• Bridge Ladies

    Bridge Ladies When I set out to learn about my mother's bridge club, the Jewish octogenarians behind the matching outfits and accessories, I never expected to fall in love with them. This is the story of the ladies, their game, their gen, and the ragged path that led me back to my mother.
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Girl, Girl, Girl, Girl

I have about sixty diaries from 1976 to the present. They all are variations on a theme: I hate myself, I hate my body, I hate my friends, I hate my shrink. I’m depressed, blue, melancholy, lonely, lonely, lonely. There are the requisite injunctions: write every day, lose weight, accept people for who they are! There are the requisite recriminations: be better, nicer, kinder. Exercise! Meet new people (to hate), send out poems. Go to a poetry reading! I wrote in cafes, on trains, in parks. Mostly I wrote in bed at night in the pre-scrolling era. Smoked and wrote in a steady drumbeat of remorse and complaints. Now, I’m faced with a question: to shred or not to shred.

What do you do with your old diaries?

14 Responses

  1. What would Clarissa Pinkola Estes do?

    This is a perennial question, especially for women. Why is it that women keep diaries but few men do? JD Salinger is the only one who comes to mind. OK, and perhaps James Joyce. But I often wonder about that name; seems a little bisexual to me.

  2. “What do you do with your old diaries?”

    What do I do, what did I do. I kept diaries from age 11 to age 18. I knew why I did it — to collect materials to make into stories. And books. And I did. And I still do.

    Thirty years ago I transcribed those diaries into WordPerfect — that did not make their words perfect, ha ha, but it made them easier to work with. Or with which to work. Take your preference. After I transcribed them, I threw the originals away, except for one slender volume from around the time my first child was born (I was barely 17 then). I also kept a few of the cassette tapes I used for my diary my senior year of high school. I’m not sure why. I wouldn’t know how to listen to them now, technology has changed. I transcribed them before the change.

    All this material. I think of it as my Ur-text, a concept I got from Gordon Lish, though he did not specifically mean, Use your teenage diaries as the sources of your life’s work.

    They’re not all I’ve spent my life writing about, those long-ago days sourced from those long-ago scrawls, though I’ve put a lot of work into it. Sometimes I wish I would have been a plumber. If I was going to spend my life up to my elbows in shit, at least I would have been doing necessary work and making a decent living at it, too.

    • “Sometimes I wish I would have been a plumber. If I was going to spend my life up to my elbows in shit, at least I would have been doing necessary work and making a decent living at it, too.”

      Haaaaa! Good one, Tetman.

    • “Sometimes I wish I would have been a plumber. If I was going to spend my life up to my elbows in shit, at least I would have been doing necessary work and making a decent living at it, too.”

      Haaaa! Good one, Tetman!

  3. It depends on how honest I’d been to that page. A diary is supposed to be like excising the brain and peering in. It’s supposed to carry the deepest most intimate and personal thoughts about anyone and everything.

    If I’d had any diaries and they were THAT truthful – I reckon I’d have to consider burning them.

  4. I find my old pages unbearably optimistic, perhaps more so because the optimism is so guarded and sneaky. It was such a tender thing, you know? The hope. The quiet, awful hope. I just can’t let it live.

  5. I actually BURNED very one of them in a fire pit during a full moon. It felt liberating and took a lot longer than I thought it would (1976-2005ish, not consistent writing, but at least 20 volumes).

  6. You must keep them, girl! Yes, someone will have to deal with them at some point in time, but they are your soul, your heart, your mind, and all that goes with that. No need to ever read them again, if that’s what is weighing on you. Just let them be. File them away in banker’s boxes that are labeled, and don’t go back. All I guess I think I know is that, if it were me, I’d regret burning them. Luv ya’ Girl!

  7. I never kept a diary. I wrote in my head, like a chess player keeps a game. Poems were my diaries. Some of them – no, most – are lost. Some come back to me unbidden or in my dreams. If I had diaries, I think I’d keep them, for who I once was, or hoped to be.

  8. Mine are basically bitch books. Nobody’s business but mine.

  9. I burned some things once, believing it was a cleansing of sorts. Fuck I wish I hadn’t. Even if it’s mostly shit, and shit burns so beautifully, the bits that are truth and that matter burn too. Please don’t burn them, someone in the future is saying. Please don’t.

  10. I have a box full of them. They sound exactly like all of yours with the addition of wanting to improve my posture. Which has only gotten worse. I keep wanting to burn them because I don’t want my kids to read that shit. But it’s always hard for me to let go of words.

  11. I recycled all the notes–brown bags-full–my BFF and I exchanged in middle school and high school and I regret it because they would be source material for the memoir I’m writing and I don’t have them to verify my memory or remind me what’s missing.
    I got my first diary when I was 8. A square Betsy Clark diary: My Book of Daily Memories. I wasn’t very good about writing every day, though I would pre-date the entries in an attempt to try to discipline myself. So on the days I didn’t actually write, I wrote FORGOT. There are many consecutive days that say FORGOT. And it turns out that’s its own sort of validation, because I did forget a lot of what happened to me. And the forgetting is part of my story.
    But when I was 18 and deeply depressed, I wrote as an act of survival. And I have all that pain put down on paper in a banker’s box in my closet and I love knowing it’s there–a witness to my unbearable suffering, a source of my salvation.

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