Each Thursday, your Crap Archivist brings you the finest in forgotten and bewildering crap culled from basements, thrift stores, estate sales and flea markets. I do this for one reason: Knowledge is power.
Author: Teen diarist Terri
Discovered at: Unsorted box buried deep in an estate-sale basement
The Cover Promises: “1/2 Frosh Year + Soph Summer”
Your Crap Archivist admits that he has on occasion picked through the private journals of young girls. That said, my privacy-invading has never before sunk me as low as it did a couple weeks back when, on my knees in a mildewed basement, I found myself jimmying the lock of a Catholic school girl’s diary. Turns out, Jimmying isn’t my thing. The lock popped off, and this chilling message greeted me from inside the diary’s cover:
“No one if I can help it will never flip through the preceding pages.”
The author continues in this vein:
“I will never quote what is in the preceding pages to anyone NEVER.”
And then addresses me directly.
Sadly, all her pity, pleading, and name-calling isn’t enough to stop your Crap Archivist.
I skimmed through her account of a languorous, snowed-in Christmas vacation (“I did nothing these last 2 weeks but eat, sleep and watch TV”) to reach the back-to-school romantic drama, where I quickly found the kind of gold that only turns up in young girls’ diaries:
“Kathleen yesterday started liking a dwarf named Jeff. Jeff is a frosh.”
With that, I vowed to post monthly updates tracking Terri”s 1972. My justification: Terri’s private thoughts connect us directly to that confused, intense time when you could just out-of-the-blue start “liking” someone . . . and when that liking was a terrible, thrilling secret.
Terri, too, has a crush, one she’s harbored for two years on a boy from another school who she sees at basketball games. On January 12, it at last brings her bliss:
“I called up Patti to tell her I was sick but I by mistake called up Michelle. She said that she asked Mark if he liked me and he did for sure. All my worries are over now I start to daydream.”
But that same day those dreams are dashed!
“Kathleen she said in algebra she asked Mark if he liked me, he said no. I am worrying again.”
On and on this goes.
“I am still wondering if Mark like me or if he didn’t until I called Michelle. That morning she had asked him if he meant what he said to Katheleen, he said he didn’t mean it and that he liked me. My worrying is over again.”
Inconstant Mark! His school happened to be holding a mixer the following Tuesday – a mixer barred to “outside students.” Terri’s solution:
“Asked Michelle who I called to watch what Mark does. He has not been at the Fri. game or the Sat. game.”
She adds, “Having steaks tonight.”
As always, youthful romance involves surrogates, spies, and absolutely no direct communication between the budding lovers themselves. Whatever Michelle might have reported, Terri keeps to herself, as her next few entries concern events even more important than this love that dare not make eye-contact.
On Monday, January 17, she writes:
“Today nothing happened but it is the last evening the family will spend with mom for the next week. Mom tried to help me with a dum religion assignment.”
Terri’s mother underwent surgery after the doctors discovered what Terri calls “a thyroid.”
Tuesday, January 18:
“Today at 1:00 o’clock mom will go into the hospital. When I get home from school I came upstairs and found that mom had bought both me and B. blankets. She also bought me five pocket notebooks because she knew that I needed them. I sure will miss mom.”
Wednesday’s entry details visiting mom, but on Thursday controversy disrupts the reflective mood. After Terri announcing that she’s gone on Weight Watchers, Terri recounts the new year’s biggest blow-up, a fight with Patti so epic that its telling demands two diary pages and three extra pieces of notebook paper, all carefully stapled in. At issue:
1.Patti’s including Terri’s friend Allegra on “A list of all the queers I know”
2.Whether or not Patti truly wants Terri to attend a screening of Bless the Beasts and Children, the animal-rights snuff film starring Bill “Will Robinson” Mumy
Invitations are the basis of much conflict for Terri. Early that January, she had fretted for a page over the persistent rumor that she had invited herself to join a trick-or-treating or party.
The Patti fight shakes up T. so much that her diet goes “haywire” and she skips the next eleven days’ worth of entries. What event could possibly matter enough to get her writing again?
Saturday, January 29. The scene: a high school basketball game.
“Everyone was there, including Mark. That game was the worst game I ever went to. Mark just ignored me all that night. I went home with Susan and Janell because Susan was going to change into her jeans because she was not going to get any points for the pep club outfit. Came back at half time and mark was talking to the group, said hi, and just kinda took a drink from his Coke and walked away.
He makes me mad.”
And then Monday, January 31, it ends:
“Asked Leah how Mark was and she said she asked him if he liked me and he said not anymore.”
Or does it? Relish January’s final line:
“Michelle asked Holler and Hollerm said he does but does not want anyone to know about it.”
Also, somewhere in there her mother returns home. I think. Terri doesn’t bother mentioning this.
Terri’s life brims over with incident. On New Year’s day, she wins her first game of Clue. A couple weeks later, she racks up $3.50 for baby-sitting six hours on a Saturday night. In her copper cooling class, she makes “a bee dancing under sun standing by two flowers.”
She goes shopping:
“I finally got some Breck Basic, it makes my hair look real nice.”
“I bought me some rubber bands, a root beer and candy. Leah bought a Valentine card for Jack and a Coke. She wondered if she will break up with Jack before Valentine’s Day. We both split a piece of fudge and one order of french fries.”
She’s a little much:
“Called Michelle. She said my voice was sweet sounding and I wasn’t yelling like I usually was.”
She charts the cultural highlights of 1972:
Wistful at the end of her winter break, Terri considers a truth most of us don’t arrive at until much older: the relativity of the human experience of time itself.
“It has been fun this Xmas but it went by so fast I really didn’t get to enjoy it like I was looking forward to.”
What does time’s relentless advance hold in store of Terri, Kathleen, and Jeff the dwarf? Find out in the first week of February, when Studies in Crap continues its Invasion of Privacy special series!
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on December 31, 2009