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Secret Diary Unlocked
My Struggle to Like Me
By Suzy Weibel, Pam Pugh
Moody PublishersCopyright © 2007 Suzy Weibel
All rights reserved.
IT WAS A GOOD YEAR
THE YEAR WAS 1979. As far as 13-year-old girls go, this really should have been what they call a "banner year"—one of the best. I had been at this same school for six years now. I knew the ins and outs, I was fairly popular, I earned good grades, I was always one of the first chosen for teams at recess. My family vacations in 1979 included trips to Israel and Egypt as well as the Caribbean island of Grand Cayman. What was not to love?
Me. I was not to love.
My hair was curly and never cut right. I couldn't wear it long like all of my friends because it would frizz out and I'd end up looking like Bozo the Clown. I wore it in pigtails in second and third grade, but a mature fourth grader can't really do that. Besides, Maureen Butler had thought for two full years that I was an Indian princess. I didn't want to be an Indian princess. So by middle school, my hair was really "out there" —like Lisa Simpson, but not so neatly drawn.
One of my nicknames was "Piranha," given to me by a guy whose nickname was "Carrot Top." His nickname came, of course, from the fact that he had a shock of red hair. Mine was due to the fact that the only thing more noticeable than the huge space between my two front teeth was the fact that I was missing the next two required teeth in a full set (called the incisors—I know this because my dad was a dentist), but I had been blessed with two very pronounced canine teeth, razor sharp, one on each side of my mouth. Perhaps I exaggerate that a bit, but when a 13-year-old girl is dying to make an impression on the guys, this is not what she wants to see when she smiles at herself in the mirror.
Shopping for clothes was a nightmare. I hated it. I was constantly between sizes and had the kind of figure that wasn't really even a shape at all. I was the kind of girl that sales ladies would smile at kindly and say, "You know, Dearie, vertical stripes are much more flattering. Ever try black? It's a very slimming color." Even when I was a junior in college and making, I thought, a nice impression on a very cute scuba diving instructor, he brought home the truth I had lived with for so many years when he said (to my mother of all people), "She'll be a very pretty woman when she loses some of that baby flat." I think that was supposed to be a compliment.
The reason I was one of the first chosen for teams at recess is because I was fairly athletic, but not much of a threat to the guys in the girlfriend department. I was like a sister, they told me. I was also picked first for square dancing. See, if they picked the cute girls, those girls might get the wrong idea ... or the right idea. Either one was embarrassing for the boys. And they couldn't pick the "outcasts" for obvious reasons. So I was the best choice. Somehow this didn't make me feel any better.
I was forever doing stupid things. On the infamous Israel/Egypt trip my tour group was dining at a restaurant in Old Jerusalem when I decided I needed to visit the little girls' room. My memory of this event may be a bit muddled by time, but this is the chain of events as I recall them: There were no other 13-year-old girls (or even 11-year-olds or a 15-year-old) to accompany me to the bathroom, leaving me to attempt this adventure all alone. This was uncomfortable territory to begin with—having to go it alone—but to make matters worse, the signs on the bathroom doors were not accompanied by any "courtesy English." I don't know about you, but my Hebrew is a little shaky. In America this would not pose too great a problem—we'd simply look at the picture on the bathroom door. I think you could do this in most European countries as well. However, in Jerusalem they must have really wished to preserve the Old World feel, because I insist to this day that both doors had pictures of people with robes on ... dresses as far as I could tell. I went in one and began to do my business, wondering as I entered if all ladies' rooms in Israel had such funny-looking toilets. Before long I was not the only one in the bathroom. Someone in the stall next to me was—now this was odd—pointing his feet in the wrong direction, and they were big feet, too. In a blind rush I grabbed my purse and flew out of that bathroom so fast ... So fast that I did not realize until returning to the table that I had grabbed, in fact, an extra roll of toilet paper and not my purse. The story does have a happy ending, however. I convinced a 16-year-old guy (who later held my hand, but that's for another chapter) to return to the men's room and retrieve my purse. The entire tour group greeted him with cameras, like Hollywood paparazzi, as he exited the men's room carrying my purse!
It was the year that all of my classmates started "going together." I don't know what happened. One year earlier, boys weren't very interesting to any of us. We played together when we had to—I loved sports, so boys were always good for that—but we were more than content to go our separate ways most of the time. Take square dancing for example—back in the "olden days," schools would frequently have the older grades participate in square dancing once a week or so. I think it was to foster listening skills and cooperation, as well as to teach manners, because square dance partners must bow and curtsy to each another. It was pretty gross to have to "swing your partner" in sixth grade, and I think the boys felt the same way. But in seventh grade, selecting someone as a square dance partner was as good as giving one of those notes that say, "I like you. Do you like me? Check yes or no," to someone.
As I've already mentioned, being the "safe" square dance choice was not my preference. I wanted to be noticed. I wanted someone to like me, to ask my friends if they thought I'd "go" with him. I wanted to fit in and be like my friends. But I didn't. I couldn't. Not in this area. They were light-years ahead of me in looks, in fashion, in cuteness. I wasn't sure what I'd have to do or how I'd have to change to become one of the girls all the guys liked, but I was willing to do whatever it took—even if it meant rejecting the way God had created me. I'd do anything. Anything ...
I don't think I'm alone. I don't think I'm the only girl who has looked day after day at her refection in the mirror, hating what she sees, unsure that she will ever be loved. In fact, I've never met a woman or girl who has said, "Really? You didn't like yourself? Hmmmm, I've always been quite pleased with myself." It just doesn't happen. There are a lot of theories on why this is so—we'll take a look at several of them together in this book—but the primary reason is Satan:
"Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your fellow believers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings." (1 Peter 5:8–9 TNIV)
There are a couple of important things I want you to see here. First, the Devil is your enemy, and he wants you destroyed. Another word for "enemy" is "adversary." In the Greek, this meant "one that speaks against another." He speaks against you. What does he say? In my case he said things like:
You're flat. You're ugly. No one will ever love you. You are a freak. It's no wonder they don't want to hang around with you. You aren't worth it.
And how interesting that he speaks those lies right into our own ears! He didn't turn my friends against me, he didn't make me unappealing to the boys, he didn't alter my appearance in any way ... but he did much worse. He whispered lies to me that I believed, that I embraced, and that I used as a basis for making decisions for many years to come. So why does this destroy us?
A theologian by the name of Matthew Henry said this about Satan: Satan's goal with Christians is to get them thinking so much about their suffering and their bad fortune that they will use whatever is bad in their life as an excuse to refuse or deny God. So if Satan can get us believing all of the negative things we say and think about ourselves—sometimes even the mean things that others say about us—then he's on his way to victory.
The second thing I want you to see in 1 Peter 5:8–9 is this: Girls throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings. You are not alone! This is the first time I have written down most of these thoughts. But I have spoken them dozens of times to thousands of girls. I always see heads bobbing up and down in complete understanding; sometimes girls are so eager to show their agreement that they are in danger of crossing the fine line between head nodding and head banging. Yeah—I feel really crummy about myself, too! Yeah—I wish I was anyone but me! Some are astounded to see other girls—girls they consider to be beautiful and popular—weeping as they encounter God's unconditional love and acceptance for the first time. You are not the only one who has been lied to, and you are not the only one who hates what she sees in that mirror.
* Write an honest evaluation of your feelings about YOU. While you're at it ... how do you think your friends feel about themselves?CHAPTER 2
MY WORLD YOUR WORLD
I don't want to sound like those grandparents who are always saying, "When I was your age I had to walk three miles to school, barefoot, all uphill ..." but I can understand why grandparents make those kinds of statements. When I begin a serious recall of my childhood, there are huge differences between then and now!
For instance, let's consider television, of which I was a major connoisseur in seventh grade. I had three networks to view, plus PBS, but PBS was always fuzzy and it was boring, so I didn't even consider it to be an option. Cable television didn't become available in my neighborhood until later in my high school years, but I sure was jealous of the (very few) people I knew who had it. The Fox network simply didn't exist yet.
I remember having black-and-white televisions in the kitchen and den. Our color television was in the basement, and it had a pretty sweet, bubble-like 20-inch screen. Although remote controls were invented during World War II, until the 1980s you had to buy a certain kind of television if you wanted a remote control, and my parents weren't that interested in being on the cutting edge of technology. So (here's my grandma impersonation) I had to walk all the way across the room if I wanted to change the television station to one of the two other available stations. Occasionally the main knob of the TV would snap off, and we'd have to keep needle-nosed pliers on the top of the television set so that we could change channels. I guess one good thing I can say about 1979 television is that TV Guide sure was an uncomplicated read!
My family did have one piece of cutting-edge technology that a lot of my friends didn't have. In 1972 a really cool arcade game called Pong had been introduced, and as soon as a home system was available (it was called Odyssey) my family purchased one. We had three or four games that had to be loaded via huge cartridges, and that would only provide a black-and-white version of the game on the screen. To add color, we'd have to put something like cellophane on the outside of the television screen where it would stay attached due to static cling. My brothers and I spent countless hours playing this fascinating game ... Pong was our entire arcade world.
There were no personal computers. In fact, my typewriter went through several stages of improvement before I got my first PC ... which was long after I was out of college. I made it through the entirety of college, as a matter of fact, without using a single computer.
So what in the world did we do for entertainment? Roller-skating was probably the biggest attraction for my friends and me in 1979. We had a big rink in town cleverly called The Roller Dome, and I think I was there every weekend throughout middle school. There were no roller blades yet, just the old-fashioned four-wheel kind of skates. It didn't get any better on a Friday night than skating around in a big circle, doing the hand motions to "YMCA" and hoping that foxy guy would ask you to skate. (Guys weren't "hot" back then, by the way. They were "foxes." Some of the biggest foxes of my day were Scott Baio, Erik Estrada, David and Sean Cassidy, Leif Garrett, and Richard Thomas. Go ahead. Look them up online and have a good laugh at my expense.)
The neighborhood park was a big deal—maybe it still is today. We played a lot of politically incorrect games like "Smear the Queer" and "Suicide," but nobody thought those were bad names. We rode our bikes, played tackle football, went sledding and ice-skating in the winter, climbed trees and jumped out of them, and my house happened to have a swimming pool that was a big draw as well. There was a big hill in my neighborhood that every kid had fallen down at least once while trying to ride their bike with no hands.
I read a lot as a kid, and that continued all through ... well, I still read a lot. I remember my tenth grade geometry teacher getting very frustrated with me because I'd hide a novel under my desk during her class. She had the cutest southern accent. "Miss Dunton, if you don't put that book away in my class I'll skin your hide, put you ten feet under, and make you wish you had!" I loved reading novels, historical fiction, biographies, memoirs ... but my favorite thing to do was curl up with a bag of Pixie Sticks in my mom's good chair with a pile of Richie Rich or Archie comic books. This would account for my serious nature and impressive vocabulary today.
Maybe the thing you can identify with the most is "hanging out." We called it that even in 1979, and it was a huge part of my junior high and high school years. If I was awake, I wanted to be with my friends. Parties were always something to get excited about, and every weekend I either had a friend sleep over or I went to someone else's house. If I could get my mom to let me have two or three friends spend the night, it was even better. And boys—well, they were probably my number one source of entertainment in 1979. My husband says I was shallow. I say to him, "Hey, I'd love to read your seventh grade diary, if it isn't too smeared from all the drool." And then he chases me around the kitchen.
Perhaps the greatest difference between my world and yours is in the arena of safety. We played outside until well after dark—in the summer we didn't have to be in until 9 or 10, and my parents never worried about where I was or what I was doing. I guess that has changed a lot over the years.
Excerpted from Secret Diary Unlocked by Suzy Weibel, Pam Pugh. Copyright © 2007 Suzy Weibel. Excerpted by permission of Moody Publishers.
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