Dear Queer Diary: Summer Re-Reading

Dear Queer Diary_Rory Midhani_640px

Ever since the days of my public library’s summer reading program, in which you could win fabulous prizes such as free books and king-sized candy bars by filling out a weekly reading log, summer time has always been one of my favorite times for reading. While I love the idea of curling up under a blanket with a good book, there is something equally seductive about a long summer evening spent turning pages while sitting on a porch swing next to one’s lady love, perhaps pausing for a Klondike bar between chapters.

I presently have no porch swing, but boxes of Klondike bars were two for five dollars at the grocery store today, meaning that this utopian vision of summer reading is not too far from my reality.

Still life with Klondike bars, banana, and frozen vegetables.

Still life with Klondike bars, banana, and frozen vegetables.

However, my dear queer diarists, I am getting off track. My intention here was not to talk about reading in general (although it should go without saying that this is an amazing, wonderful, magnificent, splendiferous activity), but to talk about a very specific kind of reading: namely, the reading of diaries.

A long long time ago in a galaxy far far away, we talked about reading other people’s diaries, both fictional and non-fictional. More recently, we discussed the possibility of others reading your top secret musings– with and without permission. However, my favorite diary-reading scenario has always been and shall always be a solo affair. I love reading my own diary.

I especially love the parts written in outrageously small handwriting in which I obsess about my inability to speak in front of my teacher crush.

I especially love the parts written in outrageously small handwriting in which I obsess about my inability to speak in front of my teacher crush.

I will be the first to admit that this is probably a reflection upon my extreme narcissism (I was once cast as Narcissus in a Greek-mythology-themed play, in what I have always been convinced was a not-so-subtle hint from my high school drama teacher). Who would want to sit around reading about themselves when, as every good Sharon Creech fan knows, reading is an opportunity to walk two moons in someone else’s moccasins?

In my defense, my diary re-reading habit is not exactly detracting from my ability to engage with other reading material — I’m not talking about my sitting down and reading my middle school journal from cover to cover on a nightly basis. My preferred re-reading technique tends more towards the style of the honeybee, buzzing through a few pages and then flying away for weeks, months, or years, leaving myself plenty of time to contemplate the hilarity, cringe-worthiness, and occasional self-knowledge gained from my re-reading of those entries. In light of this, I would argue that my diary re-reading is actually a good habit—revisiting a record of the thoughts, happinesses, and anxieties of past Maggie helps me understand current Maggie a little bit better.

This page records the shining day my best friend and I purchased the final Harry Potter book in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

This page records the shining day my best friend and I purchased the final Harry Potter book in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

This may not be the case for everyone, of course. Some disagree vociferously with the notion that re-reading one’s diary can be a good thing (and some are tragically down on the idea of diarizing in the first place for similar reasons). I can understand that re-examining that entry on a painful break-up too soon after the fact might just be a method of prolonging the agony. And I can see how noticing the same pattern repeated time and again might feed depression rather than helping to mitigate it.

But I hope that most of you dear queer diarists see happier things in the pages of your journals: whether those are good memories of that one time you asked the girl at the bakery for her phone number or not-so-good memories that you can be happy to have behind you. My life has been relatively un-traumatic — but nine times out of ten, rereading my diary fills me with gratitude as to how much has changed since the year 2009, when I was still dating (ridiculous!) boys and doing far too much homework.

If Oscar Wilde quotations are enough to sway you, allow me to note that Gwendolyn Fairfax of The Importance of Being Ernest is wholly in favor of diary-rereading. She announces at one point in the play that, “I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train.”

This has to be one of my all-time favorite movies. (Via Elegance of Fashion)

This has to be one of my all-time favorite movies. (Via Elegance of Fashion)

In the words of my younger brother, who was interviewed for this column via text message, “If it was worth writing, it is probably worth reading. And if it isn’t worth reading now, the fact that you once thought it was worth writing offers insight of its own.” How’s that for a pearl of wisdom from a boy who spends the vast majority of his time writing computer code?

Do you re-read your journals, my dear queer diarists? Or do you lock them away in the hopes of forgetting that embarrassing episode with the cheetah-print underwear and the angel food cake? Tell me your tales!


Dear Queer Diary is a column about the joys (and occasionally, the pains) of journaling. We crack open our tiny notebooks and break out the rainbow-colored pens on the regular, so get ready to limber up your writing hands and document all your beautiful feelings!

Header by Rory Midhani

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Maggie is a freckly, punctuation-loving queer living in the Boston area. She supports her book-buying and tea-drinking habits by teaching America’s youth how to write topic sentences and spends her free time writing postcards and making sandwiches for her girlfriend.

Maggie has written 44 articles for us.

16 Comments

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    My diary is my LiveJournal. I started it in 2003, less than a month after my father passed away. Sometimes I feel like I’m not one of the cool diarist kids with their stacks and stacks of notebooks, but one thing I like is how easy it is for me to flip back through sometimes. Every now and then, I pick a date (usually that day) and just change the year in the URL, from the current year back through to 2003, just to see what I was up to and thinking about back then.

    (… but only I can see anything posted before I started university in 2007, and eventually, I’ll probably change the security so everything before I graduated in 2011 is private.)

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      I’m impressed with your commitment to online journaling. I had a couple different online journal platforms (LiveJournal, xanga, mindsay) back in high school and early college. In a moment of panic about future employers finding them and then never hiring me, I deleted about 4 years worth of journal entries. While it’s probably a good thing to not have the ability to relive my agnst-steeped entries in the long run, I do wish I could go back and see what teenage Carolyne was thinking.

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        I couldn’t bear to delete it, but everything is “friends only” for the most part (except an entry or two that says “everything is friends only”), and I journal under a fake name – not even this fake name, another one my friend picked out for me when I was fourteen. It’s not even in the Wayback Machine. (I just checked…)

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      besides the ease of going back through old stuff, one thing I love about livejournal is that people only know about mine if I want them to. while stacks of journals might be romantic, they’re also a temptation for the nosy and the curious.

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    I never used to reread my diaries, although I always had the intention to do so one day. At first, it just made me squirm with embarrassment, and then as shit started happening in my life, it was just too painful to go back and relive those memories. But between my 29th and 30th birthdays I started rereading all of my old journals from high school, and I’m pretty sure reading through what I did write (and what I notably left out) led directly to me coming out almost a year ago. There was a lot to read, including every single note that my high school ex-girlfriend and my best friends wrote to me. The notes told the story more clearly than the journal did, something I even lamented in my journal at the time.

    I’ve gotten better about writing down those important moments, and whatever commentary I have to go with it, but as I got better at that, the journals started getting harder and harder to reread. I haven’t gone through my college journals or post-college journals yet, because that box gave me a sense of dread. As it turns out, I was repressing something from then, something I had written about. I still haven’t gone through those journals yet because they’re in storage and I can’t go get them just yet, but the memories are back, which is super fun. (Yay for therapy working a little TOO well?)

    But I’m also looking forward to reading through it all now, and seeing how all of these pieces fit together. I also just want to go back and reread all the fun parts, too, because my life stopped sucking so much a few years ago and started getting fun and then awesome, and I kept writing about it, so now I have something to look forward to reading.

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    “I especially love the parts written in outrageously small handwriting in which I obsess about my inability to speak in front of my teacher crush.”
    I’ve done the same in outrageously sloppy handwriting many times, haha. :)

    I actually just recently re-read some entries from a paper journal I had last summer – I laughed and cringed all the same. (Trying to get over a straight coworker while dating someone long-distance and figuring out how I felt about someone else will do that…)

    I’ll probably do the same soon with the Day One app on my iPhone since it’ll be a year tomorrow since I’ve journaled there.

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    I love re-reading my old journals! It usually turns out to be just the right mix of stuff that makes me cringe with embarrassment, stuff that makes me glad I’m not 13 anymore, and stuff that makes me a little nostalgic for my high school self.

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    I reread everything. I’m kind of obsessed with archives. texts, instant messages, old journal entries, irc chat logs even. I don’t reread super often, but every now and then I’ll binge read old stuff–usually I go back looking for something specific I’ve said, and that’ll turn into reading more.

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    Over the past few months I’ve started keeping a video diary (because I am not a words person). I like that other people agree that it’s okay to go back and ‘re-read’. It’s really useful to see how nervous I was for things that turned out fine and just generally gaining perspective every now and then.

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    I can get so self-reflexive I induce nausea, so I have to prep myself for re-readings, but yeah, I love re-reading my journal and gleaning new information about myself by noticing what I chose to leave out, which instances I chose to thoroughly detail, and other forms of meta-introspective-rhetorical analysis I come up with to make myself sick..in the loveliest of ways.

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