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The sanctity of diaries

Today, on my Facebook page, I got into a discussion with friends about the modern dilemma of whether a facebook profile is equivalent to the sanctity of the diary.

The situation that prompted this discussion is that last week my 19 year old daughter used my office computer to write and print out resumes. Today, the first time in a week, I typed in www.facebook.com and instead of having my login pop up I was taken directly to her home page. At first I was confused. The first name I saw, in bold print, was a young man, a friend of Kate's whom I happen to have strong feelings against for a few egregious infractions I witnessed or was recipient of  during those awkward teen years. I have heard he has since grown up and become a decent young man, but when I saw his name front and centre on what I thought was my home page I went: WHAT? He IS NOT my Friend!!??# He's in JUVIE!!

That name shocked me into the recognition that this was not my homepage but in fact my daughter's that she had neglected to exit. I wanted my page,  so I logged her out. But in the time it took to sign on to my profile I thought: Oh dang! Wasn't that just the perfect opportunity to explore ( some might say "spy") on the life of the flesh I gave birth to? 

The role of parent is a weird one in the teen years. It is like parenting toddlers who have access to alcohol and car keys. I  believe Mother Nature has designed the relationship between teens and parents to be increasingly distant so that around age 19 both sides say: all right, time to get out and explore the world. If our children stayed as sweet and lovely as they are at 10, holding our hand as we walk to the grocery store, we would never want them to grow up and get on with their own lives.  "Live with us forever darling, no need to find a job, mate and produce a family of your own." If our children continued to look at us with those eyes of adoration and dependency that gazed at us as we tucked them into bed at age 5, they, too,  would never want to go.

And then no new generation would have babies and everything would collapse. So Mother Nature makes sure teens and parents spar and separate. The survival of the species is at stake!

So by 19, when the kid has all the answers and roles her eyes you both know: time to get some experience of your own, dearie dee.

But I miss knowing the details of their lives, their ups and downs they used to share so readily, the who- said-what-to-whom. It is natural for teens to withdraw into grunts upon being asked "how was your day?" And I am luckier than many in that my girls are still rather open with me. 

 But while both my daughters ( and many of their friends) have friended me on Facebook, both have put me on "extreme limited profile" to curb my intrusion on their space. Both have made it clear that if I should somehow get access to their unguarded face book page and read it, it would be akin to reading their diary.

I know all about diaries. I was an obsessive diary keeper from the age of about 11 to the age of about 32. I have 13 large volumes in a box in my attic. My early jotting years are largely juvenalia: " "Jennifer likes Scott, but I like him, too. And he smiled at me yesterday and I smiled back and said Hi. But Jennifer saw it and then we got in a big fight in the girls'washroom and she said she wasn't my friend anymore."

Once in my late 20s,  I read out loud my diaries from those early teen years  to my mother and a sister and we laughed so hard we had tears streaming down our faces. My excruciating recording of those awkward angst-filled years hit a chord of hilarity with  of us  -- every woman has been there in her teen years.

Though much in my 13 tomes is fogettable drek that I would happily now burn at no loss to the world of literature and letters, within those pages are hints of the writer I was to become - Holden Caulfield-like observations of hypocrisy, Thoreau-like ruminations on nature, Leacock-like ( well at least I like to think so ) riffs on life's absurdities. And there are sketches and paintings, concert stubs and snapshots,  and heart-felt revelations and honesty that still move me to read to this day. There is also some pretty racy bits -- I was single to age 30 after all -- and that content in my 20s is rather akin to the "I like Scott"  material of the early years but with way, way more at stake. 

But here is the thing. They are nothing like facebook. They are my most private and intimate thoughts on life. There is no way, in the world, I would have ever have posted my entries to share with 500 so-called friends. I would have been humilated and  mortified to have anyone -- my mother, my sisters, my friends -- read about my insecurities and bravado, my loves and likes, my insights and worries, my pratfalls and pontificating.

Now I have the dilemma: what to do with my diaries? I still am not keen to have anyone read them (i.e racy bits) least of all my husband and children who have a certain image of me. (Note to family: I will notice if anyone goes up to the attic and touches them!! Thank goodness the attic is only accessible by a long ladder hauled up from the basement and a trap door.)  And I still cringe with the thought that after I am dead, someone will read them. But I cannot burn them yet-- they still contain too much of me even though I have not read them in years.

But as I said on my Facebook profile, a daughter's face book page is not really like a diary at all, it is like a teen party with no adult supervision in which there is no expectation among friends of privacy. All is shared -- every last camera angle and thought. It is life lived as if on stage, knowing, hoping, all are watching.

I do hope they are finding a quiet time for pause,reflection and rumination somewhere, somehow. I think it is good for the soul and for the maturation of an adult.  Facebook does not provide it.

But I will give them their privacy on FB, because like a closed door in teenage years, they seem to really want and need it.

But it ain't no diary.




Posted on Saturday, May 29, 2010 at 02:24AM by Registered CommenterAnne | Comments2 Comments

Reader Comments (2)

Love it!!
May 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDarryl
Never part with those diaries, Anne! They'll be so precious to your daughters when they're your age. I wish I could find the diaries I kept from grades 8-12. Somewhere in our eleventy-one moves, they've gone missing. You are fortunate to have such a wonderful trove of them.

Keep up the blog. I love it.
May 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAlex

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