Diary Dearest

3 Sep

Letterbalm Dear DiaryDear LetterBalm: I’m going into my sophomore year of high school. I’ve been keeping a hand-written diary since I was in second grade. It’s become more of a journal – important stuff that happens to me, my family and friends, plus poetry, my thoughts on life, etc. I want to be a writer, so my diaries are important to me, and I’ve saved every one. All these years, my mom has known and has been respectful about it. Well, last month my older sister found my latest one, read it and posted parts of it on her Facebook page, with her comments. When I went ballistic, she laughed and said I was overreacting, that it was “adorable” that I had kept a record of my life for so many years. I went to my mother, who saw how upset I was but agreed with my sister. In fact, my family says there’s nothing wrong with publicizing my diary and that I should just get over it. One uncle said he’s proud to have such a good writer in the family. My two best friends, though, are horrified by all this. They agree with me that this is a big problem with trust. Should I confront my sister and mother?

–Devastated Writer  

Down through the centuries, humans have had the urge to keep a diary, and you’re in good company. Politicians and nobles, artists and rock stars, generals and clergy, high-born and low-born alike, have jotted thoughts about their daily lives. We know about Samuel Pepys, Virginia Woolf and Anne Frank. But did you know that Bob Dylan, Kurt Cobain, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Joyce Carol Oates, Josef Goebbels and Che Guevara also kept diaries? So did Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, better known as Lewis Carroll, author of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and Sei Shōnagon, a court lady to the Japanese Empress Teishi around 1000 A.D. Megan McCafferty, young-adult author of the Jessica Darling books, writes in diary form. Your distress is not “adorable” or overreacting. Your sister and mother committed a monumental breach of trust, one that can linger for a lifetime. They violated you, and it’s unconscionable that not one family member thought your sister’s action was wrong. It would be one thing if your sister found your journal, read it and talked about it to others. It’s quite another that she took to the Web – a matter of degree, but any of this is a gross invasion of privacy. No one has a right to your private thoughts without your permission. You must sit down separately and privately with your sister and your mother because you will say something slightly different to each. You might also prepare a short response to shut down the subject with your obtuse family members. Rehearse your conversation and keep your composure. Ms. L.B. hopes you’ve found a more secure place for your journals (not your school locker or a friend’s house, though) and that you’re investing in good locks:

Mom, I want to talk with you about my diary on Facebook, and it’s the last time I’ll bring up the subject. What Iris did was a big breach of trust. I’m disappointed you don’t understand that and didn’t stick up for me, especially since you’ve been cool with my keeping a diary all these years. You might think I’m being a drama queen or that my writing is not important, but Iris violated my privacy, which is bad for anybody, even a kid. I’m a person. My sister did something so damaging that I’ll never trust her again for a very long time, maybe never. Mom, you’re supposed to be my champion, and you let me down. I love you, and I have to know that you’ll defend me in my life.

Iris, this is the last time I’ll bring up the subject of my journal on Facebook. It wasn’t cute, it wasn’t fun. You may think I’m being a drama queen, but how would you feel if your most private thoughts were posted out there for the world to see, with snarky comments? And, from your own sister? I’m a person. You violated my privacy so badly that I won’t be able to trust you for a very long time, maybe never. I’ll always have to be careful around you. That’s a big loss – for both of us. Think about this the next time you’re tempted to put someone’s confidential writings on the Web.

Family, seeing my diary on Facebook caused me a lot of pain. I appreciate that you want to talk about my writing, but I won’t be discussing my journal again. The subject is closed.


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