Private reading

In a post-cum-article innocuously called ‘To Read or Not to Read‘ I journeyed into the sorrow of a young woman making the final arrangements to empty the house she’d grown up in with her parents and brother.  There’s eight parts, and I’ve read at least half of them now.  The one linked above is about grappling with the decision to read her mother’s diaries.  I have, over the years, journalled intensely, then informally and now, not at all.  I have always wondered about the etiquette of the expectation of privacy, and should that be knowingly (and it is ALWAYS knowingly in my opinion) violated.


A while back, whilst tidying papers, I’d left a small sheet of paper on the kitchen table in the loft.  Whilst having a shower, the BF found, and read this sheet of paper, which was written in a moment of passion.  I use passion, but I mean the dark stormy fury and annoyance for which I’m known, and try to contain to the privacy of writing.  For some bizarre reason, I keep these notes, as a reflection of my moods perhaps. It was a very emotional night.

However, back to the path I plan to take this post in.  There is a paragraph in Olivia Judson’s To Read or Not to Read that speaks to me.

There are amusing comments on her suitors. One was “rather attractive, wrote well, but too intense and always convinced he was correct. We had violent arguments.” Another: “His solid presence and kind face and helping me to be cheerful. Bringing me beer and champagne and flowers. Dear sweet man … But he shares none of my interests. Doesn’t like reading or books, and I don’t know what he thinks about.” Another is “Very attractive, but somehow too wholesome.” And there’s heartbreak: “I adored that wretched man. He is hideous and small and unkind, but was like a snake and charmed … I was never so miserable in my life.” Another man caused her to write: “Oh God, what misery and sadness. I didn’t want to do anything except weep. I did that fairly well.” (Five years later, however: “He was very drunk by the end of the evening. Full of self-pity and himself. Really rather a bore. I couldn’t see what I ever saw in him. A middle-aged paunchy Communist.”)

I’ve often felt the need to summarise the thoughts and feelings after a failed romance.  Now, at a time that is separated from the heat of the emotion of a break up.  I pitched this concept to the BF and it spun off into the concept for a website called Letters to my ex.  I can see it being a huge viral success, as people anonymously (well, even with only first names, it would still appear somewhat anonymous in the world wide web) releasing their anger, or anguish.  Of the petty disagreements or arguments.  Of venting to others.  Perhaps of the things you’ve learnt, the mistakes that have helped you find the right sort of person to partner with.

I think my snippets might be a little less poetic than Olivia’s mothers.

Things like ‘He just oozed sex, to the destruction of all the lives he touched’ and ‘The charm that made him interesting enough to pursue was inevitably the undoing of the relationship.  It’s no longer witty on the n’th repeat’.

‘He thought his intellect was beyond compare.  He disapproved of the reading of anything fictional.  A authentic minimalist, one thing he didn’t think to flaunt for ‘cred’.

What would your one line snippets be about past loves?  What do you feel about the privacy of journal.

13 Replies to “Private reading”

  1. I kept a journal for several decades, and as far as I know, no one ever read it. Because I enjoyed that privacy, and it was very restorative, I would not read any personal papers if anyone in my life left them lying around. Although I would wonder what was going on if they left them in a public area of the house – did they want it to be read?

    I have to laugh, during break-ups I have written very heartfelt letters to exes and actually sent them, so I don't feel any need to vent about them any more 🙂 But I bet lots of people haven't taken that opportunity and would love such a web site!

    Now I am humming that Alanis Morissette song "Unsent…"

    1. It is incredibly restorative, and better than perhaps saying things out loud. However, I've never trusted the same courtesy would be extended to me.

      It was only in a public area, as it was solely my house, which meant I was rather complacent!! I was better when I lived with others, at keeping things 'hidden' that I didn't want to share.

      Oh wow, you even sent your letters? I have saved email drafts of some emotional things I tried to write – and most of them were attempting to be rational and be in their shoes. I remember my brother sharing his breakup letter to an ex with the whole family. NOt sure why, perhaps we're just that sort of family.

  2. I think that's a winner of an idea for a website! I can see a lot of appeal for people mutually helping heal the wounds through anonymous advice, comments or just company. Just the ability to vent safely.

    I was brought up from as young as I can remember to know not to ever open a letter to someone else or read a private piece of writing. If my twin sister left anything personal out in the open (and vice-versa) it was considered appalling to ever read it. I still do this now. If I find some notes jotted by someone else I will turn them over and not read them.

    It would take me a while to think back to a one line snippet of a past love now (too long ago!) but in the aftermath of a breakup, I was definitely one to write reams and reams of analysis!

    1. I agree! Very cathartic, and in a break up, you could always wonder 'was that one aimed at me?' Definitely should get nerdy and release such a thing! I'm sure it'd be bad language left and right!!

      I'm incredibly impressed with your upbringing. My mother has often been in strife for opening Dad's mail – usually boring stuff, but still. I actually remember asking the BF if I may own his mail, and he said no. That being said, some super statements etc, he never opens. And I'd prefer them neatly filed. I can't believe you turn them over – I know I'd be way too intrigued!

      I think reams of analysis is the only way sometimes. I love that moment when the clouds clear, and you turn the thought over for the 100th time, and something clicks, and you start to heal and move on.

  3. I'd read anything left lying around. And do! But I would never write down my deepest, darkest thoughts. I would never lay myself bare in that manner – to be vulnerable, to be open to be used by others, to potentially hurt someone else. My walks serve this purpose. As I walk I talk though my thoughts with myself. No records left!

    So no epitaphs of past loves. Loves? What loves?

    1. I think that's the key – me too. If something's left lying around, I'll read it (sort of like Dar's recent post – I'll read the back of a bus ticket).

      I can completely understand not wanting to be vulnerable to someone reading it – and being hurt. But I think when I lost the freedom to walk (out of boarding school) often the only outlet left was writing. I know as at 'home' from holiday, I could try the endless scream technique too – that one's good!

  4. I would tend to read anything lying around. But, I'm also very discreet. Both of those things are part of my job as a secretary I suppose when I think about it. Unless I read something I can't know where it's suppsoed to be. But, having read something, I understand how to maintain someone's privacy.
    I was never great at keeping a diary and tended to go off into very involved never getting anywhere rationalisations and justifications for why I was thinking/feeling something rather than just writing what I was feeling. I was writing as if someone might someday find it and read it and I needed to make sure they'd understand everything. Funnily enough, it was only when I started my blog, which I know other people will always be able to read, that I was able to lose that sense of "need to justify". Well, not entirely, but a lot of it. My blog is my diary but that's also the reason I keep it anonymous. That's less inhibiting for me. I feel the same about nudity actually. Don't really have a problem walking around naked in front of strangers (as in at a sauna, for example) but am very uncomfortable at walking around naked in front of people I know (other than a lover).

    1. Thankfully I'm the same as you – I read things, but if I know I wasn't meant to, I won't say anything. That being said, if it was to signal (for example) distress in someone close to me, I might try to get them to open up without admitting to me reading the private papers. But you're right – you job would definitely require you to work out if it was relevant, and you might read some of the 'wrong' stuff!

      I also have gone through stages of writing about my emotions, imagining that someone might read it. But by being able to do that also helps me come around to a more metered response. So the heat at the start usually simmers out as I realise someone might read what I've written. And to be honest, that's what I'm seeking in my writing, to remove some of the 'heat'.

      I also realise now that a blog is an outlet, and even though it's not anonymous, it does help me work out the correct way to share how I think or feel.

      I should write about nudity now!

  5. I used to keep a journal when I was younger, all through high school and a little bit in college. I haven't written in a while, mostly because I vent about stuff to my friends and boyfriend. However, I definitely did write about break-ups! I found a piece I wrote a few years ago, before my current boyfriend and I started dating, and I felt kind of sad for myself for not seeing the truth sooner. I'm sure a lot of women would enjoy a website like that, and it might even help others gain some perspective. I know I learn a lot when a relationship ends; all the things I was blind to during the relationship finally show themselves! Hindsight is perfect vision.

    1. Sometimes I get over sharing with people – and remembering who I told what too! Or sometimes I think I've told them too much and they are sick of it – whereas the diary can take another 10,000 'I love him sooooo much'!! hahaha

      Hindsight is definitely 20/20, although it does make me question every relationship I'm in, thinking 'when I look back, will I kick myself for staying with with someone with this character/habit/behaviour' And that thinking is just destructive!! Sometimes I think you can always find a way to destroy any relationship or friendship. It's knowing how not to!

      I must make my new website and my millions…

  6. Now I don't go hunting around for private things to read, but I would have a lot of trouble not reading something that was left out!

    And I would be interested in reading what people wrote about their exes. I wrote two papers about one of mine for a college writing course (one while we were together and another after the split). The teacher said write about what you know, haha 🙂

    1. Ah, thankfully I have readers who are like me – and fess up that it's hard to avoid reading private stuff that's left out!

      This website idea is getting more and more justification!! I think relationships are so private, and I think my website would be a window into the breakdown. A lot like reality TV, but at least it might be cathartic for those writing!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.