Today, we pay homage to a famous teenage diarist, Anne Frank (a Jewish girl who was hiding from the Nazis for several years in a flat with her family). If you have never read her diary, you should. (In my opinion, it should be compulsory reading in every school: but for its historical value and for the way it captures the difficulties of growing up.)
The finest thing of all is that I can at least write down what I think and feel, otherwise I would suffocate completely.
(The Diary of Anne Frank, 16 March 1944)
Saturday, 7 November 2020
Got up in the morning to sunshine outside and feeling better than I’ve felt in days. I’m sure the fact that it’s a day of leisure for all of us helps to raise my spirits too (and everybody else’s in the family).
I wondered what to write for the Lockdown Diaries II today and in the end I decided on continuing to work with some famous diarists in history. I looked up Anne Frank’s diary entry for this day, in 1942: after months in hiding, tempers in her family were fraying and sibling rivalry seemed to be in full flow. Anne’s words display classic teenage angst. And yet, despite the difficult circumstances she endured, she was not without hope and continued to strive to become a better person. She could be an example to us all.
I think of the middle-aged man who pushed me in the supermarket yesterday. I’m sure he has many problems to cope with; I’m almost equally sure he hasn’t got not as many as I’ve got (but I’m not ready to talk about that yet here). But no matter how many problems we’ve got – does that justify any of us forgetting basic human consideration for each other?
With that, I’ll hand the word to Anne:
Saturday, 7 November 1942
Mother’s nerves are very much on edge, and that doesn’t bode well for me. Is it just a coincidence that Father and Mother never scold Margot and always blame me for everything? Last night, for example, Margot was reading a book with beautiful illustrations; she got up and put the books aside for later. I wasn’t doing anything, so I picked it up and began looking at the pictures. Margot came back, saw “her” book in my hands, knitted her brow and angrily demanded the book back. I wanted to look through it some more. Margot got madder by the minute, and Mother butted in: “Margot was reading that book; give it back to her.”
Father came in, and without even knowing what was going on, saw that Margot was being wronged and lashed out at me: “I’d like to see what you’d do if Margot was looking at one of your books!”
I promptly gave in, put the book down and, according to them, left the room “in a huff”. I was neither huffy, nor cross, but merely sad.
It wasn’t right of Father to pass judgment without knowing what the issue was. I would have given the book to Margot myself, and lot sooner, if Father and Mother hadn’t intervened and rushed to take Margot’s part, as if she were suffering some great injustice.
Of course, Mother took Margot’s side; they always take each other’s sides. I’m so used to it that I’v become completely indifferent to Mother’s rebukes and Margot’s moodiness. I love them but only because they’re Mother and Margot. I don’t give a darn about them as people. As far as I’m concerned they can go jump in a lake. It’s different with Father. When I see him being partial to Margot, approving Margot’s every action, praising her, hugging her, I feel a gnawing ache inside, because I’m crazy about him. I model myself after Father, and there’s no one in the world I love more. He doesn’t realise that he treats Margot differently than he does me: Margot just happens to be the smartest, the kindest, the prettiest and the best. But I have a right to be taken seriously too. I’ve always been the clown and mischief maker of the family; I’ve always had to pay double for my sins: once with scolding and again with my own sense of despair. I’m no longer satisfied with the meaningless or the supposedly serious talks. I long for something from Father that he’s incapable of giving. I’m not jealous of Margot; I never have been. I’m not envious of her brains or her beauty. It’s just I’d like to feel that Father really loves me, not because I’m his child, but because it’s me, Anne.
I cling to Father because my contempt of Mother is growing daily and it’s only through him that I’m able to retain the last ounce of family feeling I have left. He doesn’t understand that I sometimes need to vent my feelings for Mother. He doesn’t want to talk about it, and he avoids any discussion involving Mother’s failings. And yet Mother, with all her shortcomings, is tougher for me to deal with.
I don’t know how I should act. I can’t very well confront her with her carelessness, her sarcasm and hart-heartedness, yet I can’t continue to take the blame for everything.
I’m the opposite of Mother, so of course we clash. I don’t mean to judge her; I don’t have that right. I’m simply looking at her as a mother. She’s not a mother to me – I have to mother myself. I’ve cut myself adrift from them. I’m charting my own course, and we’ll see where it leads me. I have no choice because I can picture what a mother and a wife should be and can’t seem to find anything of the sort in the woman I’m supposed to call “Mother”. I tell myself time and again to overlook Mother’s bad example. I only want to see her good points, and to look inside myself for what’s lacking in her. But it doesn’t work, and the worst part is that Father and Mother don’t realise their own inadequacies and how much I blame them for letting me down. Are there any parents who can make their children completely happy?
Sometimes I think God is trying to test me, both now and in the future. I’ll have to become a good person on my own, without anyone to serve as a model or advise me, but it’ll make me stronger in the end.
Who else but me is ever going to read these letters? Who else but me can I turn to for comfort? I’m frequently in need of consolation, I often feel weak, and more often than not, I fail to meet expectations. I know this, and every day I resolve to do better.
They aren’t consistent in their treatment of me. One day they say that’s Anne’s a sensible girl and entitled to know everything, and the next that Anne’s a silly goose who doesn’t know a thing and yet imagines she’s learned all she needs to know from books! I’m no longer the baby and spoiled little darling whose every deed can be laughed at. I have my own ideas, plans and ideals, but am unable to articulate them yet.
Oh well. So much comes into my head at night when I’m alone, or during the day when I’m obliged to put up with people I can’t abide or who invariably misinterpret my intentions. That’s why I always wind up coming back to my diary – I start there and end there because Kitty’s always patient. I promise her that, despite everything, I’ll keep going, that I’ll find my own way and choke back my tears. I only wish I could see some results or, just once, receive encouragement from someone who loves me.
Don’t condemn me, but think of me as a person who sometimes reaches the bursting point!
(The Diary of Anne Frank, 7 November 1942)
⇒ The Diary of Anne Frank
⇒ The Anne Frank House, Amsterdam (Holland)