September 25, 2008


I'm cleaning house for an impending mother-in-law visit, and I'm finding I'm a little...scattered. For example, on Tuesday I spent over an hour tidying a bookshelf that is invisible to anyone not sitting at my computer in our back room. Meanwhile, the dining room table in the middle of our kitchen can't be moved to the exciting new dining room until I remove its cloak of detritus---and yet there it sits, still cloaked.

Yesterday's urgent cleaning task was a box marked Memory down in the basement storage. CLEARLY that box needs to be sorted out RIGHT NOW; it will make ALL the difference in the overall cleanliness of the house! I'm tossing out my old diaries, the ones from my teenage years. I've saved them for two decades on average, and I'm still not interested in reading them. Furthermore, when I DO read a little bit of one, it's excruciating. Not ha-ha excruciating, just excruciating. I went through and pulled out the photos (my family's living room in 1986! the boy I had a crush on for four years!), but the rest of this crap is getting pitched.

You may wonder if I am not being a bit hasty here. Perhaps in my crazed-bumblebee cleaning frenzy I am making rash decisions. But no: I've been thinking for a few years that it's time to stop saving the diaries, and I waited this long only because I wanted to avoid being hasty and rash but couldn't bear the necessary task of going through them first.

I'd thought, back when I was writing these drippy, emotional, overly self-aware tributes to self-absorption, that as an adult I'd want to go back and read admiringly about my younger self, but in fact I would pay CASH MONEY not to have to. It's not JUST that I was so lame, it's that I was so very sure of my non-lameness. This is the sort of thing that causes a person to wonder squirmingly how she'll feel in twenty years about her 30s.

Oh, hey, here's what I was looking for in a husband at age 15:
  1. nice eyes that show inside emotion
  2. a very sensitive sense of humor but can be serious
  3. never (or at least rarely) late
  4. likes to take walks
  5. likes to hold hands
  6. likes to shop
  7. not a male chauvinist
  8. sends me flowers and balloons and stuff
  9. doesn't like football or baseball
  10. generally cheerful
  11. good hygiene
  12. strong but not too macho

Here's the timeline of my first romantic relationship:
  • August 12 - asked me out
  • August 14 - called me long-distance
  • August 20 - visited with his parents
  • August 27 - took me to see Abyss and for frozen yogurt and a walk with his parents
  • September 22 - broke up with me
You know what's missing between August 27 and September 22? The part where I wrote him a multi-page letter Every! Single! Day! and it was filled to the brim with love love love. Freaking him the SNERHELL out, since we were FIFTEEN YEARS OLD.

One highlight from a college journal: "I am a difficult, irritable, cranky, critical, complainy person. How can I change this?" GOOD LUCK WITH THAT, college girl!

Here is a list:
It's all in caps like that. What does it...mean?

Here's a poem that is better than all my other high school and college poetry by merit of being SHORTER:
so you say
you love me.


Here is my high school prom budget:
$100 prom dress
$10 chewing gum for crash diet
$15 haircut
$40 dyed-to-match shoes
$5 silver ankle bracelet
$4 two pairs of nylons
$4 nail polish
Please note that this was for an IMAGINARY prom: I had a crush on a junior boy I'd never even talked to, and was imagining how much money I'd need if he invited me to his prom. Which he did not do, and that was unsurprising because we'd NEVER MET.

Basic composition of high school journals:
50% boys boys boys boys OMG boys!
25% lame, self-conscious sarcasm
20% song lyrics
5% French

Basic composition of college journals:
40% boys boys boys boys OMG boys!
25% lame, self-conscious sarcasm
25% lame introspection
10% song lyrics

Clearly this is not information to preserve for the ages, and I am speaking from the point of view of someone who has just paged wincingly through hundreds and hundreds of pages of "I LOVE JIMMY!!!! He is SOOOOOO CUTE!!!!" with hearts doodled all around. FLINCH.

I'm remembering how my mom saved her old journals "for her daughter to read one day," and she finally let me read them when I was in my teens, and I suffered through about half of one journal before handing them back. I really DIDN'T want to read about my mom pining for some boy, and reading MYSELF doing it is if anything EVEN WORSE. For years I regretted my impulsive decision to burn all the diaries of a 2-year high school relationship that ended badly, but now I'm GRATEFUL: those diaries are so much better in my imagination.

I did have a couple of good finds. One is a note from my high school physics teacher on an assignment:
Young Swistle,
You have convinced yourself that you are going to get these exercises wrong no matter how many silly mistakes you have to make. Why do you insist on making life hard for yourself?

I'm saving that. The other good find is lists of my favorite baby names from 1984, 1985, 1986, 1987, and 1988. I'm going to post those over at the baby names blog.


AndreAnna said...

This made me laugh out loud!

Your Jimmy was my DAVID! ZOMG, DAVID!

Mimi said...

This is so funny. I especially love the poem.


Kristi said...

$10 chewing gum for crash diet

LOVE IT! Too funny. My coworkers probably think I'm insane because of my snickering!!!

Leeann said...

But I LOOOOOOOOOOOVE your diary entries! LOVE THEM!!

Can't you blog a few more entries like this one before they are forever lost?


-R- said...

I threw away all my old journals when my husband (then-fiance) and I moved in together. I could not handle the idea of reading them, and the idea of my husband finding and reading them was even worse. I don't regret it.

I love the prom budget, especially considering you had never met the guy. I did that kind of thing too. =)

Pickles and Dimes said...

These were so great. I'm loving the $10 for crash diet gum.

I understand why you'd want to get rid of these, but please post a few more before you do!

Alias Mother said...

I'm so glad you posted this, because, seriously, JUST YESTERDAY I was thinking about my 8th grade diary that I have stashed and I was thinking: should I burn it? It feels like something you aren't supposed to do, but, truthfully, I don't want anyone to read this after I die. Anyone. Ever. No, it's not cute. It's painful and oh man was I stupid. So, so stupid. No need for other people to know how stupid I was.

I think you've swung me firmly into the burning camp. I just hope I don't die before I get around to it.

Also probably going to go: old high school artwork. Bad. So bad.

Lawyerish said...

Hilarious. HilARious. I love that "good hygiene" is down at number 11 on the priority list for a husband.

My old diaries are pretty much exactly like this, and could be broken down by the same percentages, with perhaps a small subcategory of "expressing feelings of superiority to others" in my high school years -- I was downtrodden and unpopular, so I frequently lashed out in my diary about how lame and stupid everyone else was, in stark contrast to my own stunning perfection.

I almost want to come and take those journals from you, because I can't bear the thought of these sorts of things being thrown out. But that's me. However cringe-worthy my stuff is, I always get a kick (and a grimace) when I reread it.

Erin said...

I really like that note from your Physics teacher. The other stuff... oh man, I cringe along with you because I was SO THERE.

Luckily, I threw out all sorts of journals et cetera at one point when I was 19 because I was (1) never moving back home, and (2) wasn't sure where I was moving. Hence great possibilities for unsolicited discovery of hideously revealing journals. I have not missed them or wanted them, not even one time, since tossing them. In fact, I've spent a short time worrying someone might happen upon them at the open face of the landfill and OMG, how horrifying. My only suggestion: consider burning instead of trashing them.

Mommy Daisy said...

I hardly wrote in the journals I did have. And what I did is pretty much the same things you did. Silly. I think I still have some...maybe not.

Oh also, I clean like that too. Start with the things that don't matter. Why? I have no idea. Putting off the inevitable, I suppose.

Instead of journals and diaries, I have (had, actually) boxes full of notes that I received from my friends and my boyfriend (now husband). I kept those for a long time. A few years ago I glanced at a few and they were all the same...blah blah blah love love love & blah blah blah boys boys boys. Ehh, not worth keeping. I trashed them all. But I know I have more things like that that just need to meet the trash can.

t2ed said...

Boys who send you flowers, balloons and stuff are still in short supply all over this country. Especially the stuff senders. Those are just exceptionally hard to come by.

This makes me afraid to read my old blog entries. Very afraid.

Jess said...

I'm glad you wrote this post, because now you have a neat summary of everything worth remembering about those diaries, and you can trash them with a clear conscience.

Alice said...

i was JUST mocking the horrific-ness of my own diaries the other day, and came to the sudden conclusion that they might still be at my parents' house. OH. MAH. GAD. my mom has probably already read them each 4 times.

my younger-self diaries are still pretty hilarious (my jimmy was thomas. HEART HEART TRIPLE HEART!!) but omg, the one from highschool needs to be burned STAT. i only wrote in it when i was feeling extra-angsty, so it's mainly diatribes about how much i hate my mom, which should never ever ever ever ever see the light. ack.

ps please post more excerpts kthx :-)

nonsoccermom said...

The mystery list including the item IRRELEVANCY BUS may be the funniest thing I have read in quite a while. HEE!!

Also, this makes me glad that I don't have a clue where my junior high/high school journals may be.

Karen said...

OMG this is hilarious! I never wrote in journals but I have a box in my closet of a summer of notes written back and forth to my first "love". I tried to read through them and I was gagging over what a miserable girlfriend I must have been. What a whiner I was. Funny I didn't remember that summer being so emotional. Anyway, I too am very ready for there to be nothing but good (while possibly warped) memories of that time. I think I will take your lead and throw the entire box out!

Amber said...

I am also about to toss my high school and college journals. I would never let my kids read them and I don't want to read them (for the same flinchy reasons as you), so really, what's the point.

Except to create this awesome blog post :)

el-e-e said...

Dear God. I SOOO need to go through and purge all my old journals now. Thank you for the slap upside the head. Mine are exactly like yours. Song lyrics, bad poetry, OMG BOYS. Only difference is mine also contain some prayers. As in, letters to God. *shudder* They're in the back of my nightstand. Too close for comfort, now that I think about it.

d e v a n said...

Oh my gawd. I was laughing my way through this post. I re-read my hs diaries not too long ago and yikes. I was so, so...
Just. Yikes.

HollyLynne said...

the prom budget! for your date who you never actually met!!!! I LOVE IT!!!!

Thank you for sharing. That made my day (and my day promises to be crappy, so thank you also for your timing in posting something that made me smile :))

Astarte said...

I pitched mine when we moved from Bowie to here. I couldn't stand to even look at the insides of them!!!! They were half in capitals, half in flowery writing, and all just TERRIBLE. Because I don't WRITE in CAPITALS anymore!!! And, oh, the Boys. Gag me with a SPOON. I don't know who I didn't like to read about more, them or me!

squandra said...

BWAHAHA! Your high school physics teacher!
Also I plan to start working "irrelevancy bus" ... er, excuse me, "IRRELEVANCY BUS" ... into conversation.

Dr. Maureen said...

Swistle, I thank you for this post, because you have given me permission to throw out MY diaries. There are only 2 or 3, and I also avoid reading them because of the excruciation. (Excruciatingness? Excruciocity?) Mine contain no bad poetry, just angst about homework - particularly French homework - and boys. So much angst.

DCMomma said...

I found a diary the other day and was laughing. How is it such silly rantings seemed so important to us when we were younger?

Very funny post.

Jessica (a.k.a. Mom) said...

I believe all of my diaries have long since disappeared....some of them I think during water damage in my mom's basement. I'm greatful. I read through them when I was like 20 and they were awful and embarrassing...I'd never want my kids' to read it!

Whimsy said...

Oh I am so FREAKING INSPIRED by this. I have a whole BOX of journals that scare the living daylights out of me for all the reasons you listed. Dude, I can't even get NEAR them without freaking out just a little bit. I need to 1)go through the journals (CRINGE CRINGE CRINGE), 2) find and save the excellent bits that will make me laugh and also make me think, 3)maybe post some of the items from 2, and 4)BURN THEM, BURN THEM, BURN THEM.

You're totally right: if I don't want to read them, my daughter CERTAINLY won't want to read them.

Melissa said...

GAH! I only have one diary from Kiddom. I was 8 and was SOO excited about a friggin BARRY MANILOW concert I was going to that I filled up like 5 pages of rantings about him and how he is SOOO cute, and SOOO cool.

It makes me laugh so I keep it. It makes my friends laugh too lol.

the Joneses said...

But I don't want you to throw them out because I love it when you recap your youthful passions on your blog.

Your Jimmy was my Dale. I was sure I'd marry Dale. Maybe after I, like, talked to him or something.

Farrell said...

I need to throw mine away. I once wrote 88 pages for 2 weeks at band camp - yes I said it. 99% of those 88 pages were about my crush Todd.

Shelly Overlook said...

You are killing me here.

I got rid of all my old diaries (due to parents reading them, much drama, etc) and I've always regretted it. Now I'm beginning to wonder if maybe I saved myself later torture by rereading them now.

KNJ said...

This should be REQUIRED reading for teen girls - none related to you of course. Though maybe a niece would be interested???

Someone wrote a book about random lists they found (grocery, to-do, etc) and it was quite funny. Something along the same lines with younger diaries would be SO much better. Anonymously, of course!

Oh, and threw away all my journals in one of my moves. 50% boys, 50% bad poetry that I thought deep. Ha!

Jenny said...

This is hilarious. I too kept many journals and I also had tons of song lyrics and now I wonder why. Did they represent feelings I had? Or were they just popular at the time? I have more notes saved though than journals and have such a hard time reading them now. My friends and I had code names for EVERYONE and they often changed if we felt like our secrecy was being threatened. So now I wonder just who Cypress Moon is, or Step Off Man, or Hootchie #1 (as opposed to Hootchies # 2 and #3). I'd better stop as my former weirdness is showing.

RainyPM said...

I would love to read a post about how your husband compares to your high school list.

I wrote myself a letter when I was 17 to read when I was 27 and an overzealous church leader tracked me down and mailed it to me a few (okay, quite a few) years ago. In it I kept telling my old(er) self that I hoped I hadn't let young self down, and all my criteria for men and success, etc.

I wish I could write a letter to my 17 year old self and tell her to stfu. ;)

Lippy said...

I think we would have been great friends in HS. My list would have include #1 talks to me. I was the invisible girl. Thankfully I never kept a journal, the memories are enough to keep me awake at night.

Anonymous said...

I have already tossed most of mine, after reading (and cringing) all the vomit-inducing angst and sorrow and total irrationality. I kept a diary throughout highschool, pouring my innermost emotions and dreams and wild crushes into it, and only found out recently that my mom read them. I suspected, but I could never ask her because I could NOT forgive her. Even now, I can't bring it up with her because the thought of ANYONE knowing what I wrote, but especially my mom!?! who I didn't get along with makes me want to never speak to her again. I think it's a total lack of respect to read anyone, even your daughters, private notes. I'm a mom now, and I would never do that to my daughter.
Anyway, sorry for the rant. I decided I didn't want DH to read them if I died, or pass them on to my kids, so they have been burned.

Michelle said...

Oh, I love it! Thank you so much for sharing. I never had the follow through to consistently do a diary, and now I'm glad. You should save them for a day when you can't come up with a post ;)

Hairline Fracture said...

I really, really hope my old journals are not still at my mom's house. She wouldn't read them, but mine were just like yours: about whatever boy I loved, every time he LOOKED at me, and pages of how I felt about EVERYTHING to do with The Boy.

I also wrote some really awful poetry that imitated my two favorite poets: Emily Dickinson and T.S. Eliot. Oh the humanity!

Hairline Fracture said...

Also, KNJ, there is a book with this kind of stuff in it. It's titled Cringe: Teenage Diaries, Journals, Notes, Letters, Poems, and Abandoned Rock Operas. It's based on a reading series in NY, in which people read this kind of thing. (Out LOUD!)

Omaha Mama said...

I only wrote when I was really happy or really sad (which is still a little true of all of my writing). I can't bear the thought of someone actually reading them, but can't bear the thought of parting with them. I'm not sure what I'll do. You've helped me see, though, that maybe getting rid of them would really be for the best. They truly are better in my memory.

Frazzled Mom said...

I kept a diary inconsistently between the ages of 10 and 20-something (I think around 24 I stopped). The only one I don't have is the one from when I was 10, which is a pity, since that one wasn't introspective, rather it was simply a recording of what I did that day. Sadly I wrote it in pencil, which I remember faded, leaving many passages unreadable before I finally either tossed or lost it.

The later diaries, which are still in my basement, were like everyone else’s, full of introspective angst, poetry, and lists. I was only compelled to write when I was upset. Anyone who reads it would get a very skewed view of my youth, assuming I must of been one sick, depressed, sorry soul.

Which leads me to the dilemma of whether or not I should keep them. I agree with the rationalization of getting rid of them. I don't want to risk anyone reading them, and there is something cleansing about it. However, I actually like to read them sometimes, and realize how far I've come. I like to stare down my young self square in the eye and accept that part of my past, knowing I am not that sappy, self-absorbed teenager anymore.

Anonymous said...

I've been thinking about this and have come up with a good reason to keep at least one diary around... when our daughters are moody melodramatic teenagers themselves maybe we will be more sympathetic and patient if we can remind ourselves about our own troubles as teens. Not that we would ever let them read our anguished diatribes, but we could stand their immaturity better in light of our own.
I find that my Mom, who is much older than my teenaged sister, is very intolerant of her typical teen moods and drama, and reacts by being mocking and mean. I think if she remembered better what it was like to be a teenager, she would be nicer. It's easy to think *I* was never so immature, but hey, that diary is proof!!

thefrontroom said...

I have been thinking lately about getting rid of mine too only because - God forbid - I couldn't stomach someone else finding them after I died. I have a lot of the same entries I think, although my percentage of lame introspection was a bit higher since that is all I did for all of high school. Thanks for sharing though!!! Love other people's entries...just not mine!

Alexa said...

omg this is amazing