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