The Shirley Journals 2

Displaced Teen Royalty

by Carrie Frye

The caption reads: A proposal for a new teenage archetype: the displaced duchess. An awkward shambles outwardly.   The image shows a school picture of a  teen girl, white with long brown hair and wearing a Germs t-shirt and a duchess tiara. The picture is enclosed in an elaborate frame.
Reads: Inwardly, possesses no academic genius, or athleticism, or special kindness, or (as yet) any marked artistic skill. Not gifted or talented. Not a prodigy.
Reads: Is nonetheless imperious in manner, even with friends. Burns with a fiery knowledge that somewhere there’s a place where she matches up. Where people are interesting and see that she is interesting—and is pissed in the meantime.    The image shows the faces of two teen girls. The one in the duchess tiara is engaged in “*broody scheming, like Napoleon on Elba, about how I will make the cheerleading squad, secure the love of M— H—-------, and regain my power in France.”    The second girl says: “Sure.”
Reads: I was this. When I read about Shirley Jackson as a teenager I can tell she was, too.
Reads:   In one early story Natalie is the character based on herself. She writes of Natalie’s social set: “Doris was … the center of a little group of girls who did things by themselves, went to movies and had parties and went swimming in the summer, in a gay chattering body whose animation never quite concealed the fact that they were ugly and awkward and unpopular.”   (Emphasis mine.)
Quotes from Jackson’s text: “When Natalie sat with them she knew that she was marked, just as irretrievably as though they had all worn distinctive uniforms … the terrible social outsiders.”   Image shows the faces of six girls depicted in 1930s style with hairbows. They are white, mostly plain or young looking. One is wearing a tiara instead of a hairbow and is frowning.
Reads: One of Jackson’s friends from this time later said, “We didn’t fit in. We were not the … I suppose you’d call it the party crowd.”   She is able to observe this without vehemence. She is not a Natalie, not a displaced duchess.
Reads: I have been thinking about this a lot in a therapeutic way, trying to embrace the kid I was and make room for her even as I cringe at the sight of her.   Image shows a girl in a duchess crown in an embrace with a fuschia heart.
In high school, Shirley Jackson kept a secret diary in a notepad with a cover that read “Debutante.” She had scratched out the face.   Image shows a notebook cover with a scratched-out face.
Reads: In this diary, she would write long letters to an older boy at school, Bud Young. In real life they were on a nodding acquaintance, at best.   A diary page, dated Dec. 2, 1932,  reads:  “It’s exquisite. Our love song—only you don’t know it.”
Reads: Through writing she was possessing herself of a secret realm. A country she ruled. A fictionally satisfying life till she could get to a better real one.    A diary page, dated Nov. 6, 1932,  reads: “Today, I shall write. I feel it. I shall write of the great joys of living.”