Wednesday, December 14, 2011


… Or Any "-Ism," for That Matter

A few days ago I found my notebook from "Intro to Feminism," SUNY Albany, 1997. This was the only class I clearly remember in all four years of college, and I remember it because it was my first real communal, peer-taught, all-ideas-welcome, sisterhood of the traveling pants, "I love my vagina" educational experience. It also focused strongly on economics and political structure, and was one of those rare offerings wherein you can actually *feel* yourself learning.

Anyway, part of the deal was to keep a diary of sorts, which was then handed over to the instructor for comments. This is the object that I recently found. And in reading it I've decided that whomever the person was writing those words is long gone. Looong gone.

A) I spent a ridiculous amount of time analyzing "rape culture" in "pop" culture, to the point where I pretty convincingly argued that a McDonald's Milkshake commercial was objectifying the importance of mother's milk.

B) A 30-page paper on female genital mutilation. I don't even know how I wrote a paragraph without passing out.

C) It reminded me that I was hit in the back with garbage as I marched with hundreds of other women through the streets of Albany chanting "Hey, hey, Mister, Mister, Keep Your Hands off My Sister!"

Yes. That happened.

D) I was WAY into the belief that the most important thing that I wanted in my life was to be a wife and a mother. This is the section that amazed me. I was 19, and that was the path that I knew I was on, and I defended that choice vehemently to the rest of the class, which collectively did not share my oddly aggressive set of family values.

I recognize the handwriting, I just don't see my brain or soul in it. I want to find that girl and shake her and hug her and make her stop listening to Rusted Root. Put the bong down, Kathy, and don't even think about committing, to anything.

That's one of the most terrifying things a human can face — that a former version of yourself could be completely unrecognizable. Which means that there's no telling what current state of mind or heart will be lost and rendered meaningless in the future. No telling what's real, or if anything ever is. Particularly if you don't save the relics that will bring you back to it.

Scary. But also a little inspiring, to know that, conversely, the things that currently plague and crush you will probably also be scattered to the wind, hopefully replaced by good things, enduring things.

In any case, I got an A.

Kathleen Laux is an obsessive-compulsive living in Manhattan. She followed an odd career trajectory involving the political world on both coasts, and currently works in the dark underbelly of event planning. She welcomes love or hate mail at telekathy (at) gmail.

Photo by Mike Flippo, via Shutterstock.

169 Comments / Post A Comment

Ariel Meadow Stallings@facebook

And this is why I love events like Cringe in Brooklyn or the touring Mortified shows (or even my own Salon of Shame here in Seattle) ... the entertainment of our youthful earnestness makes GREAT fucking comedy.


@Ariel Meadow Stallings@facebook : I just re-read my journal from high school.

...Oh. Oh...God.

There might need to be a Cringe in LA,
just so I can be all cathartic. :)


@Ariel Meadow Stallings@facebook WHERE WHERE WHERE AND WHEN WHEN WHEN IS SALON OF SHAME? I MUST know. I must see local festival of youthful horrors, please. Because I cannot read my old writing shit. Cannot.


@bashe Salon of Shame and Cringe sound amazing. I have some spectacularly terrible, angsty journal entries that are just perfect for something like that.


*whispers* I used to be a Libertarian.


@ABear me too.


@Alixana I entered The Fountainhead essay contest.

...at least I didn't win?


@Emby The name of one of the authors of a book I was using on South Africa in class this term is Emby. Now I imagine that person looking like your icon.


@AnthroK8 I'm glad you liked my book!!!

I'm just kidding, that wasn't me. But it would have been pretty cool if!


@ABear I brought in THE LIMBAUGH LETTER to a 7th grade English class exercise and wrote Rush Limbaugh a letter of support for my assignment. SHAME SHAME DEATH SHAME.

*For the record, I'm the most progressive person I know now and I blame my Limbaugh shit on my stupid republican dad. Ughhh.




@Emby I recall such an essay contest too! Or maybe it was an Anthem essay contest? I am sure that whatever I wrote was awful. I really think of libertarianism as a teenage phase, like wearing black nailpolish, that I grew out of. But I try not to say that in the presence of adult libertarians.


@bonnbee I wrote a viciously anti-union essay in high school Engilsh class, growing up in a union town! I am now borderline pro union. In that I believe that are greater good, but there are some serious issues with them. And yes, I have worked union (steelworkers!)


@ABear I was a libertarian but also a militant vegetarian environmentalist. I am mainly humiliated by the gaping holes in my teenage logic. Government schmovernment. Taxes and rules and regulations stifle creativity! But companies should not be allowed to pollute! And noone should be allowed to eat meat!

Who is to do all this allowing/not allowing? Eh, teenage me?


@Alixana No, you should say that! ESPECIALLY in front of Ron Paul fans. They will never stop talking at you.


@ABear my dad joined a really cult-ish born again church in grade 6, I blame him for the time I gave a speech in class on why Jesus was my hero. That was a weird year for me.


@emby ...... you've inspired this long time lurker to finally register to admit that: i entered that contest and was some sort of semi finalist. they sent me a check for $50, a certificate and a copy of atlas shrugged. it now sits right next to the bible on my bookshelf because i like the juxtaposition.

this is A Safe Place to admit these things, right???


@bonnbee OH MY GODDD I was SUCH a weird young Republican in high school!!! I wasn't religious, but I participated in pro-life protests, and I was okay with gay marriage and masturbating but thought my classmates (male or female) who had sex were gross, and I was super self-righteous about not smoking weed or drinking...ugh. I, too, assume that my inner liberal was struggling to get out but being squashed by my uber-conservative upbringing, because I sure as hell don't care about any of that shit now.

christina tesoro

@ABear Oh my god I feel you. In 6th grade I wrote an anti-abortion thing. Because, you know, THE BABIES. And who knows if the BABY in your WOMB could be the next EINSTEIN or MOTHER TERESA.



@bonnbee I recently found a book about my family that I made when I was six. On the page about my father I drew a picture of him in an easy chair with a radio, and the text says: "my Daddy likes to listen to Rush Limbaugh. My Daddy loves Rush Limbaugh."


@Emby I totally entered that contest too! I'd forgotten about it for so long that I sort of thought I made it up.


@pastina Yeah, I was really concerned about the BABIES in the WOMBS too...and recently found an old Xanga entry (whyyy) where High School Me very self-righteously told her audience that a woman needed to live with the consequences of her immature decisions. Fast forward ten years to Current Me in a low-level wasn't-really-a-pregnancy-scare-but-I-convinced-myself-it-was, making Planned Parenthood donations online while praying for her period to come. Oh, youth.


@Alixana Reading Nietzsche, too. Always with the Nietzsche. Or is that just 16 year-old dudes??


@Emby I entered the Fountainhead essay contest ironically. I don't think that youthful pretention can get any better than that.

(The entire essay was a satirical glorification of her ideals. In other news, I was an obnoxious little shit at 16.)


@ABear I once wrote a letter to the editor of my college newspaper about a controversy on campus involving a group of students who wanted to start a gay-straight alliance fighting with the administration who refused to let them (conservative Catholic university, btw). What I basically said was, "if you don't like it, GTFO! Whiners!" It horrifies me to this day. And the worst part, is I HELPED start the GSA at my high school! It was/is really important to me! I was brainwashed by my horrible boyfriend who was a horrible homophobic horrible person. Wish I could go back in time and slap that stupid girl. :(


@klibberfish Yeah, the babies in the wombs got me too! In middle school, during an abortion debate in class, I was Team Captain for the pro-life side. Because I bet you wouldn't like it if your mom had aborted you, etc, and so forth. I wish I could go back in time and tell Little Me that I was acting like an idiot. That, and to stop wearing trucker hats. Not a good look.


@JStallz I went through a pro-life phase as a teenager too. I blame this horrible book published by Focus on the Family called "Gia: Aborted and Lived to Tell about it" or something. All I could think about was THE BABIEZ. I had no real concept of why someone might actually need or want an abortion.

K. Traylor@twitter

I become completely unrecognizable to myself every two or three years, I think. And I'm GLAD. If you're embarrassed by your younger self, then you know (or at least can confidently hope!) that you're improving.


@K. Traylor@twitter Right!

Sometimes I'll be walking down the street and be like 'oh, shit! I don't know who I am!' and everything goes all wibbly for a moment. I usually shrug and go 'well, my personality will work itself out in a bit. I'll check back in in a month or so.'



I have moments like that every few months, usually when driving, where I will see myself from a younger version of myself and think, "How the hell did I get to this place in my life?!" And then I get "Once in a Lifetime" stuck in my head.


@K. Traylor@twitter This is not my beautiful cat house! This is not my beautiful cat wife!

//end awl comment references that i didn't even make


"That's one of the most terrifying things a human can face — that a former version of yourself could be completely unrecognizable. Which means that there's no telling what current state of mind or heart will be lost and rendered meaningless in the future. No telling what's real, or if anything ever is."

My heart hurts.


@KeLynn And this is exactly why I never do anything ever.


@kayjay "Nothing is permanent in this wicked world--not even our troubles."

(I can't think of anything clever to say, so I'm just going to quote someone would could.)


@KeLynn Yeah. Only, I think the capacity to adapt and change is wonderful. Sometimes knowing you wouldn't recognize yourself if terrific. Not meaningless, but a sign of meaningful growth and development.


@KeLynn Think of it as a series of increasingly permanent deaths preparing you for eventual obliteration. Then have a cigarette. You'll feel better.


@melis I thought we only got three deaths...?




@melis I figured as much. You seemed like you were feeling a little too...happy? safe? untroubled? I thought I'd bring you back down to earth.

Faintly Macabre

@melis Thanks to this thread, I'll gladly take that cigarette in hopes of getting it all over with faster.



"This too shall pass."


@Kneetoe That saying is my favorite. If I were the tattooing kind, that would probably appear somewhere on my body.


@KeLynn That is my favorite part of this piece. SO true.

dj pomegranate

It's weird though, right? Because even thought you can be unrecognizable, you're also exactly the same person and sometimes you feel exactly the same way you felt when you were 14. Something about you never, ever changes even though your beliefs and opinions do.


@dj pomegranate Yeah, I've kept diaries from since I was about 14, and my beliefs and opinions have obviously changed, but I still recognize that the "voice" is mine. Also @KeLynn that definitely also part made my heart hurt..


@dj pomegranate I re-read a poem I wrote for my class at aged just shy of 10, and I still recognise my view of the world. It was about chocolate dressing itself up to look cool, only to realise its efforts are all about getting itself consumed by boisterous children. I am, and remain, a morbid sod.

dj pomegranate

@feartie I feel like this is a good metaphor for life.


@dj pomegranate I feel like big parts of my personality have reverted back to my pre-teen self. I feel a lot more in common with, say, 8 year old me right now than with 16 year old me in a lot of ways. In other ways, it's vica versa.

I think this is why I am maybe a taoist? Maybe? I feel SO WEIRD saying that but I'm pretty sure that's what I am. Letting be and all that. Keeping a gentle hand on the rudder, but acknowledging that you're not really in charge of the winds or the currents.


@dj pomegranate I have this weird loyalty to my teenage self. I get her!

It's my current self that makes me want to roll my eyes.


Ughhh I remember my first Women's Studies classes. It was my sophomore year at a small New England college. I spent my freshman year at a small college in the South, where the majority of my acquaintances thought "Future Trophy Wife" was something cute to call themselves and discussed how great it would be to marry rich, have kids, and never work again. Like, UNIRONICALLY they wanted to be desperate housewives.
Anyway, I was so immersed in the hatred of the sexist"Future Trophy Wives" thinking that i basically thought that every woman who wanted to stay home with their kids was a Stepford Wife zombie and ughhh, I was SO judgmental! Now that it's a few years later, I'm thinking about having kids and am more understanding that hey, if you can afford to stay home with your kids for a few years, and it makes you happy and fulfilled, go right ahead!, thinking about the stupid and judgmental things I said in my first few Women's Studies classes makes me want to die of shame.

fondue with cheddar

@bonnbee If all they wanted to be were Future Trophy Wives, then why were they in college?


@jen325 Where else are you going to meet your husband?

fondue with cheddar

@Lizanne07 Of course, DUH.


@jen325 They call it getting an "MRS degree." ( I went to school in the South too!)

fondue with cheddar

@D.@twitter Heh, I've heard that one.

That kills me, though, because for every student who attends college just to find a man, there's a potential student who doesn't get accepted who actually wants an education to pursue a career. Sigh.


Once when I was in high school I told one of my queer friends that she was being ... HETEROPHOBIC.




@redheadedandcrazy It's okay. I once wrote a ragingly awful and uninformed essay about the evils of abortion when I was in junior high. I blame my crazy conservative Baptist parents for that.

We got better, though, and that's the important thing.


@kayjay Oh man. It's so good to know I wasn't the only person who was prolife in junior high. I don't even know what happened to cause it! I wasn't even raised fundamentalist!

But I do remember this really inappropriate substitute teacher who, upon finding out my newly-formed political opinion, decided to encourage me to spread the prolife message and gave me (an 8th grader!) all these uber-graphic anti-abortion pamphlets. I still can't believe that happened either.


@redheadedandcrazy When I was in high school I, along with everyone else, was really mean (REALLY MEAN) to the only out queer girl at my school.

She is now married to a dude, and I've been with my girlfriend nearly six years. Ugh, 13-year-old me was such a juicebox I can't even think about it without involuntarily moving toward a Fetal Position Of Shame.


@Mira I used to have these terrible pangs of regret when thinking about some of the things I said to people in middle school (the height of my bullying phase, having just come from being bullied myself in elementary school)

I'm friends now with the guys I bullied ... memorable conversation:
me: I know ... I was a bit of a bully.
him: no ... you were a bully.


@redheadedandcrazy I was actually never a bully in general! Or even a mean girl! Only to that girl, and usually not even to her face!

I mean, in retrospect, the source of my specific horribleness to her is not super difficult to figure out. But oh God, it is so awful to remember, there is not enough cringing in the world. I'm glad you were able to make friends with those guys.


@Mira I found a paper from a creative writing class hidden away in some old school stuff and I was APPALLED to read this play I had written that was basically definitely very stereotypical about homosexual people. I remember being asked to read this aloud in class (because my teacher thought it was GOOD, which blows my mind now because I remember him actually being a pretty cool, no-way-would-I-ever-think-he-was-homophobic-he-might-have-even-been-gay sort of man) and thinking I was so hysterical and witty. And when I found it and read what I had written, I wanted to go back and SLAP MYSELF. It wasn't really *hateful* but it was definitely stereotypical to a mean extent, and something I wish I could take my name off of.

All I can say is thank goodness I moved away for college and got away from my Deeply Sheltered Life.


@kmc When I was in...7th grade?...I pulled a girl's hair on the bus and taunted her at the urging of the "cool kids". I knew she was mentally handicapped, and I did it anyway.

After I pulled her hair, she bared her teeth and crooked her fingers and hissed at me, and I felt so, SO awful because the only defense she could resort to was that of a scared, feral animal. And because I wasn't used to feeling such horrible shame, I laughed my discomfort away accompanied by the "cool kids" who used her response as an excuse to taunt her even more.

That evening, her mother called my mother. I denied everything up and down, and because I was such a good, studious kid, and she was a "problem child", everyone believed me and not her. I continued to lie about what I'd done when the principal called me into his office to ask me about it. He believed me too.

I was so wracked with guilt over what I'd done that I started having trouble sleeping. I couldn't stop thinking about how horrible I had been to this poor girl, and all for the approval of kids who were wont to call me 'Ratface' and 'Skinny as a Spoon'. I distinctly remember breaking down sobbing in the shower one day, obsessing over how awful I had been.

About a month after it happened, I approached my mother and told her that I had lied. She was disappointed in me. She made me call the girl's mother and admit what I had done. I also approached my principal and told him that I had lied. I don't remember anyone being angry with me; honestly, they were all - even the girl's mother - too fawning that I had 'fessed up and done the right thing. It was too easy.

I sat with her on the bus after that and shared my American Girl™ and Breyer Horse™ magazines with her. She was so forgiving of me, and it made me feel even worse. We never became good friends or anything, and she moved away the next year. I (obviously) still think about her to this day.

The one thing positive thing that did come out of me being such a horrible little shit is that since that day, I have never told a Lie (white lies, aka, "Your haircut is not terrible!", exempted). The awful burning obsessive shame that I felt - that I still feel - has been enough to dissuade me from ever lying again. What an awful thing that I had to learn to be a good person at the expense of someone else's safety and happiness.

ETA: Holy shit, guys. Sorry for the novel. I doubt any of you were expecting to read Wee_Ramekin's Secret Shame on this Wednesday afternoon...


@kmc Dude, when I was a kid (waaaayyy too little, really) was taken by my mom to table for pro-life orgs. I had a button I distinctly remeber that stated: "I love babies, born and unborn."

Now I volunteer at and am hoping to work for, Planned Parenthood.

Mom, while still too Catholic, is cool with it though.


@wee_ramekin Don't be sorry it was long. I'm glad you wrote it. Ugh, aren't we all so glad we don't have to be in junior high again?

Hello Dolly

@wee_ramekin I have such a similar story to yours. I too picked on a girl on the bus, she was a 7th grader and I was an 8th grader, but she wasn't mentally challenged in any way. I too was encouraged by the "cool" kids and thought all my insults were so witty and winning me points with them. I threw a pop can on her head and hit her with a book and made her cry. We had known each other since we were young, I distinctly remember going to a birthday party at her house when we were in elementary school. I ended up getting detention and I don't recall speaking to her ever again. When I was a junior in high school, one night my Mom came into my room & told me the girl had killed herself. She had a lot of family problems I wasn't aware of. When they offered counseling to her friends at school, I heard (and I don't know how true this was) that no one came, that she had no friends. Wee_ramekin, I apologize for... I'm not sure what the word is but maybe 'crashing' your story, but it struck a chord with me. I wish my ending was more like yours.


@Spicy Bubbles Oh darlin' :(. There is no need to apologize. I am so sorry.



re: my first story, what made it so especially bizarre is that I really was not a bigoted person in high school? And this girl was a really good friend of mine, not somebody I bullied. I think I have to chalk that one up to ignorance of privilege.

re: bullying in general ... it's crazy how much peer pressure kids and teenagers face. I can say definitively that my bullying was a defensive response to being bullied previously, and I've always had a lot of regret over those things until I was able to reconcile with those guys. I think it's actually a relief to see so many amazing and compassionate people make bullying mistakes and have these clear regretful memories because it makes me think/hope that the people who bullied me/bullies in general learned from what they did as well?

one last goodie for the books: my group of friends in middle school was, SHOCKER, super super nerdy and we used to like, LARP at recess and awesome shit like that. And there was this group of kids two years younger than us that used to follow us around and make fun of us. And one time I just snapped at them and smacked one of them across the face.

And then she called me racist (in front of the principal and vice principal) because she happened to be black.

And then I got suspended.

And then my bullying/mean girl days were VERY MUCH OVER.


@Spicy Bubbles Hey, you may not see this because its the day after, but I just wanted to register my deepest sympathy for you. That's such a sad story and I'm thankful you shared it.

Re: bullying in general. I went through a year of bullying when I was in my first year of secondary school. It wasn't physical, but stuff like classmates calling me a "cunt" as I walked to my locker, getting my books stolen, getting locked out of rooms while the teacher wasn't there. That year was probably the worst year of my life to date. The moment my alarm would go off in the mornings, I would feel absolute despair realising night was over and I had to face another day at school. I eventually told my parents and they immediately brought it to the attention of the school and the bullying was dealt with. The rest of my secondary school career was, strangely, brilliant. I somehow became popular, even though I was just as bookish and "odd" as I had ever been. The girls who used to make my life miserable ended up liking me a lot, because I became the kind of girl who made straight As and sang in the school choir and sat on student council boards, but who could also make dirty jokes and wasn't stuck up and was willing to help people out who were struggling with schoolwork (including some of the same girls who had tortured me a few years before). There was a general air of "Nothing bad ever happened between us" silently agreed upon by everyone involved, which I was complicit in as well. Part of me wishes I hadn't done this, but then I think "fuck it". I hope they felt bad about how the used to treat me, but even if they didn't... Being thirteen is hard, and how do I know what was going on in their own heads?

Even to this day I almost forget that I was ever bullied at all, but when I make a conscious effort to think back to it and really remember how absolutely terrible I felt, it makes me so sad.

fondue with cheddar

@wee_ramekin The Best Time I Taunted a Girl and Then Lied About It and Then Didn't

fondue with cheddar

@redheadedandcrazy I think it's good that you've been on both sides of it. Not that it's good to bully or be bullied, but you learned from both experiences.

@Decca I've only been on one side (the being bullied side), and it wasn't fun. I never told my parents or teachers about it, but if I had I can guarantee it never would have turned out the way yours did. Your story is pretty amazing.

Maja D.@twitter

"That's one of the most terrifying things a human can face — that a former version of yourself could be completely unrecognizable. Which means that there's no telling what current state of mind or heart will be lost and rendered meaningless in the future. No telling what's real, or if anything ever is. Particularly if you don't save the relics that will bring you back to it."

I breezed past this thought when reviewing some old school papers/emo poetry over Thanksgiving. Yep. It hurts to look directly at it.

Happily, though: baby's first Hairpin comment! Everyone here seems awesome — I'm excited for future conversations.

sarah girl

@Maja D.@twitter Oh girl, yes. I still have a box of stuff from middle school/high school at my parents' house that I need to sort through, but every time I sit down with it I end up all weepy and existential and deeply embarrassed.


@Maja D.@twitter Yay! Hello!


@Maja D.@twitter I love your avatar!

I realised last year that I don't know where all my high school poetry etc is. It's probably gone. I genuinely do regret losing the email account with all the emails with my high school friends - including my One True Love who I wouldn't realise was such for another year. They would be awful but also lovely to read. I am SORT of sorry about the poetry. Some of it would of course be terrible, but I came across some about five years ago and was like 'whoa. This is good, who wrote this? Oh, me? No way!' I don't think I could write that well now. But I DO NOT regret the diaries, etc. Shudders!

Vera Knoop

@Craftastrophies This is all really timely for me-- today I brought home the last of the boxes I'd been storing in my mother's apartment, including journals from 13-18 years ago. Haven't dared to look in them yet, though!


@Maja D.@twitter I've been thinking about this, and I've changed my mind. I totally would read those journals. It would be so embarrassing and awful, but... a growth experience? Or something?

But, awful.


In high school, we had to do this reading-out-loud essay assignment, and I responded to one of my classmate's essays on why he is an atheist with a fairly sarcastic "defense" of my being a Christian (at the time) that included the refrain "Yet Aaron says faith is ambitious, and Aaron is an honorable man." I got an A+ on it from my (fairly religious) teacher.

Given a functioning TARDIS, the first thing I'd do is go back and kick my ass that morning and tear up that paper.


@Emby See my comment above re: horrible and offensive "pro-life" essay. Let the ass-kickings commence!


I love this, and I like saving things so that I can go back and have such moments. But only very, very, very rarely.


In high school our team mascot was The Indian (we were the whitest school, naturally) and when Native activists came out to see us and tell us how racist that was, I presented a vigorous "What's the big deal?" defense in front of my class.

In college, though, I was solid. Don't regret anything I did.


@Danzig! Actually there is one thing... When I was a freshman I fell into the orbit of this radiant, gregarious, beautiful woman. I was a shy guy and she was the first person I really pushed myself to pursue, socially. We would go out to the mountains and crack the ice on the edge of the reservoir and sit together and laugh, and she would tell me about how we we were going to be friends into old age, and we would go places together. When I was in town I would go to the ice cream shoppe and get two pints of her favorite flavor - Blue Moon, which was blue-colored almond ice cream with fudge-covered almonds - and leave it at her doorstep with little notes, when I knew she was home.

Anyway, she turned out to be a pathological liar and a high-functioning psychotic, and I never knew her, not even her real name, in the years we spent together. She told me she was leaving town for good, and when I called her out on talking shit about close mutual friends, her eyes changed and she turned into an entirely different person, cold and savage and not the person I knew. We stayed silent for most of that meeting, said niceties on parting and talked up plans to see one another before she left. But I went back to my car and cried, and called my other friends. They brought me to their place, I cried more, they told me the whole story, and we watched The Wire together on the couch. I never saw her again.

I cleaned out my wallet some months ago and found an ice cream letter I had never delivered to her, talking about how much she meant to me and how much I had changed with her in my life. I couldn't stand to read it. But I couldn't throw it away either. I don't know what to do with it.


@Danzig! Boy I was such a shit-head punk in high school. "In college, though, I was solid. Don't regret anything I did." Yup, same here. Now I think I'm a shit-head punk again but don't have the excuse of youth. Full circle.


@Danzig! Your story about your college friend made my heart hurt. I'm sorry that happened to you.


@wee_ramekin It was for the best, in a roundabout way. She had such a powerful presence (more than anything I think it was her fearlessness) that the way I felt about her was common to several of our close friends. We were all in love with her, and when she left our in such a dramatic and terrible way, it brought us together. We shared and got through it together. One of the last things she told me is that she resented my friends and me, and that we were "perfect for each other", and she was right, just not in the way she meant.

It's a hard thing to describe, but I'm not really angry at her, I'm sad for her but also grateful to her. People tell me all the time how different (in a good way) I am from the way I was at that time in my life. When I met her I became dependent on her, the hard work of coming out of my shell was done simply by being around her and interacting with all the people who were drawn to her as I was. And when she said she was leaving I was heartbroken and terrified of losing that support, but I began the process of detachment because I had no choice. When she turned out to be a fabrication of a person I had already resigned myself to life without her, and I discovered that it was easy, far easier than I had feared, to live without her and rely on myself. During our years together, whenever I would adoringly gush to her about how much better my life was because of her she would tell me that she didn't have anything to do with it, that it was all me, and I didn't believe her. But she turned out to be right.

It's been a few years now, and I don't think about her as often as I did. I used to wonder how much of our rapport was pantomime, or manipulation, and whether she meant what she said in the moment and just couldn't control herself in the end. I think there was a real person there, at times. But I don't think it matters now. I still love her, and I wish she was real, but for how fucked up of a person she was she did a lot of good for me. When she was there, I needed her, but I don't anymore.

It's all so surreal! I hope she gets help and she's happy (it might just be me projecting, but I think she was always really lonely) but I can't help but fear she's out in the woods somewhere, heading up a cult. She would be so good at that.


@Danzig! Oh man. Not to armchair diagnose, but she sounds sociopathic. My stepmom is too and I can see them coming from a mile away now. Unfortunately my dad has never gotten to where you are- they're still married because she likes the financial stability.

I am so glad that you are doing better. I am definitely different than I would have been if she wasn't in my life. That cold and savage side was all I got from my stepmother. As a result I don't believe that everyone is basically good. Some aren't, even if they help you grow in the end.


@Mooah That's the worst thing, when you've got someone who can't let go of them. My crazy woman was gracious enough to not give any of us the opportunity to try and keep her. Having someone like that tethered to your family must be infinitely exhausting.

I don't know if I'd call her a sociopath - the extraordinary charisma points that way, but she was never cruel to us until we found her out. It was like the illusion was for her benefit more than ours. She had the uncanny ability to zero in on what I and my friends wanted in a companion and embody those things. She liked being loved and I think at some point she found out that by using her considerable charm and artful deceit she could get better and more love than she would just being herself, and from there her whole life started to revolve around staying ahead of her lies. Maybe I'm just being charitable.

But I see them coming now, too. It pulls the wool from your eyes quite a bit - whenever I meet a bright and lively person, someone who will look you in the eye, take risks, connect with people effortlessly, I get skeptical. It's served me well, actually - I haven't met such an extraordinary specimen as my so-called friend, but it's become a lot more apparent how often people pretend to lead lives they haven't. It's bemusing, since they're often the people who wouldn't need to make shit up to get ahead.


@Danzig! Well, I think part of the reason my stepmother is still in my family is because she doesn't show that other side of herself to my dad really because he's her meal ticket. She counts on him thinking that she acts that way with everyone and that she isn't so bad.

I guess labels don't matter so much as knowing when to stay away. But I think that more than even getting what they want, people like that get a rush from deceiving people and getting the upper hand. It's the rush that they're after more than anything. Then when the other person complains too much or gets too suspicious or when they need a more challenging person to fool, they move on unless there are logistical reasons for staying. It's a really good thing that there weren't in your case.


I used to write lyrics in high school. Like, not even poems, just lyrics. And they were the most saccharine, yearning, emo, cloying things ever. I thought I was the fucking second coming of Chris Carraba, even though I couldn't play more than three chords to save my life. Every now and then I stumble across them (or seek them out out of masochistic urges) and they just make my mouth taste all bitter and my head hurt.


@Emby I wrote really bad poems and lyrics without accompaniment and I still have them. I should burn those before I die so that everyone in my life can't read the cheese that came from my mind at my funeral.


@whizz_dumb Yeah, I fear that too. And then I'll be shouting down from my cloud, "It's juvenilia! Juveniliaaaaaaaaaaaaa!" and then St. Paul will tell me to keep it down.

Tragically Ludicrous

@Emby I, too, wrote lyrics in high school. Except instead of emo-ness I thought I was somehow a character in Velvet Goldmine and invented a "glam-rock character" and oh God it was so bad and nonsensical.


@Emby omigodomigodomigod, my brother does this. I thought he was the only one . . . OMIGOD.


I just found a heavily-annotated copy of Twilight and experienced similar terrible revelations. Why did I even!


@Ka$hleen Oh you're so young! Don't worry, it will be more amusing and less cringey in a few years. Did that sound patronising? I didn't mean it to. I'm really impressed you realized so quickly.


@catfoodandhairnets Also I devoured Twilight.

Four Horsemeals of the Eggporkalypse

@catfoodandhairnets The first book was released six years ago! That's plenty of time for a self-revision, especially if college came in the interim.


@catfoodandhairnets Is your name an Eddie Izzard reference? If yes, I think I love you.


@rayray : "Ooooo, it's for the hair thieves. They come in the niiiight. STEAL your hair they do!"


@OxfordComma I love you too! I can (and, um, do)quote that entire set, from drug-crazed horse racing through to Pavlov's cat.


@rayray : Clearly, we need to have an Izzard drinking game, wherein we take a shot every time he uses the James Mason voice.


@rayray yes!new name. Mwah for getting it so quickly.


@Four Horsemeals of the Eggporkalypse AHH IT WAS? It just seems like yesterday...I was a little too old to catch the "Twilight" bug...but I did read A GREAT DEAL of Harry Potter fanfic back in the day. I may even have written some?


Well, now that I've considered just how much I've changed as a person, the only conclusion I can draw is that I'm my own evil twin.

Which...would explain a lot!


@JessicaLovejoy My roommate and I were having a conversation to that effect just last night. It must be a universal fact.

Porn Peddler

My best friend said it the best: "Every year sucks because you realize how much you sucked the year before."

I'm pretty sure devoting my time to sex positive feminism will make up for who I was five years ago. Given, you know, several decades. I blame internalized misogyny and poor female role models. And also myself, because people are fucking stupid for so much of their lives.


@Third Wave Housewife I think it's part of growing up - I definitely felt that deflation at the end of every year thinking "man, I was a shithead" until I hit about 22, at which point I looked back and thought "huh, that wasn't so bad!" and I haven't had a bad year since.


According to my dad, at 16 I was a wise Buddha spouting Truth with a capital T between spasms of Having My Shit Together and Deep Angsty Scowling. I wish I could remember literally anything I had said because I have definitely lost my Enlightenment. I'm not embarrassed by my conservative Christian upbringing, but I AM embarrassed by my (then) overeager desire to share it with everyone.

Also, I agree, this part is paralyzingly horrifying: "That's one of the most terrifying things a human can face — that a former version of yourself could be completely unrecognizable. Which means that there's no telling what current state of mind or heart will be lost and rendered meaningless in the future. No telling what's real, or if anything ever is. Particularly if you don't save the relics that will bring you back to it."


@AmbiSinister But if maybe nothing is real, how freeing is that! If there's no meaning, then EVERYTHING MEANS MORE! Everything! Exclamation pooooiiinnnntttssss!!

I feel like I have caught up with myself. As a youth I was, obviously, a shithead much of the time. But I also got told a lot that I was wise beyond my years.* Now I am just wise as is appropriate to my years, I guess?

*That sounds like a humblebrag, sorry. I attribute it to reading a lot and learning from other's mistakes, and having to grow up pretty fast for Reasons. But my Emotional Intelligence was the lowest. The LOWEST.


@Craftastrophies So what you're saying is...because there isn't a load/save option (bad) there also isn't an autosave option (good?) so I could be anyone I wanted for as long a period of time that I like?


See also: high schoolers carrying around copies of Atlas Shrugged.


@Megoon Andddddddd check.


Yep and yep. I think it's because Rand's writing is completely suited to a teenager's mindset. None of the terrible masses understand the brilliance of you, you unique flower of a confused teenager. They'll never understand!


@kmc Mine were Tom Robbins and Louis De Bernieres.


@Megoon And the Fountainhead. Yeahhhhhhh, past!self, the guy that introduced you to that book junior year...it's probably a good thing you didn't bone him, massive wang or no.


I used to listen to Dave Mathews. A LOT. Nuff said.


@mija I-i-i-i-i... used to think Dane Cook was funny *dies with shame*


I teach in a similarly touchy-feely humanities field, and while I have good intellectual reasons for requiring my students to keep response journals, I also really love reading them. They are amazing, historically-contingent documents.


@MerelyGoodExpectations I had to keep a reading journal in high school freshman English and clearly remember being certain, CERTAIN, that having just read "The Bridges of Madison County," I know understood the true meaning of Real Love. My English teacher wrote something kind and maybe just a little condescending in the margins of that entry, to which my response was (and possibly in so many words): "You just don't understand!!!".

Faintly Macabre

@Alixana My sophomore year English teacher told us we weren't allowed to give presentations on Nicholas Sparks books, especially The Notebook. There was a lot of "But whyyyy????" from the class.


Oh, yes. A thing I remember saying to a friend in like 5th or 6th grade: "I wish Bill Clinton would die, but then AL GORE would be president." (tone: going to puke). Thanks, dad.
I had my first inkling that I didn't agree with my dad's republican/libertarian politics as he and I stayed up all night watching the shitstorm that was the 2000 election. I was a freshman in high school, and kept my new opinions to myself for a few years...


@lue TWINSIES. I was in eighth grade. In Florida. In a recount county. By senior year, I had started a Young Democrats chapter at my high school.

dj pomegranate

@lue Oh man, I was so on board with the Clinton hate! I was in like 5th grade and everyone was just Republican and...I don't know? It's just what people did! So then I got to the 2000 election, I was 18 and it was the first time I could vote! I voted for Bush and then witnessed that insane election drama and the insane insane next 4 years and never voted Republican again.

Now when I hear people saying those same things about Obama (baby killer, socialist, end of America, waddawaddawadda) I want to say, "You said the exact same thing about Clinton, and I believed you..in fifth grade. Tiiiiime for a new argument, guys."


@lue Oh man, I think I said exactly this at one point in the 90's. I also remember being REALLY sad when Clinton won in the first place (i.e., defeating that nice President Bush we like so much!). But I also remember having a complete change of 13-year-old-heart during the impeachment proceedings and thinking "hold on a minute, this seems really over the top/these Republicans* seem like vindictive fun-hating assholes." Twas ever thus.

*not all of them. But it sure seemed like it then.


This is why I have never ever ever kept a journal, and never will.

Faintly Macabre

@wee_ramekin I kept a Xanga for years, meaning that all of my ridiculousness was essentially public. Luckily, most of the people reading it were as silly as I was.

Living My Best Life Far Away from the Hairpin!

@wee_ramekin Very smart! I actually kept a journal pretty much throughout middle school (*screams*), but my friends and I had a journal-burning party when we were in our late teens. We danced maniacally around a barbeque, shrieking triumphantly as we ripped pages out of our old journals and doused them with lighter fluid. It was amazingly cathartic. And even with the rise of stuff like Cringe (mentioned way up in the very first comment), I don't regret it for a second because I know for a fact that the shit I wrote at 13 is not unmined gold but pure narcissistic tedium and inanity...


@wee_ramekin not even a LIVEJOURNAL?

(I can't even look at my livejournal account. it's TOO HUMILIATING.)


@redheadedandcrazy I have had three LJs. I have deleted each one as I have grown. Now I am at the final stage of enlightenment, which is keeping my LJ so that I can still see a few friends there while having moved onward to Dreamwidth.


@Katzen-party Yep. I waited until after I finished grad school to dispose of my preteen-college journals, but when I finally did, it was totally cathartic. Before tossing them, I'd do a yearlyish reread of all of them, which I thought of as reflection, but was really just an exercise in feeling bad about how silly I once was. I don't miss them one bit.


@redheadedandcrazy I had a deadjournal, which was livejournal for all the angry kids who couldn't get invites to livejournal - but that was okay because we were so much cooler and authentic (hahahahaha this idea was possibly related to my burning affection for the Fountainhead) And oh god, do I wish I could remember the password/linked email account for my deadjournal; I burned all my poetry and journals my last day of high school but my deadjournal lives sadly on. Humiliating indeed.


The personal statement on my university application was entirely about how Lord of the Rings is the greatest book ever written. (Though I got in to my first choice, so I'm not sure I'd do otherwise in retrospect).


@questingbeast ...It is the greatest book ever written.


@questingbeast I wrote my SAT essay on why Martina Navratilova deserves a national holiday named after her. Live and learn.


Sometimes, I re-read old papers I wrote. It makes me feel smart, because I've invariably forgotten all of the information I once knew and included. It's like "oh! Look at me, once knowing a lot about WWI war poets!" It helps me look over the heavy-handed thesis and awkward transitions.

Also- De-lurkifying!


@feminazibonerkiller I did this the other day!! I found some essays and was like check me out with my knowledge, younger self! High five!

Living My Best Life Far Away from the Hairpin!

@rayray That's a good way to look at it! I always get depressed--"Look how much I've forgotten!" But maybe I should just be like, "Go, younger me! You were definitely kinda wack at times, but you could write the hell out of an essay!"


Though I'd consider myself VERY liberal now, when I was a teenager I was very conservative. Like, I have vivid memories of telling my mom (who would later, by the way, remarry) that I thought people who had premarital sex and people who remarried (as in did it with more than one person) were going to Hell. Not sure where this came from. Other than being very conservative about sex stuff, my family was always pretty liberal. I'm pretty sure I hated abortion, thought of rape in terms of being the victim's fault, etc. as well. Strangely, I feel like a lot of people say they were like this as teens. I think sometimes it's easier to explain the shitty stuff that happens in life (like, for instance, rape) by seeing everything in very black-and-white terms. You can feel protected when you believe that what happens to you in life is within your control and that you can stop yourself from getting hurt when really you can't.

And of course, I believe none of those things now, thank God.

I also went through a Wiccan phase, half to piss off my Jewish mother, half because I thought it was really cool. I wish I'd kept the ridiculous amount of Wicca books I bought at around age 14 because they were really interesting.


@MirrorGoRound Teenage anti-abortion fundamentalist Bible Study leader, now living in San Francisco and volunteering for two ultra-progressive startups. Some people get more conservative as they get older, and then there's me.

"You can feel protected when you believe that what happens to you in life is within your control and that you can stop yourself from getting hurt when really you can't." <- OMG yes this


@Yatima Your comment yes. Except not SF.

Hot Doom

@MirrorGoRound Oh god, oh god, I keep forgetting about my Wiccan phase. I never got rid of my books, so they should be lying around somewhere.
Also,despite my generally very liberal outlook, I still have smacks of Alex P. Keaton, which surprise even me when they happen, not to mention my fellow, unsuspecting liberal friends. It's like having a little Republican alien in me, pulling my strings and eating through my chest to say "Hi, VETO".


@LolaLaBalc I also had a Wiccan phase! And the books are also still in my house, including one I stole from the library. I hindsight, I was trying to put off atheism for as long as possible.


@MirrorGoRound I had a super-conservative phase too! I guess, like, when you grow up in a really liberal family you have to "rebel" by getting conservative? Ugh. Awful.


@Lucienne All these former Wiccans! I feel like a lot of people I know who are 20-something-ish now went through that one. I had a makeshift altar in my room and would go meditate in the woods, presumably while my mother gnashed her teeth and tore her hair out. Such a rebel. I actually still have a blank leather notebook that was going to be my Book of Shadows or whatever that I didn't use.

@LolaLaBalc I lol'd at your inner Republican alien. So good and so bad!

Hot Doom

@MirrorGoRound Ahh! My ex boyfriend in high school gave me a blank book of shadows! One time I copied a money spell out of a Gypsy spell book into the Book of Shadows and then got too humiliated with myself so I cut that page out and now I just glue in recipes I've cut out from the newspaper. I never got up the nerve to make an altar because I didn't want to listen to my mother's atheist teeth-gnashing, so instead I would look up into the trees and think really hard about nature.


I am still just as awful as I ever was.


I feel like I have been the same person my entire life. Like, I used to write really hilarious fanfiction that was still really hilarious to me two years later, and probably still would be if I read it again? Is that weird?

Katie Scarlett

@Megan Patterson@facebook I don't think so. Sometimes I look at old emails, etc that I wrote years ago and still laugh --sometimes out loud -- at my own dumb jokes. I think (hope?) I've changed A LOT over the years, but my sense of humor has remained remarkably unvarying.

the fourth bot

@Megan Patterson@facebook I just read my first grade report card and realized that I am exactly the same as I was then. Seriously. The only differences are that I'm taller and I can read and I don't hate boys. So I think you're fine.

Katie Scarlett

This was lovely! And I'm gonna pull a hugely nerdy move and mention that my favorite Bob Dylan song was always My Back Pages because of that line in the chorus, "I was so much older then, I'm younger than that now." Appropriate, no?

And I really love that this article and the "Holiday Gift Guide for Me, 1997 (Age 10)" were posted on the same day. It's so funny that both women are looking back at the person they were 14 years ago, but their reactions are so dependent on their respective 1997 ages. I guess it's easier to laugh at our 10 year old selves because at 10 one is still so clearly a child so what's there to be embarrassed about. But at 20... I don't know, it's like at 20 you're kinda supposed to be... who you're gonna be as a person for the rest of your life? It's harder to persuade yourself/others that you're no longer that person.


@Katie Scarlett There's also They Might Be Giants: "But I was young and foolish then; I feel old and foolish now."

once more with feelings

My best friend and I conceived of a cultlike admiration for Ayn Rand in tenth grade. Bad, so bad.


I firmly believed that I like Derrida in college.

...seven years later, and I realize that he was an asscheek.


I do wish I could still pull brilliant academic papers out of thin air, sometimes.


@OxfordComma LOL. It's true, he is only worthy of a single asscheek.


Crying Girl: [reading from paper] "I wish we could all get along like we used to in middle school... I wish I could bake a cake filled with rainbows and smiles and everyone would eat and be happy..."

In all seriousness I was also pretty horrible to people in middle school... Also, I was practically in lurrve with John Stossel. Ack! But everything turned out to be pretty okay though, for highschool I was moved to a somewhat liberal pocket of Southern California and homeschooled.

Living My Best Life Far Away from the Hairpin!

@putabirdonit In love with John Stossel! I'm sorry, but I just laughed here at my desk at work. Thanks for that! (JOHN STOSSEL!!!!)


@putabirdonit JOHN STOSSEL ♥ (i am so ashamed to admit i have been there, this whole thread is like DEEP SEKRITS TIEMS)

(also your user name!)


Now that I'm divorced I feel that way about the married me. The food I cooked, the shit I put up with from my ex, the cutesy way I talked, my cringetastic attempt to find a "church home", all makes me wonder who exactly that Stepford Wife was. It's unsettling. Nothing in my life up to that point would have indicated that I'd be the kind of person who would do those things. 


Does "Put down the bong, Kathy" apply to now Kathy or then Kathy or both Kathies?


@Kneetoe The current Kathy pleads the fifth

Pocket Witch

Two things that let me go on with my life now, without worrying overly much about what I'll be like in the future:

-- I'm glad I'm not as dumb as I was two years ago. Undoubtedly I'll feel the same two years from now, so I needn't worry that this is the high point of my life and it'll all be downhill from here.

-- The way I am right now cannot be dismissed as "just a phase." It's who I am, and any future changes do not devalue present me. (I stole this general sentiment from one of the blogs I read regularly, and I didn't bookmark the page or bother to remember which blog. Oops.)


Aaah Kathleen I'M an obsessive-compulsive! Um, did you really mean you had OCD, because I was totally just thinking last night that this was probably the one thing I couldn't relate to hairpinners about, because they're all just so...well-adjusted? I don't know. Anyway, if you were like just joking then um no big deal whatever me too!

Also...my autocorrect makes "hairpinners" into "hairpin era" YES!


@eustaceia I think I actually do have OCD, but only when I have to repeat things. I think I actually do have OCD, but only when I have to repeat things.

Two-Headed Girl

When I was 14 or so, and a total fucking idiot who knew literally nothing but lines fed to me by Pete Wentz, I wrote a blog post that was a list of dudes I wouldn't mind being raped by, because I thought I was being edgy or something, I don't know. And somehow I still thought I was a feminist? WHAT THE FUCK, YOUNGER SELF.

I also wrote slash fiction about Canadian Idol contestants.

21 year old raging feminist liberal me is confused and ashamed about the things I used to think. Eep.


When I was a in HS, the paper had this teen section. One week, they published all these articles about teen momzz and how great being a teen mom was. I wrote this huge rebuttal. The next week's teen section's headlining article was my super-wordy rebuttal. The headline was something I wrote about "enumerating the virtues of teen pregnancy".


Although reliving puberty is pretty much the last thing I want to do (unless it occurs in an alternate universe where I'm popular, athletic, and actually grow breasts), I do miss the ability of my younger self to slip effortlessly into a fantasy world, whether I was inserting myself into a book or RPG, or writing a story on my own. I love writing, but lately I find myself penning opinion pieces on political or social issues instead of composing fiction. It's the same thing with my art: the wellspring of inspiration that fueled dozens of paintings seems to have run dry. More often I seek to appreciate, rather than create. Although, looking back at my work, much of it seems frightfully derivative, so perhaps I just realized that my scope was limited? I don't know.

Maya Cohan@facebook

I love this piece. wonderful writing and so funny.

Post a Comment

You must be logged-in to post a comment.

Login To Your Account