A 22-Year-Old’s Diary Entries From Early July, 1973
by Richard Grayson
Sunday, July 1, 1973
I’m tired but happy after a very pleasant day. I set my alarm for 7 AM, and when I woke up, I felt a bit tired but otherwise was okay. Ronna and I had decided that instead of going out last night, we’d get up early and go out this morning.
I got a beach blanket and made a sandwich, took a book (I’m OK, You’re OK, a pop-psych bestseller) and went off to Ronna’s. I hate going past the landlord’s aged mother, who speaks only Yiddish.
After seven months of seeing me come in and out every week, she still asked Ronna’s mother last week: “So Ronna’s not seeing Ivan anymore?” (In Yiddish, presumably.) Ronna says the old lady doted on Ivan.
Surprisingly, Ronna was ready on time and we made off for the open road. There’s a certain delicious smell about summer mornings; this was the first time I’d ever seen Ronna so early in the day.
We went to Jones Beach, an hour’s drive on the Island. Ronna had been there before and figured we could beat the awful traffic if we arrived and left early – and the strategy worked.
We found a space for our blanket, and while the beach was not exactly deserted, it was nice. The sun was not too strong and there was a cool breeze. We put suntan lotion on each other and lay in the sun.
(Ronna wore shorts and a sleeveless top, feeling she’s too heavy to wear a bathing suit. I disagree, but if she feels uncomfortable in one, maybe she’s right.)
I feel very sensual on beaches, but Ronna is a bit leery about public embraces. Still, with the hot sun and everyone walking around half-nude, one can’t help thinking of sex.
Ronna said she may see Billy’s psychotherapist this week; her mother wants her to take his appointment.
We put our feet in the water and it was so refreshing, I had to resist the temptation to jump in in my cutoffs. Leaving the beach at 2 PM, we made good time to Canarsie, where we stopped for something at the Charcoal Chef.
Then we came back to my house, where we applied – more than was absolutely necessary – Solarcaine to our sunburns and lay in my bed, thrashing around.
It was a bit frustrating for her, as she didn’t come. Unlike most girls, Ronna usually has no trouble having orgasms, but she didn’t pout very much. (I had no need to pout.)
I do wish she’d let me touch her vagina and clitoris so I could help her – and myself. Sometimes I think I should just rape her; hopefully, though, she’ll come around of her own accord.
When I took her home this evening, we agreed that it had been a beautiful day.
Thursday, July 5, 1973
This evening I had an early session with Mrs. Ehrlich. Upon entering, I remarked how I never had seen her neighborhood in daylight before except of course when I sometimes drive by on Atlantic Avenue.
She wanted to know if I looked at the building then, and I said of course I do, I do it with all my friends’ houses. And then I began talking about my own search for a place to live.
Mrs. Ehrlich detected a noticeable lack of enthusiasm for moving out on my part and although I’d noticed it before, I never realized how much it was present.
“But I don’t want people to think I’m a baby,” I said, and I realized how much social pressure – by peers, today’s “be on your own” philosophy, Ronna’s desire to have a private place for us, my parents’ wanting me to leave – was affecting my plans.
Deep down, I really don’t feel ready to move, and the day, August 1, that I put down as a deadline for getting an apartment, coincides almost exactly with the end of summer school and Mrs. Ehrlich’s vacation.
Perhaps I’d better wait until the fall: to see how I like Richmond, to see about therapy, and to get some more structure into my life.
This is all bringing back feelings of when I first went to kindergarten. I can remember how, while all the other kids around me were bawling, I wouldn’t cry.
Yet I must have felt the same feelings as they did, the anxiety about leaving my mother’s care and being thrust into the world. Maybe I felt that way – though I can recall wondering if the other kids didn’t realize kindergarten ended at noon and they’d see their mommies in just a few hours.
I always found it extremely difficult to cry and it embarrasses me to see others do it. I feel as though it’s something shameful.
I related to Mrs. Ehrlich how, during my breakup with Shelli, Dad one day came into my room and said, “You’re 20 years old – too old to cry,” and I replied, “Maybe I’m just becoming old enough to cry!”
“Good for you!” said Mrs. Ehrlich. And I use trivial incidents, like impetigo or Monday’s accident to take all of my sad feelings and let them burst out.
I started feeling very sad in Mrs. Ehrlich’s office. I was feeling the same feelings I did that first day in kindergarten and I laughed nervously, trying to change the subject so that I wouldn’t cry in front of her.
Therapy is really working now. I feel as though the therapeutic tide has turned and I’m on the road to finding out about what I’m really feeling.
There was a severe storm at about 6:30 AM this morning and our telephones were dead all day, as cables were knocked down.
I spoke with Elihu last night. He told me about his dull job at Nabisco, that Elspeth had left Monday for the Coast (she’s apparently going to return to New York after the summer) and other gossip.
Saturday, July 7, 1973
This evening I’m going to stay in and read Tennyson for class. Ronna’s gone away for the weekend to Ackerman’s, a hotel in New Jersey, where her grandparents are having a 45th anniversary party.
I had been invited – or rather “George” was: obviously, Poppy Sam hasn’t the greatest memory for names. But I thought it might be good for Ronna and me to be apart, and after all, I really don’t feel like being around my own family, let alone hers.
Last evening, Ronna’s mother was like a teenager, asking my opinion on her wardrobe. Mrs. C met this guy, Hiram, in the country, and they’ve been seeing a lot of each other. Billy seems to like him and calls him “the Major,” because that was his rank in the army.
When Ronna came out of her room, she had news from work: they’d like her to stay on for the entire summer and even hinted at a position for her at New York Life after graduation.
I told her about my day at the beach, about Mara’s having to share her boyfriend with another girl (Susan told Ronna that Mara is after my body, which is ridiculous), and of course, about seeing Ivan and the other members of his family on the beach.
I said I could understand why as a teenage girl Ronna admired his sister Mona, who’s very pretty.
When I repeated Mara’s remark about Ivan reminding her of Jay Gatsby, Ronna replied with a bon mot from Shelli: “Ivan’s the only fag I know who’s not gay” – because he’s always talking about clothes and interior decorating and stuff like that.
It’s the way he’s been brought up, I suppose. Instead of envying him completely, I feel a bit sorry for Ivan. He looked thin and tired and pale, and he chain-smoked. After all, he’s only 19 and he’s running a business. He’s surely a candidate for an ulcer.
While Ronna and I were riding to Rockaway, I told her I’m glad she had a “past,” that I’m glad I had one too, and that I have no regrets.
“I always thought you regretted not sleeping with Avis,” Ronna said, “and I’ve been driving myself crazy with that.” Just like the way I do with her and Ivan, I guess.
When I told her I decided not to move out, she said, “I don’t think you ever will,” which angered me, maybe because I think that myself.
I explained things to her, and while she doesn’t agree with either my decision or perhaps even my therapy, she said she understood and apologized for telling me what to do. “After all,” she said, “you never told me what to do about Europe.”
After that, things went fine. We walked hand in hand on the boardwalk, and at a deserted playground we went on the seesaw and the monkey bars. On the swings, Ronna had the hugest, cutest grin I’ve ever seen.
I took her home early and didn’t stay long, as she was leaving early this morning.
Today I went over to Mikey’s house, and Mikey and I went to the beach, joining his mother and grandmother there.
We saw Mason’s mother, who said that he is doing fine at camp although a lot of the kids and some of the counselors have gotten chicken pox.
Mikey and I sat on the beach all afternoon. His news: he was invited to Casey’s wedding in August; Bobby has been ill with mono; June is marrying Richard S next summer; and he, Larry and Stephen are leaving next week for Colorado, stopping off first in Washington to see if he made Antioch’s law school.
Tuesday, July 10, 1973
I spoke to Gary late last night and we had a talk unlike most of those we’ve been having lately. It was not superficial in that Gary mentioned for the first time his feelings about Wendy.
For months, they’ve been so much a couple that one hardly thought of them as individuals. Every time I saw Gary he was always with Wendy, on his way to seeing her, or just returning from seeing her. But apparently there have been some problems.
“It’s all been downhill since March,” Gary said.
Curious how it dates from their acceptances at Columbia. Wendy says that Gary resents her getting him in with the Sociology Department, getting him to switch his major and helping getting him into grad school at Columbia.
Wendy also says that Gary’s been “bitchy,” something he denies. They’re leaving for Europe next week, and Gary hopes the trip will bring them closer together again.
Gary also mentioned speaking to Kjell and that Sharon is indeed due this week. They hope for a natural, not a Caesarean, birth.
On my breakfast table this morning, I saw Ivan’s sister’s photo again, this time on page 4 of the Daily News with a headline, something like “Lotsa Guys Call Our Front Page Girl.”
The article mentioned how after “Mona’s now-famous dash through the Rockaway surf,” everyone with her last name got calls for her yesterday after the picture of her running on the beach in her bikini made the front page.
It broke the “disappointing” news that Mona’s a Mrs. and went on to catalogue her food tastes, her interest in yoga and her dog Cinnamon. From clothing manufacturer’s daughter to sex symbol overnight.
At Brooklyn College, I showed the paper to Mara and Phyllis, to whom I’d pointed out Mona on the beach last Friday. Vito said, “You just know she’s going to get a movie contract!”
When Vito, Mara and I went for lunch, I noticed that Vito is stuffing himself again; I counted five cups of Italian ices. I told Mara that I liked Eric and urged her to keep seeing him despite his other girlfriend.
Vito commented that people usually think the worst about others. He mentioned how many people think Mara and I are having an affair because we hang around together a lot and how many people spread rumors about him and Joey – “who has a girlfriend, after all.”
On the way to my car, I ran into Stacy, who was exceedingly friendly, which pleased me. She’s having a relationship, but unfortunately the guy is up in Syracuse.
Stacy is still hoping to get to California this summer, but is meanwhile coordinating Scholar’s Program theses in the School of Social Science. I wished her luck – sincerely, I might add – and then went to Richmond to be bored by Prof. Cullen’s last lecture on Victorian prose.
This evening Josh called – curiously, just as I was about to call him. Anyway, he told me he has mono. I speculated whether he got it from maybe sharing a drink or food with Bobby. Josh thought that was impossible, but he went to call Bobby to commiserate; apparently neither of them is very ill.
It clouded up and may storm tonight. This is going to be a rough week, as I have a lot of work.
Thursday, July 12, 1973
Last evening Scott told me he’s definitely decided not to go to law school, that he plans to get a job and an apartment in the city when he comes back from Greece.
He got a postcard from Avis in Zions National Park; she wrote that she enjoys traveling with Libby but apparently Beverly is a less congenial companion.
I woke up this morning to a cool, sunny, glorious day. This morning I decided to drop by the Sociology Department at Brooklyn College, as Gary had said I should pick up my birthday present, which turned out to be a lovely pen.
Gary said he’d take a walk with me, and on the way out, I said to Wendy, “Have a good trip,” and she looked at me strangely.
Once the door was closed, Gary muttered, “You’ll live to eat those words.”
We sat on the stairwell in Whitehead, where Gary told me the trip is off. He recounted how he and Wendy have been fighting lately and said Wendy’s complaining she’s been sick all week.
He asked her if it was the anxiety over the trip or what, and she replied, “No, you’re the one that’s making me sick.” So Gary told her he wouldn’t go to Europe with a person he made sick.
He wants to straighten things out here, or at least be friends – after all, they’ve got four years at Columbia ahead of them, and the job and mutual friends – but so far Wendy is not bending.
Gary said they had a joint savings account. I always thought that was stupid, but of course I said nothing.
Gary is the one who always gives his girlfriends big presents and does things like that. At the same time, he once said that Ronna and I “just have a relationship of convenience,” meaning we’re not seriously committed to each other.
I told Gary he could come to me to talk anytime, the way I came to him the Sunday in October 1971 when I discovered Shelli was sleeping with Jerry.
In class today, Prof. Cullen went over Tennyson’s early poems. I’m really learning a lot about Victorian poetry and the Victorian era in his class, and I like the school. People seem friendly when I talk with them in the cafeteria.
I picked up Ronna tonight and drove her to Susan’s house. Ronna is going to see her off tomorrow morning when she sails for Europe on the Lermontov. Susan’s mother is afraid to fly, so they always take an ocean liner.
At Mrs. Ehrlich’s tonight, I discussed a lot of things: my reconciliation with Jerry just as he and Shelli are moving to Boston; my meeting with Ivan, his leaving town too, and my urging Ronna to call him; Gary and Wendy’s breakup.
Mrs. Ehrlich thought it all tied in with her own upcoming vacation, Avis and Scott being away, my going to a new school and thinking about getting my own apartment.
“This is a difficult time for you,” she said, “and you shouldn’t minimize it.”
I’m afraid of letting go of people – even people like Shelli and Jerry, on their way to Boston; Ivan, off to Philadelphia; and Stacy. I’m worried about being abandoned, even by Mrs. Ehrlich.
Her vacation is bringing back emotional echoes of Bob and Rochelle Wouk’s departures as my therapist for good.
And we hit upon another significant point: I was so glad to see Mona in the paper and anxious to show Mrs. Ehrlich about it because it confirmed – in spades – my earlier observation to Mrs. Ehrlich that Mona was so beautiful.
It’s as if I was using the Daily News to justify my own thoughts and feelings, to show her, Look, I’m not crazy: the world agrees with me.
Monday, July 16, 1973
It’s only 7 PM, but I’m extremely tired. I spent an almost sleepless night tossing and turning in bed.
Nothing is bothering me – at least not enough to keep me awake for that long a period of time, but I was without my tranquilizers, which usually give me relief from sleeplessness.
Insomnia is a great equalizer. When it’s 4 AM or 5 AM and you’re still awake, it’s as though your present day-to-day reality means nothing: you could be seventeen years old or twelve, or even a six-year-old.
Needless to say, I felt so rotten upon awakening from just a two-hour sleep, I decided not to go to school today. The car was being worked on at the body shop anyway, and I guess I can afford to miss one class.
I got a letter today from Avis, from San Diego. She seems to be enjoying herself immensely, going up and down the coast from San Francisco to Disneyland to Tijuana. Libby, she writes, “is the sweetest and loveliest person,” but Beverly has been “cramping our style” although their days are still busy and fun-filled.
Gary called last night; he’d gone to Great Neck for the weekend to think things through. There’s absolutely no doubt that he and Wendy are finished.
On Friday there was a “virtual war” in the office, and that night he went over to her house to retrieve his belongings. (An ancient ritual, Ronna and I recalled: Shelli’s bathing suits and my St. Christopher’s medal were returned; Ivan’s shorts and Ronna’s copy of Love Story were never given back.)
Wendy has turned very cold toward Gary and he dreads the hassles he may have to face in Columbia, seeing her so often. Gary will probably go away, alone perhaps. He doesn’t feel like seeing people yet – not prospective girlfriends, anyway.
I don’t think they’re going to reconcile; Gary says he’s run after her twice already and although he may still love her, it’s not worth it.
It’s amazing the way people’s feelings about their lovers change. Perhaps Gary and Wendy were victims of a stifling, clutching love the way Shelli and I were. Ronna said that on Saturday night Jerry kept hugging and kissing Shelli in public and it embarrassed her.
But who knows? Ivan’s father once said he couldn’t imagine whatever Ivan saw in Ronna. “But, Daddy, I love her,” Ivan said. Maybe it’s that simple; I don’t know.
I went over to see Kjell’s mother today and she said Sharon’s overdue and very uncomfortable.
Kjell’s really tense, and his mother can’t leave the house since she’s always waiting for Sharon to call to ask her to take her to the hospital.
“You’re a good mother-in-law,” I told her.