Tag Archives: childhood

Dining Alone

Catherine: Hey guys. I meant to write this post over the holidays, because that’s when this story takes place but guess what – I didn’t.

So – here it is now.

When I was about 8 or 9, I got a bright pink matching long-sleeved Barbie shirt and Barbie pants from a friend for my birthday. They were pajamas, but I didn’t understand that – I thought it was an outfit. My birthday was in March, but I so revered this outfit that I SAVED IT UNTIL THE FOLLOWING DECEMBER – Christmas Eve, to be exact. I wanted to debut the shit out of this because it was FIERCE.

Growing up, I didn’t have my own bedroom, I shared a room with my brothers that had no door, so I would have to change in the bathroom. On this particular Christmas Eve, once my entire family had arrived for dinner, I went into the bathroom to make my move. For the first time in my life, I also locked the door – I thought this was suuuuuper grown up. I put on my Barbie ensemble and was ready to greet the family, expecting nothing if not an obscene amount of praise. But. I couldn’t unlock the door.

The lock, you see, was a weird turnkey thingy, and I couldn’t get it to work. It wasn’t until people started to need to use the (only) bathroom that I had to sort of explain, um… I can’t open the door… It was horrifying. I thought I was going to be in there FOREVER. My family was coaching me, trying to explain, “Just turn it to the left, and lift it a little.” Nothing. I was crying. I was going to die, alone, in a bathroom, in my Barbie outfit that I now HATED. Finally, after probably 45 minutes, I was free, having unlocked the door successfully moments before my dad was going to unscrew the doorknob. But I was also humiliated. I had since changed out of my Barbie outfit, so I emerged in what I had been wearing before. I got a plate of food, and too embarassed to talk to anyone, I took it into the bathroom where I shut the door (I didn’t lock it, of course) and ate alone. I remember looking at the discarded pink ensemble with SO MUCH HATE and no, I never wore it again.

This was the first in a string of being locked in bathrooms moment in my life – another memorable one was locking myself in a bathroom in Lithuania and giving myself a full-blown panic attack. So. Now I always test a lock before I lock it to see how it works. Like, I still do that. Y’all, I got problems.

Jana: Oh lil Cath. Poor lil Cath.

I wish you still had the Barbie outfit. Did it have Barbie’s face on it? Or was it a million little Barbies in a pattern that covered all the cloth? I just wish I knew, for some reason. Either way, I’m delighted to picture you sitting on a toilet, face over your plate of food, refusing to leave the bathroom. And I’m happy to report that, just a few miles away, I was probably doing something similar right at that very moment, unaware that parallel me (you) existed.

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Miniature Revenge

Jana: I had dinner with my parents on Sunday and my dad told me this short story:

I have an older sister – about a year and a half older, but when we were kids it felt like much, much more. There was a hierarchy that existed in all of our activities (one “game” I recall involved her giving me ten seconds to run downstairs and sharpen a pencil. She’d stand at the top of the stairs and be like: “You have TEN SECONDS. GO!” and I’d be like “AHHH” and run as fast as I could, fearing whatever it was that might happen if I didn’t complete the task in time), and this hierarchy was made even more evident when our playing involved other kids her age. Naturally, the girl who lived next door was also an older kid – a year older than my sister, thus making them a team of older kids – and the three of us hung out a lot.

I mostly remember really, really wanting to play with them, and often getting told to leave them alone. But, sometimes they needed me. I think they needed me for situations like the following:

– To retrieve balls that had been thrown deep into bushes

– To play the lower-status person in pretend games

– To be the monkey in monkey-in-the-middle (THIS IS HELL)

– To generally have someone to boss around

Still, I craved their attention, and gladly took on these roles again and again. But my dad recalls that one day, we had all been playing outside until, for some reason, I’d been banished back to our house. So, I was hanging out alone in the “play room,” probably re-reading “The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe” and blowing my nose. Suddenly, my sister and the neighbor burst into the house. “Jana! Come play with us!” they said. And – now this was a real moment for me – I think I finally knew what was up. They didn’t really want to PLAY with me, they just NEEDED me for some shit job. So I was like, “ok guys, be out in a minute!”, and waited until they’d gone back outside. Then I turned to my dad and said in a whispered tone: “…. I’m not going.”

Catherine: Jana, little Jana, speaking a secret in a whispered tone. This to me must be what heaven is like. I never had experiences like this growing up with my older brothers, I think maybe I was so awesome that they really did want to play with me? Or maybe no. Maybe this is what they were doing the whole time, all along, and this post is helping me to see the light… I choose to live in blissful ignorance.

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Adventures in Summer Misery

Jana: How’s everyone’s summer going? Good, yeah? Does everyone love summer?

That’s so great. Unfortunately, I really hate summer. Summer has always scared me because A) I’m anxious all the time, so the anxiety doubles when there’s no structure in my life and B) I’m not an adventurous, fun person, which becomes much more obvious to those around me during the summer. Any other time of year, it’s fine to suggest activities like going to the movies, reading next to each other at coffee shops, or staying inside to eat. But in the summer, people want to be outside! Every person in the facebook universe has spent the weekend at the beach! Everyone is tan and happy, while I am pale, scared, and sad. It’s a nightmare.

This is true now, but it was also true in my childhood. As a child, summer signified the coming of thunderstorms (definitely a sign from god that something terrible is about to happen, and yes I know most people find them cool and exciting), the end of sitting in class and feeling useful and interesting, and, of course, CAMPS. Ohhhh day camps. Ohhh you miserable organizations reeking of suntan lotion, spilled juice, and tears. Ohh god meeting new people. No no no no no. Please don’t make me go.

But, I did have to go. And sometimes I went to theater camps, which was ok. But one summer, for some reason that I CANNOT FATHOM, my parents signed me up for something called “Adventure Camp,” hosted by our town’s rec department. Why I agreed to this in the first place I really and truly cannot say. Why I did not start screaming at the mention of “adventure” makes absolutely no sense to me now. But, somehow, I was enrolled, and I attended. And it was hell.

I went with my best friend at the time, a similarly non-adventurous and awkward kid. Obviously, we were outcasts from the start. My main memory of this is arriving late, having almost forgotten my lunch or something, and desperately running across hot pavement in order to stand in line while attendance was called, all the while terrified that I’d forget my name or forget how to say “here” or that I’d just drop dead from all the pressure. Once I survived that, it was on to trust falls, in order to build up the group dynamic. This was, obviously, terrible. Nothing is worse than trust falls with a bunch of kids who definitely think you are very weird.

The two-week ordeal consisted of more trust falls, various physical drills, and then a full-on ropes course, including a zip line. I hated and feared every minute of it. But there was one redeeming factor: a sweet, cute, male counselor who took pity on me and joked around with me, making me feel like less of a total loser. One day, during lunch, this awesome counselor was getting everyone all riled up over some mind-game riddle thing he’d told us. It was one of those things where he was like, “I’m going on a trip, and I’m gonna bring a tree but not a forest,” and everyone had to be like, “well can you bring a monkey?” and he’d be like, “not a monkey but I will bring a carp,” and everyone was  like “WHATTTT!” and he was like, figure it out. So, I could not figure it out, but I was having fun participating, which was rare. I got really into badgering him to tell me the secret answer, and he finally did on the condition that I promised not to tell anyone else. WE WERE BUDDIES. It was great.

After lunch, I told my one and only friend the secret riddle solution. And then, she must have told someone else! I don’t know what happened! All I know is that my buddy friend counselor cornered me later and was like, jokingly, “I thought I could trust you, kid!” And I thought: Oh My God, my life is over. I was mortified, and tried desperately to explain that I had really, really, really meant to keep the secret. In my desperation I believe that I almost cried, or potentially that I did actually cry.

Looking back, I can see that this counselor obviously did not give a fuck about this situation. But at the time, it felt very monumentally disappointing and upsetting and embarrassing.

Somehow, the weeks continued. I zip-lined and ropes-coursed and hated it, went to sleep in fear, and then woke up and did it again, until the damn camp was over. I don’t remember how I left things with counselor friend buddy, but I can assume that our relationship was very compromised by my severe overreaction to the weird game thing.

So there you have it. I do not like summer, or adventure, and I cry at inappropriate times. If anyone wants to do something fun, it would be best not to call.

Catherine: Poor, poor Jana. Jana, who hates the beach, but who cannot deny that she actually has fun while she is there as long as she is huddled beneath an umbrella with a beer and a book, and an equally pale me by her side.

SEE HOW HAPPY YOU WERE??!

SEE HOW HAPPY YOU WERE??!

Summer has been hard for you for awhile, it seems? Tragic. I can see that this particular camp played perfectly to your weaknesses and probably caused damage that we continue to see the effects of. I wish I could go back in time to your scared Janaself and tell you to CHILL OUT, but I imagine your Janaself  would just blink in confusion and try to give me a bobby pin.

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