The diary of a young gir.., p.5
The Diary of a Young Girl, p.5Anne Frank
I don’t get along with Margot very well either. Even though our family never has the same kind of outbursts they have upstairs, I find it far from pleasant. Margot’s and Mother’s personalities are so alien to me. I understand my girlfriends better than my own mother. Isn’t that a shame?
For the umpteenth time, Mrs. van Daan is sulking. She’s very moody and has been removing more and more of her belongings and locking them up. It’s too bad Mother doesn’t repay every van Daan “disappearing act” with a Frank “disappearing act.”
Some people, like the van Daans, seem to take special delight not only in raising their own children but in helping others raise theirs. Margot doesn’t need it, since she’s naturally good, kind and clever, perfection itself, but I seem to have enough mischief for the two of us. More than once the air has been filled with the van Daans’ admonitions and my saucy replies. Father and Mother always defend me fiercely. Without them I wouldn’t be able to jump back into the fray with my usual composure. They keep telling me I should talk less, mind my own business and be more modest, but I seem doomed to failure. If Father weren’t so patient, I’d have long ago given up hope of ever meeting my parents’ quite moderate expectations.
If I take a small helping of a vegetable I loathe and eat potatoes instead, the van Daans, especially Mrs. van Daan, can’t get over how spoiled I am. “Come on, Anne, eat some more vegetables,” she says.
“No, thank you, ma’am,” I reply. “The potatoes are more than enough.”
“Vegetables are good for you; your mother says so too. Have some more,” she insists, until Father intervenes and upholds my right to refuse a dish I don’t like.
Then Mrs. van D. really flies off the handle: “You should have been at our house, where children were brought up the way they should be. I don’t call this a proper upbringing. Anne is terribly spoiled. I’d never allow that. If Anne were my daughter …”
This is always how her tirades begin and end: “If Anne were my daughter …” Thank goodness I’m not.
But to get back to the subject of raising children, yesterday a silence fell after Mrs. van D. finished her little speech. Father then replied, “I think Anne is very well brought up. At least she’s learned not to respond to your interminable sermons. As far as the vegetables are concerned, all I have to say is look who’s calling the kettle black.”
Mrs. van D. was soundly defeated. The pot calling the kettle black refers of course to Madame herself, since she can’t tolerate beans or any kind of cabbage in the evening because they give her “gas.” But I could say the same. What a dope, don’t you think? In any case, let’s hope she stops talking about me.
It’s so funny to see how quickly Mrs. van Daan flushes. I don’t, and it secretly annoys her no end.
MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 28, 1942
I had to stop yesterday, though I was nowhere near finished. I’m dying to tell you about another one of our clashes, but before I do I’d like to say this: I think it’s odd that grown-ups quarrel so easily and so often and about such petty matters. Up to now I always thought bickering was just something children did and that they outgrew it. Of course, there’s sometimes a reason to have a “real” quarrel, but the verbal exchanges that take place here are just plain bickering. I should be used to the fact that these squabbles are daily occurrences, but I’m not and never will be as long as I’m the subject of nearly every discussion. (They refer to these as “discussions” instead of “quarrels,” but Germans don’t know the difference!) They criticize everything, and I mean everything, about me: my behavior, my personality, my manners; every inch of me, from head to toe and back again, is the subject of gossip and debate. Harsh words and shouts are constantly being flung at my head, though I’m absolutely not used to it. According to the powers that be, I’m supposed to grin and bear it. But I can’t! I have no intention of taking their insults lying down. I’ll show them that Anne Frank wasn’t born yesterday. They’ll sit up and take notice and keep their big mouths shut when I make them see they ought to attend to their own manners instead of mine. How dare they act that way! It’s simply barbaric. I’ve been astonished, time and again, at such rudeness and most of all … at such stupidity (Mrs. van Daan). But as soon as I’ve gotten used to the idea, and that shouldn’t take long, I’ll give them a taste of their own medicine, and then they’ll change their tune! Am I really as bad-mannered, headstrong, stubborn, pushy, stupid, lazy, etc., etc., as the van Daans say I am? No, of course not. I know I have my faults and shortcomings, but they blow them all out of proportion! If you only knew, Kitty, how I seethe when they scold and mock me. It won’t take long before I explode with pent-up rage.
But enough of that. I’ve bored you long enough with my quarrels, and yet I can’t resist adding a highly interesting dinner conversation.
Somehow we landed on the subject of Pim’s extreme diffidence. His modesty is a well-known fact, which even the stupidest person wouldn’t dream of questioning. All of a sudden Mrs. van Daan, who feels the need to bring herself into every conversation, remarked, “I’m very modest and retiring too, much more so than my husband!”
Have you ever heard anything so ridiculous? This sentence clearly illustrates that she’s not exactly what you’d call modest!
Mr. van Daan, who felt obliged to explain the “much more so than my husband,” answered calmly, “I have no desire to be modest and retiring. In my experience, you get a lot further by being pushy!” And turning to me, he added, “Don’t be modest and retiring, Anne. It will get you nowhere.”
Mother agreed completely with this viewpoint. But, as usual, Mrs. van Daan had to add her two cents. This time, however, instead of addressing me directly, she turned to my parents and said, “You must have a strange outlook on life to be able to say that to Anne. Things were different when I was growing up. Though they probably haven’t changed much since then, except in your modern household!”
This was a direct hit at Mother’s modern child-rearing methods, which she’s defended on many occasions. Mrs. van Daan was so upset her face turned bright red. People who flush easily become even more agitated when they feel themselves getting hot under the collar, and they quickly lose to their opponents.
The nonflushed mother, who now wanted to have the matter over and done with as quickly as possible, paused for a moment to think before she replied. “Well, Mrs. van Daan, I agree that it’s much better if a person isn’t overmodest. My husband, Margot and Peter are all exceptionally modest. Your husband, Anne and I, though not exactly the opposite, don’t let ourselves be pushed around.”
Mrs. van Daan: “Oh, but Mrs. Frank, I don’t understand what you mean! Honestly, I’m extremely modest and retiring. How can you say that I’m pushy?”
Mother: “I didn’t say you were pushy, but no one would describe you as having a retiring disposition.”
Mrs. van D.: “I’d like to know in what way I’m pushy! If I didn’t look out for myself here, no one else would, and I’d soon starve, but that doesn’t mean I’m not as modest and retiring as your husband.”
Mother had no choice but to laugh at this ridiculous self-defense, which irritated Mrs. van Daan. Not exactly a born debater, she continued her magnificent account in a mixture of German and Dutch, until she got so tangled up in her own words that she finally rose from her chair and was just about to leave the room when her eye fell on me. You should have seen her! As luck would have it, the moment Mrs. van D. turned around I was shaking my head in a combination of compassion and irony. I wasn’t doing it on purpose, but I’d followed her tirade so intently that my reaction was completely involuntary. Mrs. van D. wheeled around and gave me a tongue-lashing: hard, Germanic, mean and vulgar, exactly like some fat, red-faced fishwife. It was a joy to behold. If I could draw, I’d like to have sketched her as she was then. She struck me as so comical, that silly little scatterbrain! I’ve learned one thing: you only really get to know a person after a fight. O
TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 29, 1942
The strangest things happen to you when you’re in hiding! Try to picture this. Because we don’t have a bathtub, we wash ourselves in a washtub, and because there’s only hot water in the office (by which I mean the entire lower floor), the seven of us take turns making the most of this great opportunity. But since none of us are alike and are all plagued by varying degrees of modesty, each member of the family has selected a different place to wash. Peter takes a bath in the office kitchen, even though it has a glass door. When it’s time for his bath, he goes around to each of us in turn and announces that we shouldn’t walk past the kitchen for the next half hour. He considers this measure to be sufficient. Mr. van D. takes his bath upstairs, figuring that the safety of his own room outweighs the difficulty of having to carry the hot water up all those stairs. Mrs. van D. has yet to take a bath; she’s waiting to see which is the best place. Father bathes in the private office and Mother in the kitchen behind a fire screen, while Margot and I have declared the front office to be our bathing grounds. Since the curtains are drawn on Saturday afternoon, we scrub ourselves in the dark, while the one who isn’t in the bath looks out the window through a chink in the curtains and gazes in wonder at the endlessly amusing people.
A week ago I decided I didn’t like this spot and have been on the lookout for more comfortable bathing quarters. It was Peter who gave me the idea of setting my washtub in the spacious office bathroom. I can sit down, turn on the light, lock the door, pour out the water without anyone’s help, and all without the fear of being seen. I used my lovely bathroom for the first time on Sunday and, strange as it may seem, I like it better than any other place.
The plumber was at work downstairs on Wednesday, moving the water pipes and drains from the office bathroom to the hallway so the pipes won’t freeze during a cold winter. The plumber’s visit was far from pleasant. Not only were we not allowed to run water during the day, but the bathroom was also off-limits. I’ll tell you how we handled this problem; you may find it unseemly of me to bring it up, but I’m not so prudish about matters of this kind. On the day of our arrival, Father and I improvised a chamber pot, sacrificing a canning jar for this purpose. For the duration of the plumber’s visit, canning jars were put into service during the daytime to hold our calls of nature. As far as I was concerned, this wasn’t half as difficult as having to sit still all day and not say a word. You can imagine how hard that was for Miss Quack, Quack, Quack. On ordinary days we have to speak in a whisper; not being able to talk or move at all is ten times worse.
After three days of constant sitting, my backside was stiff and sore. Nightly calisthenics helped.
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 1, 1942
Yesterday I had a horrible fright. At eight o’clock the doorbell suddenly rang. All I could think of was that someone was coming to get us, you know who I mean. But I calmed down when everybody swore it must have been either pranksters or the mailman.
The days here are very quiet. Mr. Levinsohn, a little Jewish pharmacist and chemist, is working for Mr. Kugler in the kitchen. Since he’s familiar with the entire building, we’re in constant dread that he’ll take it into his head to go have a look at what used to be the laboratory. We’re as still as baby mice. Who would have guessed three months ago that quicksilver Anne would have to sit so quietly for hours on end, and what’s more, that she could?
Mrs. van Daan’s birthday was the twenty-ninth. Though we didn’t have a large celebration, she was showered with flowers, simple gifts and good food. Apparently the red carnations from her spouse are a family tradition.
Let me pause a moment on the subject of Mrs. van Daan and tell you that her attempts to flirt with Father are a constant source of irritation to me. She pats him on the cheek and head, hikes up her skirt and makes so-called witty remarks in an effort to get’s Pim’s attention. Fortunately, he finds her neither pretty nor charming, so he doesn’t respond to her flirtations. As you know, I’m quite the jealous type, and I can’t abide her behavior. After all, Mother doesn’t act that way toward Mr. van D., which is what I told Mrs. van D. right to her face.
From time to time Peter can be very amusing. He and I have one thing in common: we like to dress up, which makes everyone laugh. One evening we made our appearance, with Peter in one of his mother’s skin-tight dresses and me in his suit. He wore a hat; I had a cap on. The grown-ups split their sides laughing, and we enjoyed ourselves every bit as much.
Bep bought new skirts for Margot and me at The Bijenkorf. The fabric is hideous, like the burlap bag potatoes come in. Just the kind of thing the department stores wouldn’t dare sell in the olden days, now costing 24.00 guilders (Margot’s) and 7.75 guilders (mine).
We have a nice treat in store: Bep’s ordered a correspondence course in shorthand for Margot, Peter and me. Just you wait, by this time next year we’ll be able to take perfect shorthand. In any case, learning to write a secret code like that is really interesting.
I have a terrible pain in my index finger (on my left hand), so I can’t do any ironing. What luck!
Mr. van Daan wants me to sit next to him at the table, since Margot doesn’t eat enough to suit him. Fine with me, I like changes. There’s always a tiny black cat roaming around the yard, and it reminds me of my dear sweet Moortje. Another reason I welcome the change is that Mama’s always carping at me, especially at the table. Now Margot will have to bear the brunt of it. Or rather, won’t, since Mother doesn’t make such sarcastic remarks to her. Not to that paragon of virtue! I’m always teasing Margot about being a paragon of virtue these days, and she hates it. Maybe it’ll teach her not to be such a goody-goody. High time she learned.
To end this hodgepodge of news, a particularly amusing joke told by Mr. van Daan:
What goes click ninety-nine times and clack once?
A centipede with a clubfoot.
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 3, 1942
Everybody teased me quite a bit yesterday because I lay down on the bed next to Mr. van Daan. “At your age! Shocking!” and other remarks along those lines. Silly, of course. I’d never want to sleep with Mr. van Daan the way they mean.
Yesterday Mother and I had another run-in and she really kicked up a fuss. She told Daddy all my sins and started to cry, which made me cry too, and I already had such an awful headache. I finally told Daddy that I love “him” more than I do Mother, to which he replied that it was just a passing phase, but I don’t think so. I simply can’t stand Mother, and I have to force myself not to snap at her all the time, and to stay calm, when I’d rather slap her across the face. I don’t know why I’ve taken such a terrible dislike to her. Daddy says that if Mother isn’t feeling well or has a headache, I should volunteer to help her, but I’m not going to because I don’t love her and don’t enjoy doing it. I can imagine Mother dying someday, but Daddy’s death seems inconceivable. It’s very mean of me, but that’s how I feel. I hope Mother will never read this or anything else I’ve written.
I’ve been allowed to read more grown-up books lately. Eva’s Youth by Nico van Suchtelen is currently keeping me busy. I don’t think there’s much of a difference between this and books for teenage girls. Eva thought that children grew on trees, like apples, and that the stork plucked them off the tree when they were ripe and brought them to the mothers. But her girlfriend’s cat had kittens and Eva saw them coming out of the cat, so she thought cats laid eggs and hatched them like chickens, and that mothers who wanted a child also went upstairs a few days before their time to lay an egg and brood on it. After the babies arrived, the mothers were pretty weak from all that squatting. At some point, Eva wanted a baby too. She took a wool scarf and spread it on the ground so the egg could fall into it, and then she squatted down and began to push. She clucked as she waited,
Daddy is grumbling again and threatening to take away my diary. Oh, horror of horrors! From now on, I’m going to hide it.
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 7, 1942
I imagine that …
I’ve gone to Switzerland. Daddy and I sleep in one room, while the boys’2 study is turned into a sitting room, where I can receive visitors. As a surprise, they’ve bought new furniture for me, including a tea table, a desk, armchairs and a divan. Everything’s simply wonderful. After a few days Daddy gives me 150 guilders—converted into Swiss money, of course, but I’ll call them guilders—and tells me to buy everything I think I’ll need, all for myself. (Later on, I get a guilder a week, which I can also use to buy whatever I want.) I set off with Bernd and buy:
3 cotton undershirts @ 0.50 = 1.50
3 cotton underpants @ 0.50 = 1.50
3 wool undershirts @ 0.75 = 2.25
3 wool underpants @ 0.75 = 2.25
2 petticoats @ 0.50 = 1.00
2 bras (smallest size) @ 0.50 = 1.00
5 pajamas @ 1.00 = 5.00
1 summer robe @ 2.50 = 2.50
1 winter robe @ 3.00 = 3.00
2 bed jackets @ 0.75 = 1.50
1 small pillow @ 1.00 = 1.00
1 pair of lightweight slippers @ 1.00 = 1.00
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