Well, that's not entirely true. I never kept a written diary or journal for privacy reasons. I had no privacy. My parents would have given anything, I am sure, to get ahold of my innermost thoughts, and only because I had to foresight to prevent that did I ever come out alive. I mean, they had trouble with reality as it was, if it was written down, it would have been like spraying graffiti on the living room wall. Massive punishment, no matter what the truth was. But one piece of evidence lies in a padded envelope in a file drawer next to my computer. The tapes. But more on that later.
Of course, I still have this problem to a degree with this diary being online. But it has to be online because otherwise, I wouldn't feel the need to do it. It also keeps me honest (you can't lie if everyone's reading your stuff). But there are some times I want to share a story, or rant about some dumbass thing someone I know did, but can't, because that would be like telling the whole world what a dumbass I thought that person was. And while I could get over it, it would still be there, for any search engine to find. Then I'd really have to hold to something I did out of a moment of anger, and that's not wise. Of course, that almost like lying. I can say, "Joe got mad," and not say, "because Susan called him a pedophile." Alters the whole perspective, doesn't it? So I have to wonder whether to include Joe in an entry at all. Often, I won't. Or I'll be vague and anonymous about it. "I saw someone today get mad when someone he used to like accused him of pedophilia, which is not the love of feet as I had been previously led to believe."
Of course, I get the obvious, "You say stuff about your parents... uh, what if they read it?" Well, my mom is dead, and has been for over 16 years. My father is still alive, and I know he reads these. I captured his IP address once or twice, and he once sent me mail stating "You must have reasons to make up the stuff you do." Frankly, I tried to make up with him for about 12 years, but he never reciprocated, and I'd say giving it 12 years was an honest try. In fact, if he said right now, "Man, our past is screwed up, let's start all over and try and fix this," I'd be game. Hell, I'd be pretty happy. But he won't. He can't. He'd have to admit to the fact he was wrong about some things (I was too!), and then his universe might collapse like a schizophrenic panic attack. So all my problems with him go unresolved, and thus, have to be vented on a regular basis. This journal has been 34 years in the making, and I am not holding back anymore.
Some entries I have retracted or altered. A few have been by request of someone who didn't want the story about them or people they knew up, and a few have been because it was totally misunderstood due to some poor choice of words on my part. But only a few have had this happen.
I used to have a friend named Dawn (actually, still do, but I haven't heard from her since 1997 or so). Dawn was someone I knew from a Fairfax County play production I was in, back when I got involved in regional theater as a young teen. Dawn was from a family of people who were so obsessed being the normal, successful family, it was almost like the Dursley family in the Harry Potter series. Dawn was the eldest, with one little brother. Dawn told me that her PBS-pledging family did all the "educational" stuff, and that it was impossible to have fun without some lesson being made of it. Like if you wanted to play a simple game of catch, you had to learn about gravity and the arc path of the ball. Everything was a lecture, and while I (personally) thought "how neat!" Dawn apparently said it was agonizingly distant. Since she learned to write, her parents made her keep a journal. By the time she was 8, she was fully aware they read her journal, and by age 10, she was manipulating what they knew by writing fake entries.
"June 10: Dear diary," she started when she described this to people. She batted her eyes, clasped her hands, and spoke in a singsong fairy princess voice. "Last night, I went to Tammy's house for a slumber party. We played Monopoly, drank soda, had a taffy pull, and oh so much fun!" She'd giggle like a cheerleader. Then she'd add in her normal voice, "Truth was, Tammy's parents were away that night, so we went out to Georgetown with fake IDs, and got drunk with some punk band." Later, at the end of her reign as party girl, she became angry and apathetic, and wrote some entry about her brother dying from some disease. She knew her bother read her diary. Her brother totally freaked out, and had a panic attack because of this.
Sadly, her rebel lifestyle, unpredicted by her parents, led her to drug addiction by age 13 (after I knew her, when we parted ways), and when she showed up at the house with the police in tow, she totally confessed to the last few years of her life. Her parents responded the only way the knew how: they disowned her. She went into drug therapy, then halfway houses, and woke up at age 22 in someone's back yard and realized only she could save herself. Last I spoke to her (when she told me the rest of this story), she was married to a guy she loved and was a receptionist at Vet's office in rural Maryland.
I recall in some high school English class, my best friend Kate and I were forced to write some sort of daily journal as an exercise. Now, I don't fault the teacher for this. I mean, how was she to know my life was hell, and my friend's was... well, not to be made public? We discussed how we were going to do this. We could write something really fantastic, like "April 14: I built a gate to hell today. Hell isn't as bad as everyone thinks. In fact, it's fast running out of money, and we saw that the demons are only prodding people in front of space heaters with plastic sporks." I think we decided to go with "make it as bland as totally possible." Like, "April 1: I woke up. I took a shower. I got dressed. My pants need washed. I got clean pants. I ate 2 eggs and drank 1 glass of orange juice. It was good. I could not find my left shoe for 2 minutes and 18 seconds. I got mad. Then I found it. I stopped being mad. I walked to school. I saw grass. I walked on the grass. It is quicker than walking on the sidewalk. I got to first period. My teacher has a mustache. He taught us about the Crimean war. People got hurt..." you can see where this was going. I wish I'd remembered what we actually did. Planning it was far more fun.
Last year, there was a lot of hubub about Ali Davis and her blog about working as a porn clerk. I was mesmerized by this blog. Not that I like porn that much, but her gripping portrayal of retail in a desperate environment was very well written and captivating. But I have often wondered if one of her ex-customers ever got back to her about her journal, and yelled at her. In her summarizing notes, she did say, " ... people who hold a given point of view too passionately tend not to be careful readers," and "...accused me of writing things I hadn't - and sometimes accused me of taking positions when I'd clearly written the opposite sentiment." I have found the same thing in the almost 12 years I have been on the Internet, posting stuff. I used to say, "People assume I am evil," which was my personal response to an attack based on some truth I attempted to make. One group went so far into this, that they tried to deny my life, my marriage, my child, my job, and my reality. One person started the crusade, his friends joined, and soon, a whole community thought everything I had ever said was made up. And you know what? No matter what I could have ever said, once the mob has you against the wall, the truth as accurate a weapon as a split whiffle bat. That was over five years ago, and they still talk about me, even though I am long gone.
Knowing this, one day, someone will say something about an entry here. Someone will take offense, use it as a spin to their own agenda. I could say I like pancakes, and they will say, "What do you have against waffles?!?!" Already, I have had incidents where someone I know and love thought I was talking badly about them, claiming some vague anonymous statement I had said was "not what happened at all!" Well then, it wasn't about you, now, was it? I could have said, "I had a friend who took his shirt to the cleaners, and when he got it back, it was missing some buttons," and gotten a letter from another friend entirely claiming, "I never went to the cleaners! I use wrinkle free fabrics! I have never lost a button in my life. Stop making up false stories about me!" That's what I have had to deal with from time to time. Often, an apologetic letter explaining I was not talking about them, but some other person, will suffice. But a few people are insistent I am "really talking about them," and I can't help that. But I'd rather not use real names, like Sean Heare, who lives in Reston, who ALWAYS thinks I am talking about him, and I can't stand that! [just kidding, Sean :-P] But if I was talking about them, and they'd rather I didn't, I can (and have) removed entries or parts of entries if I respect their wishes.
Seriously, though, that is the responsibility of a journal, whether it's online or not. But as I said earlier, I have to let some of this out. So it's a balancing of truth and privacy. I could say too much, and someone could get hurt that I don't want to get hurt. I could say too little and keep it bottled inside. Then years later, I'll be forced to look back and wonder what really happened. I have already done this with the only recorded legacy of my childhood: the tapes.
What are the tapes? They are ordinary cassette tapes, very old ones at that, and they were cheap when I bought them. My friend Neal and I had taped letters we sent back and forth for over seven years from sixth grade until I got married. While I just recorded over them, he actually was thoughtful enough to save some as "The Best of Grig." Years ago, he sent them back to me. I have listened to one of them partway through, and such a terror rose in my chest, I haven't touched them since. My childhood was a place of darkness and pain, and they sparked memories I had long forgotten. But I know I must play them. And write them down.
That's when this journal will get a WHOLE lot more interesting.
This entry was originally posted at http://www.punkwalrus.com/blog/archives/00000129.html