Learning To Love You More




Assignment #14
Write your life story in less than a day.

Oakland, California USA



I was born in the fall of 1979 in Santa Monica, CA, just barely making it into the 70s, as a friend my age likes to brag. My name means Princess, and I really fit the profile in my early years. I slept under a canopy, I had a kingdom of dolls and stuffed animals, while real deer walked around the backyard. I went to a private preschool in the Pacific Palisades with a bunch of other blondies. Our parents were tan, healthy, beautiful Californians. We went swimming in each others pools, went to the zoo, did countless arts and crafts, baked alligator bread, played with Lite Brite, began studying the piano. I watched half of a movie each night before bed, mostly musicals. I read voraciously -lots of fairy tales. I hoped I would pass the virtue test should a prince ever test my kindness by disguising himself as a desperate beggar.
For 1st grade, I transferred to public school. I was one of only 2 first graders in a 1-3 class. My first day of school, I was so excited I forgot to wear underwear and spent the first day leg-locked. I became the doll of the class. Small and shy with braided pigtails and matching outfits, my classmates would pick me up and carry me around the yard, or grab my braids and play horsie. I became friends with the other first grader- she was bigger and bolder than I and we made a convenient match that way. We were friends for years-when her mom was breaking from writing her screenplay, we'd take over the downstairs office and play Carmen San Diego for hours. We provided the kind of enthusiastic labor only children can offer for her neighbor Francine who we thought was so cool; she had us apply rhinestones & puff paint to Keds and try to sell them. We trolled around in the summertime, playing pingpong at the rec center and lusting after our tennis teacher. She would teach me to smoke pot out of an apple soon before we drifted apart.
My sister was born at the end of 83; I had to stay the night at a friend s house. I didn t sleep the whole night, not from anxiety about my sis but because I d never slept anywhere but my own bed before. I don t remember her homecoming very well. I felt conflicted about her arrival. She was a cute little kid, painfully cute. She had adorable golden ringlets, and the most expressionful face I ve ever seen on a kid. She was also very troubled. I remember my mom confiding in me that my sister had been determined by some pros. at UCLA to be both incredibly intelligent and dangerously depressed. She was telling me this to explain her behavior in one of our arguments and to ask me to give her a break. I remember feeling frustrated and angered by this comment. I was depressed too-I just didn t talk about it. I didn t show my sister much love as a kid. We didn t get along. She had brute strength and I was tricky, even cruel. We were jealous of each other. Our parents marriage was falling apart. My sister threw tantrums every morning before school about her socks. She was infinitely curious about me, but eventually became wary and learned not to trust me.
My parents decided to divorce when I was in 5th grade. Since the girl I most idolized in class had divorced parents, I thought this was kind of cool. I wanted to be officially dysfunctional. I always felt like we looked too good on paper, too boring and squeaky clean. But it was rough. My dad moved out and the house went to shit under my mom s care, or lack thereof. She was depressed, she isn t particularly neat-by-nature, and she d gotten each of us a cat as compensation gifts that we neglected, so they took over the house. I remember my violin teacher-an Amazonian-Topanga Canyon hippie newly a mother-leaving mid-lesson because she said the place was too unsanitary for her baby. The car fell apart too-my mom drove this big hunkin Mercedes she called the Debutante-it was stuffed with trash and the front seat would occasionally catch on fire. I remember it caught once when my friend Lily Chang was in the front-my mom pretended like it d never happened before. We d go to McDonalds every day and she d order these huge iced teas.
My dad s new apartment was in Brentwood by Maria s Italian kitchen. They knew the pizza order we d call in every Tuesday. I shared a room with my sister. We d argue over the angle of the blinds and play games after dark like Guess what number I m thinking of. We played lots of games like this, talked in inside jokes and watched Grease until we had it memorized.
My dad won the house and I remember we weren t totally packed the day of the switch- we knew shit would hit the fan when he saw the condition of the house. I slept on the floor by my heater that night after packing up as best I could. He was furious when he showed up in the morning. I remember sitting in the car while he screamed and he and my mother fought. That same day, after we d left, he took the cats and let them loose up the street-certain death for a cat in our neighborhood, which still had coyotes coming down from the hills.
Preparing to begin 7th grade, I was truly terrified of being a scrub. We couldn t help but believe the horror stories of toilet dunkings and straight up beatings. I was in IHP, a legendary academic program encapsulated in a North Hollywood public school. I was at the top of the class, and wholeheartedly accepted the challenges of my teachers and peers. We studied logic and Latin, advanced math and science, and relatively sophisticated history and English lessons. I suspect that cerebrally speaking, those were the most stimulating days of my life-college didn t measure up. By the end of my stint, I d found friends who were the perfect combination for me of smart and cool. And the group included guys-I remember Guy Friends were a big deal; hadn t had em since those early early school days. But we were spread across the city. The program had drawn kids from the city and valleys of LA, which made friendships hard in some ways. It was not a neighborhood crowd, and of my friends, I was the furthest away, living in Santa Monica. I often felt the pangs of being left out, but did love checking out all these new pockets of L.A.
The 94 earthquake wrecked the foundation of our apartment building and we lived in hotels for a year. First we lived in the Lowes Hotel on Ocean Avenue, taking advantage of an earthquake victim discount. The hotel is a luxury hotel, but my sister, my mom and I shared one room with applicable hotel phone charges, which was the real tragedy for my preteen self. My mom and my sister spent time together those days, while I would stay in the hotel room. When they came home at night, they would often bring me a box of leftovers from the Souplantation buffet, with lots of cornbread and fruit.
We moved to a long term residency hotel called the Cal Mar for the rest of the year-a bunch of Italians came in for the World Cup that summer. They would do music and acrobatic performances on the Third Street Promenade. I remember them all hanging out by the pool when I came home. One guy was so hairy he was furry; his hair would move with the ripples in the pool. I was ready to scope for guys too, although partly just to keep up with my friends. I mean, I ve had crushes since I can remember, but always of the prudish fairy tale sort. Things were getting more serious now; subtlety was out (if it was ever in for anyone but me) everyone was into hooking up. I remember one girl at the back of the bus giving me the lowdown on the hierarchical levels of heavy petting-feeling up over the shirt, feeling up under the shirt, under the bra, then feeling down over the pants is equal to under the bra, etc. etc. Being the nerds that we were, even passion was meticulously analyzed and ordered.
I could not partake in this nonsense, not because I was above it, but because I stuffed my bra. My deep dark secret of junior high and high school I must admit, was significantly contributing to my prudish disposition, because I dreaded the situation that would allow any hand to discover this deception. Stuffing my bra was hard work. I finally systematized the creation of kleenex triangles that I would wear over and over so that they took on a natural shape. But it was tough-pool parties, sleepovers-everything required careful planning and secrecy. I also lied about having my period, which I didn t-didn t get that until the first day of highschool, 10th grade. I would even loudly unwrap pads in the bathroom, chatting stall-to-stall with my friend so that I wouldn t be found out. Everyone was feeling each other up and down and making the first-time memories of a lifetime, and I was falling seriously behind.
I think I smoked my first cigarette the summer after ninth grade-it was down the street from the Cal Mar, at the beginning of the Promenade. My friend Becky, the one person from Jr. High I really kept together with all through high school, showed me how to do it. I was more about friends than family for this whole time in my life-I think many kids are. My friends and I called each other sweetie , kissed hello and goodbye on the cheeks and said I love you when we paged each other or hung up the phone. I could barely bring myself to say hello and goodbye to the fam. Becky lived on the eastside, near Melrose and La Brea. It was way more happening on that side of town than it was in boring old Santa Monica, so I tried to be over there as much as possible. We started our foray into the world by nighttime walks on Melrose. Checking out the stores with studded belts, and incense-I remember this one that seemed like a maze, so mysterious. We became total mall rats at the Beverly connection and center, confronting celebrities, hoping to run into some guys we kind of knew, wearing hippied-out shirts with jeans and Docs. Smoking cigs of course. I got drunk for the first time off of Blue Citron vodka- more sick than drunk. We d hang out at Becky s friend Daniel s house. I was meeting a whole new crew-the networks of fairfax and hollywood high school and the eastside neighborhoods were opening up and this world could not have been more exciting to me. Some boys thought I was pretty too. I was kindof, although I had bad acne, which was another reason I didn t want anyone getting too close to me. I was a true artiste with the concealer, but I always felt like a time bomb that couldn t last for more than a few hours without becoming an oily, tissue-padded mess by the end of the night.
Well, Becky started going to a private girls school in Hancock Park and made friends with some rich punk rockers, as much as there is such a thing. I tagged along to parties and shows and made it to the cafes as much as possible, trying to forge my own way among the crowd. My family was peripheral-I was barely home, feeling more comfortable at friends houses than my own-I envied my friends without parents, or whose parents were more like us than typical parents. A few times I came home at four or so in the morning, coming down from acid-then I would go talk to my mom, who would inevitably be at the computer with a pack of Vivarin by the monitor. I d spill my guts, talk candidly and needily about my life and she d listen. Then I d go into my room and watch When Harry Met Sally or Auntie Mame to comfort myself to sleep. I was intimidated by these girls, these new friends who were so blunt and self-assured and independent; I looked up to them so much it was hard to relate as friends, but I loved to be around them.
I moved up to the Bay Area to go to college at Cal. I became one of a tight trio of girlfriends; it was just what I d wanted after floating between groups during high school. We braved the new scene together and 2nd year of college moved into a pink Victorian in Oakland; we were pioneers among the Cal crowd to make this move to The Ghetto, though the punks and other kids had settled there too. I dated a little, started having sex -partied a lot. We started running around with this band and all of their friends. Everyone was just meeting each other, the parties were fun and crazy, and the time felt exciting.
Now I ve graduated and am still lingering around these parts. The times don t feel as exciting-I m starting to yearn for a fresh start. I ve only worked part-time since I ve been out of school, and have gained little insight into the looming question of my future. Currently I m working in the teen section of a library, where I stay impeccably up to date on the lives of Mary-Kate and Ashley, the seemingly endless string of celebrity pregnancies and other monumental world affairs. A magazine and the slow last hours of my shift led me here, where I decided to join the ranks of the numbered Anonymous and our 42nd president and put my story-at least some easy fragments of it-out for the world to read.