The diary of a young gir.., p.16
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       The Diary of a Young Girl, p.16

           Anne Frank
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  Everyone here is reading a book called Salute to Freedom. Mother thought it was extremely good because it describes a number of adolescent problems. I thought to myself, a bit ironically, “Why don’t you take more interest in your own adolescents first!”

  I think Mother believes that Margot and I have a better relationship with our parents than anyone in the whole wide world, and that no mother is more involved in the lives of her children than she is. She must have my sister in mind, since I don’t believe Margot has the same problems and thoughts as I do. Far be it from me to point out to Mother that one of her daughters is not at all what she imagines. She’d be completely bewildered, and anyway, she’d never be able to change; I’d like to spare her that grief, especially since I know that everything would remain the same. Mother does sense that Margot loves her much more than I do, but she thinks I’m just going through a phase.

  Margot’s gotten much nicer. She seems a lot different than she used to be. She’s not nearly as catty these days and is becoming a real friend. She no longer thinks of me as a little kid who doesn’t count.

  It’s funny, but I can sometimes see myself as others see me. I take a leisurely look at the person called “Anne Frank” and browse through the pages of her life as though she were a stranger.

  Before I came here, when I didn’t think about things as much as I do now, I occasionally had the feeling that I didn’t belong to Momsy, Pim and Margot and that I would always be an outsider. I sometimes went around for six months at a time pretending I was an orphan. Then I’d chastise myself for playing the victim, when really, I’d always been so fortunate. After that I’d force myself to be friendly for a while. Every morning when I heard footsteps on the stairs, I hoped it would be Mother coming to say good morning. I’d greet her warmly, because I honestly did look forward to her affectionate glance. But then she’d snap at me for having made some comment or other and I’d go off to school feeling completely discouraged. On the way home I’d make excuses for her, telling myself that she had so many worries. I’d arrive home in high spirits, chatting nineteen to the dozen, until the events of the morning would repeat themselves and I’d leave the room with my schoolbag in my hand and a pensive look on my face. Sometimes I’d decide to stay angry, but then I always had so much to talk about after school that I’d forget my resolution and want Mother to stop whatever she was doing and lend a willing ear. Then the time would come once more when I no longer listened for the steps on the stairs and felt lonely and cried into my pillow every night.

  Everything has gotten much worse here. But you already knew that. Now God has sent someone to help me: Peter. I fondle my pendant, press it to my lips and think, “What do I care! Petel is mine and nobody knows it!” With this in mind, I can rise above every nasty remark. Which of the people here would suspect that so much is going on in the mind of a teenage girl?

  SATURDAY, JANUARY 15, 1944

  My dearest Kitty,

  There’s no reason for me to go on describing all our quarrels and arguments down to the last detail. It’s enough to tell you that we’ve divided many things like meat and fats and oils and are frying our own potatoes. Recently we’ve been eating a little extra rye bread because by four o’clock we’re so hungry for dinner we can barely control our rumbling stomachs.

  Mother’s birthday is rapidly approaching. She received some extra sugar from Mr. Kugler, which sparked off jealousy on the part of the van Daans, because Mrs. van D. didn’t receive any on her birthday. But what’s the point of boring you with harsh words, spiteful conversations and tears when you know they bore us even more?

  Mother has expressed a wish, which isn’t likely to come true any time soon: not to have to see Mr. van Daan’s face for two whole weeks. I wonder if everyone who shares a house sooner or later ends up at odds with their fellow residents. Or have we just had a stroke of bad luck? At mealtime, when Dussel helps himself to a quarter of the half-filled gravy boat and leaves the rest of us to do without, I lose my appetite and feel like jumping to my feet, knocking him off his chair and throwing him out the door.

  Are most people so stingy and selfish? I’ve gained some insight into human nature since I came here, which is good, but I’ve had enough for the present. Peter says the same.

  The war is going to go on despite our quarrels and our longing for freedom and fresh air, so we should try to make the best of our stay here.

  I’m preaching, but I also believe that if I live here much longer, I’ll turn into a dried-up old beanstalk. And all I really want is to be an honest-to-goodness teenager!

  Yours, Anne

  WEDNESDAY EVENING, JANUARY 19, 1944

  Dearest Kitty,

  I (there I go again!) don’t know what’s happened, but since my dream I keep noticing how I’ve changed. By the way, I dreamed about Peter again last night and once again I felt his eyes penetrate mine, but this dream was less vivid and not quite as beautiful as the last.

  You know that I always used to be jealous of Margot’s relationship with Father. There’s not a trace of my jealousy left now; I still feel hurt when Father’s nerves cause him to be unreasonable toward me, but then I think, “I can’t blame you for being the way you are. You talk so much about the minds of children and adolescents, but you don’t know the first thing about them!” I long for more than Father’s affection, more than his hugs and kisses. Isn’t it awful of me to be so preoccupied with myself? Shouldn’t I, who want to be good and kind, forgive them first? I forgive Mother too, but every time she makes a sarcastic remark or laughs at me, it’s all I can do to control myself.

  I know I’m far from being what I should; will I ever be?

  Anne Frank

  PS. Father asked if I told you about the cake. For Mother’s birthday, she received a real mocha cake, prewar quality, from the office. It was a really nice day! But at the moment there’s no room in my head for things like that.

  SATURDAY, JANUARY 22, 1944

  Dearest Kitty,

  Can you tell me why people go to such lengths to hide their real selves? Or why I always behave very differently when I’m in the company of others? Why do people have so little trust in one another? I know there must be a reason, but sometimes I think it’s horrible that you can’t ever confide in anyone, not even those closest to you.

  It seems as if I’ve grown up since the night I had that dream, as if I’ve become more independent. You’ll be amazed when I tell you that even my attitude toward the van Daans has changed. I’ve stopped looking at all the discussions and arguments from my family’s biased point of view. What’s brought on such a radical change? Well, you see, I suddenly realized that if Mother had been different, if she’d been a real mom, our relationship would have been very, very different. Mrs. van Daan is by no means a wonderful person, yet half the arguments could have been avoided if Mother hadn’t been so hard to deal with every time they got onto a tricky subject. Mrs. van Daan does have one good point, though: you can talk to her. She may be selfish, stingy and underhanded, but she’ll readily back down as long as you don’t provoke her and make her unreasonable. This tactic doesn’t work every time, but if you’re patient, you can keep trying and see how far you get.

  All the conflicts about our upbringing, about not pampering children, about the food—about everything, absolutely everything—might have taken a different turn if we’d remained open and on friendly terms instead of always seeing the worst side.

  I know exactly what you’re going to say, Kitty. “But, Anne, are these words really coming from your lips? From you, who have had to put up with so many unkind words from upstairs? From you, who are aware of all the injustices?”

  And yet they are coming from me. I want to take a fresh look at things and form my own opinion, not just ape my parents, as in the proverb “The apple never falls far from the tree.” I want to reexamine the van Daans and decide for myself what’s true and what’s been blown out of proportion. If I wind up being disappointed in them, I can always
side with Father and Mother. But if not, I can try to change their attitude. And if that doesn’t work, I’ll have to stick with my own opinions and judgment. I’ll take every opportunity to speak openly to Mrs. van D. about our many differences and not be afraid—despite my reputation as a smart aleck—to offer my impartial opinion. I won’t say anything negative about my own family, though that doesn’t mean I won’t defend them if somebody else does, and as of today, my gossiping is a thing of the past.

  Up to now I was absolutely convinced that the van Daans were entirely to blame for the quarrels, but now I’m sure the fault was largely ours. We were right as far as the issues were concerned, but intelligent people (such as ourselves!) should have more insight into how to deal with others.

  I hope I’ve got at least a touch of that insight, and that I’ll find an occasion to put it to good use.

  Yours, Anne

  MONDAY, JANUARY 24, 1944

  Dearest Kitty,

  A very strange thing has happened to me. (Actually, “happened” isn’t quite the right word.)

  Before I came here, whenever anyone at home or at school talked about sex, they were either secretive or disgusting. Any words having to do with sex were spoken in a low whisper, and kids who weren’t in the know were often laughed at. That struck me as odd, and I often wondered why people were so mysterious or obnoxious when they talked about this subject. But because I couldn’t change things, I said as little as possible or asked my girlfriends for information.

  After I’d learned quite a lot, Mother once said to me, “Anne, let me give you some good advice. Never discuss this with boys, and if they bring it up, don’t answer them.”

  I still remember my exact reply. “No, of course not,” I exclaimed. “Imagine!” And nothing more was said.

  When we first went into hiding, Father often told me about things I’d rather have heard from Mother, and I learned the rest from books or things I picked up in conversations.

  Peter van Daan wasn’t ever as obnoxious about this subject as the boys at school. Or maybe just once or twice, in the beginning, though he wasn’t trying to get me to talk. Mrs. van Daan once told us she’d never discussed these matters with Peter, and as far as she knew, neither had her husband. Apparently she didn’t even know how much Peter knew or where he got his information.

  Yesterday, when Margot, Peter and I were peeling potatoes, the conversation somehow turned to Boche. “We’re still not sure whether Boche is a boy or a girl, are we?” I asked.

  “Yes we are,” he answered. “Boche is a tomcat.”

  I began to laugh. “Some tomcat if he’s pregnant.”

  Peter and Margot joined in the laughter. You see, a month or two ago Peter informed us that Boche was sure to have kittens before long, because her stomach was rapidly swelling. However, Boche’s fat tummy turned out to be due to a bunch of stolen bones. No kittens were growing inside, much less about to be born.

  Peter felt called upon to defend himself against my accusation. “Come with me. You can see for yourself. I was horsing around with the cat one day, and I could definitely see it was a ‘he.’”

  Unable to restrain my curiosity, I went with him to the warehouse. Boche, however, wasn’t receiving visitors at that hour, and was nowhere in sight. We waited for a while, but when it got cold, we went back upstairs.

  Later that afternoon I heard Peter go downstairs for the second time. I mustered the courage to walk through the silent house by myself and reached the warehouse. Boche was on the packing table, playing with Peter, who was getting ready to put him on the scale and weigh him.

  “Hi, do you want to have a look?” Without any preliminaries, he picked up the cat, turned him over on his back, deftly held his head and paws and began the lesson. “This is the male sexual organ, these are a few stray hairs, and that’s his backside.”

  The cat flipped himself over and stood up on his little white feet.

  If any other boy had pointed out the “male sexual organ” to me, I would never have given him a second glance. But Peter went on talking in a normal voice about what is otherwise a very awkward subject. Nor did he have any ulterior motives. By the time he’d finished, I felt so much at ease that I started acting normally too. We played with Boche, had a good time, chatted a bit and finally sauntered through the long warehouse to the door.

  “Were you there when Mouschi was fixed?”

  “Yeah, sure. It doesn’t take long. They give the cat an anesthetic, of course.”

  “Do they take something out?”

  “No, the vet just snips the tube. There’s nothing to see on the outside.”

  I had to get up my nerve to ask a question, since it wasn’t as “normal” as I thought. “Peter, the German word Geschlechtsteil means ‘sexual organ,’ doesn’t it? But then the male and female ones have different names.”

  “I know that.”

  “The female one is a vagina, that I know, but I don’t know what it’s called in males.”

  “Hmm.”

  “Oh well,” I said. “How are we supposed to know these words? Most of the time you just come across them by accident.”

  “Why wait? I’ll ask my parents. They know more than I do and they’ve had more experience.”

  We were already on the stairs, so nothing more was said.

  Yes, it really did happen. I’d never have talked to a girl about this in such a normal tone of voice. I’m also certain that this isn’t what Mother meant when she warned me about boys.

  All the same, I wasn’t exactly my usual self for the rest of the day. When I thought back to our talk, it struck me as odd. But I’ve learned at least one thing: there are young people, even those of the opposite sex, who can discuss these things naturally, without cracking jokes.

  Is Peter really going to ask his parents a lot of questions? Is he really the way he seemed yesterday?

  Oh, what do I know?!!!

  Yours, Anne

  FRIDAY, JANUARY 28, 1944

  Dearest Kitty,

  In recent weeks I’ve developed a great liking for family trees and the genealogical tables of royal families. I’ve come to the conclusion that once you begin your search, you have to keep digging deeper and deeper into the past, which leads you to even more interesting discoveries.

  Although I’m extremely diligent when it comes to my schoolwork and can pretty much follow the BBC Home Service on the radio, I still spend many of my Sundays sorting out and looking over my movie-star collection, which has grown to a very respectable size. Mr. Kugler makes me happy every Monday by bringing me a copy of Cinema & Theater magazine. The less worldly members of our household often refer to this small indulgence as a waste of money, yet they never fail to be surprised at how accurately I can list the actors in any given movie, even after a year. Bep, who often goes to the movies with her boyfriend on her day off, tells me on Saturday the name of the show they’re going to see, and I then proceed to rattle off the names of the leading actors and actresses and the reviews. Moms recently remarked that I wouldn’t need to go to the movies later on, because I know all the plots, the names of the stars and the reviews by heart.

  Whenever I come sailing in with a new hairstyle, I can read the disapproval on their faces, and I can be sure someone will ask which movie star I’m trying to imitate. My reply, that it’s my own invention, is greeted with skepticism. As for the hairdo, it doesn’t hold its set for more than half an hour. By that time I’m so sick and tired of their remarks that I race to the bathroom and restore my hair to its normal mass of curls.

  Yours, Anne

  FRIDAY, JANUARY 28, 1944

  Dearest Kitty,

  This morning I was wondering whether you ever felt like a cow, having to chew my stale news over and over again until you’re so fed up with the monotonous fare that you yawn and secretly wish Anne would dig up something new.

  Sorry, I know you find it dull as ditch water, but imagine how sick and tired I am of hearing the same old stuff. If the talk at me
altime isn’t about politics or good food, then Mother or Mrs. van D. trot out stories about their childhood that we’ve heard a thousand times before, or Dussel goes on and on about beautiful racehorses, his Charlotte’s extensive wardrobe, leaky rowboats, boys who can swim at the age of four, aching muscles and frightened patients. It all boils down to this: whenever one of the eight of us opens his mouth, the other seven can finish the story for him. We know the punch line of every joke before it gets told, so that whoever’s telling it is left to laugh alone. The various milkmen, grocers and butchers of the two former housewives have been praised to the skies or run into the ground so many times that in our imaginations they’ve grown as old as Methuselah; there’s absolutely no chance of anything new or fresh being brought up for discussion in the Annex.

  Still, all this might be bearable if only the grown-ups weren’t in the habit of repeating the stories we hear from Mr. Kleiman, Jan or Miep, each time embellishing them with a few details of their own, so that I often have to pinch my arm under the table to keep myself from setting the enthusiastic storyteller on the right track. Little children, such as Anne, must never, ever correct their elders, no matter how many blunders they make or how often they let their imaginations run away with them.

  Jan and Mr. Kleiman love talking about people who have gone underground or into hiding; they know we’re eager to hear about others in our situation and that we truly sympathize with the sorrow of those who’ve been arrested as well as the joy of prisoners who’ve been freed.

 
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