Dear Diary: A chat with Dawn Luebbe, author of the hilarious 'My 1992 Diary'
A while back, I wrote an article for HelloGiggles about our favorite books written in diary format, because reading someone’s diary—be it real or fictional—gives us a special glimpse into the mind of the writer. Now, I’ve come across a literary diary so magical that I simply must share it with all of you lovely Gigglers.
My 1992 Diary by Dawn Luebbe, is exactly what the title suggests. It’s the actual, real life diary the author kept from 1990 to 1992, when she was an angsty preteen. We see her genuine thoughts, written in her sweet (if somewhat messy) handwriting, complete with tiny hearts sprinkled throughout. Even better—Dawn has updated her diary with a modern-day running commentary. And It. Is. Hilarious. Trust me, you guys. I basically read this entire book aloud to my husband over the course of three nights (because we’re hardcore party animals and all), and we laughed our heads off.
Today Dawn is a grown up and in addition to being a wildly hilarious writer, she’s a performer with the Upright Citizens Brigade comedy troupe in Los Angeles. I was super excited to get to chat with Dawn so I could gush over her amazing book and get the scoop on what it’s like to have her teen diary out there for the entire world to see:
HG: Your mom discovered your diaries packed away in the basement a few years ago. How long had it been since you’d seen them, and what was it like reading them after such a long time?
DL: It was actually really a surprise because it had been 20 years since I’d seen them, and I’d totally forgotten about them. I’d remembered writing them, but I’d just assumed they’d been lost somewhere along the way. So reading them again was quite the shock to see how much drama there was. But it’s mostly a lot of really, really menial things that I made into great drama. Now, as an adult, I tend to take things a lot less seriously. When I write or talk about things, I kind of make fun of myself. My sense of humor is somewhat self-deprecating, and I think at that age, I didn’t have a sense of humor of any kind. So everything I wrote about was just very dry, very matter of fact and very serious. I found the whole tone of it to be quite funny.
HG: Your diaries in the book span from 1990-1992. Are these the only diaries you kept, or did you choose these specifically?
DL: I’ve written on and off throughout my life. I took a break from diary writing until about 1999, which is when I went to college, and I kept a diary all throughout college. But those are written in such a different tone that I decided to just encapsulate these preteen diaries from the early 90’s. The college ones are also just a little too embarrassing. I’m not really ready to share those with the world. The 90’s ones are embarrassing, but you can sort of play that off like, “oh, she was eleven, isn’t that cute?” But what I was writing at 19 is just a little too painful, especially at how naïve I still was. Trying to talk about sex and cursing in a cool way when you’re eleven is funny, but trying to do the same thing at nineteen is just pathetic. (laughs) That’s the big difference.
HG: In the diaries that you did include, did you censor yourself? Were there some pages that were just too embarrassing to share?
There are few entries in the book that I almost didn’t include because I thought, “this is just too embarrassing.” They made me cringe so much. But ultimately I talked to my editor, and she said the ones that make you cringe the most are the ones that you have to include. And I think she was right. Those are the ones that people laugh at the most. It’s the most cringe-worthy ones that are the most relatable.
HG: You wrote a lot about your preteen crush on super hunky Dan in your diary and even included his middle school photo in the book. Have you kept in touch with Dan? Was he aware of your intense feelings for him back in the 90’s?
DL: I was not in touch with him. Then I started blogging about my diary and included some of the entries with Dan. Unbeknownst to me, the blog started getting a lot of attention. I was Facebook friends with Dan, but we hadn’t really spoken in 20 years. Our mutual friends figured out it was him and tagged him on the blog. I felt so terrified that he would find it extremely creepy that I was now a 34-year-old woman posting these diary entries where I was obsessed with him. And now he’s a surgeon in Kansas City. Luckily, he found it all very funny. He posted on my Facebook wall, “I had no idea you had a crush on me. To think what might have been…”
I felt two things: one, relief. And two, regret. We could be together now! I’m married now, and my husband probably doesn’t like to hear that side of it. But it’s true. And he’s so cute now. He’s super hot. He aged very well.
HG: My favorite of all your diary entries is the one where you make a move on Dan and scratch his back in the middle of class at school. It seems impossible that he missed this massive hint. Do you have a favorite diary entry?
DL: I think my favorite might be the one where I say, “Tonight I asked my mom a question that I’ve been dying to ask for two years—can I grow my bangs out?” I liked that one because of how much importance I put on my hair. I think it’s the most upset I get in the whole three years of the diary. At no other time do I get so angry, and I just think it’s so funny that it’s over me not getting to grow my bangs out. Like there’s no greater injustice.
HG: You talk so much about food in your diary and dutifully record what you ate for breakfast nearly every day. So I have to ask: what did you have for breakfast this morning?
DL: This feels very LA, but I had avocado toast with coffee, which I have every morning that I get together with a writer friend of mine. It’s delicious, and I feel like I’ve really perfected my avocado toast recipe.
HG: What is your sister, Ginger, up to these days? I feel like I know her after following her schedule so obsessively, particularly her after-school voice lessons. Has she won any Grammy awards or anything?
DL: No, and you would think she would have been the next Bette Midler. Ginger actually took a more academic turn, went to Brown and majored in computer science. She’s a computer engineer and designer. But I will say she’s a big fan of karaoke, with her go-to being Everything’s Coming Up Roses, so those voice lessons were not in vain.
HG: What kind of advice would you give to preteen or teen girls today about keeping a diary?
I would certainly encourage any teen or preteen to keep a diary. I’d also encourage them to write it down versus doing it online in that I think that there’s so much expression and individuality in handwriting and writing it out. And I would advise them to get a very strong lock so that their pesky brother cannot get into it.
Excellent advice, Dawn. Thank you so much!
(All images via Dawn’s amazing blog at www.my1992diary.com.)