While searching for my letters yesterday, I came across my box of journals and diaries. The earliest I could find was 1998. I spent the evening reading through them and laughing at myself and the things I felt I needed to document. When I was growing up , my mother used to ask why I wanted to keep a journal. “What will your kids think? Do you really want them to see everything you did and thought?”

I think I shrugged, not feeling strongly enough about it to articulate my thoughts. If I had been able to, I think I would have said something like, “Yes, I want them to see that I went through the same crappy feelings they go through.” Of course, at 13, I didn’t have that foresight. Or any foresight, for that fact.

Because I’m in the habit of publicly displaying my complete lack of perfection, I thought I’d share a diary entry from fifth grade, complete with commentary.


Dear Genna: (I addressed this to my cousin when she moved to South Carolina. I’m not exactly sure if I had the intention of sending these to her.)

I hate this time of life. I’m so fat. I’m having hormones. (Hah, yes, just “having hormones:” that was how my mom explained my violent moodswings which went from weeping on my parents’ waterbed to smiling and watching tv in a half hour) Yesterday I was feeling great. Today I was fine until Mee (Malee’s cousin) gave Ashley A a note. <<<smear from a tear (yeah, I actually wrote that) A LOVE NOTE. Why couldn’t Nick K. do that to me? I feel so out of place. I a lot fatter than other girls. I hate myself! Even though I lost 3 pounds I feel fat. I have a headache. I’m crying this must be the worst day of my life. (It truly was the worst day of my life. Worse than the day than  the day my two-year relationship ended with an e-mail.) My mom says “it’s part of growing up” “Part of becoming a teen.” I don’t wanna be a teen, boys don’t want a fat stupid girl like me. (My 20-something version of this is something like “Men don’t want girl a who blogs and laughs at NPR podcasts.”)

An hour later…

I’m not so mad anymore. I took a shower, shaved my legs, and brushed my hair. I feel great! (Funny. This still works for me today. TRUST ME, LADIES. Shave your legs and you’ll feel like a new woman.)

In my best dream ever, this is what would happen: 

I would be the most popular girl and Nick K would kiss me and we would go to a movie. (The sequence of those events makes sense, right?)

I still wish Nick would write a love note to me. (What? Never mind, we’ve moved to a different story entirely.)

We would be partners in math we’d both look up in each other’s eyes. Our lips move closer here’s what it’d look like:

“Omigosh! that was wonderful!” I’d say. “Ashley, I’ve been meaning to say this to you; I love you.” (Yeah, bitch, I used semicolons in fifth grade. *does Z finger snaps*) “Oh Nick I do too.” “Do you wanna meet at little lake Butte des mor?” (that spelling isn’t remotely close) “What time? Tell me and I’ll go!” “Ten o’clock” (Excellent organization of dialog, Ten-year old Ashley.)

“Math is over” says Mrs. Holso.

“Good bye, Ashley!” 

“Bye Nick”

(Well at least we parted graciously at the end of math.)

I love you he’d mouth. I stare completely transfixed. (Yeah, I was a 10 year old who used the word “transfixed”.) What do I wear? I panic. I don’t have anything! (This still happens to  me when I go on dates.)

I’d go shopping getting tips from Leo. (Yeah, Leonardo Dicaprio was my stylist. Ain’t no thang)  I get a beautiful cool dress: 

We meet exactly at ten…


“Ashley! It seemed like the longest day in my whole life without you”

“I know.” 

We’d kiss and do all that good stuff.

I’m tired. See yah!

Ashley Otto

P.S. It’s safe to say I love him now.

Clearly, even at 10, I had an excellent sense of verb tense, dramatic pacing, and narrative. Also, my dialog is superb. It’s evident that I’m committed to telling the complete story, beginning to ending, sparing no detail. I also truly knew the meaning of love.

You can expect to see this in the next New Yorker.


10 thoughts on “ATTENTION LITERARY JOURNALS: Best Luv Story EVAH.

  1. Omg. Thank you for sharing this. A) You were a ridiculous 5th grader. Half the kids in college can’t even write that well. B) Absolutely hilarious. “We’d kiss and do all that good stuff.” Made my night. 🙂

    • There will be more. My high school journals are so boring. “So today was pretty good. I hung out with my friends and got a latte at Blue Moon. So that was pretty cool.” I could make a drinking game out of it: every time I mention Blue Moon or say “So that was pretty neat”, I’d take a shot.

      I’d be drunk after three pages.

  2. Oh man! I can totally relate to all of this! Ha ha. (I had a four year relationship end when he just stopped responding to my texts and calls so I get you with that email thing, too.) I have a very vivid memory of telling my 6th grade teacher (my first teacher after leaving Sweden, I still had the accent) “You haven’t got a clue, Mrs. M., of just how maniacal that boy is. I will not sit beside him.” I think I may have learned most of my English from watching the Kate Winslet version of Sense and Sensibility. Ha ha.

    • Maniacal? Hah! I love it!

      I’m pretty sure this box of journals is going to provide endless hours of entertainment. Who knows, maybe I’ll learn something about myself too.

      • Most of my journals are locked away in a trunk in my aunt’s attic. I should visit her to retrieve the horrible evidence of my teenaged obsession with a boy I would shudder to still be associated with. Maniacal. No idea where I picked up that word. I still hear my side of that conversation in a heavily lilted English, which just makes it even weirder.

  3. I laughed at the “I’m tired. See yah!”….after, or course, “all that good stuff”. Kind of like….”Going to do something else now” and ending off the letter/entry. Ahhh….first “loves”. Have you seen “Nick” since 5th grade? Just wondering because my first crush made me thankful that I hadn’t chosen him when I saw him 10 years later! 🙂

    • Oh wow. Yeah, we actually graduated high school together too, and to be honest, I never really talked to him. Not even when I had a crush on him. I just kept hoping that some miracle would happen where he would call me one day or just tell me he loved me over a math project.

      I miss those days. so simple.

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