Tuesday. Greg explains that the book he is writing at the moment is definitely not a “diary,” since he’s afraid his classmates would make fun of him for keeping a diary. He also specifies that keeping a diary was his mom’s idea, and that he doesn’t plan to write about his feelings. He only agreed to this exercise so that he can have a record of his life to give to journalists once he becomes rich and famous.
Greg is anxious about writing in a diary because people will think he is writing about his “feelings.” He worries that this would make him seem un-masculine (since emotional expressiveness is more associated with girls) or uncool, suggesting that Greg is deeply concerned about what his peers think of him.
Greg writes that he goes to middle school with a bunch of “morons.” He complains that school is miserable because it mixes together people like him—who “haven’t hit their growth spurt yet”—with boys who already need to shave. It’s the first day of school, and the teacher is making a seating chart. Greg recommends selecting a seat carefully, away from unpopular kids and close to attractive girls—although he admits that those girls make fun of him. He misses the days in elementary school when the boy most popular with girls was always the one who ran the fastest. In middle school, being popular involves other factors, like “the kind of clothes you wear or how rich you are.”
Greg struggles with the new social landscape of middle school, where he feels physically inadequate compared to male classmates who have already gone through puberty. He also feels increasingly preoccupied with popularity. His careful consideration about where to sit on the first day of class, for instance, reveals just how seriously he takes even small decisions that could potentially impact his social status.
Greg identifies his place in the middle school social hierarchy. Bryce Anderson is the most popular boy in school. Greg figures that he himself is “around 52nd or 53rd.” He’s tried to explain this to his friend Rowley (who Greg thinks is “probably around the 150 mark”), but Rowley shows little interest in popularity.
Greg’s belief that he can rank the relative popularity of every student in his class is clearly absurd, since measures of popularity cannot be that precise. However, his obsessive evaluation of others reveals his preoccupation with social status.
Wednesday. In physical education class, Greg takes a look at “The Cheese,” a moldy bit of cheese left on the basketball court. Greg explains that anyone who touches the cheese gets the “Cheese Touch,” which can then be passed on to other classmates. One student, Abe Hall, got the Cheese Touch, meaning that “no one would go near him.” Abe moved to California at the end of the school year.
Thursday. Greg is having a hard time readjusting to waking up early, now that school is in session again. He remembers a time during the summer when his brother Rodrick woke him up at 3:00 A.M. and convinced him that he had slept through the entire summer and needed to get ready for school. Greg’s dad yelled at him for making breakfast at 3:00 A.M., but when Greg tried to tell on his brother, Rodrick pretended to be asleep.
Rodrick’s enjoyment of playing elaborate pranks on Greg mirrors the way that older and more physically powerful kids at his school bully their weaker counterparts. In Greg’s life at school, and even in his family, strength and age often determine who has the power in social relationships.
Friday. Greg is disappointed that he is placed in the “Gifted” reading group instead of the “Easy” group, since the former requires more work. He did his best to convince the teachers that he was a poor reader, but he suspects that his mom got in touch with the principal. Greg’s mom thinks that he is smart but “doesn’t apply himself.” Greg admits that this is true, since he thinks it’s better to keep people’s expectations of him low.
Greg’s mediocre work ethic stops him from reaching his full potential in his academic work. As he admits, he is smart but tries to keep expectations low—perhaps at least in part because he is afraid to distinguish himself in a middle school in which he often feels insecure about his abilities and social status.
Saturday. Greg wakes up and goes to his friend Rowley’s house. Although Rowley is “technically” his best friend, Greg has been avoiding him since the first day of school, when Rowley came up to him and asked if he wanted to “come over and play.” Despite Greg informing him multiple times that he should say “hang out,” now that they’re in middle school, Rowley doesn’t seem to have gotten the message. Greg and Rowley have been friends since Rowley moved to the neighborhood a couple years ago. Rowley’s mom gave him a book called “How to Make Friends in New Places,” which Greg later used to play jokes on Rowley. Greg claims that he mainly became friends with Rowley because he felt sorry for him.
Greg increasingly comes to view Rowley as a social liability because, unlike Greg, Rowley seems oblivious to the social pressures of middle school. He is still fairly childish when he talks about going to “play” after school. Greg is obsessed with popularity and social status, whereas Rowley doesn’t seem to care about fitting in. Greg’s habit of making fun of Rowley suggests that he thinks less of his friend because he isn’t “cool.”
Monday. Greg resents the attention given to his younger brother, Manny, who can do no wrong in their parents’ eyes. For example, Manny drew a self-portrait on Greg’s door in permanent marker, and he continues to call Greg “bubby,” a nickname that he finds deeply embarrassing. Greg is responsible for helping Manny get ready in the morning, and he observes with dismay that his brother throws his uneaten cheerios in the toilet.
Greg is jealous of his younger brother because Manny seems to receive unlimited indulgence and attention from his parents. Manny is only a toddler, but Greg interprets his behavior—like throwing his cereal on the floor—as personal affronts to him, suggesting that Greg is still immature and sees his siblings as competition for parental attention.
Tuesday. Greg loves playing video games, but his dad thinks he needs to be more physically active and sometimes tells him to go outside. Whenever this happens, Greg goes to Rowley’s house to play more video games—but he can’t play violent video games there, since Rowley’s dad uses a parental lock system. When he gets home, Greg runs through the sprinkler so his dad will think he’s been exercising, but this backfires when his mom tells him to take a shower.
Greg’s dad seems eager for him to participate in more traditionally masculine activities, such as sports and exercising outside. However, Greg is resistant to this and uses various techniques to avoid obeying his father. By contrast, the less independent Rowley seems content with the restrictions his parents place on his entertainment.
Wednesday. Greg’s dad makes Greg go outside again, and on his way to Rowley’s he runs into Fregley, a “weird kid” who lives near his house. Fregley is in Greg’s P.E. class, and he uses a “secret language” like shouting “Juice!” when he wants to go to the bathroom.
Although Greg isn’t popular, he thinks that Fregley is more of a social outcast than him. By referring to Fregley as “weird,” he suggests that failing to fit in can have high social consequences.
Greg doesn’t mind going outside, since he would have wanted to be out of the house anyway while Rodrick was practicing with his heavy metal band. Their mom supports Rodrick’s music, but when she tried to dance to one of Rodrick’s CDs, Rodrick started using headphones.
Like Greg, Rodrick wants to feel independent and grown up. For instance, he tries to keep certain hobbies private and free from parental involvement, as when he is irritated by his mother dancing to his heavy metal music.
Thursday and Friday. When Greg finds out that Rodrick has bought a CD with a “Parental Warning” sticker, Greg is determined to listen to it. He steals the CD from Rodrick’s room and asks Rowley to bring his CD player to school—but it has no batteries, so they can’t use it. Instead, they come up with a game to see who can shake off their headphones without using their hands, which they play until a teacher catches them. Greg finally listens to Rodrick’s CD, but he forgets to plug in his headphones, and his dad catches him. Greg’s dad bans him from playing video games for two weeks. Greg reflects that at least his dad tends to be straightforward in his punishments, whereas his mom tends to wait a while before deciding what his punishment be—and then just when he thinks she’s forgotten, she lays it on him.
Greg seems so determined to listen to the CD with a “Parental Warning” sticker precisely because it is not approved for children. In his mind, music that is forbidden must be interesting and exciting. The CD thus represents teenage rebellion against the control of parents. At the same time, however, the ineptitude of Greg’s attempt to listen to the CD and prove his independence—first forgetting the CD player batteries, then forgetting headphones—ironically provides proof of his immaturity and childishness.
Monday. Greg is pleased to see that Rodrick is also in trouble with their mom. One of Rodrick’s heavy metal magazines had a photo of a woman in a bikini, which Manny then brought into day care for show and tell. As punishment, Rodrick has to answer a list of questions their mom has written out for them, including, “Do you have anything you want to say to women for having owned this offensive magazine?” Rodrick responds, “I’m sorry, women.”
Even though Rodrick seems very grown-up to Greg, he is still subject to parental authority, such as having to respond to his mother’s set of questions about the picture of a woman in a bikini. Greg’s mom’s choice of punishment suggests that she is concerned about her sons internalizing harmful ideas about women and gender roles.
Wednesday. Greg is frustrated that he’s still banned from playing video games, since Manny now uses Greg’s gaming system to play educational games. The one silver lining is that he can use Manny’s “Discovering the Alphabet” case to disguise his games when he goes to play at Rowley’s house.
Parental restrictions don’t seem to have much effect on Greg, since he continues to find creative ways to get around the limitations placed on his ability to play his beloved video games.
Thursday. Student government elections are coming up, and Greg decides to run for treasurer because he thinks the position will give him social influence in the school. For example, he could give the cheerleaders more money for transportation to games, which might make girls like him.
Almost all of Greg’s decisions are motivated by a desire to become more popular. Running for student government—a position designed to allow students to help their peers—is for him an exercise in increasing his social status.
Friday and Monday. Greg finds out that he’s running against Marty Porter, which is a problem since Marty is good at math. Greg’s dad is excited that he’s running for student government, since he had done the same when he was Greg’s age. He digs out some of his old campaign posters. Greg likes the poster idea and asks his dad to help him pick up some supplies. But instead of campaign slogans, Greg’s posters consist nearly entirely of personal insults against Marty, such as reminding people of his head lice problem in elementary school. The vice principal tells Greg to take the posters down as Marty goes around handing out lollipops to potential voters. Greg declares his political career officially over.
Greg’s dad offers a positive example of how Greg might campaign for student government, by articulating a platform that appeals to other students. Greg, however, defaults to the bullying and rumor-mongering that has characterizes his social experience in middle school thus far, by reminding people of Marty’s head lice problem. However, this backfires when the vice principal identifies these tactics as bullying and puts a halt to Greg’s not very promising political career.