The Birthday Party Where My Guests Stole My Diary -The Toast

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Screen Shot 2013-12-31 at 3.16.09 PMIt was my fault. I invited vipers into my den. When it came time to send out invites to my 12th birthday party, I padded the list with my frenemy, Lindsey, and friends of friends like Lela and Rachel until I had as many guests as I now had years. Several of them probably resented spending their Sunday afternoon at the home of a girl they barely knew, but once the invites get sent out, RSVPs are in the parents’ hands. I knew I could count on that. I got along with  parents a lot better than I did kids my own age.

Lindsey and I were barely speaking at the time. She was a natural-born cheerleader with bright, bouncy, blonde curls. I was a dishwater blonde with uncomfortably large breasts. She only hung out with me when her cooler friends were busy. I only hung out with her to look cool.

I thought I owed an invite to Rachel, a sinewy brunette who made one-piece bathing suits look “athletic,” not childish. She had invited me to her birthday party a couple of months before, a big blow-out at her house involving air hockey, an aggressive game of hide and seek and some serious trampolining. I felt pretty cool opening up that letter. “I’ve made it,” I thought, “I’ve finally arrived.” When I showed up that Saturday, a pan of homemade potato skins in hand, I realized how foolish I had been. Our entire sixth-grade class had made the cut.

The trampoline was a small one with a four-person limit, so no one should have been surprised that it broke while eight tweens jumped up and down on it manically, but Rachel blamed the whole thing on me. I was the chubby straw that broke the camel’s back.

I should’ve learned from Rachel’s example and planned a few activities for the day, then blamed somebody else if anything went wrong. I assumed we would just hang out and talk while I opened presents, then we’d eat some cake and everyone would go home happy. How hard could it be?

Surprisingly hard. This was a new friend combination, one I cobbled together for expedience’s sake. Conversation didn’t flow.

I had eclectic (read: confused) musical tastes back then. In the sixth grade alone, I cycled through obsessions with Bon Jovi, then Prince, and eventually Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. I taught my whole sixth grade class the words to “Last Dance with Mary Jane” at recess one week.

While my mom frosted the cake in the kitchen, I racked my brain for a way to entertain my guests and lighted on a video recording I made of Prince performing at the MTV Video Music Awards the week before. I popped it in the VCR and we began to watch the artist formerly and currently known as Prince perform “Pussy Control” in a bright yellow jumpsuit with giant holes exposing each bare purple butt cheek. I sang along to every word, my audience briefly entertained, if only because they were scandalized by the content of the video: “Good mornin’ ladies and gentlemen, boys and motherfuckin’ girls. This is your captain with no name speakin’ and I’m here 2 rock your world.”

When his performance ended, I rewound the video and started it over again.

I had a bad feeling about this party. In the days leading up to it,  my mom said she wanted to try making a buttercream frosting instead of one of my usual favorites: Chocolate, German Chocolate, Any Kind of Chocolate. At least the cake would still be chocolate.

If there’s one thing my mom knew, it was dessert. As a child, I caught her sneaking a second helping of homemade cakes and pies as she cleaned up the kitchen at night, assuming no one was watching.

So, I consented, reasoning butter and cream were both very good things. I assumed the sugar was silent. I was wrong: the sugar was nonexistent. Lela took one bite before setting her fork down for good. Rachel was more resourceful, eating the chocolate cake out from under the piles of flavorless frosting. Lindsey played with her serving, mashing beautifully handcrafted cake and cream together until it looked like a dirty snowball and showing the others, “look what I made.” I was embarrassed: a fat kid’s birthday party should have excellent food.

My birthday party was ruined.  But the buttercream travesty was only the beginning. What came next was the real icing on the cake.

One of my guests stole my diary.

Like most class clowns, I was painfully self-conscious underneath the disguise. When I didn’t have the stage, other kids tormented me about my weight.

I kept my diary in the middle drawer of a wooden desk in my bedroom. It was a place of honor. I opened my diary after school every day and confided in it. I sought the same solace when my party finally came to an end, but when I looked for it, it was gone. My heart sank.

My diary was the only place I could be myself. I filled pages with elaborate fantasies. I made a list of all the boys I liked, “Mike Sellers, Jordan Brandon, Paul Short.” Paul’s was an unfortunate last name. He was really, really short.

I knew immediately that of my “friends” had stolen my diary. Guests had been trickling in and out of my bedroom all afternoon. Anyone could have taken it. Still, I searched frantically for it, in my closet, behind rows of black dresses, next to my favorite black combat boots, beneath my bed amidst dust bunnies and a long-forgotten troll doll, hoping desperately I was wrong, but I didn’t find it.

I couldn’t sleep that night. I agonized over the content of my diary. In one section,  I claimed I was a vampire. I wore one earring in my left ear because it was the sign of the vampire (and gay guys and nutty old women who always seem to be losing things).

My favorite movie at the time was Interview with a Vampire. I admired Lestat’s ruthlessness. I thought if I was a vampire, people wouldn’t mess with me. I wanted to be un-fuck-with-able. I also wanted to be Kirsten Dunst’s character in the film. I wanted Brad Pitt to kiss me. For vampires, it seemed, anything was possible.

I imagined people whispering about it in class. “Did you see the list of boys she likes? Mike Sellers, yeah right. He would never date her.” Only a week ago, a girl sitting next to me asked our teacher why liking someone was called a “crush.” Before Mr. Bonner could reply, Chaz piped up, “because Eileen would crush any guy she likes.”

I showed up to class the next morning feeling half-dead, but on a mission. I walked into the room just before the bell rang. All eyes were on me. People pointed and whispered. The wolves were already ripping me apart, but I stayed calm. I had only one thing on my mind: get it back. Get the diary back. For two hours I suffered through math and English lessons as if nothing was wrong. Finally, when it came time for mid-morning break, I stayed seated and waited for something to happen.

Then I saw it.

Rachel pulled my diary out of her backpack and handed it to Mike Sellers. I flew across the room and grabbed it out of Mike’s hand before he had a chance to open it. Rachel was stunned, “I – I didn’t take it! Lela gave it to me this morning.” Mike just shrugged. He didn’t care about reading my diary. He knew I liked him. Everyone liked him.

I probably should have smacked her. I certainly thought about it. But as soon as I had my diary back in my hands, all I could think of was getting the hell out of there. I ran to the principal’s office and called my parents, complaining of a stomachache.

I spent the next two days at home, sick with embarrassment. I didn’t dare tell my mom what was really going on. I learned a long time ago there was nothing she could do about it.

When I was too young to walk home from school, my mom used to pick me up. As soon as I was safe inside her mini-van, I would collapse in tears. I begged her to homeschool me every day. Maybe she should have talked to my teachers, but she was a teacher herself. She sympathized with them. It was around that time I started developing a sense of humor. Fast.

When I returned on the third day, the sadistic idiots had already moved on to the next target. “Did you hear John has a hernia? What a loser!” One of my classmates actually had the idea to kick balls at John to try and rupture it, but John complained to one of the teachers. He was a social pariah after that, but at least he was safe.

I was too afraid to write for a very long time. I didn’t keep another diary for twelve years. I never submitted anything to my high school literary journal, Connotations. I dropped out of Creative Writing my sophomore year of college.

And I’ve never, ever, thrown another birthday party.

But now, vampires are really cool.

Eileen Beard is an aspiring television writer living in Los Angeles. She spends her spare time listening to cheesy R&B music and dreaming of being a late night talk show guest, but definitely not chugging keg beer. She never chugs keg beer anymore, Mom.

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