku for the Plains

Long road home, or road to nowhere?

Another post inspired by Mama Kat’s Pretty Much World Famous Writer’s Workshop. Many thanks, Mama Kat, for the inspiration.   

Its name will fool you
Luring you off the highway
Sounding like idyll

Old school bakery
Corner Store that does not change
Ferris wheel of fame

An author lived here
She once asked, “Are you there, God?”
And a Smithereen

An Olympic champ
Guy who wrote “Can’t Buy Me Love”
And a baseball pro

But really, not much
Between it and any ‘burb
Except that it’s mine

Strangers now reside
In the house where I grew up
My keys do not work

But I can still smell
Nineteen-Seventy-Six Sears
And ah … Fruit Stripe gum

I still feel the itch
Of lumpy, greasy pigtails
Courtesy of Lew

The horror of lunch
Haunts me to this very day
But hello, last bell

I am both repulsed
And strangely intrigued by it
Home, bittersweet home

 

Haiku for the Plains

90 + 11 = 90?

The other day, a friend and I were analyzing the strange behavior of another girl we know. We came to the conclusion that this individual possesses absolutely no ability to grow as a person. At first I felt very smug about our assessment. Then, suddenly struck by a relapse of anxiety symptoms, I started to wonder whether I myself had the ability to grow as a person. After years of therapy and self-loathing, I feel better about myself than I ever did … but how much is that saying? I decided to investigate. And that meant picking up the journals I kept meticulously in high school.

A few things that struck me instantly:

  • My childhood bedroom obviously reeked of guinea pig chips
  • I had the handwriting of a lunatic
  • I ate a lot of candy
  • My flair for the melodramatic was truly unparalleled – clearly taking inspiration from the ABC After-School special and too many young adult novels

I thought you might appreciate some excerpts from these journals, written roughly this week in 1990 – my senior year of high school (class president: my husband). Please note that the views of 17-year-old me do not necessarily reflect the views of 38-year-old me.

4/2/90: Did I mention I got into Brandeis? Notice how thrilled I am. I am crazy, I know, to be miserable after getting into all five schools, but Washington is screaming for me. [This is where my high school boyfriend, B, was going to college.] I envy B because I know he will make it one day. Most people like B a lot more than my parents – they make him nervous. They make me nervous. They ARE nervous. Today was the first day of the last marking period I will ever spend in high school. We picked our gym classes 1st period – I got tennis and frisbee. Taxi driver killer LC is back in school – and guess when she has gym? [Please Google for more info – I don’t feel safe providing it.] I’m still thinking about that movie “Threads” and nuclear war. Today had no characteristic trait. It will blend into my memory and I will never know the difference between it and any other day. It sucked.

4/3/90: A [unrequited love of my high school life] looked so sad today. I asked how he was and he said “mediocre.” I asked if there was anything I could do and for a second, he looked like maybe there was [I can assure you the thing I could do was to shut the fork up], but he shook his head. On his way out of class he stopped at my desk and stared down at me with a weird look on his face. [I can assure you the weird look was his way of saying, “For the love of GOD you freak, stop writing about me in your guinea pig-scented diary.”] Being nice gets you nowhere except shit on, life is shit. The people who are vicious and cruel are a lot happier. B read me 25 characteristics of a disorder termed “anxious-neurotic.” I fit every single one. Nicole and Bob came over. Bob and I hate half a pint of Heath Bar Crunch. I feel sick.

4/6/90: Yesterday we signed in late to miss two gaywad senior assemblies [CRINGE! DOUBLE CRINGE! And note that the emcee at both asssemblies was … my husband.] Mr. O [menacing vice-principal] saw us come in and bawled us out. Like we were the only seniors who did it. Like I ever did ANYTHING wrong. Nicole and Jay weren’t in school today – they were down at Rutgers DJing. There is this thing called Derby Days Bob’s fraternity is involved in. It’s a fundraiser with sorority help. Sam, Jess and I went to Bridgewater [mall that opened circa 1989 with awe-inspiring food court]. Sam tried on this gorgeous peach prom dress – oh she looked so beautiful.

4/8/90: If only “if only” could alter the world. Sam and I had sundaes at Friendly’s, then went to the A&P for popcorn, Pringles, and dip [no, sadly, we were NOT stoned] and came back here and watched “When Harry Met Sally” again, my 8th time. Jamie had her friends over, they were being so loud and Sam told them to shut up. Tomorrow I’ll be lectured. Mom, Jamie and I had lunch at the Diet Works, and looked at some prom dresses at Doris Amster, pure tack. I did get 3 Cadbury Creme Eggs at Walgreen’s. I was thinking it would be so fantastic to keep a journal in college – can you imagine how priceless that would be years later [literally price-less]? I feel doomed – every time I do something I think it’s the last time I’ll ever do it. I can’t stop wondering if I’ll be okay, and not just okay, but happy? How hard will it be to get that way? I wonder if people outgrow neurosis? [Ha!] I can’t see it getting any better, only worse.

4/9/90: I really hate Passover. I know this is sacreligious [sic], but the seder drives me crazy. I believe in God, but I have my own image of God [impressive]. Some of these rituals are so silly. And who are we to say we are the chosen people? I feel so lonely. I wish I had a car. I have this new song onbsession. It’s called “Cigarette” by the Smithereens. Their lead singer is from Scotch Plains. The town was actually mentioned in Rolling Stone once . [This September, I heard the once-famous lead singer perform at the annual Italian Festival in the parking lot of St. Bart’s, but had to leave in haste due to an irritable bowel episode.]

4/13/90: This has been a miserable week. It all started Tuesday morning. Grandma is in the hospital. She was going to drop Jamie and D off in Westfield, then go home and pick up a few things. I was really rude to her. She kept nagging me to come with her and have lunch with her but I blew her off so she left, and she was gone a long time. I thought she was sulking at home and waiting for one of us to call and beg her to come back (she did that on July 4th). Usually when someone’s late I start to have scary thoughts, but this time I didn’t. In the middle of “General Hospital,” she called and said not to get excited, but she’d blacked out and had an accident and was in the hospital, Overlook. I got hysterical – I cried so hard – just the way she said it, and I kept picturing the accident, this old lady all by herself, she must have been so scared, and she kept saying thank god I didn’t go with her. I felt guilty somehow, like somehow I could have done something if I’d been there, and I felt guilty for being so mean – I kept crying, I didn’t know what to do. She said she was fine but that they didn’t know why she blacked out [this was probably an early and unrecognized sign of the problems that started to plague her four years later], and her chest was bruised from the steering wheel. I kept crying. I called my father’s office but the service answered so then I paged him. I was crying so hard he thought I was Jamie. That night we went to see her. There was no room available, so she was in the emergency room. Her clothes were all smushed into this little silver basket on the bottom of the bed. Her coat. Her Reeboks. When we left I didn’t know what to do. I wanted to stay with her. B thinks he is smarter than me [he isn’t]. He said I wouldn’t have gotten in to Penn [probably not, thanks to my stellar test-taking abilities]. Even while I knew that, it still sounded like an insult [uh … maybe because it WAS?]. It’s 2 weeks and six days til my 18th birthday and I must figure out a way to let A know. These are such troubled times. I wonder if I’ll ever feel okay again.

In closing:

  • I am much funnier now – does that count as personal growth?
  • Given the amount of junk food I ate then and continue to eat now (although after 35, I had to draw the line at Pringles), it’s a huge miracle I didn’t experience MORE personal growth
  • I made a lot of mistakes.
  • I could not write to save my life.
  • These are always troubled times.
  • I actually do feel okay.

Have I grown? I’ll leave that to the people who knew me when!

90 + 11 = 90?