In Five Words Or Less
The featured image for this blog post is a photo of the front cover i drew for a journal I kept in 2003. No social media meant I had quite a bit of free time to be incredibly earnest in private. Look! I can draw punk people.
I am in a sound booth at RMIT struggling to finish reading a journal excerpt from 2003. I was being recorded which made me a bit more bashful than when I was reading from a less saucy journal at the live diary reading event I went to last year. The live journal reading event was organized by the same women doing this particular study. They had approached me via email and asked me if I would be willing to take part in their research project the purposes of which included:
The diary project is a research project based on re-reading of girlhood diaries and related artefacts of the late 20th Century. It examines these diaries against the twenty-first century phenomenon of public diary sharing as a form of literary event.
That is what lead to me sitting in a sound booth reading out loud among other things the following sentence
”I concentrated instead on massaging his pleasure palace.”
It’s when I get to this that I have to stop and giggle a bit and start to feel ridiculous. I look up from my journal and tell the researchers that this is excruciating and laugh awkwardly. Reading about a boring church dance at age 16 was far easier than reading about how I was so desperate in love with someone I did dick stuff with them quite a few times without him kissing me. I don’t say that to the researchers though that is too embarrassing. I will write about it here instead where you can’t hear my voice or see my face go bright red as I read about this fellow blowing his load up the sleeve of pjs that my grandmother had gotten for me.
The researchers say I dont have to continue if i dont want to but they assure me there is no need to be embarressed so I take a breath and continue to read.
”I felt it get moist and then blow it’s load up my pyjama sleeve. I am glad it’s dark in the bedroom so he can’t see me cringe in disgust. I have no idea what to do with my cum filled hand.”
I finish the section ( the guy in question lets me wipe my hand on his boxers) shut my journal with a satisfying thud and bring us back to the here and now, where I no longer have to deal with post adolescent heart break and feeling like I’m going to hell in a basket. The researchers burst into impressed and sympathetic laughter. ”Jess, that was amazing.” They tell me. I cover my face with my hands as I wait for the feeling to subside. Its not like I am not able to share stuff like this. I’m working on a project that will entail me talking about this stuff onstage in front of people. I have done it before with no problem.
The difference is that when I do get on stage and share stuff it is usually filtered through the beauty of rewording and memory juxtaposed with a helping hand of paraphrasing and twisting the truth to serve a more entertaining narrative.
Reading the exact words written by me at that exact time when these things are happening and I’m feeling the feelings associated with those events, is different. It is like Im 21 again and I’m back in his bedroom with the black out curtains, friends asleep on the bedroom floor by the bed we are in. While his housemates continue partying down the hall. I’m back to that nigh all wide awake with angst and worry and insecurity. The pages and pages of messy writing relaying every touch and shrug. It hurt. And after reading, it hurt again.
I was also annoyed at myself for not being confident enough to just tell them what I wanted. Demand some answers and not be so riddled with the conviction that if I was prettier I would not be in the mess I am in. I want to jump into those pages and find myself at 21 and shake her and hug her and shake her again before telling her how beautiful she actually is, how funny and unique and that yes, she should definitely go and see a psychologist because my young darling version of me, you are all over the place emotionally and part of that is because you are 21 and the religious ideologies put on you from birth have messed you up big time, it’s also because you are incredibly depressed and trying way to hard to not let anybody know.
Drinking as much as you do and eating as little as you do…I know you have no money…I could go on. I love you is all. Do you understand, little Jess? I know I’m not the person you dream of saying that to you. I’m sorry. But its still pretty cool isn’t it? Seeing your future self, I have had SEX lots of it. Every one of them has kissed me first. Turns out we are kissable as all hell. You know what that means? Yeah I don’t need to spell it out you are smiling. You are smart. We. Are. Smart. Keep writing those journals it is going to pay off career wise. You think it means nothing and does not matter. You are wrong.
The researchers ask when and why I started writing a journal. It was my mother I say. I was 4 and she got a notebook from the supermarket and covered it in koala contact paper. It was to record my days as best I could when I was little. Church really encouraged journal keeping as a form of family history. They were meant to be for your kids and relatives to read after you were dead so they could get to know more about you. I really took to it. But not so much so my kids could read them. Im pretty sure your kids don’t want to read about your first sexual interactions.
It was not until I left home and was away at university that my journals got even more honest and interesting.
The researchers ask me if I have any plans that include any use of my journals. I brighten and explain that im working on something called Mormon Girl a one woman show that centres around the disenchantment of my Mormon upbringing coupled with my burgeoning sexuality and bodily autonomy. They get very excited about this information. ”You must let us know when it’s on.” They say. ”the title alone will get people coming.” We all laugh for a while and proceed to make a few more climax related double entendres. They ask a few more questions and all in all the interview had taken a bit over forty five minutes. They give me numbers to call if this experience has caused any emotional distress. I say I’m fine. It will hit me later that I am not really. After I have spent two nights staying up till midnight reading and rereading old journals obsessively, seeing things with the painful bastard hindsight and clarity. Things I missed. Chances lost.
Once back outside the sky is grey but it is not cold.
I go home. Where there is someone waiting.