Reasons to get rid of old diaries

Holy Cow, it’s sizzling out here in the West, as in “fry an egg on the pavement” hot! The cat is curled up in a ball, the birds are hiding in the trees and nary a car passes our house. And so I’m reading and throwing out journals I kept from 1976 to 2003. I’ve seen what happens when you die. The kids come into your house and toss everything they deem of no value and I’m positive the thoughts of a mother they consider a boring drip with a meaningless life will have no value whatsoever.

For the most part, the journals are filled with the frustrations of an artsy-fartsy, hippie-dippie woman raising children in a status-hungry suburb. It’s sort of a Stranger in a Strange Land scenario. Eventually she starts to drink during the day, gets addicted to soap operas, takes up macrame and bitches and whines a lot. On top of all that, the journals are filled with the names of neighbors who came and went. If I don’t remember those people, my kids certainly aren’t going to.

I was apparently into calligraphy at one time.

Every now and then I do run into a keeper. This one from November 2, 1999:

Tonight Joel was into role playing as a way to spice up our love life. Our conversation went like this:

Joel: “I’m seventeen and my parents are out for the night and I don’t know when they’ll return. So we …”

Jan: “Wait a minute, when you were seventeen, I was ten. I didn’t have boobs when I was ten and no body hair to speak of. I don’t even think I knew what sex was.”

Joel: “Okay. I’m the pilot of a jumbo jet flying at thirty thousand feet and you’re a stewardess. So I put the plane on auto pilot and we do it in the bathroom.”

Jan: “Are you kidding me? You’re going to leave the plane on autopilot at 30 thousand feet when you know I’m scared to death of flying?”

The third one was the funniest: “I’m the Fire Marshall and the building is on fire and we get all hot (excuse the pun) and do it on the 16th floor as the building is burning down.”

Where do men come out with these fantasies? When I laughed off all three, he suggested a fourth: “I’m a doctor and I need to give you a shot on your bare bottom.”

I hate shots. Enough said.

My normal hand-writing/printing

40 thoughts on “Reasons to get rid of old diaries

  1. Here is my suggestion: put them in a box and wrap it with tape and then put it in the attic. If the fires burn the house down, then you can always say: the earth turned against me and brought the sun down upon my words. Which, in my mind, would make you a sort of god, having brought the wrath of the earth and sun to your door. Duke

  2. I’m not sure I’d throw them out, Jan, although you’ve got to do what feels right to you. Just the excerpts you share here make me think your kids and grandkids would like to read this stuff someday. Why do I think so? Well, for one thing, there are about 20 diaries in my basement, all written by my grandfather, who died when I was a kid. He was the chief probation officer in Lawrence, MA for a number of years, and every time I read anything from his diaries, I feel a bit closer to him, and also my late dad. Yes, much of the stuff in them is boring, but whenever I read stuff about family life in the 1940s I feel grateful to him for taking the time to write it all down. Those books will remain in my basement for as long as I live here, and I’ll bring them wherever I move next.

  3. I loved my parents letters. Keep them and let them decide. By the time you’re fertilising more penis plants, they may want those reminds of who you once were…

  4. I so loved this post, Jan. Truly brilliant. A writer and her journals, still with the gift of words after all these years and words. I burst out laughing when I read this sentence: “The kids come into your house and toss everything they deem of no value and I’m positive the thoughts of a mother they consider a boring drip with a meaningless life will have no value whatsoever.” Your humor and insight are refreshing, my friend.

  5. Don’t save them for your kids–I wouldn’t want my kids to read mine because I used my journals to vent about them and they would think I didn’t love them. I just didn’t record the positive things as extensively. But do save them for future generations or historians! I have the diary my great-great-grandfather kept while in camp during the Civil War, and it’s precious to me. How else could I get to know an ancestor who died 140 years ago?

    1. Wow – that is quite a treasure. Strange to think what my great-great-grandchildren would think of the journals as their lives are bound to be quite different.

  6. wow – that calligraphy page is wonderful and I like your regular handwriting too
    and JT – your journals see a lot more interesting than most of mine – and I hope you do take photos of some of the pages that your children might really want later when they age –
    I remember watching a show about how Jackie O burned her diaries. Then Queen Victoria supposedly had help going through all of her journals to edit out the “way too personal” stuff

    I can only imagine how much richness is in a series of journals from 1976 to 2003. wow –

  7. Bahhhaa, you certainly found a keeper. You’re kind to share them with the world, and kind of brave. I know exactly why I took all my diaries with me to Italy, even though I left all my physical correspondence and photos. That’s ok, that was life. But what I wrote for myself, that was some scary shit. I have them here but haven’t dared to open them in all eight years here. As I say, you are brave.

    1. There are definitely a lot of embarrassing passages. Stuff I wouldn’t want anyone to read. Especially the family…. But I’m glad I did the purge!

  8. For the last few year I’ve been tossing my old journals and morning pages. I glance through them like you did, then shred them. Very freeing to let the past go.

  9. I have file cabinets with stuff I started throwing out with Covid. Filled the garbage can and yet hardly made a dent. I kept the file from my favorite client (and the nice letter he wrote saying how great I was) – don’t my kids want to find that? (Don’t answer that.) Plus one where I had to do highly technical calculations etc. – I can’t believe I could ever do that. I think my son who thinks I’m an airhead needs to see that. I’m sure he will open the file and read it when I’m gone.

  10. For some reason, this just broke my heart. Please don’t toss your old diaries out. You may think they’re useless now but they may be of interest someday. Please please please don’t do it.

  11. Too funny. I’ve gotten rid of lots of mine, especially those from high school and college. All that angst about things! Sigh. Now entires would just be boring.


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