IRVINE, CA—Roberta Dunn, 40, experienced feelings of intense jealousy Monday after reading the diary of her 14-year-old daughter Hannah.
"I try to respect Hannah's privacy, but I also feel it's my duty as a parent to know what she's doing in her free time," said Dunn, a single mother divorced since 1994. "It turns out, unlike some people who barely have the energy to make dinner after spending all day on their feet, she's having an awful lot of fun."
Dunn said that over the past year, she has noticed Hannah "growing more and more distant" from her, spending increasing amounts of time with friends and talking on the phone. The growing alienation from her daughter prompted Dunn to seek out the journal in which Hannah records her innermost thoughts and secrets.
"Hannah's been a lot less communicative lately, and I wanted to make sure she wasn't getting into any of the typical teenage trouble, whether it be drugs or boys or whatever," said Dunn, who on Nov. 4 discovered the diary under her daughter's mattress while the girl was at the mall. "Well, she's not doing any drugs, but she did make the cheerleading team, and was picked to be class treasurer, and has a date for Tuesday's chorus trip to Six Flags Magic Mountain. Must be nice."
While Dunn was relieved to learn from the diary that Hannah's experience with alcohol and sexual activity has been limited, she couldn't help but feel angered by her white lies.
"Lying in any form is unacceptable," Dunn said. "Hannah has made it appear that when she stays at a friend's house, they're sitting around watching TV or doing homework—things me and my girlfriends used to do when I was her age. In reality, though, they're hanging out at the mall flirting with Tyler and Josh and, apparently, somebody named 'Tractor Boy.' Who is Tractor Boy?"
After a long day at her job as a secretary at a window-treatments company, Dunn usually comes home and spends the night watching TV or catching up on housework.
"I have some friends and, yes, we do go out occasionally, but not like Hannah," Dunn said. "Every third page, there's some really exciting event—some great new band they're all into or a great new movie. I would've gone with her to see Spider-Man if she'd have told me it was worth seeing."
Dunn said her daughter's diary filled in some important blanks about her social life. The Sept. 7 entry described a back-to-school party Hannah attended.
"Hannah said she was going to a party for somebody she knew from marching band, but she failed to say that this particular band member was 17 years old," Dunn said. "Needless to say, alcohol was served. I never got to go to any of the older kids' parties when I was in high school. And I certainly never would have written that I 'looked pretty good' in the new skirt I was wearing. Still wouldn't."
Dunn was also dismayed by an Oct. 27 entry describing a brush with drug use.
"Hannah's telling me that no one she knows does drugs, but right there on page 112, it says that someone at summer camp last year was smoking pot," Dunn said. "Hannah wrote that she didn't smoke any, but I still find it disturbing that kids that young even have access to drugs. I used to smoke pot once in a while, but I haven't seen so much as a joint passed at a party in years."
Dunn also cannot help but compare her own love life to her daughter's.
"I wouldn't mind meeting someone, but I just don't really come into contact with many single men," Dunn said. "There's Jim at work who's flirted with me on occasion, but I'm just not all that attracted to him."
Hannah, on the other hand, enjoys a wealth of romantic possibilities. In one diary entry, Hannah formed a column of "Boys Who Might Like Me," a list made up of 14 different seventh, eighth, and ninth graders.
"Even if you take out the names Hannah put a question mark next to, she's still got way more dating possibilities than I do," Dunn said. "It's so depressing, I almost wish I'd never violated her privacy."