When I decided to re-read the juicy 1987-88 archives of my adolescent life, I thought I might gain some new insight into my younger self. I was looking for threads that could be considered early indications of the passions I find so magnetic at 34. Was I daydreaming about Africa then?
Africa? No. My romance with Robert Lebovic dominated every page—that is, from January 1st until May 15th when the diary entries came to an abrupt and unexplainable end. So much for a Bridges of Madison County-type movie about my life. I thought I wrote more. I thought I was profound.
Ha, I was a teenage flake! On January 1st I had a “tragic crush on Travis Smith” from the badminton club. In the last sentence of that day’s entry I was lamenting, “Mark Stables in good lookin’!” On January 3rd I was asking my diary, “I wonder if Robert’s wondering about me?”
Oddly, when I wasn’t all google-eyed over the boys, I had a Cronenberg fascination with car wrecks. There were several half-page accounts of accidents—like of the woman killed in front of her house when she backed out of her driveway and was hit by a bus. The following day I documented a “demolished station wagon in front of Mac’s Milk.” If I was searching for insight, I might be led to believe that I should have chosen a career in accident reconstruction.
From car wrecks to emotional wrecks my pages were an embarrassing glimpse into my desire to be loved and accepted. Finally, I became “officially engaged with Robert Lebovic” that first week of January. “In the middle of nowhere, on this cold, blustery, snowy day, we kissed. It had brought back the warmth I had been missing for so long.”
The warmth I had been missing for so long? I was 13! What did I know about warmth? Obviously I was trying to replicate the smoldering scenes I was intensely involved in on The Young and The Restless. “Lately Rose has been her ‘low-down’ self by tricking Nina by leading her to the wrong baby. In my opinion, that is really, really sneaky! Can you actually believe that Nina tied Rose to her bed with nylons while she ran to get Phillip to ask him for 10 thousand dollars from Mrs. Chanceller? Farrah found out that she was pregnant too, but Andie doesn’t know that her real husband’s in town.”
Even with Robert’s warmth, there were great disappointments in my life too. “I finally finished my apron for Home-ec class. I got 36 out of 50 on it. Pretty good considering I sewed the pocket shut and constructed my neck tie wrong. Oh well, I’m not exactly planning to pursue a career in fabric. After all—it’s a happy-go-lucky occupation being a fashion designer, is it not?”
Maybe I did have a few profound revelations. As for premonitions, there is an indication of Africa. I won the local newspaper’s April Fool’s Day Joke Contest (“$25 in buckaroos! Totally mega wild! I’m loaded!”). The winning joke: Tarzan and Jane were sitting in their treehouse in the jungle. Jane suggested Tarzan go find supper before dark. Tarzan reappeared carrying a bird and two monkeys. Jane wailed, “Oh, no! Not finch and chimps again!”
I see traces of environmental activism and social responsibility back then. “I wrote another short story about a squirrel travelling to Canada because of the pollution and acid rain problem in the United States.” That statement was followed by a review of hot dog day at school and a Woolco shopping spree where I bought myself a mega pair of shorts (jams).
I was also quite consumed with my Hostess Munchies Wrestlemania sticker collection. “I have Jake the Snake, King Kong Bundy, George ‘The Animal’ Steele, The Honky Tonk Man, Ricky ‘The Dragon’ Steamboat and The Iron Sheik.” This was a surprise. I collected wrestling stickers? That collection could be worth a fortune now, I’m totally raiding the attic of my parents house when I’m home in a few weeks.
As I read through the winter of my discontent, I realized that tragedies are frequent at 13. “Shannon asked me if I could sleep-over at her house, but nooooo! Of course not, just because of the way she wears her hair and make-up and because she has a boyfriend my parents won’t let me. Good grief! Parents! They probably won’t let me go over to Melissa’s either. My chance to get popular, but noooooooo!”
At least I had Robert. Or did I? For his birthday I gave him the heart-shaped key to my diary (there’s true love!) and Kermit on a skateboard. “I still like him I guess, but I also like Frankie. They’re both babes.” Luckily I bought a button that said “Shut-up and dance” to wear to the Easter dance. Surely everything would pan out there.
And it did! “The dance in Oakland on Friday was totally assume! (*Editor’s note: I thought ‘awesome’ was spelled ‘assume’ in 1987). I danced with Michael, Mike, Rodney, Dion, Alex, Torin and John promised me a dance next time because he had to be the disc jockey. Where was Robert? My fiancée?
May 2nd: “I went to bed and played music on my ghetto while I read. Kiley lent me her Babysitters collection and I’m on book three. I think Robert likes me but I’m not jumping to any conclusions now that everything’s okay. Watched Jaws 2—ASSUME!”
I hope everything’s okay? We were officially engaged just weeks ago. But Jaws, yeah, that was a good one.
Robert-schmobert. “I witnessed another car accident on the way home from my aunt’s farm in Komoka. I ate fruit Jell-o, cupcakes, jellybeans, egg salad sandwiches, Coke, chips and bananas (apparently ’87 was the year I had a touch of bulimia?). We ate our chips on the way back from Aunt Ruth’s and we saw a three car accident in Hambton county. We stopped for ice cream cones and cotton candy and went home.” I’m sure they weren’t selling cones and cotton candy at the scene of the accident, but my journalistic skills then would lead readers to believe that.
Aside from recounting motor vehicle accidents I had other pursuits I was following. Like my Living it Up! manuscript about a girl named Christie Brinkley (oh, how creative!) who was desperately trying to get into the Bojangles Dance Academy. “I have to get my story typed, bound and put in the school library!”
I guess writing was the outlet for my 13-year-old heartache and disappointment. I was living vicariously through Christie Brinkley and possibly aspiring to be a dancer? “I was invited to Corey Roberts’ party, and figures, Dad won’t let me go. No wonder I hardly have any close relationships with friends ‘cause my Daddy won’t let me—and I can’t go out until I’m 18 and I can’t get married until I’m 90!”
Oh, woe is me. I was always quick to rebound though. “Mom says I should write down what the fashions are for this year. Abstract printed tees, jams, knee-busters, Sperry Topsiders and bulky sweats. I’m gonna get a pair of Sperry’s (green) –they are just like tennis shoes but they’re more durable and are also a brand name. I also want a Swatch like David Holmes. At Sears I bought a pair of jammers/knee-busters. They’re long enough that they go right over me knees! Also, today I gave Robert a pin that says ‘Built Like a Mack Truck.’ It looks so adorable on him it ain’t funny. Thank god I sit right next to him—he makes my heart flutter when he smiles. It’s bad enough that he’s going with Nicole, but, oh well. There’s more fish in the sea!”
What? We broke up? The engagement dissolved and I was busy eating egg salad sandwiches and cupcakes? There was a blank page on February 6th, but I was probably busy getting caught up with The Y&R. I think I was also excited about getting a pen pal from Lemon township, Ohio, as I mentioned it about 10 times. But maybe I was still bitter with Melissa because she found out that I was in true love with Robert still and she automatically fell in love with him again.
Soon there was another school dance and I was able to spin Jeff Kellam around under the disco ball—because he “really flipped my pancake.” We swayed to “Stand By Me.” But then Dion slammed Jeff and gave him a bleeding nose. However, I got 30/38 on my plants test in Science!”
Even with such emotional strife and intense studies I still managed to hold down a part-time job working with Mrs. Kuyvenhoven, a local craft lady, helping her glue wreaths and bows that were fitted around the necks of her signature fabric goose doorstops. “I earned $5.50 last night and can you believe we had pizza with double cheese, double onions, pepperoni, green peppers, mushrooms, olives and bacon!! Assume!”
Clearly I didn’t get out enough. That same day Krista figured out my birth force number (?). “Can you believe it said that I had tons of talent and was an artist? What a coinsitance, eh?” (With rock-solid self-esteem my spelling would have to improve by 1989. Obviously I grew up hooked on phonics , distracted by my tons of talent).
In other 1987 talent news: “I watched the American Music Awards at home tonight. Can you believe Whitney Houston won seven? I was really surprised Run DMC didn’t get one, and Madonna only got one. Diana Ross was dancing like a maniac, so stiff! It looked so gay! Anyway, Janet Jackson got two for ‘Nasty.’ Yahoo for Jackson! Mega wild!”
And then, finally, after the music awards coverage, there was acknowledgement of the trouble in paradise. “Nicole, Shan and Melissa went to Robert’s hockey game. Quite frankly, I’m jealous. I can’t stand the thought of Robert and Nicole going together, I just can’t and never will. Mom bought me a pair of cotton yellow pants with a matching abstract sweater and a new printed denim jacket to match my skirt and my pants.” I had a skirt? And here I was calling Diana Ross gay!
More important issues took hold. To hell with Robert. “The hotdogs the school made today S-U-C-K-E-D MASSIVELY! The buns (not the regular buns we have) were ice cold, the wieners were cold too! They were just blaaah! I have to go to Grandma’s tomorrow in search of a painting smock. I called Robert after school, I need to really talk to him but he wasn’t home!”
My diary ends on a flat note. I still hadn’t heard from my pen pal Bill White, from Franklin, Ohio. “What a bummer. I hope he’s a babe. For Mother’s Day I bought Mom a wooden beaded necklace at the Lynden Park Mall. It has a fancy painted parrot on it and cost $9.00. Picturesque weekend and it looks as if it’s going to rain! What a bummer. Also, Tyra hates me because I told her Jason asked me out (jokingly) and she took a massive rang and said John hated me.”
What a year! I kinda wish I had chronicled the dramatic conclusion of 1987. I am left with so many burning questions. Like, where is my Shut-up and Dance button? Where is that Livin’ it Up! manuscript? Did the librarian at Mt. Pleasant Public School submit it to Penguin Books under a pen name? Why don’t we say “mega wild” anymore?
I know where Robert Lebovic is, we reunited by the powers of Facebook a year ago. He’s happily married (not to Nicole)and has two cherub children in Toronto. He recently had to tell his wife of his prior engagement to me. All is forgiven between us though, after all, he brought back the warmth in my life that I had been missing. Regardless, I might ask him to return that heart-shaped key to my diary. I wouldn’t want just anyone to find out ALL my mega wild assume 13-year-old confessions!