Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Today I don’t feel so damn good.



7/16/90 

Dear Diary:

          Today I don’t feel so damn good. I’m not suicidal or anything, but I don’t feel so great about myself. I’ve gained weight and I’m not losing it. I’m not even going to say how much I weigh. Today I’m sick. I think I have streeped throat or something. 

          5 shots a day. 35 shots a week. 150 shots a month. 1,800 shots a year.

I had never been skinny, had never been seriously ill. Back in these diary days, I can remember wanting to get just a little bit sick. Just a touch of disease. Just enough to lose a little weight and then, of course, somehow get all better. I know I had these dark nighttime thoughts, secret, shameful chubby girl thoughts. I kept them to myself, I knew that they weren’t right to share. But I bet I’m not the only one to ever think it. Be careful what you wish for I guess.

The summer I turned twenty-five, after I moved back to California after grad school, everything changed. I was unemployed, not quite sure how I was going to pay my rent, and suddenly my body begin to slip away from me. At first it was kind of exciting, I could eat it all, drink all the sugary drinks I wanted, and nothing stuck. Thirsty all the time, and the things I craved were Kool-Aid, iced tea, soda. Pissing away my body, the weight fell off me, getting skinnier than I had ever been. I had baggy jeans and dark circles under my eyes. It got harder and harder to climb the hill back to my studio apartment after sending off yet another cheerful job application. Finally I couldn’t ignore the signs anymore. I knew in that way that I didn’t want to know. All those late night online searches proved to be right. I went to the doctor and confessed, “I think I might be diabetic!” 

I wonder that it took me so long to realize what was happening. It’s been a part of me my whole life. My twin brother has been diabetic since he was a baby, so I grew up with it, seeing my parents give him shots, watching him test his blood sugar, a few scary visits to the hospital when he was little. I can still hear the sound of my mom’s wedding ring clicking against the insulin bottle as she warmed it between her palms.  

A particular hospital visit with my brother holds many things for me, past and present. I think we were five and my mom was in with my brother. I stayed in the waiting room with dad. He must have been so worried, and I didn’t totally understand what was happening because what I remember most is reading books and chocolate. I didn’t get candy as a kid much, but my dad let me get a Three Musketeers bar from the vending machine. Maybe I begged and pleaded, maybe my tired father gave in, I don’t know, but I can still taste that sweet candy, that soft gooey goodness that I decided was one of the most delicious things ever. 
Getting a nice, close shave with my dad!

        In the waiting room with my dad, I unwrapped that sweet chocolate and he put his arms around me and we read together my favorite book, Bread and Jam for Francis. I loved all the Francis books, that feisty badger girl who learned life’s lessons the hard way, but that one was the best. Francis declared she would only eat bread and jam and surprisingly her parents let her, every day, every meal, she eats nothing but bread spread with jam. Every time someone read me that book, I could taste the sweet and tart jam of those sandwiches in the back of my throat, and they always seemed like they too would be one of the best things in the world to eat. That night in the hospital waiting room, I started reading Francis aloud to my dad. It was the first time I remember reading a book to someone and not just having it read to me. I’m sure I had memorized that story from hearing it over and over every bedtime, but still I felt so proud that I could tell the story to my father. I loved how Francis always made up little songs and I laughed when by the end of the book, Francis finally sings, “so softly that Mother and Father could scarcely hear her: What I am - Is tired of jam. So it’s all there, dark and light, worry and happiness, first sugar and first words aloud. 

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Question(ish)

               And so I wonder, how did I become this woman, this lady, this creature I am today? How did I come to be this queer, this writer, this cat momma, this twin sister, this diabetic, this neat freak, this person who loves?

I have these diaries from when I was 12, 13, 14. Those middle times, awkward and still forming, the beginning of the (ish) times. These diaries have moved with me from apartment to apartment, back and forth across the country a few times, and still I’ve kept them on bookshelves and shoved in the back of closets. Have held onto them all these years, haven’t wanted to let go of those words I wrote down, in my really terrible handwriting, so many years ago. I only wrote in them for a little while, but these diaries are artifacts from that most particularly cringeworthy of times.

Like the journals, those years are still with me. I feel them inside me, especially late at night or during those low worrying times. Like I am still that same pudgy, smart girl, who wanted to be both different and popular but didn’t understand any of it. In so many ways, I will always know this girl.

It’s hard to see this younger me in these diaries. The pages practically hum with anxiety, are naked and awful but kind of beautiful too. Reading them again is like opening up my preteen skin, skin that for sure didn’t quite fit.

What’s not in them is interesting too. So much of me was not there yet. I couldn’t see beyond my own freckled nose. It would be years before I would come out as a sugar-free fag, well a sugar-free queer anyway. I did not know then that I was a Future Queer of America, that when I was 25 I would get very sick and discover, just like my twin brother before me, that my pancreas had up and quit on me.  

My brother, my twin, he is not there either. I guess 12 and 13 year old me didn’t want her brother butting in on her deepest secrets? I wonder if this is when we started to lose each other a little, grow apart from the little kids who always had someone to play with?

My queerness, my diabetes, my brother, did not exist for the Laurel of these pages. But they are me, and I suppose are all written deep here.

What?

*Oh, some of the names have been changed.



The First (ish) Diary - I’m kind of nervous but I think I’ll be okay.

       The first diary is a small, cheap little book, with a Chinese fabric cover and the inside pages edged with colored mountains, flowers and suns. On the first page is a note that says “April 1977.  To L. & G. A small plot in which to plant some roots. Love, R.” R. is my uncle, my mom’s brother, and L. and G. are my parents. 1977 is the year I was born, which I have noted next to the date in pencil, “Year I was born.” In April 1977, my mother would have been pregnant with me and my brother, we were born that June, over two months early.
                                                                                   
My dad looks terrified, or just exhausted, maybe both?

         We were tiny little babies. My brother came first. I was turned sideways and wedged in good. 21 minutes and an emergency cesarean later, there I was. It would be many years before I would have any kind of privacy again.

And eight months later my parents were married in all their hippie glory.  

That’s right, I had unmarried hippie parents, which explains a lot actually. But more on that later.


They were pretty cute right?
     But back to the diary. Clearly at some point I decided to make this little book my own, plant my own roots. Underneath my Uncle’s note, I wrote, in very bad cursive, “Laurels book,” and on the inside of the first page it says, “This dairy (I was quite the speller apparently) contains all my thoughts and feeling as I grow older I hope they get better with every year.” I seem to remember that I kept this diary because I had this idea that I would somehow be famous someday and that someone would want to read it. I thought this even as that chubby, awkward kid, that somehow I would make it out of my small town and that someone else would be fascinated by what I had to say.  

Dear Diary,
           
(age 12) Junior High starts in a little while and I’m of nervous but I think I’ll be okay.  I’m getting popular and I think 7th grade is going to be great (may-be)!
         I hate parents, they never want you to grow up. I’m 12 and I can’t go out on a date (as if anybody would ask me). Mom was so mean to me today she said that I should get more exercise because I was a flabbo I think that is so mean.
         More than anything I want to like a great (cute) guy and have him like me back. My parents said I can’t go out on dates but if a guy I really liked asked me out I’d go.
        I’m really getting to hate myself. I’m so fat and I felt like a blue whale when I went shopping the other day. Every body there was way older than me and probably wore a smaller size. People say I’m pretty but I don’t know. I think I’m okay looking but nothing special. If I was pretty people would ask me out how come nobody has? F’s gotten asked out it’s not fair.

        I didn't always feel this way. There was a younger time, a naked time, when I was so comfortable in my little body. There are so many little kid pictures of me bare-assed to the world, wild blond hair a mess of curls. How did I go from that naked little person to a girl who wore bathing suits to shower at camp and changed inside her sleeping bag? It’s the knowing I think, feeling other people’s eyes on me and seeing myself through them. I think discovering that I was a girl, knowing that other people saw me, saw my body, made me feel shame in my own skin. Because I was born to something else.