You know that page-turning series about the trials and tribulations of teenage love? The one that’s not particularly well written, where the main character is whiny, self-centred and not very likeable, and yet you still can’t put the damn thing down?
No, not Twilight, people! I’m talking highschool diaries. My highschool diaries.
Last weekend, I discovered a whole box of them in the shed, marked clearly in my handwriting (“[NDM]’s highschool & uni diaries”) with my husband’s scrawl adding: “+ Rollerblades!”. I should hasten to add the rollerblades were his – as was the exclamation mark – for I do not share his enthusiasm for rollerblading. Oh no, not I.
I randomly picked one up from the box and read the first page:
January 1st 1987
My resolutions for 1987 are:
1. I will do well in my HSC
2. I will have at least two lovers (of over three weeks duration) by December 31st
3. I will no longer be a fool
4. I will keep my room CLEAN
Riveting stuff, right? Before I knew it, I had finished off the whole book and was scrambling around to find the next in the series so I could find out what the hell happened at the Year 12 River Rock and whether or not I got that “fab” skirt off lay-by.
And then finally, three diaries and three hours later, I emerged from 1987, shaken and shocked. And not just because every second sentence seemed to be “I’m shocked!”, for example:
Dad just gave me $80.
I’m shocked and appalled.
I’m also rich.
[Name omitted] told me in Maths he owned ABBA’s “Arrival” but he couldn’t find it. I was shocked. I mean, sure we all have one album we want to avoid – but the fact was HE WAS LOOKING FOR IT.
There were many reasons I was shaken and shocked. For one thing, it’s a hard thing to read the innermost thoughts of your 16 year old self and all the drinking, snogging, pining and whining that went on. Especially when you then realise that your children are way closer to that age than you are. Three words: Shit. A. Brick.
For another thing, how come I won the English prize and couldn’t spell the word “weird” properly? It’s just not right.
But the thing that shocked me most was this: in Diary #3, I read all about this guy who said he’d “liked” me for over a year (in the way that only high school kids “like” each other), who pursued me rather rigorously, who I snogged at a few parties and agonised (over the course of many, many, many pages) whether or not I wanted to be his girlfriend and who was finally deemed to be “way too nice” and dumped unceremoniously.
It was an age-old story (especially when it came to me and “nice boys”) but here’s the rub: I could not remember him. Not his name, not his face. NOTHING. Even when I looked him up in the Year Book, there was nothing about his photo that triggered a single memory. As they say in the classics: Not a sausage.
Of course, I remember the sleazes and the cads of that year. I remember the boy who I oscillated violently between “I love him soooooo much” and “HE’S A SHIT-FACED FUCK-BRAIN”, sometimes within the same entry (Yes, I was as inconsistent as a Type One Vomit, even then). I remembered stealing a bin from one boy’s house, spray painting it gold and leaving it on the lawn of another boy’s house along with the note “I AM GOLD, I AM WILD. I’M YOUR BIN’S LONG LOST CHILD”. I even remember sending one of the school prefects a postcard that “wisely advised” him to “FUCK LIKE A BEAST!” – although, admittedly, I can’t quite remember my reasons for doing so.
But I didn’t remember this boy. Not at all. And it really bothered me.
You see, when I got married, my husband was adamant we shouldn’t have the wedding video-taped. He said that we would remember the things worth remembering. And at the time, I thought he was right.
But now, reading this diary which documented (in excruciating detail) events that happened 23 years ago, I wondered. This boy seemed worth remembering, even just a little bit. Simply because he seemed like a nice person, totally undeserving of being buffeted about by “Cyclone NDM”.
Of course the bitterest pill of all to swallow was reading it all with the knowledge that Cyclone NDM was to rage on for at least another decade before finally becoming the sweet, wafting breeze it is today. (I just read that bit out to my husband who shouted “Ha!” and then muttered darkly under his breath about women with ‘strong personalities’. I’m shocked.)