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Part One

Dec 3, 1980

  1. Chris [ last name redacted ]
  2. New York, going to
  3. Atlantic City
  4. Baby
  5. Egypt
  6. Marriage last December

Dear M.P.W.W.S.T.O.B.P.O.P.A.P.T.I.P.L.,

Well I said I that I must get motivated and write. Here I am folks! And am I motivated!

Indeed, she seems quite cheerful and talkative. It's hard to describe how good this made me feel. Our mutual floodgates were starting to open...

The above list is basically the points...

[ Yeah!!! Excuse me I just got a letter from a certain person ]

...brought up in our lunchtime discussion.

What I remember is that J wove a fictionalized version of the family history she had given me in Egypt (see Note #9) and that J & C were both there, with C helping to fill in bits of narrative as needed.

All of them by themselves are true. I have been debating whether or not to spoon-feed you. That is, explain each of them and show you how we applied them to our story.

I always did need spoon-feeding; I couldn't keep track of names, places, and events long enough to reconnect the dots if a history wasn't told linearly or literally... and often couldn't keep track of them even if it was told in the most straightforward manner possible, if it was only told verbally. I remember the monologue in Egypt, and being aware that this was Family Secrets stuff she had been unable to talk about, but needed to... and I remember a few names... but I probably couldn't have recited, afterwards, a single fact she had told me.

The original question (asked by you) was "Who's Chris?" (may I shake your hand again!) Well. Christopher Andrew [ redacted ] is the fellow who I just got this letter from. (Actually me acting so dang superior because I know who he is is just because —) – I was always too embarrassed to mention it to you. Because of you being a boy, and our unique relationship of not being boyfriend-girlfriend. But you could say he is my boyfriend – am I his girlfriend? I don't know......

My feelings about Jenny having a "boyfriend" turn out to be rather complex, when examined.

  • I never could understand being "interested in boys" unless the boy in question was an interesting person in his own right, preferably someone who would "get" people like us – and Chris was only ever introduced as "long-distance boyfriend"; I don't think she ever told me anything much about his personality.
    • ...though it's also possible that she did, and I was just so much in a headspace of "I don't know how to handle this" (kind of like her wearing a dress) that I totally couldn't take any of it in.
  • On some level, I was convinced that there was this lurking "jealous male" response which I had to suppress, continuing my long tradition of believing that I had an inner male nature I had to ruthlessly suppress or else I'd be truly relegated to Normal Guy status and thrown back in the boy-cage with the other jerks to fend for myself – and the existence of this "boyfriend" served to activate those fears.
  • I could hardly blame Chris, however, for finding Jenny interesting/attractive, as I did myself.
  • She was also hardly the sort of girl that a typical/average guy would have focused on as someone to be attracted to (most guys seemed to like girls who perform femininity a lot more – see next block of writing), so that at least told me that maybe he wasn't totally conventional, and therefore might actually be interesting or sympathetic in some way.
  • I also envied that she was (in my estimation, and presumably Chris's) attractive. I wanted to be attractive, I wanted positive attention from others, just for being myself. I envied her that ability, to a degree that was painful to think about.

All in all, though, I think I did a pretty good job of neither letting her boyfriend (who I never met or interacted with) interfere with our relationship nor saying anything negative about his existence or her relationship with him. I may never know if she agreed, though.

Anyway there was this exchange program between the Atlantic City Friends and our Middle School. Guess who I met. It was kind of funny because I hadn't even noticed him while he was here and at the last minute he asked me for my address. At the time I wasn't flattered – just slightly amused. And to my surprise, he wrote. I still wish........ It's sort of a tradition or something to have a guy we liked in our group – and to sigh over. Yes we are girls, Nick, sorry to disappoint you – I read all the little house books, I wear dresses and I stare at myself in the mirror. That's getting a little personal but I want you to know that in some respects we are normal gals.

But they weren't. They so were not just like other girls. I'm finding it difficult to explain exactly how, but they just weren't.

Some relatively trivial things (and leaving aside C & E, as much as I'd like to talk about them too):

  • I only ever saw Jenny wear a dress at school once.
    • ...and I completely freaked out inside, which just underscored for me that there was something very messed-up going on in my head but didn't really help me figure it out any. I'm pretty sure there's a note which refers to this, so I'll discuss it more when that comes up.
    • I suddenly remember, now that I'm writing about it, that it was a long black thing somewhere between Wednesday and Morticia Addams, which I would have appreciated if it hadn't been for the dysphoria.
  • She never wore make-up at school (or in my presence anywhere else), as far as I know.
  • Her sole concession to then-standards of femininity while at school was that she wore earrings.
    • This also bothered the same part of me which freaked out about the dresses.
    • Boys hadn't yet started wearing earrings in both ears; single earrings were just starting to make an appearance in 1980, at least in our neck of the woods.
    • She apparently would dress up "properly" for church, with a dress and maybe even lipstick; there's a photo I somehow need to get hold of and scan...
    • She had long hair, but in 1980 this was no longer such a clear gender-marker, especially at CFS.
    • She probably wore hair-clips of some kind, but this never bothered me to the same extent, so I don't remember specifically.
      • I can now admit that I like hair-clips because they no longer represent a gender-barrier between us; I sometimes wear them myself.
      • I think the difference is that I would have liked to wear hair-clips myself back then (but couldn't admit it), whereas earrings didn't feel like "the kind of girl I wanted to be", so it felt like they distanced her from me; my resentment towards earrings and dresses are all part of what I later came to call my "frustrated self-expression".

More subtly, there was something in her attitude towards other people – specifically, toward boys and other girls – that wasn't typical. I can't remember her ever displaying even a hint of flirting with a guy, though I know of three men (two teachers and a parent) whom she found very attractive. My gut feeling about this is that it's a reflection of her latent non-heterosexuality, as I later encountered that same feeling around other girls/women who pretty much universally turned out to be non-hetero – so I figured she was at least bisexual, possibly leaning more towards women.

In this light, her insistence that they're "normal gals", specifically with reference to having token boyfriends (conveniently far off), strikes me as "thou dost protest too much". There's a later note where she talks about "my homosexual tendencies", so I'll go into this more then... but I thought it worth noting that there were clues even at this point.

...and yo, Jenny, I read all the Little House books as well... or at least had them read to me by my mother, and enjoyed them and saw nothing odd about that. It hadn't occurred to me to think of them as "girls' books" (not that I would have decided I shouldn't read them even if I had). I read Harriet the Spy and The Long Secret, too. Several times.

...and of course if I'd looked like she did, I would have stared at myself in the mirror too. (I sometimes did anyway, with my primary reaction being "WTF am I?") I was somehow imprinted on her body-type long before I became imprinted on her as a person, long before I knew her at all; I think it must be brain-wiring. (This whole area is a subject worth writing about on its own, which I'll try to do at some point.)

I'm pretty sure part of the reason I was drawn to the three of them was that they did reject a majority of social gender-norms. There was some unspoken back corner of my mind in which I equated this with helping to lower the barriers between me and girlhood – but of course this depended heavily on them specifically, because nobody else around me was doing it... and so that back corner of me was constantly pushing me to push them away from even the smalllest performances of femininity. They were my only avenue to something I craved but couldn't name.

I'm sure this came through, in various forms, in many of my notes to J. I don't know what I had said about it at this point, but she's probably at least in part reacting to my expressed attitudes on the subject.

Any-a-hay, we have these "long-distance boyfriends" Cindy her "bum" in Florida, Ralph [ last name redacted ], Erika (she'll kill me if she finds out I told you) her guy in New Orleans, Salih (pronounced "Solly") whom she gets broody over. Remember Cindy's party? "I don't want a pickle, I just want to ride on my motorsickle" He has a motorbike and she's always afraid he's going to kill himself, and my Chris in Atlantic City (actually Clermont) This was the sort of "girl talk" I was talking about in a previous note.

This was actually the first time I had heard the phrase "girl talk". I think it made me angry at the time (though of course I tried not to show it), for reasons I'm still teasing apart. It doesn't anymore, though it still... pushes gender-buttons.

Oh yes no. 2 on the list on page one: New York, going to. There was an exchange program with the Brooklyn Friends. I was never in the big apple and I would like to keep it that way.

No. 3 I have already explained (Atlantic City)

No. 4, baby and No. 5, Egypt are closely related. They are related in that where you heard about it was in Egypt. Me sister, Kathy, has a half-mexican child.

No 6, Marriage last December, was Sandy & Rick in Boone.

Do you see now how we twisted fact into fiction? You have imagination don't you? Or does everything that you say (concepts, ideas, theories) come from books? I am just being cruel – don't mind me.

/me gives Jenny a sideways squinty look...

Part Two

Oh, on the deck I was fragment-talking (is that a good word for it?) about good ol' fat face (Dr. Zinn) I saw him in fifth grade and sixth grade. Because – I was doing bad in school I guess and my parents thought it would help me. I tried to tell you about it, my relationship with him – but it wasn't the place.

I have a reaction to Victor Zinn like I have to poison ivy (I am extremely allergic to the weed – almost to the point that I am paranoid of it – but that's not the point I am making. Anyway I break out something fierce.) Jane went to him – I don't know why – her parents recommended him to me parents. So they sent Sandy, who, at the time was having difficulty in school. I think she really likes him. At least she got along better than I did.

I was really hateful to him. The first time I resolved to myself that I would only tell him my name, grade, and social security number. Actually the first time I met him was at a family conference. Kathy didn't like him because he got too personal. I sat and played with a hairpin on the rug the whole time – I was terribly bored. I got one impression – he said the word "neat" too much. To me that meant he was trying to be identifying with the young. I had never met an adult who said stuff like that before.

Sandy says actually no, she didn't like him, and agrees with Jenny's comment about him trying too hard to be cool.

The first appointment with him I had, as I said above, resolved not to say anything. But as you may have noticed I have a mouth and I tend to use it.*

*see my comments on the retreat, and if I didn't write any – ask me

I have always talked to him – unlike my reaction to Jean which causes me to clam up. But my way of talking, to say the least is/was obnoxious.

(I'm not certain, but from later mentions I'm pretty sure "Jean" refers to Jean Thompson, an English Literature teacher in the CFS Upper School whose class she was apparently taking.)

To reiterate what I have noted elsewhere, Jenny did do some questionable things. (I don't love her any less for them; they just need to be acknowledged.)

I can kind of understand her behavior around Zinn, even if he was really truly trying to help her, just because of the context – she did not get to choose. A therapist is someone you need to be able to trust if they're going to help you, and if you're presented with one like they're an authority figure and you have to talk to them, that's going to set the relationship on the wrong foot to begin with. ...but there were other things she did that were more problematic.

I remember her telling me about these prank phone calls she used to do – first calling up some unsuspecting soul on the phone, cursing them out, and hanging up – and then a few minutes later calling back, claiming to be the previous caller's older sister who had overheard the call and wanted to apologize. Apparently the recipients of these pranks bought the whole story. (At the same time as I'm facepalming about it, I kind of have to admire her cleverness and acting ability in pulling it off.)

I think it says something that she was willing to confess to me about both of these behaviors.

The second I would walk into his office I would get sarcastic. I really hate that man, and I don't know why. I have never been able to figure out why I act the way I do in front of him. One thing for sure – I have always gotten my friends to hate him. (See my comments about psychologists in an earlier note.) I once wrote a whole bunch of nasty things about him on paper complete with pictures and put it on his desk among the papers while he wasn't looking. (I had pretty free reign over his office after I got bored of sitting in my chair and not talking to him. He loved to observe me. Or not observe me. The only thing he didn't let me do was read his comments on some inkblots, and throw his glasses across the room.)

Well of course you could, Jenny. Regardless of what he was like in his private life, he was not a benign force in yours.

The "earlier note" is probably Note #9.

When he found the paper two weeks later (his desk was a mess) he was very surprised. He said not one of his patients had ever tried that approach. "I pity his wife, she has to change his diapers every night" I now can imagine his feelings when he found it amongst his papers.

Actually he probably is a nice person, considering. He never told my parents anything I didn't want him to. He hated large technical words, and once he read a report about me from the place at Duke† and laughed at the garbledy-gook.

‡ Why am I having trouble when I remember I hate the idea

† Oh yes not only did they send me to a psychologist but before that they had me tested to see if I had a "learning disability"‡ Well what they couldn't see was what Henry diagnoses as, pure and simple, laziness. I am, unless I feel like it, or it's due, or if you push, I won't do anything.

← ugh! that sentence doesn't work

It kind of seriously ticks me off that she believed this about herself (and I'm a bit dismayed that Henry, a Middle School teacher whose wisdom she greatly respected, would have reinforced that... but if anyone made serious mistakes regarding Jenny, it was me, so I can hardly hold this smaller one against him).

On the one hand, I can understand her wanting to break free of having a "condition" in need of "treatment", because her parents would have seen it as a stigma and added it to the balance of arguments in favor of sending her to an institution to "help" with her academic issues, which (as previously discussed) was a possibility that absolutely terrified her and probably would have made things worse.

Also, I don't know what effective treatments existed at the time, or would have been likely to be recommended. She probably would not have been given agency over deciding what was appropriate, in any case, and would have felt compelled to go along with whatever her parents told her to do (any opposition would have been seen as a further sign of "emotional problems" in need of "treatment").

On the other hand... she clearly had dyslexia, probably some ADD (ADHD-PI), almost certainly depression, and possibly other issues below the surface. If nothing else, these should have been recognized as handicaps that she had to deal with, and appropriate amounts of slack given out so she wouldn't feel under such pressure to "achieve".

Like me, she was a bit too unusual for the school to handle – but not unusual enough for the school to recognize that they were out of their depth... and not that there were really any alternatives, at the time. We just didn't fit.

She fit better than I did, though... and yet I'm the one who's still here. This is not how things are supposed to be.

Anyway, about the testing. They tested my sight and coordination. And things like classroom conditions. How I work in silence, low constant noise, loud constant noise, erratic noise. Also things like "Make up a story about this picture." And "Hand me the green sphere after you put the blue circle on the table."

Once I was even spied on in school. (at that time Immaculata) I don't know what conclusion they came to, but after that, I think, I went to good ol' fat face.

I have been writing for quite a time now.... You've kept me from writing Chris.

Your letter...

Yes, the best way to drive a person insane is to act like they are. I have also already figured this out. The human resistance is great to labeling of this sort. I am writing a story about circumstances driving a person mad.

No, don't smile I was being sarcastic

I am so proud of you being able to say something in a tenth of the time it takes me.* I can be factual if I want to, but I am too much of a writer to enjoy it. The purpose of such writing is to avoid an unpleasant subject which I much wanted to do after the Sevier/Marion. I suppose it is a type of cop-out. But it looks pretty.

I think I was trying to say (in one of my notes) that all this questioning of her sanity was probably just making it worse – which really kind of highlights the fact that even I wasn't thinking of therapy as something intended to help her, but as something designed to discredit her and provide a pretext for further restricting her freedom.

...and of course I didn't think she was actually praising me...

I have no direct recollection of what "the Sevier/Marion" refers to, but Marion is a street about halfway between our two houses (though not on the way; it's about a block off to one side), and if you follow it downhill it intersects with the bottom end of Sevier Street, and if you walk up Sevier you come back to the top of Marion and then back to Woodburn and the shortest route between our two houses. So presumably we decided to go for a walk there one day, and ended up discussing some subject she found unpleasant.

Part Three

After Egypt do I still feel that "But when faced with reality we back away, Hiding inward. We then wish the thoughts on the page and the thinker elsewhere."? (Firstly – Gosh, what truth! Did I write that? It's the type of thing Ann Simon would write – gut tearing.) Yes but no. No longer. After Egypt I felt real good except for that block at the end w/ the bike – that hurts still and now I wonder why I acted the way I did.

Ann Simon being, of course, later aka Tigger. I wasn't in touch with her yet, but I had already begun to have an appreciation that she was someone worth knowing.

And then she says she no longer wishes me elsewhere. So now we're okay? <puppy-dog eyes>

What she says about the bike here almost sounds like an apology; she admits she didn't have a good reason for reacting the way she did. This was good enough for me, and I'm pretty sure I avoided using the bike in her presence after that one time in Egypt anyway.

Side note: I was actually rather averse to walking, at that age, because I always hated walking along with my parents when they would walk places. If it was at all possible to ride a bike instead, I would do that – riding alongside, riding ahead, looping back, and so on. I later discovered that if I walked quickly – at my own pace – I could actually start to enjoy it. (This discovery happened during a summer job which involved frequent walks across campus to the medical library, to make photocopies of journal articles.)

Anyway... because of not wanting to walk the quarter-mile or so from my house to the entrance to Egypt (and back again... alone both ways, which was worse than uphill in the snow), I might have still insisted on riding it there to meet her, hiding it somewhere she wouldn't have to see it... but I don't actually remember.

I feel real good about us. I had a dream. They say that dreams sometimes help you deal with things – by easing tension I guess. Let's be friends.

Oh man. YES. (Twist my arm.) Sound effect of my heart singing whatever it is that hearts sing about. (Ode to the Vena Cava?) I'm over here in this puddle that you just melted me into, Jenny...

As for telling you I was "anti-bicycle" that goes against my way of saying things that I don't like to deal with. You forced me to say that I was. (and I did, verbally and I believe literally)

Did I do that? I didn't mean to. I realize that wasn't an accurate statement of your feelings, and I'm sorry I forced you into it. :-/

(Every little thing I might have done to harm her, no matter how insignificant, is now magnified a hundredfold. For each one, I have to work hard not to think that maybe this was part of what ultimately drove her over the edge... or this one, or this one.)

(A) Go look up Kaspar in your Deutsch-wörterbuch. If you can't find it look for Kasper or Kasperle.

This was in response to me asking what she was talking about in Note #6 with regard to the "Kaspar" quote (I've linked from there to a source, thanks to the internets).

(B) What do you mean by "conversation or the attempt thereof can get like that." ?!? What are you referring to? I have no memory for what I have written.

...and this was in response to me making a wild guess as to what she was trying to say by including that quote. Apparently I guessed wrong. Maybe it was just free-association, and not a message? I don't know.

"There is so much to read, so much to write, so much to keep the telephone wire busy."

Writing is so much easier as you pointed out in an earlier note. You can choose words carefully – then erase them. The words are usually catchable, but there is a bit of permanence in it. Is this good or bad. If you write in CAPITAL Letters always you can't write in capital letters. MOST annoying. See what I mean? They don't have impact. It's the same with swearing (cursing) if you do it too much it loses its importance. (Incidentally I found myself swearing potently during sign-up. The pressure? I don't really mind sign-up. In U.S. it's easier than in M.S.)

GUTE Bitte!

In "Logan's Run" the series they took the story from the middle. Logan, a sandman, has run with Jessica to find sanctuary. They are pursued by Francis who has permission to go outside the city in these car-like things. Logan & company have all sorts of adventures. They also have this android who looks like a human who tags along – I forgot his name. Something simple like Rex. No relation to Box or whatever his name was.

Oh ja, another thing that parallels Brave New World in Logan's Run – the most important parallel – is them all being young. In B.N.W. they were genetically fixed (no, not that kind) so that they would die quickly when they were about 30 or so.

Puff – sad.

Oh, on the bus on Wednesday – Ellen didn't come to school – your prophecy came true. "What would happen if Ellen was sick one day!"

Conversations? Last year? More like snappy answers with no questions to go in front of them.

Quaker Lake was the magnet.

Nick, put it in your pantry with your cupcakes!

What do Cindy's and Erika's parents do?

Cindy's dad is a mathematician at Duke. He isn't a full professor though he should be. Cindy's mom is a R.N. (Registered Nurse) at County General.

Erika's dad used to work at Duke but now he works at Durham Tech. He is a computer man – I don't know quite what he does. (I guess Cin's pa teaches and stuff.) Erika's mom teaches kindergarten at their house. Haven't you heard her go on about the kindy-creeps?

Mom sits on her butt and plays bridge. (You wanted to know what she "DO".) But seriously, she's a housewife. In the full sense of the term. My family is the oldest in our group. Remember Peter is 25, they've been married for 26 years now. So they married in 1954. Mom had kids and kept house. "She do th' laundry ya' know, real helpf'l like."

You know what my dad does. Dinner-time conversation: "My patient short-circuited." And he really did.

Nick, I always feel as though I have more to say. It frustrates me greatly that I can never pin down all my thoughts. "How do you catch a cloud and pin it down?" But it's not good to pin down all your thoughts. Dreams turn yellow and crack when they've been pinned down too long. If you pin down the clouds, you have none to float free. Let your dreams rule you, touch your fancy, delight you, tingle your imagination.

This concern about pinning down thoughts/ideas/dreams is another theme that came up several times. I think on some level I tended to take it as a bit of an attack, because she often tended to cast me in the role of the logical Vulcan-type person – though in my family, I was actually kind of the emotional one who would say things like "dogs have feelings too".

I think what she was worried about is when people oversimplify a problem by mapping it out in entirely discrete or black-and-white terms, leaving no room for intuitive judgment based on undocumented (possibly undocumentable) personal experience, ignoring anything uncertain as "unproven" and therefore irrelevant, and dismissing the importance of feelings in how people work and what makes life worth living in the first damn place... but I could be wrong about that.

Part Four

Why are you so out and out against religion? Is there a logical reason for your dislike of it? You sick of it? Think it's not the answer? I'm sometimes against the religion we have – the practical stuff. The spiritual stuff wasn't meant for us to talk about anyway.

I need to write a great deal more about this, stretching from before the Jenny-era until long after it.

At the time, though... I think I mainly just didn't like the idea of people telling other people to do and believe things that don't make sense... and especially the idea of this fundamentally good person being led to buy into beliefs and rituals that were basically bad.

Since then, I've come to understand a lot more about how religion is actively harmful (as opposed to just being something I "dislike"), but also how it's just one of many tools used by authoritarians to control people. Religion isn't the problem; authortiarianism is the problem, and authoritarian religion is just one manifestation of that.

The fact that Jenny was sympathetic to it, though, forced me to stop automatically dismissing religion. I had to really think about it, and tended to be way too tolerant of it for another couple of decades.

Chris told me to tell Cindy to go to hell "She has no right to even question your actions." I've got to calm him down a bit. He doesn't know Cindy. Confirmation is a fading subject – it wasn't terrible exciting to begin with. Sometimes I think that it would be good if you got hold of my note book and read it. Though I would probably kill you.

The evidence from Sandy's memory suggests that we do in fact have Jenny's notebook in a closet, but it's going to take some digging to uncover it; it got stashed there during the Josh years. I hope it's actually there. And then Jenny can arise from her ashes and kill me, and that will be ok.

I hope my ongoing undeliverable letter to her is there also (though that seems unlikely) because I can't seem to find it anywhere. I'm hoping it's with the Tigger notebooks, wherever it is, because I can't seem to find them either (and I'm pretty sure I've seen those since moving up here). It's all a bit nerve-wracking, really. We're going to go closet-mining sometime after January 1, and see what turns up.

Here I am writing a guy I can talk to in school or call on the phone, while a letter from a guy 400 miles away goes unanswered! Nick!


I have spent all my time writing this after school..... Do something productive.....

[ line-art that looks vaguely like "LOVE" ]
Bye for now,
letter transits cursive*:
sorry I kept slipping
into cursive – when
I am not used to
writing in print

they're all that's left you....__

*postscript you idiot!

Even then, I hated being called a "guy", but couldn't really object to it, because what was she supposed to call me? "Guy" is at least better than "man" or even "boy".