The times that I have felt craziest have been when I could not tell the
truth about what was going on in my life.
Well, I felt crazy when I was diagnosed with breast cancer but that was
a different kind of crazy. It was a betrayal of the body, of cells gone
I am talking about a different kind of crazy. The crazy that comes
with the denial or suppression of personal experience because of the
implication of others.
Like in high school.
I was wildly unhappy in high school.
I did fine for a while. Decided to see if I could be popular at a
new school as a goal. Succeeded my freshman year, largely by being
friendly to everyone and never really saying how I felt about anything.
And maybe the
inauthencity of that worked so well, I started crashing.
How was high school for you?
It was very difficult. I wasn't part of the "in" crowd.
Classes were difficult. I loved photography. I had a girlfriend.)
felt like an animal in a cage because my folks would not let
me go out after dark by myself. So I felt captive from the
I entered the
house. And any going to any place else had to be negotiated.
It was a gendered captivity. My brother had much more freedom.
One way I solved my way out of the house was by working myself
into a frenzy. I had some ridiculous job at the school snack
bar at 8
a.m. when i would
sleepily dispense Cokes and squirrel away M & M's. In
the afternoon, when I wasn't doing theatre, I worked as a
time secretary for a two
bit lawyer in the Hyde Park Bank Building,
I had an account there. It was around the corner from the
Hyde Park theater . . . right?),
typing and retyping the
same letter because I was such a lousy typist.
I think a lot of the problem was sex.
I was sexually confused: careening privately, secretly
between my interests in my best friend, and another
girl that my brother dated
for a while, and this guy or that.
I was filled with sexual desire and terrified to
act on any of it. Afraid what I might discover
if I went for it with
any of these girls.
that would mean and what would I do and what would
my family think. Or what if they rejected me and
told everyone what
I had said or
And I was afraid of pregnancy or getting called a
slut if I experimented with the guys.
I don't know if hormones or this double bind was
the cause but I found it very hard to concentrate
in school and cut
than I am still
willing to admit to my parents 30 years later.
I know we went to a good high school, Kim..It probably
doesn't get much better than the University of
Chicago Laboratory School. Good student
teacher ratio. And with the exception of our sadistic
phys ed teacher, Mr Patlak, there were teachers
who really invested
students and their learning. Like Mr. Bell for
Social Studies or Mr. Brasler for Journalism.
We got to do some cool projects.
But I had a hard time with readjusting my thinking
every 45 minutes to another subject. And I didn't
When I started a project, I wanted to finish it.
To read Great Expectations all
the way through, not parceled out in chunks for weeks
on end. To continue writing a short story in English,
just start it.
And I was having a really hard time living at home,
playing by my parents' rules and trying to carve
out some private
space for myself.
My father seemed either invasive or neglectful and
it enraged me. My adult self now understands that
he was overworked
and tired, probably
overwhelmed by the responsibility—fiscal and otherwise
for a family with three kids—had his own triggers
and no handbook for dealing
with a moody
But all I could see was that he didn't see me. Didn't
see who I was and tried to control what he did see.
not and could not
let me roam free.
Was it unsafe in Hyde Park to be on my own?
But I was desperate to try new things, to have conversations
with myself and myself alone.
So we fought verbally and physically and Iran away
I lived with my mother's best friend for several
weeks and went to school every day as if nothing
As if my father hadn't
the crap out of me, in his frustration.
And every day as I walked down Blaine Hall, I remember
passing the counselor's office, some mousy latent
lesbian and thinking,I can't
to her. I can't tell her I got kicked out of the
house or ran away. I can't compromise my parents'
I bet if I told her or someone else, they would never
I can't tell her I am sick with love and suffering for
Katie Woolf, who is jonesing for Neal Bader. Not
I can't tell her that all I can stand to do is cut
classes and eat sugar and masturbate to D. H. Lawrence—the
scene with the lady and the gardener, flipping
back and forth between
various gender configurations
in my head. Or shoplift at Woolworth's for costume
jewelry I don't even want. Or take the 57 bus down
to the Art
Institute and hang around the cafeteria, pretending
I was an art student. An adult.
God, what a sickly feeling of shame and blame and
guilt and feelings I don't even have names for because
so mixed up.
I gained 50 pounds in high school and failed geometry
twice. Once is understandable. Twice is an act of
will and desperation.
I do not trace these accomplishments—it takes a lot to gain 50 pounds—to
my parents, nor do I blame them. Although I probably
should have been an emancipated minor and gone to art school. I really
to get away from home and to get laid.
I blame the secrets that I kept. That I literally
had to keep swallowing. Or that so preoccupied
me, I could not
concentrate on an
I do not want to keep secrets any more.
I have told you plenty of secrets now. Please draw
me a secret of mine or tell me a secret one of your
Friday, Nov 18, 2005