Tasked with cleaning out a closet full of keepsakes from her elementary and middle school years over break, sophomore Emma Auguste came face-to-face with the most evil object she’d ever held. Since the relic had been tossed in casually among pasta necklaces, participation awards and spelling tests, it took her a minute to realize what she’d unearthed.
“What’s this?” Auguste wondered aloud as she pulled the dusty Barnes & Noble journal from the coil pots and finger paintings. Horror slowly crossed her face as she opened the once-beaded cover to find the sloppy ruins of her 13-year-old self. Panic rooted her to the ground with the realization that this was where she had carelessly scribbled every single idea that passed through her head without consideration or regard for grammar. Here were all her deepest, darkest secrets.
“Yesterday in the cafeteria they served fish sticks. I hate fish sticks. It’s Jenny’s fault because she’s Jewish and can’t eat hot dogs, which are the best lunch. Everyone popular knows they’re the best lunch,” Auguste read quietly to herself. Just then, there were footsteps in the hall outside her room. Auguste frantically looked for a place to hide the hateful diary. She sat on it as the door to her room opened and her mother entered.
“Hey sweetie, how’s it going in here? You find anything cute?” Mrs. Auguste said.
“Uh, yeah. I wrote a poem—here, I can read it to you,” Auguste stumbled, frantically pulling the closest piece of paper from the closest box.
“Oh, you used to write such nice poetry. Let’s hear it,” Mrs. Auguste remarked.
“Well, this one’s a classic, I can tell you that,” Auguste stalled as she unwrinkled the paper and peered at her chicken scratch. “It’s called ‘Love Poem from the HR Department,’” she began in a monotone. “I swear I’ll never show you/Either testicle/Nor let my feelings/get unethical.”
Silence filled the room.
“That’s…I remember most of your poems differently,” Mrs. Auguste said. “Come downstairs in an hour or so for dinner.”
Auguste slid the diary out from underneath her as her mother shut the door. With trepidation, she opened to another page.
“Jenny’s having her bat mitzvah and she didn’t invite me, but she invited everyone else in the grade. She thinks she’s so special because she’s the only Jewish person, but she doesn’t know what it’s like to be ME. If I don’t go to her party, I’ll never get to slow dance with Aaron Fields, and then he’ll marry Jenny, and then my life will be O V E R.”
Who was this horrible person? Auguste wondered to herself. Why had she been so anti-Semitic? Where did that even come from? Whoever spewed this hateful, misinformed babble didn’t understand the intersection of gender and religion in the western patriarchal Christian hegemony even a little bit. Auguste, disgusted with her past self, felt a pang of gratitude for her complete grasp of what it’s like to be a woman of a non-Christian faith in the United States. For a second, she considered writing to Professor Albrecht, her Women’s Studies professor, with an excerpt from her diary and thanking her for opening her eyes to every single difficulty faced by people who weren’t exactly like her, and for showing her the one, unified way everyone feels and reacts to oppression. But to do that, to admit that she hadn’t always considered the systems of oppression impacting people unlike herself from an entirely unbiased standpoint, nor the culturally ingrained prejudices that she has to acknowledge and counteract on a regular basis to deconstruct her privilege, would be her undoing. If this diary ever got out, she would be ruined. Her research assistant position with Professor Albrecht would be taken away. Her career as a pioneering advocate for all would be over before it started.
Thinking quickly, Auguste tore the incriminating pages from the diary. Thankfully, she had lost interest in keeping a diary after filling only the first seven pages. She ripped them into little pieces and threw them into the trash. Then she fished them out of the trash, took them downstairs and slipped them into the recycling. Taking a deep breath, she squared her shoulders and walked into her kitchen, ready for dinner.
A day later, Auguste received a text from her Intro to Women’s Studies classmate Annika Jamison. It contained a photograph of messy handwriting on My Little Pony stationary and it read, “Mom says Hannah knows what the F-word means because her family isn’t our kind of people.” The accompanying text read, “Wow. A year or two ago, this wouldn’t even bother me that much, but just…wow. Thank god we learn and grow. :)” Auguste did not respond.