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On Diaries, Dinner Parties, and Morally Questionable Decision-Making Skills

Categories: This Writer's Life.
A little while ago, my (two) friends and I put on our mature pants,  
and had a dinner party to welcome another friend into a new apartment  
complete with wine and a grown-up style cheese plate. The apartment  
came furnished by the owners, who were also in their mid-twenties,  
and came with several peculiar idiosyncrasies, including (but not  
limited to) a 1980s style Jack LaLane barbell set, a container filled
with Maxell Cassette Mix Tapes, and
three forks (total). Also strewn casually amongst  
the knick-knacks was a red spiral notebook with characters from
The Disney Afternoon on the front.
As we sat around admiring the new place and  
marveling at the noises emanating from the heater, one of my friends  
picked up the notebook and had a look inside.

“Oh my God,” she said, her mouth hung open. “This is a girl’s diary.”
She scanned some pages. “I think it’s from college.”

We all paused for several seconds contemplating the meaning of our  
discovery. A diary is someone’s personal muse, the secret key to  
their secret garden of internal contemplation and, um, secrets. Its  
intimacy and raw edge provide a rare-behind-the-scenes look into  
someone’s worries, fears, loves and prescription drug addictions.  
Diaries are meant to stay away from the public eye, a locked box of  
clandestine emotions, like that spot Jodie Foster and her daughter  
get locked in in Panic Room, but smaller.

My friend Mary put down the book.
“We can’t do this,” she said.
“This is wrong,” my other friend Alissa said.
“I like don’t feel great about this,” said the Big Cat.
We were questioning our own morals. Clearly, the group needed someone  
to take charge. And me being a natural leader of men (and women), I  
stepped in.
“No,” I said, (probably) rolling up my sleeves. “They don’t have any  
board  games. We need this.”

And so, friends, in lieu of saying Grace pre-dinner, we each read a  
specific entry from a different part of her college experience. Mine  
entailed a particularly vexing incident with a boy that I will call  
Casey and her distaste for but continued consumption of Red Bull  
mixed with Vodka.

 From a writing standpoint, I was completely and utterly enthralled  
by the diary. The girl, writing only for herself, would confide to  
the diary with specific context (for example, she would write “in  
case you don’t know, I’m talking about (this guy)”) and would change  
from angry to happy in the difference of one to two sentences. But  
most interesting, I think, was the similarity that the diary has to  
first person fiction. Every diary is really someone’s own novel,  
crafted and formed the way that they remember, cultivating a  
narrative voice that records the most important events, usually  
having something to do with boys, getting kind of drunk, and making  
out. But it also, albeit rarely, helps the writer make personal  
connections and links that they hadn’t thought of before. It was like  
the real version of William Boyd’s fantastic novel Any Human Heart,  
except instead of Oxford, WWII, and the burgeoning art scene of 1950s  
NYC, we learned about guys that sux.

Ultimately, I think, reading the college diary of a girl that none of  
us knew, who lived 2,000 miles away, wasn’t the worst thing I’ve ever  
done. I mean, it wasn’t the best thing either, but it would probably  
place somewhere in the middle. Anyway, I’m curious to hear what you,  
my wise readers, have to say about this. Would you have done the same  
thing? Do you keep journals? Would you ever leave your college diary  
in a drawer with playing cards and a bunch of reggae mix tapes in an apt  
that you just subletted to strangers? I await your moral judgment,  
own stories of questionable taste, and several photocopied pages from  
your high school diaries.

Love in an,
Elevator

Aerosmith

PS- As per request, a particularly intimate Open Arms By Journey.

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12 Responses to On Diaries, Dinner Parties, and Morally Questionable Decision-Making Skills

  1. Kristan C. says:

    I’m not sure why, since nobody mentioned it, but I now have Skid Row’s "Eighteen and Life" going through my head.

    This entry reminds me, I need to burn all my diaries.

  2. OK, now I have "Love in an Elevator" stuck in my head. Thnx!

  3. Ms. B says:

    Kevin,
    That was maybe ten years ago. I don’t remember if I "acted out". Besides I never told them who I was dating.

  4. Genevieve Cancienne says:

    Kevin,

    Are you really taking requests? I think Adam Ant’s "Goody Two Shoes" would be appropriate for this blog.

    I keep a diary and ordinarily I would never read someone else’s. My sister found mine once and when I complained to my mom that she read it, Mom replied, "So? Wouldn’t you read hers?" I rebelled and from that day forth read no diary of man or woman.

    However, your predicament had a number of exceptions, the main being that you had no idea who this girl was and the diary would kind of slip away into the void so she’d never know that anyone read about the whole vodka fiasco. Plus, it’s her fault for not leaving anything else behind like Monopoly or a deck of cards. Or vodka.

  5. Kevin Alexander says:

    Rob is jealous bc he and I used to listen to Winger while driving to "treat ourselves" to the three piece dark individual meal at Boston Market freshmen year of college. I’m sorry you had to see that Robert.

    I also,
    can’t believe it

  6. Rob says:

    Kev & Tom – Get a room.

    I can’t believe you,
    get paid for this

  7. Tom says:

    "You’re lucky I can’t seem to do anything productive today."

    YES! I KNEW IT!

    Thanks to you being a great big slacker, Kev, I’ve met the woman of my dreams. I don’t need this writing stuff anymore. I’ve got love!

    Faithfully,

  8. Kevin Alexander says:

    Tom,

    You’re lucky I can’t seem to do anything productive today. The link is in the PS I just added at the bottom of the blog entry. I hope she likes the song choice.

  9. Tom says:

    KA,

    Thinking on it some more, your dilemma reminds me of the time I found a tape recorder belonging to some girl I didn’t know in the bathroom of a house where I was attending a party. Do I play the tape, or don’t I? What if it’s personal? What if it’s said girl singing the R&B classic "Sweet Pea" a capella? Then what? Well, then you feel kind of guilty and weird and you just put it down and pretend you never saw it.

    As for Winger, I can say I find no small amusement in the fact that you even know of the song "Seventeen." I don’t think it’s quite up there with "Stairway" in the cannon of Great Rock Hits of All Time. Sadly, I also cannot say that said cassette was purchased in a pre-show frenzy. I *did* buy it prior to said show, but it was weeks beforehand…so that I could sing the words. (The members of my traditional blues-playing band are very ashamed of me when these bits of information arise during conversation.)

    Allow me to retrn to something literary and redeem myself: based on one of your previous blogs I’ve decided that I’ll not focus my efforts on attaining an MBA in writing at the present time. Rather, I’ll do some looking around and see if I can’t find some sort of crit group where I can drink coffe and worry incessantly that my prose will meet with the group’s approval.

    Oh, and one more thing, do you take requests? There’s this girl I’m trying to impress at the next table, and she wants you to play some Journey.

  10. Kevin Alexander says:

    Tom, the hot link is now up. All apologies on the delay.
    And buying the cassette on the way to the show is not only awesome, it’s completely rational. How else can you scream out the lyrics to Seventeen?

    As for the other point, I totally agree that–with certain people–the less I know, the better I am. My rationalization here was that, since i didn’t know them, this wasn’t like reading someone’s journal, it was like reading…hmmmm…no, it totally is like reading someone’s journal. Maybe I’m just a bad person.

    And Ms. B– the fact that your parents read your journal to their friends is scarring enough to warrant some kind of "acting out". I hope you immediately started dating someone from "the wrong crowd".

  11. Tom says:

    First off, I was somewhat disappointed that today’s signoff did not include a hot link to said Aerosmith video. I successfully utilized the one from Snow to aggravate and dismay my coworker, and now I’ve got nothing to follow up with this week. How can you just leave me out there in the cold like that, Kevin?

    Moving on to (doubtfully) more pressing things, I’ll be the lame voice of dissent here and say I doubt I would have read it. I work pretty hard at letting people keep their private lives private, and anyway, if someone writes down all their secret stuff and then just leaves it laying around, what does that say about how careful they are in other areas of their lives, and if they are that careless, do I really want to know about it? "Do not open or touch that package" is a safe practice I employ with certain people. The less I know, the better off I am.

    Oh, and no, I’ve never kept a journal for longer than, say, a month or two. I don’t think blogging counts there, does it?

    The only story of questionable taste I can think of (the others are definitely NOT questionable – they’re just bad) is the time I bought a Winger cassette because I was going to the show with my girlfriend. Yeah…that was…that was not good.

  12. Ms. B says:

    I would have read the diary. I have several of my old journals in a box in the attic. My current one is digital. I made the mistake of leaving one out when I was in high school. My parents found it and read it to their friends. I don’t ever just leave personal stuff laying around, thanks Mom and Dad.

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