Thursday, September 02, 2010

In Honor of Cringe and Frances "Baby" Houseman

Today's date is 90210. And since Beverly Hills 90210 was a seminal evening soap opera for some Gen X'ers like myself, I dedicate this post to 1991, when 90210 was in it's prime, and I was an angst filled, fifteen year old aspiring writer.

The hair and fashion disasters that I perpetrated upon the public that year were humiliating. Including the lengths I went to to obtain the fluffed out curls of Baby Houseman. My hair is straight. It was impossible. Perm after perm, dried and smelly, triangle shaped, absolutely not the kind of hair that Patrick Swayze would want to run his fingers through while teaching me sexy dance moves. The black and white skort jumpsuit, the bangs, sweet lord, the bangs, the puffy sleeves, the excessive black eye liner, the tapered Bongo flower printed denim, the enormous earrings chosen with care from The Icing. And worse than any of the fashion was my early creative writing.

Wow. I have thrown away nearly all of my diaries and journals, journals that I kept off and on from junior high through college. Journals filled with whining and boys and fights with friends and hope and dreams. Journals so embarrassing and self important that they made me physically ill and hopelessly embarrassed and a little sad. They are compost now. But the one thing I can't trash is the binder of creative writing I generated in junior high and high school. Tonight I pulled out the binder, the old school three ring fabric covered blue binder. The binder I haven't touched in years.  Inspired by Sarah Brown, one of my favorite bloggers over at Que Sera Sera, I thought I'd share a couple of choice pieces on this 90210 day. Sarah created Cringe, a reading series in Brooklyn and London where "once a month, brave souls come forward and read aloud from their teenage diaries, journals, notes, letters, poems, abandoned rock operas, and other general representations of the crushing misery of their humiliating adolescence. It’s better and cheaper than therapy."

Re-reading "my work" didn't make me sad or physically ill, which was a nice surprise. But gave me a glimpse into how badly I wanted to be a good writer then, how distant that goal was at the time, and how seriously I took the process.  Mostly I felt for the melodramatic, philosophically naive, vaguely depressed, lovesick, awkward, uncomfortable, over-thinking girl that was in full force in Ms. Shaffer's writer's workshop class. I am still that girl. Except about 85% happier, 50%  less theatrical, 25% more laid back, showing a 15% improvement in writing skill. But I put myself out there back then. I attempted to tackle subjects I could barely comprehend. I had the cocksure bravery of youth on my side. I wrote a poem about being pro-choice. What? I mean I still am, but I wouldn't dream of doing that today. It was awful, but it was bold. I also should thank my teachers for praising, critiquing, editing and reassuring me as a young, shitty writer. Because I am a 15%  less shitty writer now than I was in high school, thanks to them. I hope to be 30% better by the time I'm 40.

But until then I give you an essay, poetry, and the shortest story in the world by Kassie: (Or if you prefer, my chosen nom de plume in 1991, Eva DeShon (yes, I really had a nom de plume selected for when I became a best selling novelist, my grandmother's middle and maiden names. Original.):

What I Know (Teachers note says: "Work on punctuation.")

I have decided that parents (no offense to you) are just taller more wrinkled children. People no matter what age, race, gender simply want a couple of things. Happiness, Love and Originality. The three depend on each other. To be happy we need love and to be loved we must have something unique about ourselves in order to grab and hold another's affection. Often when we can't be happy, it is because we lose or forget the love and tend to neglect our originality. We fall into that big group of unfulfilled lost souls struggling to find our niche in this all too painful and realistic world. I know that sometime in my life, probably middle age, I will look back on things and realize I'm not happy or loved or original yet hope if I have surrounded myself with the right people they will pull me off that reflective edge and feed me the truth. Everyone is loved by someone and we are always original even and especially when we are in pain.

Stargazer (Note says: "Mr. Rose's Geology class inspired this")

Bright spots in the dark swallowing
Glimmers of gas.
Spheres of light.
Virgo, Orion, Gemini.
Connected by invisible arms.
Lovers, Enemies, Gods.
Hot flares burning through
Deep suffocating night.
Glowing orbs marking off each
Region in my sky.

Stupid People (Teacher comment: "Great.") ( Liar.)

They don't intend to be stupid.
It just happens.
Dropped on their head as babies.
Just too naive to have any common sense.
They are the kind of people who are hit by
oncoming tricycles and don't live to tell about it.
They are they kind of folks who stop walking in
busy hallways and become human speed bumps.
You know someone just like this.
Your mother, sister, friend, even you.
The only thing to do for these innocents is
remove all knives and matches from their homes
And love them.

Bumps: A Short Story (Teacher comment: "As we said-this would be a good intro, but not enough for a whole story.")  It's not my fault, you know. I didn't ask to be brought into this world and now that I'm here I sometimes wish that I hadn't been. Being seventeen is no picnic, no walk in the park, no piece of cake, no smooth sailing. None of those outdated cliches can completely explain what seventeen is like. It doesn't feel like thirteen. Though thirteen was no treat either. As far as I know it doesn't feel like thirty but I've never been thirty so let's just stick to thirteen. At thirteen I was a gawky long-legged insecure mess. My hair was butchered in that first "grown up" hair cut. My lips were hidden behind confused smiles and candy colored lipstick. Everything about a kid is up in the air at thirteen. We can still be anything, President, mechanic, airline hostess, diner waitress, anything. At thirteen we still are missing something. Who are we? Do we like our friends? Do we like ourselves? As the years slowly pass we decide that we better like ourselves and if we don't like our friends we need new ones. We begin to form real senses of humor, supported opinions and ideas about the future. At seventeen most of us are almost there. There. What is "there"? Is it the start of adulthood or the end of awkwardness? I don't know and I think it all depends on who you are. For me seventeen is realizing that sometimes I feel thirty and other times I feel thirteen. I want to make my own decisions and yet I want help when I'm struggling along. Right now is certainly one of those times. I don't have any idea how I get into messes like the one I'm trapped in now. They just seem to sneak in and surprise me. I wake up in the morning and the problem is hiding and waiting to pounce. Problems have great timing. They are cunning and swift and wait until life is going along fine before they throw bumps in our paths. One mighty bump has just plopped down in front of me. I am struggling along in school making good grades, having good times, meeting good people. I am bored. There is nothing in my life that is exciting or interesting. I read, gossip, shop, talk and party just like every "normal" teenager but it's dull. When does life start to get fun? Is it college, career, marriage? Those things don't sound all that thrilling. When I hear that I just hear RESPONSIBILITY. I know that word all too well already. Parental lectures always begin or end with it. We face it in school and home and life. Do we ever escape from it? Will we ever just be free? Do we ever want to just live completely unrestrained? Parents hear "DANGER" when they hear unrestrained.

The End

1 comment:

Kristendom said...

You are brave - while I'm not sure I even have any of my awesome "creative writing" from those years, I definitely know I'd hate posting it. But hey, I also think it's part of who we are now - if we hadn't been all angsty-Emo-drama queens then, we wouldn't have such great stories now. Happy belated 90210 Day to you.