Authors: Margaret Clark
You want to ask a boy out on a date but what if he says no? You walk up to a group of girls and they say, ‘This is a private conversation, do you mind?’ You wish you could sink through the floor when your teacher embarrasses you. Your best friend suddenly isn’t talking to you.
There’s this boy who’s trying to bully you into going out with him. Your clothes don’t fit. Your family just doesn’t understand you. You don’t understand yourself either. One minute you’re happy and the next minute you’re sobbing into your pillow. Does this sound like you, or someone you know? Then read on …
Dedicated to Soozicool, MT. Rachael
and all the other girls who have
written or talked to me about their
secrets, with much love
Well, thanks a heap, Mel, I told you that stuff in private and now you’ve blabbed it to the whole world. You’re no friend of mine!’
Oops. I hope this hasn’t happened to you! And I hope when you read this book that it also helps you understand about the things that often aren’t openly discussed, which I guess could be called secrets. There are all sorts of secrets. Some are your
secrets. They might be things that have happened to you and you’re too embarrassed to tell anyone. They might be about your feelings, and you feel that if you tell people they’ll laugh at you, or use the information to hurt you. Some secrets are about growing up and you think you’re the only person in the whole world that this has happened to (believe me, you’re not).
And in some extreme cases you may have been
threatened that if you tell anyone you will be physically hurt or there will be awful consequences. That’s emotional blackmail and nasty stuff. Then there’re the secrets that friends tell you. Or a parent or family member tells you. Now, the problem with secrets is that they are
to be secrets, and therefore you’re not supposed to tell anyone, like Mel did, and if you blab it around, then obviously it isn’t a secret any more. And you could have lost a friend because you’ve lost their trust. This is tricky, because if they tell you something and someone could be physically or emotionally hurt and you
tell, you then have this huge responsibility hanging over you like a grey cloud all the time.
Sometimes people tell you secrets and actually want you to do something about it, even though they say they don’t. That’s harder. Some people tell you stuff because they want to unload it. That’s okay. All you have to do is listen and go ‘hmmm’ or ‘really?’.
You’re asking, ‘But how does Margaret Clark know what girls worry about?’
Firstly, if any of you have ever heard me give an
author talk you’ll know that I kept a diary when I was fourteen, fifteen and sixteen. Anyway, I kept these diaries so I’ve got stuff that I’m going to share with you. You see, although things like music, fashions, hairstyles, food, movies, rules for behaviour and slang are different, people’s feelings never change! So when I read my old diaries I can remember how I felt when a boy dumped me, or I didn’t get enough pocket money, or a boy wanted to put his hands inside my bra and I wasn’t sure if he should.
The second reason is that, before I became a full-time author, I was employed in an alcohol and drug centre for eleven years. I worked mainly with teenagers in schools who were just sort of stuffing about and needed some information, and also I worked with street kids who were in trouble, and I’m talking
trouble. I listened to heaps of secrets and problems, which were not necessarily to do with drugs. In fact sometimes they
to do with drugs, because the drug-taking was only a symptom of not being loved or wanted.
Thirdly, because I write books for children and teenagers, I get heaps of fan mail but I also get a
lot of letters and poems in which young people pour out their troubles and their secrets. This also happens on email, although some people are cautious when they use electronic mail because there’s a theory that other people can hack in and read it.
That’s why I think I can write this book. Mind you, I don’t know the answers to everything. Nobody does. But I thought
should have a go at uncovering and sharing some girls’ secret stuff.
To preserve the dignity and privacy of the girls who shared their secrets with me, I have changed the names, places, dates and any other information that could give a clue to who it is sharing the secret, except when I am quoting their poetry, in which case the writer should get proper acknowledgment of her talent. So if you think you know who I am writing about, then you’re probably wrong. Like, you might be reading along then suddenly scream, ‘Omigod! This is definitely Sophie. I was with her when this happened!’ What I’m trying to show in this book is that hundreds, no,
of girls have the same experiences at school, at home, out socialising, just everywhere
all over Australia and in fact, all over the world.
My granny used to say, ‘Nothing is new under the sun.’ Read on and find out if she was right!
‘My best friend suddenly won’t talk to me and I don’t know why.’
We all need friends. Without them, life would be pretty lonely and boring.
Friends come in all shapes and sizes, ages and stages. You gradually learn about friendships by having some, and by what your parents tell you about friendships.
When I was growing up, my granny, my mum, and my aunts had rules about friends which they passed onto me.
My granny always said, ‘Love many, trust few. Always paddle your own canoe.’
My mum always said, ‘Never trust what boys say. They just want to jump in your knickers.’
My aunt always said, ‘A friend in need is a friend indeed.’
My other more sarcastic aunt always said, ‘A friend in need is a pain in the neck.’
With all these mixed messages it’s a wonder I had friends at all! Sometimes I’m still not too good on the ‘trust’ bit. I am rather independent and will do things myself before I ask for help. And I expect people to read my mind and I get huffy when they don’t understand what I need, even though I haven’t told them. For this year’s New Year’s resolution I’ve decided to improve communication with my friends and not to have big expectations of them. If they do something nice for me, that’s a bonus.
Some of you will be reading this and thinking, ‘Yes, that’s me. I expect too much and get hurt when it doesn’t happen.’ Others of you will be thinking, ‘What’s she on about?’ And we have different
of friends. We have best friends. We have casual friends. We have groups of friends, sometimes connected to a school
subject or sport or a hobby. We have cousins who are friends. Some of us have friends who are much older. Or much younger.
Some of us have sisters and brothers who are also our friends. I didn’t! My sister and I were always arguing and we didn’t become good friends till we both grew much older. This was mainly because I didn’t understand her and she didn’t understand me. We shared a room, and I drew a line down the middle and there was nearly a murder if she came on my side. She was very neat and tidy and I was a messy slob. I must have driven her
I didn’t have a brother but I knew how painful one could be because my best friend had a brother. He was called Michael (only he changed his name to Menzel, not by deed poll or anything, he just said he was Menzel). He was always the enemy.
Friendships can be fragile things. Sometimes friends can act too possessively and this causes problems. Here’s an email from a girl who, for privacy, I’ll call Amy J. She had an argument with her friend Claire over sharing friendships:
>From: Amy J.
>Date: Tue, 8 Jun 1999 7:32 PM
i hope you don’t mind if i call u Margaret. i’ve read Hold my Hand or Else, Living with Leanne, Fat Chance, Hot or What and No Fat Chicks and i think they’re such coooool books. u seem to understand teenagers. u sound 18 but i don’t know anyone who’s 18 called margaret so i guess u’re old. but never mind, i need to talk to someone so it’s u cos i got ur email address off a bookmark.
i had a bitch fight with my best friend recently, she’s been such a bitch to me. everything i do in her opinion is W.R.O.N.G. if i sit with other people it’s … oh, no the world’s come to an end … well that’s how she acts anyway. i mean i think i’m allowed to sit with my other friends. so yesterday i chucked it and gave her this massive yelling lecture in front of the whole english class (including the teacher) and i said, ‘y are u being such a bitch and y do u h8 me, in fact now i think about it, u’ve always been a bitch to me and i reckon u’ll always be a bitch. and i can sit with whoever i want, u can’t choose 4 me or order
me around or say what i do is wrong cos u don’t own me. and why is everything i do not good enough 4 you, i’m sick of u bagging me, pushing me around and bad-mouthing me behind my back when u are probably worse than me, coz aside from me u haven’t got any friends cause u’ve been such a bitch to them that they h8 u too. i’ve put up with ur rude comments and greasy stares and 4 what? and y is it ok for u to yell at me and get pissed off with me, but when i return it i’ve committed a bloody crime or something. i think u should shape up and think about how u’ve been treating me and straighten urself out cos i’m not gunna put up with this shit any longer. go find someone else to torture, fat cow.’
then i sat down. i felt so good. it was the first time i’d ever told her how i feel about her. she’s been like that to me since kindergarten.
and she’s sitting behind me going all red and saying, ‘Like, what’s up your bum?’ and i turned round again and yelled at her, ‘go bitch with someone else, Claire, cos u don’t wanna mess with me.’
i was so wound up i just shouted everything that came into my head. i’d had that bottled up for years and i had to tell her or she’d have
kept going. the teacher just sat stunned. then she began teaching but she kept looking at me.
then at recess time Claire’s going to everyone, like, ‘What’s wrong with Amy? she’s been real weird lately, i mean, she’s always liked me … and so has everyone else,’ in this flouncy, show-off bimbo voice. my friends just ignored her and she stomped off. i’m glad i’ve got other friends who stick up for me and all, they’re so nice. Shame about Claire. Sigh. sigh. sigh. now i think i was too tough on Claire. she can’t help being a bitch bimbo cow.
well, writing this makes me feel depressed. do u own a dog? i’ve got a rottweiler called alfred. he’s a babe. i cry all over him sometimes. he really understands me. in fact he’s probably my best friend ever.
i’m sorry if i scared u off, like what i said in class to Claire. i’m not really that bad or weird. i just had a shit day. betta go. i hope u write back. cya later.
bye from Amy J
This is what I emailed back to Amy J.
>From: Margaret Clark
>To: Amy J
>Date: Tue, 8 Jun 1999 7:35 PM
Dear Amy J,
Thanks for your email and I certainly don’t think you are weird. You needed to get stuff off your chest and hopefully now you don’t feel so guilty for getting angry with Claire.
You were obviously at the end of your patience and feeling really annoyed with her. And it’s good that you have other friends who care about your feelings. I wonder if, put in the same situation again, you would want to handle it the same way?
Sometimes it’s good to blow up. However, I think that most times it’s better to do it when there’s just the two of you and not a whole classroom full of people.
The only time I ever blew up in public like that was when a similar thing happened between my friend Barbara and me, and after I’d yelled at her in class, I wished I hadn’t. I felt good that it was out in the open and I’d had the courage to say what I thought, but I felt kind of stupid and guilty at the same time, if you know what I mean.
There’s no right or wrong way of doing it, Amy, but I personally decided that the next time I wanted to have a confrontation with a friend I’d do it in a private place. Then again,
sometimes I didn’t even speak to the friend if I felt angry or upset. I just wrote what I wanted to say in my diary.
The next day I would read it and if I was still angry I would talk to my friend. But often I found that when I wrote it all down some of the anger went away and I could think more clearly. Sometimes when I read it back the whole thing seemed sort of trivial.
About five days before I got my period I was very easily upset and got angry very quickly. So I had this technique. If someone was really getting up my nose, or I felt the whole world was against me, maybe you know that feeling, then I checked the date in my diary when I was supposed to get my period. If it was in that pre five days, I usually knew I was firing up because of hormones. If it wasn’t in that pre five days, then I thought that I was being a logical and fair-minded person and felt that I had the right to say what I needed to say. Is this making sense?
I found this worked really well for me and I did it for years. I always checked the diary if I was feeling angry or hurt to see if I had PMT then reconsidered, if I did. And if I didn’t – then I acted. Whammo.
You said you felt so good after you let fly in
class, but then at the end of the email you seemed to be having some doubts. Maybe you could discuss the whole thing with your other friends and see what they think. Maybe Claire deserves another chance? But only you can decide this. Good luck, Amy, and feel free to email me any time.
PS Yes, I have a blue heeler dog called Girlie and yes, sometimes I cry into her fur, too.
PPS Yes, I’m much older than eighteen but I still feel like fourteen inside my head.
Friends are so important. I am still best friends with Ally, my best friend since grade six. We lived in the same street. I lived at number 27 and she lived at number 56. She knows nearly everything there is to know about me, and I know everything about her. You can’t replace a friend like that with anyone else.
And, coincidentally, when we got married, Ally lived at number 57 and I lived at number 13 in the same street but not our childhood street!
In my own diary when I was fifteen I wrote:
On Monday in English with Miss Brown I had to sit in the front row. Ally was supposed to save a seat for me up the back but she let Jenny Rappa sit next to her. Miss Brown picked on me the whole time. Then next it was Social Studies and I told Ally to get stuffed and I sat up the back with Joanie Timms. But then Mrs Simon made us all turn our chairs around for a social experiment so the back row was the front row and I was up the front again! Erk. I hate being front row material. I couldn’t believe my bad luck!
I remember telling Ally to get stuffed, but I did it in private, just the two of us. If I’d yelled in front of the class I would have been expelled. No doubt about it. They were tough in the olden days.
Especially Hag Bag Brown.
Ally and I have had only three fights in our lives. That one, when she didn’t bags me the back
seat next to her. The second fight was when she nicked my boyfriend. Well, he wasn’t really my boyfriend, but I was mad on him; I wanted to go out with him and she knew it. I thought she was a bitch grabbing him when she knew I wanted him and we had a major fight over the phone. Then she said, ‘You can have him,’ and I said, ‘I’m not having any of your rejects,’ and slammed down the phone.
And the third fight was when we were about thirty years old and it was over a sewing cabinet! How stupid. Nowadays when I read my diaries I smile to myself. It’s like stepping back into a time warp.
One day as I was cruising through the kitchen and Mum had the radio on, this male voice started singing, ‘I’m so lonely I could die,’ and I stopped dead in my tracks with my mouth hanging open. It was Elvis Presley and he was singing ‘Heartbreak Hotel’. It was raw and raunchy, not the crappy stuff that was popular then. Not only that. He had long sideburns. He wore tight trousers, swivelled his hips and waggled his crotch as he sang.
Parents hated Elvis. Teachers hated Elvis. Teenagers loved Elvis!
At the same time Bill Hayley and the Comets sang, ‘Rock Around the Clock’ and rock ’n’ roll was born. Parents said it was evil music and if we listened to it we’d all end up depraved. Teachers said it was evil music and if we listened to it we’d end up depraved and deprived.
We loved it and we probably did end up depraved, deprived and debauched, but we didn’t care.
When I was fifteen the movie
came to the Regent theatre in Geelong (where I lived) before it came to the Melbourne theatres:
A bunch of bodgies and widgies came down from Melbourne and threw rocks at the Regent theatre because there weren’t any seats left. My mum and Ally’s mum had banned us from going there but Minnie Martin was up the front of the queue as we walked past to go and see
at the Corio and she yelled, ‘Give us ya money,’ so we did and she got us the
tickets. It was fab. But we got sprung. Monday there was a photo in the paper of Ally and I going in the theatre door and the caption above said ‘Riot at Regent Theatre’. I’m grounded for a week