August 7, 2001

A New Topic


This is the beginning of a departure for me and this journal.
(Not departure as in goodbye, PERISH the thought.. but departure from the norm, such as it is.)

When I started this website, I placed certain parts of my life off limits; particularly, my marriage/love life.
But much is revealed by what is not said and I'm sure it's no surprise that things aren't all hearts and flowers here.
I've come to a point, with my sons almost grown and my extended family almost non-existent, where I can see the fork in the road approaching. The closer it gets, the more the number of potential paths multiplies; it's exhilarating but also terrifying.

Over the last two years I've become accustomed to working things out in this journal and I need to do it this way again. It might be (not might be, it IS) injudicious; I'm nowhere near as anonymous as I'd like to be anymore (through nobody's fault but my own.. it just evolved that way) and I expect my brother-in-law and some local friends to find this thing at any time.

I considered starting a second, anonymous journal. It just didn't happen; partly due to laziness and partly due to concern over what that might do to this one. This has been my baby for over two years and it's worked out better than I'd ever have dreamed.

I need to do this; I need to examine parts of my past and present and I need to take the risk of doing it here. Any consequences can fall where they may. (mixed metaphor!)

So I'll start off slow and ease into things: this is this evening's ramble about my early to mid-teen years.


I was twelve when I first noticed boys. ( I guess we hit puberty a bit later in those days.) I was in grade 7 and my first crush was the boy across the street, who also sat in front of me in class.

This infatuation, sadly unrequited (what do you want from a pre-pubertal twelve year old boy!) lasted a few months; I have no idea what became of him - the family moved away long before we graduated high school. He probably grew a beard, stopped bathing, and went to live in a communal sheep farm / music studio in B.C. like so many of my generation. After which he moved to Toronto and became a stockbroker.

It's never easy being twelve no matter what times you live in. Society is supposedly more open today (my son knows the cycles of most of his female classmates!) but girls are under at least as much pressure to conform to some arbitrary ideal, physically, emotionally, and morally.

In 1963 the Beatles were about to hit; Cher with her impossible hair was soon to be the gold standard (and still is, due to the wonders of cosmetic surgery); and I thought I was fat, ugly and awkward.

Over the next few years I dieted - without my mother's cooperation. I don't even want to speculate as to why she didn't want me to slim down.
(I wasn't really obese at the time, just a bit chubby.)
I grew my hair - without my mother's cooperation. She wouldn't let me iron it as many girls did; while I probably would have allowed it in her place, that's not high up on my list of resentments.

Clothes were a bigger battle, especially skirt lengths. I became very adept at rolling up the waistband and hunching over when the length-above-the-knee checks were done at school. (Four inches was the maximum.)

I wore contact lenses; for this my mother not only cooperated but took the initiative. She found a doctor who gave them to me at thirteen, when the standard age at that time was sixteen.

I wonder why it was ok to be fat but not ok to wear glasses.

I really thought I was the only awkward one. Everyone else seemed self-assured, charming, witty, and surrounded by boys. I spent way too much time in my room with my radio and records, mooning over Paul McCartney. To this day I still have a major crush on him.

I didn't date much until age sixteen, when, for no apparent reason, Peter asked me to... something, I forget what but it was some kind of Jewish youth organization thing. Thinking back, Peter was probably the male equivalent of me - an only child of older, doting parents, chubby, bright, and not at all taken seriously by the other kids. He carried it off better - he was more outgoing with his sense of humour. He was one of the few that was friendly toward me for all the years of high school but I never thought of him as dating material.

The evening was fun (I think - sometimes not remembering much is a good sign.) The reason for it became apparent when he called a week or two later and asked me to the prom. I hadn't given the prom much thought, assuming that I'd be left out of that (in those days you did NOT attend without a date) so I was thrilled to have been invited.

The prom came and went; Peter and I saw each other a few more times that summer; it was fun. It fizzled out in the fall soon after we began college; I found out years later that my "best friend" had told him some lies about me.
I still don't know what those lies were.
She didn't want him for herself, not at all. She just couldn't stand it that I had a boyfriend and she didn't.

She ended up marrying much sooner than I did; she found herself a medical student and eventually wound up in Ohio.
Peter became a doctor and (the last I heard) lives in Toronto.

There's nothing very remarkable about the above; what strikes me hardest, looking back, was the importance in my mind of having a boyfriend, or failing that, a hopeless infatuation. I can't entirely blame it on the times - it went beyond the effect that growing up in the fifties and reading teen magazines should have had.
I felt that I needed a male companion to be validated as a girl.
Sort of like a trophy.
Yeah, it works both ways.
But more important, I needed the validation for myself, more so than for my imagined status in society.

I had no idea of my self-worth. I don't think the concept even existed for me.
As usual, I blame my mother for that.
She never failed to tell me how pretty and smart and worthwhile I was; but her actions and attitude said otherwise.
I didn't realize until thirty years later that undermining my self-confidence and sense of independence was a control thing. I took everything at face value, and unfortunately, went on to follow a similar pattern with some of the men in my life.

...to be continued?

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