(Right now, I’m focusing on my memoirist work that I’ll call, simply, “Pictures of Tommy” -- mostly about my psychotic brother and his legacy. It touches on my fears, too. Here’s the part that I talk about my experience growing up, and some of the factors contributing to my early teen breakdown. . . This is the painful stuff for me, bad choices, stupid moves. . .)
The summer I was seeing Jon, I had plans to switch high schools from Bishop Reilly to the big public high school, Cardozo. I was thrilled to enroll in a place where you didn’t have to wear uniforms, the boys and girls studied together in a class, and my Jewish friends -- Jon’s friends I’d met, and the kids from the Samuel Field Y program -- were all there.
I only got to go to Cardozo because I figured out how to get kicked out of Bishop Reilly High School: you had to flunk religion class. That was easy! After returning to school once I recovered from mono, I’d sit with crossed arms at my desk in religion class and not even touch any of the materials that the nun teaching the class distributed. I know it was rude, and felt kind of bad, but my “righteous” anger about being kept in a dismal, repressing place like Bishop Reilly got the best of me and I didn’t want to be there, period.
I started going to Cardozo, and fell in with some girls who loved the band Poco. We’d go over one of their houses after school and sew or embroider patches on our jeans. It was quite the craze that year: elaborate patches and embroidery. I liked to sew, so it was a fun thing to do. I also started sewing some of my own clothes out of old pieces of cloth and used jeans -- like halter tops with old Girl Scout badges (I’d been a Junior and Cadette scout). Cool.
My sophomore year in high school is when I started my intense dieting regimen. . . and a friend introduced me to “black beauties” too. Those were diet pills, very strong speed. I think I started to kind of lose it. . . things started spinning out of control. I was still pining over that awful boy, Jon. I couldn’t help it. . . I felt so awful and I couldn’t rely on food to make me feel better. . .
Before I was a teenager, I’d eat piles of pancakes, shoveling ‘em in. I’d eat three servings of desserts. Devouring bags of Fritos chips, I’d wash ‘em down with 7-Up, the “uncola.” I was one big girl who adored brownies, chocolate chip cookies, Milky Way Bars, Big Hunk nougat bars, Three Musketeers, Turkish Taffy. . . I also had quite the candy jones.
(Below: Grandma's Christmas cookies from her recipes. MMM mmm yumboleenie!)
Before my teen years, I had double chins, thighs that chafed each other when I walked, and had to shop at the Lane Bryant Chubby girl shop. I hated my body. I couldn’t stop eating, and until I was fourteen, I didn’t.
Food was my friend; not too many kids were. But then, and thanks to Jon breaking up with me, it changed.