A Tale of Two Breakups
On 9/11/2001 my first “real” boyfriend (real as in: longer than two weeks, not started and ended via AOL instant messenger while being too awkward to interact IRL) and I broke up. We had just started 10th grade and had lasted four months, which at the time was like we were practically grandparents married 60 years. I got depressed, or maybe already had been experiencing depression and didn’t understand it yet, but by the end of the semester I was prescribed some SSRI, ruining the basement bathroom in our house with red Manic Panic, and spending a lot of time in the school pottery studio (Quaker school perks).
The worst part was two of the girls in my friend group decided they didn’t like me anymore and waged a campaign to ostracize me from our group. I still went to our annual holiday sleepover where we all exchanged gifts we handmade for each member of the group, but that was the last year for me. I had customized mirrors for everyone by decoupaging around the mirror edges using old issues of Teen People and Seventeen. If I recall correctly, not everyone had made enough gifts for me because they assumed I wouldn’t come.
I spent a lot of time by myself or with guy friends who didn’t give a shit about whatever reason I wasn’t part of a girl group anymore. I spent a lot of time online, too. In middle school the family computer had been on the main level of our house, and my use of it was pretty heavily monitored. By high school our Compaq tower had moved to the basement, which made getting away with using it beyond my time allowances much easier. At night, I’d throw a heavy blanket over the modem to muffle the sounds of dialing up and hope my parents would sleep through the racket.
I wrote on my LiveJournal a lot, and at some point decided to make my own Angelfire website. I remember the excitement by figuring out how to customize text on my website using HTML and I’d endlessly tweak the alignment, paragraph breaks, and fonts, going back and forth to look at the site and make small changes in the code to fix mistakes or get just the right look that satisfied me. I loved choosing colors and playing with different combinations, memorizing the six-digit hexadecimal codes for my favorite colors.
I don’t remember much of what was even on my website, but I know it had lyrics to the Jimmy Eat World song “The Middle.” That song came out in late 2001 and felt like it was reaching inside my fifteen-year-old soul:
Hey, don't write yourself off yet It's only in your head you feel left out or looked down on Just try your best Try everything you can And don't you worry what they tell themselves when you're away It just takes some time Little girl, you're in the middle of the ride Everything, everything will be just fine Everything, everything will be all right, all right Hey, you know they're all the same You know you're doing better on your own (On your own) So don't buy in Live right now Yeah, just be yourself It doesn't matter if it's good enough (Good enough) For someone else
I used some bold HTML tags to call attention to the lyrics that spoke to me the most, even though I knew it wasn’t only in my head I felt left out. The girls who had upended my social life made fun of my website, but I took some satisfaction in the fact they were so obsessed with hating me that they were looking at it.
Things got better again after 10th grade. My interest in pottery led me to a sleep-away summer arts camp many states away, which I attended for the first of three times between 10th and 11th grades. There I made friends with a fourteen year old boy who broadened my emo heart beyond Saves the Day and Dashboard Confessional and introduced me to punk. I started going to shows and made friends with people in other grades and outside of my school. A lot of hobbies and interests of mine probably wouldn’t have developed had it not been for being dumped x 2.