On notes girls leave around for parents to find

I enjoyed Neil Gaiman’s post about his daughter Maddy’s self-referential whiteboard (at right) and post-it notes. They remind me of the childhood journal entries Alison Bechdel reproduced in Fun Home, particularly the ones that were written more to win the approval of some indeterminate audience than for herself.

In one of these, if memory serves, Bechdel complained about missing a party, when in fact she was thrilled that she and her friend spent the afternoon playing dress-up in men’s clothing rather than hanging out with boys.

(For a time, Bechdel also qualified every line of every journal entry with the words “I think.” This obsessive disclaimer transformed into a symbol that looked a bit like an upside-down, flapping “v,” and was drawn so zealously over each entry that it threatened to obscure the words.)

Then there are the notes “to themselves” that kids leave lying around the house in the hopes that their parents will read them. (Boys do this, too, right?) I tried sending my mom lots of messages that way, about which man I hoped she would marry, why I should go to public school, and, most importantly, why lima beans were unfit for human consumption.

Later, when Mom did tie the knot again, my dear stepsister, C., soon mastered the art of casually leaving the note-to-self sitting out on a dresser.

“I’m so disappointed,” read one of her missives. “I found a contraceptive in my sister’s room today.”

“My sister,” in this case, being me.

I was 16 when this memorable missive was found, and I learned of it the next afternoon.

Mom and I had just pulled out of the Burger King drive-through and into Kendall Drive traffic. The A/C was broken; the windows were down; the air hung heavy with pre-rain damp, and with truck exhaust.

Mom set down her Tab and lit a cigarette.

I tore into my cheeseburger. After a couple bites, I put my feet up on the dashboard and tapped them to the beat of the music coming from the next car.

“I think C.’s been going through your things again,” Mom said.

I took another bite of my burger, reclined the seat further. “Oh yeah?” I said. “How come?”

She exhaled a cloud of smoke and then quoted the brilliantly framed allegation in full.

Reader, I don’t think I’ve ever since come so close to choking to death. But I did get a whole lot craftier about hiding condoms.


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