If I’d had a blog when I was fourteen years old, it would probably have been a lot like my teenage diaries from that year. Here are some extracts, for your amusement…

JANUARY 2:

The only thing I can say about today is that it has been one of the most boring days in my life. We didn’t go ANYWHERE, and in the end I stayed home and watched the film version of the book Forever Amber which is one of of my favourite books of all time [FORESHADOWING!]… I was severely disappointed, the film was nothing like the book. I did like seeing my name up on the screen though!!

[Not just disappointed, SEVERELY disappointed. Being a teenager was SO HARD.]

diary writing

MARCH 10: 

My birthday! I’ve had a great time. When I came downstairs dad filmed me opening my presents. I got jeans, shoes, a new SONY MEGABASS walkman [LOLs!] and £40 altogether. I’m going to buy a shellsuit with the money.

[Note: this is a shellsuit. I wish I could go back in time, take that money, and buy her a nice dress instead. For when she’s older, you know? People who spend money on shellsuits don’t deserve to HAVE money…]

APRIL 16:

Today was not worth a comment.

APRIL 17:

Neither was today.

Tomorrow we are going into Edinburgh so that I can get a pair of wide leg jogging pants for going to see New Kids on the Block. I lurve Edinburgh!! [“lurve“?] It’s so busy and alive! There’s always something happening, which is more than can be said for this hole of a place. [Er, that took an unexpected detour into ‘bitter teenager’, didn’t it?]

[Also: Wide. Leg. Jogging. Pants.]

old diaries

APRIL 18:

Mum and I went into Edinburgh to buy me clothes for the NKOTB concert. We managed to argue all the way around Edinburgh but it was worth it because I got some great clothes. [Bet you didn’t...] A bomber jacket with a sort of floral print on it (it’s cool) a pair of baggy trousers (they’re smart) a purple shirt (it’s rad) and a pair of mirrored sunglasses like the ones John Lennon (my hero!) wears on the cover of Imagine (they’re cosmic). I’m going to wear all that gear to the concert along with my black baseball cap, my multicoloured bum bag and my chunky trainers. I can’t wait!!!!!

[I promise I’m not making this up: I actually wrote that, with the ‘gear’ and the ‘cosmic’ and the multiple exclamation points. And yes, I WORE all that, too. Just like my hero, John Lennon.]

APRIL 19:

I had my hair permed today. It’s super cool, rad, amazing! [Bet it isn’t] It took 2.5 hours to perm because I have such a lot of hair [And then it took 2.5 years for the hair to recover] and Colette says she’s super jealous! I got a spiral perm and it turned out just the way I wanted it. I look like Neneh Cherry!!!!!

[This is Neneh Cherry:

The resemblance is uncanny, no? I was actually really surprised by how happy I sounded in this entry, because most of my diary entries are filled with self-loathing, and me banging on about how ugly I thought I was. Sure enough, though…]

APRIL 20:

Today started off real bad. I got out of bed and looked in the mirror and nearly fainted. My hair was a mess. [QUELLE SURPRISE.] All sort of frizzy and disgusting. I decided the only thing I could do was stay in and not been seen in public until I’ve had the chance to wash it (Sunday). So I decided to put my time in the house to good use and gave my room a thorough cleaning out. I was reading Just Seventeen magazine yesterday and it was all about New Age which is basically being a hippy and everything being pure and beautiful etc. The idea really appeals to me because I’m really into love, peace, unity, saving the earth, being a vegetarian and all that. [SNORT.]

It says in the magazine that cool names for the New Agers are hippy things like River, Leaf, Sunshine, Autumn, Charity and then it said (this was actually written in the magazine) that another cool name for New Agers is AMBER!!!!! It also says that bedrooms should be clinically clean and white with no mess anywhere [Hey, I wonder what they were smoking at Just Seventeen that year?] so that is what prompted me to clean my room. I’d really like to take all the furniture out of my room and just have a round bed in the middle of an empty room. That would be smart.

[It was ACTUALLY WRITTEN IN THE MAGAZINE, you guys. An ACTUAL MAGAZINE. WITH MY NAME IN IT. It was almost as good as that one time I saw the words ‘Forever Amber’ on the TV screen, and I was like, ‘OMG, that’s my name, only with ‘forever’ in front of it!!!!!!’]

re-reading teenage diaries

*  *   *

And then it goes on like that for another couple of hundred pages, and then another twenty years or so.

Some thoughts from all of this:

*  I sound SO YOUNG. I mean, I know I was fourteen at the time, but I look at fourteen year olds now, and they just seem so sophisticated. And there I was, obsessing over my hair, and thinking a pair of baggy jogging pants were the answer to all of my problems… And here I am now… obsessing over my hair, and thinking an ASOS dress is the answer to all my problems. This is pretty much what I was talking about when I wrote this post. I’m actually pretty freaked out right now, to be completely honest.

* BUM BAG. SHELL SUIT. BOMBER JACKET. BASEBALL CAP.

*  “Rad.”

*  Ever since I found this diary, I’ve been walking around saying, “I look like Neneh Cherry!” then almost wetting myself because I’m laughing so hard. It’s got to the point now where I just have to THINK that line, and I start laughing. Then Terry turns round, looks at me, and says, “Neneh Cherry?” and that sets me off again.

*  At least I got the white bedroom, though. I just need the round bed, and I’m good. Because I’m, like, really into peace and love and baggy jogging pants, you know?

old journals on bedside table

The other thing I keep thinking, though, is that there are plenty more of these teenage diaries, and they’re all more or less the same. I mean, I stopped wearing bum bags (Which you American’s call ‘fanny packs’… which makes us Brits laugh our asses off, because “fanny” means something else here…), and I DID learn my lesson with the perm, but I didn’t really seem to grow up much, or to, well, get some sense knocked into me. I cherry-picked the parts that were vaguely amusing, as opposed to downright embarrassing to show you here (Not that the bum bag and the shell suit aren’t downright embarrassing, obviously…), but the fact is that most of those diaries are absolutely cringeworthy – to an extent that makes it hard for me to even read them myself.

What do I do with these diaries, I wonder? Because I come across them every so often, and I’ve no idea what to do with them. I wrote them (or the earlier ones at least) with the intention of them one day being published (Yeah, yeah, I know…): I had this idea that one day they’d be discovered, and would provide a valuable insight into what it was REALLY like to be fourteen years old, with just a bad perm, a bomber jacket, and a pretty rad Walkman to your name. To be reading Just Seventeen magazine one day, and to think, “Oh hey, I think I’ll just change my entire personality to fit this article I read: I wonder if my parents will let me take all of the furniture out of my room?”

And, I mean, obviously that’s ridiculous (thinking the diaries would be published, I mean. Thinking I’d be an awesome hippy was pretty ridiculous too, though. I mean, I don’t even LIKE tie-dye?). And even if there weren’t any other ways to know what life was like in the late 20th century (Seriously, did I really think we didn’t have TV and stuff, and that it was going to be totally down to me to be the chronicler of our times? Who did I think I was, Samuel Pepys?), I wouldn’t be in any rush to offer up those diaries, because now that I’m able to look back on them with slightly more clarity, I can safely say that I would rather walk down the street naked than allow anyone AT ALL to read that stuff. Other than the bits I just put on the internet, obviously.

Sylvia Plath quote

Teenage diaries: so full of angst…

Actually, I realise this is going to sound horribly morbid, but lately I keep worrying about what will happen to them if something happens to ME. I’d like to think no one would read them, and that they’d just burn them or something, but what if they couldn’t resist a quick peek, and they found the post that simply says, “HI I AM WRITING THIS WITH A BLACK EYEBROW PENCIL NEAT HUH?” And I was FOURTEEN. Seriously, fourteen year olds nowadays have all probably written books or something, but me, I had a black eyebrow pencil, and I wasn’t afraid to use it.

(I can sense a comparison between my teenage diaries and this blog trying to force its way to the front of your minds here. Please try to suppress that thought: that’s what I do…)

So I’m thinking I should get rid of the diaries, is what I’m saying. I’d bin them, but I’d still worry about someone finding them (I was in the habit of writing “THE SECRET DIARY OF AMBER LOUISE MCNAUGHT” on the flyleaf, and then following it up with my address, phone number and date of birth, then the names and addresses of everyone I’d ever known, so they’re not exactly “anonymous”, you know?), so burn them, maybe. But then, I know if I did that, I’d feel like I was somehow betraying the person I once was, who poured her heart and soul, and her dreams of looking exactly like Neneh Cherry, into those pages, and who did it so that one day she’d be able to look back and remember.

Sometimes I worry that I won’t: remember, I mean. What if I get Alzheimer’s or something (you think I’m joking, but I seriously worry about stuff like that: it’s one of my biggest fears, actually. Look, you’ve seen The Notebook, you get it…), and those diaries are all I have left? Well, those plus 2,000 blog posts and counting.

I’m not sure I can burn those diaries, then … but I’m not sure I want to keep them, either. I guess I’ll just have to hope I don’t get run over or something, huh?

So, tell me, fellow diarists – what do you do with your embarrassing old journals? Keep them? Burn them? Or were you lucky enough to not have compared yourself to Neneh Cherry in them in the first place?

embarrassing extracts from my teenage diaries

48 Comments
  1. I LOVE this!! It sounds so ridiculously different to you nowadays that I actually considered whether at the bottom of the post you were going to be like “HA fooled you, here’s me at 14 really” with a picture of an uber cool 14 year old!
    I have the same problem with my diaries, although mine are (if it’s possible!) far more melodramatic teenage “everybody hates me” kind of thing (I may see if I can find some funny entries and post those on my blog, inspired by you!). But I’m not sure what to do with them either – I feel like I can’t bear to get rid of them because they’re a part of me, but I also don’t know if I want them to be read, so at the moment they’re stuck in an old box just kind of waiting.

    1. Oh trust me, mine are full of that stuff too: I had to really search to find these ones burried in amongst page after page of me whining that everyone hated me, and how I was always going to be alone because I was so ugly and unlikeable: I can literally only skim-read most of it because it’s SO awful!

  2. I laughed so hard while reading this! I’m impressed you’ve found so many entries that are actually publishable on the internet – my old diaries are just downright cringeworthy and I’d die of embarrassment if anyone actually read them. That said, I still have them, even though I can’t bear to read them myself. I’ve thought about having a ceremonial burning, but I don’t know if I’d be able to let go…

    1. Ha, it wasn’t easy – I really had to trawl for these, the rest was just me going on about how everyone hated me and how it was probably because of how ugly I was: really, really cringeworthy stuff!

  3. I wonder what happened to my diaries – I’ve almost always written one (still do now) although I had a few years whilst at Uni where I didn’t. I don’t thinK i’d really want to look back on them. But it seems weird to just throw them out.

    1. Yeah, this is my dilemma – I’m not sure I can bring myself to destroy them, but I never want to have to look back at them, or let anyone see them either!

  4. SNORTING. Actual snorts coming from my nose cos I’m laughing so hard.

    I’ve still got all my old diaries. I feel like what I’d like to do is put them all in a box, bury said box and then leave it 100 years or so. Cos then it’s still THERE, and it’s still a part of history. But I’m also not gonna be around for other people to laugh at me about them.

  5. I recently read something about an institution of sorts that actually collects and archives diaries, from both famous and non-famous people. Can’t remember where I saw the article though… Might have to Google it.

    1. Oh God, I think that would be my worst nightmare! It would be fascinating to see what they’ve collected, though – it was actually by Googling for info about diaries that I first discovered blogs!

  6. I tried repressing laughter at this post at my desk so hard that it brought actual tears to my eyes. I guess I’m laughing because there’s probably a lot more similarities between our 14 year old selves than I’d care to admit – I too, though wide legged everything, yes even jogging bottoms, were… rad. Rad!! Just that word is setting me off again. I know I’ve got several journals from this age at my parents house somewhere too and that some of the entries feature actual drawings of GCSE mock exam rooms that I sat in indicating where I was seated in relation to my mega crush at the time (he ended up being my boyfriend, but he never would have done if he’d known about this, I’m sure). It was also the time the internet had just begun when I was that age, and much of it features in depth chat about the goings on of Pokemon chatrooms. I can’t believe I’ve just said that out loud. I would hate for anyone to find them, but at the same time I can’t bear the thought of getting rid of them either, while I’m alive. It’s like throwing away your childhood or something – it just feels wrong; you can’t get it back!

    1. I think you hit the nail on the head when you say it’s like throwing away your childhood and not being able to get it back… I mean, it’s not like getting rid of an old dress that you can probably replace, once they’re gone, they’re gone for good! Mines also have a lot of drawings in them, most of which are very cruel caricatures of myself, in which my forehead is roughly the same size as the moon. I must have been a real joy to be around back then 🙂

  7. Oh how similar our 14 year old selves sound, right down to bum bags and NKOTB concerts!!! I actually burned my diaries when I first got a chiminea. I think I was afraid that I’d drop dead suddenly and my next of kin would find them and they were nowhere near Anne Frank’s standard. Anne Frank was my inspiration to keep a diary, mine even had a name – Dollie! I did keep the diary I kept when I went to Russia, mainly because it was part scrapbook too.

    1. Anne really set the bar pretty high, didn’t she? I think I believed my own diaries would one day be just as important, but I was obviously forgetting that MY diaries were mostly about my hair and New Kids on the Block…

  8. My diaries get thrown in the bin..I hope..my nan has this terrible habit of retrieving everything in some sort of weird psychotic way. And for the record I want neneh cherrys hair NOW hahah for reals xx

  9. While the shell suit is most definitely appalling…it makes me wonder as I look in the mirror today, feeling the cutest version of myself…what I’ll think about today’s outfit when I look back in 20 years…surely it won’t be cringe-worthy…will it?

    Very funny re: fanny pack/bum bag…I came back to the dorms one post-Christmas regaling my Australian roommate with the horror that was the bejeweled, Indian elephant-printed fanny pack my grandmother purchased for me. She nearly fell on the floor when I called it a fanny pack…of course she loved horrifying her family with her “Roots” sweatshirt, big in Canada, very rude in Australia!

  10. OMG you got to see NKOTB?!?!?! So jealous.

    I snort-laughed all the way through this and felt relieved all over again that my mum threw my diaries out so I didn’t have to think about it. I do remember feeling mortified that she’d given all the Sweet Valley High books with my name written in them to the local second hand book shop – I was just the right age to be ashamed of having been into teen fiction…

    1. I did! According to my diary, it was the best day of my whole entire life EVER, and I was 100% in love with Donnie, and maybe 25% in love with Joey. Maths was not my strong point either, obviously…

  11. Keep them!! KEEP THEM AND SHARE MORE EXTRACTS ON HERE!

    I love reading other peoples’ teenage diaries. Partly because I’m nosy but it also makes me feel loads better about my teenage years of sad-actery. I’ve kept diaries since I was 12 and, despite considering burning them many times, I eventually went for the sod-it-I’m-going-to-share-the-lot option. They’re going on t’internet and I’ve also stupidly read them on stage a couple of times – one of the most terrifying but fun things I’ve ever done!

  12. My mom, who was born in 1930, read Forever Amber, under the covers with a flashlight when she was a teenager. It was quite scandalous at the time. I’m a lifelong bookworm and English teacher, so of course, I recognized the name of your blog. I love your diary. I, for one, know that you can be deep and love fashion. I also agree that the movie is nothing like the book. Have your ever read Green Dolphin Street?

  13. By far the funniest blog post ever :’) PLEASE KEEP THEM!! The shellsuit made me cringe and also the term ‘cosmic’, but other than that they’re all good :’) Haha.

    Lauren xo

  14. I have a plastic tub full of my diaries – journals I called them so I didn’t have to write in them everyday!- and I would never throw them out… I don’t know, but writing stuff has been such a part of me for such a long time I don’t know how I’d ever get rid of them. I still keep my journal for all the private things I want to record, so there’s that too.❤

    xox,
    bonita of Lavender & Twill

  15. 1. It was the 1990s. You are totally forgiven for the shellsuit, bumbag and wide leg jogging bottoms. We all had them.
    2. But I feel like we need to see a picture of that concert outfit.
    3. Everyone had perms. I had one each year of high school from 1992-1997. No shame in that.
    4. NKOTB – jealous!
    5. I LOVED Just Seventeen magazine. I was so sad when they changed it to a monthly (‘J17’) and then it folded altogether. It was the 1990s – there was no internet, not much TV and barely any teen magazines. Just Seventeen was all we had.
    6. Love this post – keep the diaries and share some more extracts!

    x

  16. I’ve kept a diary since I was 10 years old, and I can’t bring myself to throw them away or burn them, but like you I hope no one reads them if something happens to me, but….until then they live in my parents’ attic. Oh, the multiple exclamation marks must be a teenage thing; I totally did that too. Along with heaps of capitals and underlining, of course! (I poured out my soul into those pages…)

  17. Sorry Amber, but I laughed so hard at these. Bum bags! Shell suits! Oh the memories (Oh god, why???). My diaries from that age are completely airheaded and mostly about how I was going to become an astronaut. Oh god the embarrassment.

    Don’t get rid of them!

  18. I have thought about this many times before, and I’m still on the fence. I’ve got some pretty embarrassing things in those books up in the attic… I still can’t bring myself to burn them though, so there they remain- for now.
    This post is so funny! I was laughing particularly about the NKOTB concert you were preparing for. I just came across, last weekend, a ticket stub for my first ever concert which was in 1991 and it was to the NKOTB. (Ahem, which I really only went to because my sister liked them – but not really. Anyway, I was one year away from becoming the Cure’s biggest fan so New Kids on the Block, so 1990). Oh, it’s hilarious thinking about how cool we thought we were back in the day. 😂

  19. I’m not sure I could find even half as many presentable entries as you did! Mine weren’t about clothes so much as ALL THE BOYS. When I was 14, I was quite literally tracking my run-ins with various crushes–there were about five or six boys I would see semi-regularly, and I had a calendar on which I’d mark each meeting, each different symbol or mark corresponding to a certain boy.

    I KNOW.

    And, like you, this is not much different from my current self–I don’t track my crushes anymore (probably only because I have a husband now haha), but a chart of crush sightings is just SO ME, even almost 20 years later.

  20. I don’t think I’ve laughed so much since the Famous Five post haha! I love teenage Amber! Although of course I’m laughing WITH you and not AT you – I had one of those unfortunate shell suits too…that I wore with a bum bag… oh the shame.

  21. I wrote in my diaries from the age of 10 up to around 19 when they started petering out and ended up writing a whole blog series about them with the most mortifying extracts (my favourite was the one where I’m super excited because for my birthday I get to go to “a posh restaurant like Pizza Hut”). Like you, I had dreams of having my diaries published, which is what I wrote in my very first entry. Because all publishers are clambering over themselves to publish the ramblings of a dorky Hampshire teenage girl in the early 2000s, right?

    These days, they live in a big box under my bed. I could never get rid of them and I’d actually like to pass them down in the future so that when I’m old and senile, my grandaughters (assuming I have any) could have a read and understand a bit more about what it was like to live in the olden days!

  22. I’m glad I’m not the only one who wants to be ‘chronicler of our times’! I actually stopped writing diaries and started blogging instead because I thought ot would be easier for the publishers to put them together in a book.

    There must be some sort of bug that writers get where they can’t write anything without wondering how it would look on the bestseller list.

    Though a book based entirely on blog comments would be interesting…

  23. Amber, there is actually a company in the US called “mortified”, where they book a stage in a club and you can go and read your teenage diary entries to a crowd of people. I know, it sounds “mortifying,” but it is usually really hilarious. There is a documentary about it, I think it’s called “Mortified Nation”. It’s really good too. It was on Netflix (Canada)

    I believe that one of the best character traits in a person is the ability to laugh at oneself, and those old diaries provide that opportunity. Don’t throw them away, honestly you will regret it. As for dealing with your diaries if something should happen to you, have someone you really trust deal with them. Make sure the person knows where you keep them and what you want done with them. Just a thought!

    Love your blog. It’s a true favourite!

  24. I dug out my old teenager diaries a while ago, what a riot (and embarrassment to myself!) they were to read. I too was a 14 year old going to see NKOTB, (at Wembley Arena) wearing a purple t-shirt, shell suit bottoms, white Addidas trainers (like Donnie had!) and a CND pendant slung around my neck… the shame!!!!!

  25. Oh man. I kept what I called my “book” from the time I was 14 to about….oh….21 (I was MUCH too cool to keep a “diary” or “journal”) I didn’t write every day, and some of it was complete nonsense, character sketches, bit of a scrapbook, etc. Recorded in there was my parent’s divorce, musings on puberty, first kiss, first boyfriend, bad choices, the whole teenage lot was in those books. I ended up with 11 in all. They have sat in a box in mum’s storage space for the past 9 years while I have been travelling. I swear, I have thought about those damn books on an almost weekly basis, worrying that if something happened to me while I was on the other side of the world, one day my mum and sister would go through my stuff, find them and read them. There are just some things my mother does NOT need to know about! So this past May, on my first visit back in almost 4 years, I dug out the box and ceremoniously read them all cover to cover, then burned them all in the fireplace. A lot of wine helped.
    Sudden awesome drinking game idea: read your childhood diary and take a drink each time you used more than 1 exclamation mark to make your point.

  26. I was in exactly the same dilemma as you. I never used my diaries in a ‘someone will want to publish these one day’, more in a personal therapist sort of way, pouring out all my teenage fears and angst into them. I couldn’t even go back and read them myself, it brought back too many awful memories. And I sure as heck didn’t want anyone else reading them! So they got burned. I sat there nearly an entire day feeding my old diaries into the flames, then stirring up the ashes just to make absolutely sure there was nothing legible left. I had wondered if I would regret it, but it was actually a huge relief to have them gone! Now I don’t have to worry about anyone else finding them.

  27. I could never EVER keep a diary. I did try once but I’m such a perfectionist that I would get upset if my writing was rubbish or if my printing looked even the least bit messy. Also, my days literally consisted of lounging around so writing about it was a bit of a chore. I now write only to release some of my emotions, so it’s not exactly daily. Recently, I read back some of my old journals and it was simply just funny. I’d keep them if I were you, even if it’s buried under all the clothes that don’t fit anymore. Even if you do get “run over by a car” those who recover your diary will definitely have a good laugh to cheer them up. xx

    http://www.essibell.blogspot.com

  28. This is gold!
    I also have my brilliant diaries and though sometimes I’d like to burn them I would never do that.
    I mean, if I could burn them and then get them back again, I totally would 😀
    But since that’s not possible I just keep them in boxes out of reach, so no one can read my miseries but still close so I can laugh at myself from time to time.
    I often feel ridiculous about what I wrote, but they are a part of me, they are my past, my story and ultimately they show the way how i got here and who I became.
    So, if I may, I would suggest you to keep yours and share them with us 😛 at least some cherry-picked parts (they’re the best)

  29. I just read this post at work and was laughing so hard I think people think I’ve totally lost the plot. I’m now sharing it around my colleagues to brighten their Wednesday!
    Don’t burn them! I used to keep diaries and when I moved in with my boyfriend (now husband) 10 years ago I threw them all in a bin up the street (not my bin!). I would have actually DIED if he read them.
    Now I really regret it. I’ve just started a blog of my own and I’d love to look back at all those angst ridden diary entries to remind myself how much (or how little) I’ve changed!
    Keep them and deal with the embarrassment, it’s better than losing your past! A x

  30. I giggled and snorted my way through this post. I had a bumbag and shellsuit. I also had leopard print satin leggings and some velour ankle boots. Not all at the same time, that *would* have looked awful!! x

  31. I love your teenage diary posts. My teenage diaries are long gone, phew! I’m glad to say we didn’t fall for the shell suits (too Liverpool chav) but I did fall for the bum bag – the expensive Guicci version (like Carrie’s in SATC) and I still have it (wrapped in its lovely dust bag. But the only place I could wear it now is as a hawker at a fairground or market to keep money as a change bag.
    The trends I think will be embarrassedly looked back on from today’s fashion are the drooping trousers worn by a whole generation of young men. Why they would want to emulate young black prisoners in USA who aren’t allowed belts is beyond me. For women it will be the Egyptian queen Cleopatra heavy eye make-up that obscures their beautiful young eyes (also Liverpool chav).

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