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September 21, 2001

Are we ready for Bradley Jones's diary?

I didn't even know men had feelings that could be written down

Rebecca Eckler
National Post

I didn't mean to laugh. I really didn't. But how could I help it?

"Are you laughing at the fact I keep a journal?" this man asked me. "What's so funny about that?"

I apologized. And then laughed again.

"I'm sorry. I'm sorry, I'm sorry," I said, patting his hand. "I've just never heard of a man keeping a diary before."

This man, on the outside, looked like a typical businessman, lawyer or stockbroker. He was wearing a yellow tie, a dark suit, and had close-cropped hair. He is, in fact, a corporate lawyer I met through a friend. He looked like he would feel comfortable writing down how many pounds he bench-pressed each day but not his, gulp, feelings. I didn't know men like him had feelings, at least not the kind of feelings that could be written out on paper. I didn't know men had the type of problems women solve by eating a cheesecake.

"I guess you can't judge a book by its cover," I joked. Sometimes I'm quick. "Especially a diary," I continued.

There are Canadian men, it seems, who record their feelings in something females call a diary; a pretty book of lined paper we women, for some reason, always get as presents from our parents when we turn 13. This new friend of mine, though, refuses to call it a "diary."

"I've got to write a story about this," I told him.

"You can not use my name," he demanded.

"Why not?" I demanded back.

"Because ... it's embarrassing."

"Why? Does it have a lock and key? Do you keep it under your mattress so your mother won't find it? Does it have kittens on the front?"

"No, it's a very nice leather-bound black book. It cost more than $100."

Let's call him Dan. Dan says he started keeping a "journal" when he was travelling. "It started as a travelling journal when I was in Prague. Then, over the years, I started to write about my breakups and how I felt afterwards, or when I go on a date, I write about how it went. It's very therapeutic."

I'd like to say I didn't laugh again. But I did.

"First off," says Allen Fraser, a psychotherapist and relationship expert, "why would you think it's any different for men than women? We all need to feel comfortable that we're emotionally resolved. If journal-writing is an effective means of somehow articulating and relating your feelings, surely it would be good for men."

After some pressing, Dan even admits he reads and re-reads his entries. "You can see how much you've grown and how much things change and how your feelings toward someone changes.

"For instance," he continued, "I'm starting to hate you."

"Save it for your diary," I suggested.

Harry, 30, owns a media consulting firm. He, too, keeps a "journal."

"Last week, because of the disaster in New York, I was stuck in Vancouver. I just went to the beach and wrote and wrote and wrote. It was great. I had been writing in my book on and off for months and hadn't in a while. While I was writing in it, it was the most relaxed I've been in months."

He uses a Roots leather case that closes with a zipper and has a notepad inside.

"It's very durable," he said.

How manly, I joked.

"Hey, no jokes. Everyone is on some sort of path to self-discovery. You should try it. It's good for you."

Bill Nukhari, a 29-year-old investment analyst in Calgary, admits he, too, writes down his feelings. "I have a notepad, one of those cheap buy-five-for-a-dollar notepads, which I keep by my bed. Sometimes I'll write down my dreams. Mostly I do lists: reasons I want to find a new job, reasons why my job is good, reasons I like a girl, reasons I don't."

Once again, he finds journal-writing therapeutic. "It's a great way to find yourself," he said. "And focus in on your problems. When you write down your feelings, they do become clearer. It's also fun to look back at what I wrote and think, 'Oh God, I can't believe that was going through my mind.' "

Many men, however, will set up their desks and pens but never write a thing, suggested Fraser, the psychotherapist. "Let's be honest. Men still have a tremendous way to go in opening up the bottle. Men are still way closed off in a comparative way to women."

I am now looking for a man who cried during the movie Titanic. Perhaps they've written it down in their "journal."

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