I’m sad/relieved to tell you that we are rounding out the end of my essays/letters/diary entries from my fifteenth year. Actually, there are a few I didn’t share with you, mostly because they are way too listy or factual. I found a twelve-page essay about the time my Gifted class went to the Houston Fine Arts Museum, but I’m thinking that’s interesting to exactly zero people.
Let me just say that it would be way safer for me to reprint the art museum essay because it is gloriously Fifteen. In it you can tell I’ve just discovered how to sound so “over” everyone else, mostly due to the fact that I’ve finally found some “cool” music. I’m both listening to Jane’s Addiction and wearing a Jane’s Addiction shirt, and so, you know, I’m totally the awesomest one going to see some art.
But that’s really not embarrassing. It’s just what it was like to be young and on a field trip. These things I’m about to reprint? These are pretty embarrassing.
As I’ve pieced together my fifteenth year, I’m remembering how hard it was to know what I wanted to be passionate about. I was obviously passionate about love. About boys, and about how I didn’t want to be in a love that wasn’t real, one that didn’t involve people knowing each other’s middle names. But I was also very passionate about issues. This was the year I tried to be a vegetarian, but ultimately my parents grounded me until I ate meat. This was the year I wanted to protest the rodeo being in town, but my mom wouldn’t drive me to a rally because she thought I was too young to be an activist. This was the year I put “Fur is Murder” cards in the pockets of all the fur coats at the Palais Royal on Mason Road. I was giving money to Greenpeace and PETA and I think about three other animal rights groups.
I don’t have too many essays about this, mostly because I think I either turned them in or sent them off somewhere. I found a few essays here where I’m really angry about racism, but they’re just so awkward that I’m still not ready to share them.
Okay, one line. I found an essay I wrote about Roots, and I’m just going to share the title: “IT’S NOT ABOUT GARDENING!”
Jesus, was there anything at fifteen I didn’t know the answer to? I think not!
So here’s this. This is something that I have shared once before. In public.
I need you to imagine that I am standing on a stage. I am fifteen. I am wearing a spandex unitard. It is white, with splatters of neon in pink and green. My hair is in a ponytail high on my head. I have on more eye makeup than I’ve ever worn, or will ever wear, in my life. My hips have just come in, and I hate them, so I’m trying to make my legs look skinnier by keeping my arms stiff at my sides, like a slender soldier. This means I have memorized the following… which I say out loud…to an audience of people… at my Dance II recital.
Three girls in matching unitards are posed behind me, waiting, as I read.
The earth is beautiful. Beautiful, but not perfect. We live in an age of war, AIDS, drugs, suicide, animal testing, divorce, murder, child abuse, incest, and rape. Where the ozone layer is being destroyed faster than we can calculate. Where every second another acre of the tropical rain forest is destroyed. Where every minute another species of plant or animal becomes extinct. Where there is a constant threat of nuclear war, toxic waste, natural disasters, oil spills, pollution, wars and the annihilation of the earth. Where homeless people crowd our streets and the insane are escaping, but we give money to build more weapons. Where only 15% of the entire population of Earth reads on a regular basis, and over a fourth of children drop out of school. Where gangs shoot and kill each other in your front yard, and where little girls are having little girls and boys of their own. Where famine is everywhere, and mutations and disease are infecting everything. All food is becoming bad for you, and everything is costing more.
Our dance reflects our feelings of separation, confusion, conformity and unity. Peace.
And then we danced to the first two minutes of Nine Inch Nails’ Head Like a Hole.
Oh, that’s good stuff. That’s like, what you end indie movies with. I really hope there isn’t video of this dance, because I think our brains do a really good job of changing memories into something we can actually handle.
So, listen. I’ve been stalling.
About a week ago I remembered something I wrote at fifteen that might be in this folder, but I’ve been unable to find it. I thought perhaps it was lost forever — I’ve had about ten different addresses since I was fifteen, so it’s a miracle/disgrace I’ve got any of these things, really.
But I just found it. Tucked near this extremely important dance essay might be the most embarrassing thing I wrote my fifteenth year. I’m not going to say it’s the most embarrassing thing I’ve ever written, because I’ve seen some of my work from my sixteenth year.
There’s no title, and there’s no date, which is why it was hard for me to find. The thing right before it was written in November of 2000, so I’m pretty sure this is around that time. Any later and I would have experienced an actual boyfriend, which is what changes pretty much my entire world view for the rest of my life.
So enjoy this short story, because there’s a kind of sweetness to it. It’s from the last time in Little Pam’s life that she was this exact combination of shy and secretly not shy.
I did not want to go to this family reunion. In my opinion, my entire family is completely and totally crazy. But, I was 24, and I looked forward to the freezing temperatures of Connecticut in December, hobnobbing with total lunatics. But, I’m wierd [sic], and I decide to go.
Didn’t “24” seem so grown-up at fifteen? Back then, at fifteen, I never went to Connecticut in December. The last time I visited my relatives for Christmas, I was five. But now that my mom and sister live in that house, I’m up there every December, hobnobbing with lunatics. This is only “wierd” to me, but still.
So I’m standing here, listening to my aunt telling me how big I’ve gotten, and I begin to realize that there are a lot of people here I have never seen before. I told my aunt that I was thirsty and left her jabbering to my sister about how big she’s gotten.
As I stand over the punch bowl, I notice that someone is beginning to get himself a drink as well. I always notice hands first (and that’s probably why I learned palm reading)–
— and I notice that this guy has got great hands. So, I slowly look up from his hands. He’s wearing a T-shirt that says “Free Nelson Mandela” and a suede jacket over it. Then I see his face. Even though had on a baseball cap and sunglasses, one look at those cheekbones and I knew who I was staring at.
The thing is… okay. Okay, I’ll wait for you to stop laughing. No, no, it’s okay. Go ahead.
The thing is. You see. And… well…
He smiled at me, just like the millions of smiles I have posted all around my room of him. My heart was racing ninety to nothing, and I knew I was shaking, but I tried desperately to keep my cool.
Dear Dorkhouse Forum. I swear every word of this is untrue. Please enjoy my fanfic to myself about meeting my celebrity crush. At a FAMILY REUNION. Which I’m sure says so much about my relationship issues and how I felt about moving a lot and isolation and confusion over exactly what kind of role a man is supposed to have in my life, and what it means to feel like you need a hero to rescue you all the time, particularly when dealing with your family.
“Hi,” he said, in the way that only he could. I know I was staring, and that my mouth was a little open, but it’s not every day that you see the hunk of your dreams standing right in front of you.
I feel like this might be the only time in my entire life I use the word “hunk.” I hope that’s true.
“Hi,” I said, breathlessly. “You know, you might be able to fool everyone else here with that sunglasses and hat getup, but you can’t fool me.”
He raised one finger to his lips to silence me, and I told him that I wouldn’t tell.
In my memory over the years, this story has changed. I thought I set this in a flea market, for example. I thought he was wearing that floppy hat he wears, and that it was sunny outside, and we were leaning over a table covered in necklaces. I thought I was supposed to be younger than twenty-four (because I did mention in here that my room was covered in his posters. At twenty-four?), and that he was checking me out, which was why we started talking in the first place.
But I do remember writing this essay, and over the years, this is the one part I still remember. Me telling him I know who he is, and him holding a finger over his lips.
You guys, this is the part that’s embarrassing. That even now, twenty years later, I remember this like it actually happened.
“Why are you at a family reunion if you don’t want to be seen?” I asked him, and I wondered how in the world could this guy be related to me.
“My mom told me I had no choice. What’s your name?”
Don’t you mean, “What’s my middle name,” future husband?
“Oh, I’m sorry, Pam. Pam Ribon.” We shook hands.
“Pleased to meet you, are you a Pam or a Pamela?”
“Pamela. But no one calls me that.”
“Then that’s what I’ll call you. Are you sure you’re related to me? No one in my family is as georgeous [sic] as you.”
I could feel myself blush as I said, “Everyone in my family that I know of is crazy.”
He laughed and said, “Then we must be related. Come on, let’s go check the chart.”
In the middle of the whole family reunion fiasco is a huge chart, telling the family tree.
“I don’t understand how we can be related,” I said. “I mean, you’re part Cherokee, and I’m Polish and Czech.”
“See,” he said pointing a finger to a name, “your great aunt married one of my great uncles, somehow that made us one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, ninth cousins twice removed.”
“Wow,” I said, because I couldn’t think of anything else to say.
“But,” he said, “that makes us so far apart that it’s like we aren’t related at all.”
“But that’s good, isn’t it?”
I looked up into his eyes (he had taken off his sunglasses) and stared into the depths of his big brown eyes. I could get used to this.
“Yeah,” I said. “That’s good.”
“You want to get out of here?”
“I thought you’d never ask.”
We left in his blue BMW, listening to the radio. I couldn’t help but sneak looks at this great looking person sitting beside me. God if this was a dream, I don’t ever want to wake up.
TO BE CONTINUED…………………………………………………
I am sure I am not alone in my disappointment when I say that this story is never continued. On paper. In my mind, it’s still continuing, and JD and I have had quite a life together these past twenty years.
The BMW is the best part. How I thought this is what grown-ups did. This was a grown-up conversation, how you met a boy and fell in love. You went to a family reunion but acted older and saner than everyone else, and then the celebrity with the celebrity-sounding car would whisk you away before he even told you his middle name. (Just kidding, he didn’t have to. It’s Christopher. John Christopher Depp II. I kind of know a lot about him. (And in finding that link, I see that I’ve alluded to this story before, which is probably why I thought it was set at a flea market.))
I’m just glad it’s legal for ninth cousins twice removed to have hot sex, or Little Pam would have been so sad.
As I said, this is kind of the end of fifteen, here. I have found one more letter that I wrote one month before I turn sixteen. I think I’m writing it… to Life? But it’s like I’m writing goodbye to fifteen. That year I was frustrated with all these wants, this need to do something, SOMETHING, anything, about all these emotions I was feeling, but I didn’t have a boyfriend and I didn’t have a car. All I had, you guys, was a pen.
3, March, 1991
Life confuses me. Life is like the biggest poser in the world. It acts like it’s this big deal — it’s the coolest. It’s the best. So you want to be friends with it, get closer to it, so it makes you cool too. You seize life with both hands, expecting it to be this enormous rush and this overwhelming feeling of happiness and you expect the coolness to start to rub off on you. You stick with this new buddy for a while — maybe even years but it seems the longer you hand around, the more fake and superficial it seems. It’s all about status, and who looks superior to whom, and you realize that there are more important things to do. But still, you figure that life is just going through some sort of phase and you continue to link arms with it. After a while, life starts to lose its appeal. You’ve stripped away the superficiality and you find that it is really dull and boring and not much to it.
And then I flung my notebook aside and turned sixteen at about the exact same time I was grounded one weekend and read Endless Love, which changed my entire concept of what young love could potentially be, and I started writing with words like “grinding” and “pulsing” and “moaning.” And learned how to correctly spell “ecstasy.”
My letters/stories from sixteen are like an entirely new person. One who requires fewer bottles of rain, but still appreciates a boy who knows how to handle a weepy heart.
So next time Little Pam will get a little dirty, but will also teach you some very important things that she’s learned. Life lessons, if you will, about how life is precious, and boys are mean, and racism is bad.
But for now, GET OUT OF MY ROOM!