I hadn’t thought about my teenage diary for years…but today there was a show on Talk of the Nation about a book called Mortified.

According to the book jacket, “Mortified (which is also a stage show) takes real childhood journals and documents and edits the entries into captivating, comedic, and cathartic stories, introduced by their now older (and allegedly wiser) authors. From letters begging rescue from a hellish summer camp to catty locker notes about stuck-up classmates to obsessive love that borders on stalking, Mortified gives voice to the real — and really pathetic — hopes, fears, desires, and creative urgings that have united adolescents for generations.”

I wrote in a red plastic diary every single night the year I was 14. Being me, even back then, I couldn’t confine my thoughts to just one page, so I often typed additions to my entries and stuck them in the diary. The thing was so fat that the lock wouldn’t work, and I had to hide it under my mattress so the Public At Large wouldn’t come across my innermost angsty thoughts.

I wrote about everything–my mean mother, my fights with my sister, the perfect lives all my friends seemed to have and how lucky they were not to be me–but mostly the diary was the humiliating story of my obsessively romantic attachment to the boy across the street.

Brad was his name.

Every day with Brad was an opportunity for a new outbreak of embarrassment and torture. Would we walk the half-mile to the bus stop together? If he left the house first, would I make a fool of myself trying to nonchalantly catch up with him? And most important, would I manage somehow to restrain myself from asking him once again to the school dance (a girls-ask-boys event), or would I get turned down by him for the third time in a row? And when I did get turned down again, what in the world would I say to save face?

I cannot for the life of me remember what was so special about this guy. He had zero personality, now that I think of it. In fact, he had no real life. He spent all his free time watering his lawn. My mother said it had to be my fascination with the way he held the hose. (She found it all very hilarious.)

Years later, I accidentally left that diary behind in a cellar when I moved from one house to another–and the new tenant called and, barely able to keep himself from laughing, told me I had some possessions I might need to come pick up.

I went back to the old house, and found the red plastic diary sitting on the front steps, where just anyone could stop by and read it. It was so exposed out there.

I quickly picked it up and stuffed into my coat pocket, brought it to my new house, and packed it away deep in a box in a corner of the attic, way out of sight, so nobody would ever see it again. I couldn’t bear the thought of looking at it again when obviously somebody had been reading it.

But then today, listening to people actually talk out loud about their childhood crushes and humiliations, hearing them laugh about how dorky they acted and how they threw their hearts up again and again just to have them smashed, I felt–well, a little less ashamed at how screwed up I had been at fourteen. A little tiny bit more forgiving of that braces-wearing, scrawny girl who was so naive and without one millimeter of self-protection to her.

Maybe we’re allowed to look back and laugh about these things, after all. I don’t know why that never occurred to me before.