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Nothing exceptional happened today. But that’s the point of the Mass Observation project. The team at the University of Sussex collects the mundane details of people’s everyday lives on 12 May every year.

Mass Observation book spines

It’s that time of year again. The Mass Observation team at the University of Sussex have been collecting people’s records of their 12th of May since 1937. Is there anything about even a modestly spent day that would not be of exquisite interest after nearly a century has passed?

Closet door

If you have a favourite Coming Out quote, please add it in the comments.

  • Some people are gay. Get over it!
    Stonewall Campaign, 2007


Dinner plate with STOP sign
You couldn’t do it if you tried. But in 1989, at the age of twenty, I managed to make myself bulimic. I would consume nothing but water for seven days at a time, or eat to the point of crippling pain, begging myself to stop … yet would carry on. I’d like to take a look at how I accomplished such an incredible feat. What are the lessons here? How could you make yourself bulimic?

Mass Observation banner

Since 12th May 1937, the day of George VI’s Coronation, the Mass Observation project has been asking members of the public to submit a detailed diary entry for 12th May each year. The more everyday the details the better–as this is the fabric that history is made of.

So, what did I get up to on 12th May 2019?

Megaphone and STOP sign

I came out, kicking and screaming, in the 1980s and early 1990s … in some pretty poor ways. Here are my top ten favourite ways well worth avoiding …

Rainbow stripes and magnifying glass

Despite knowing—on some level—at a very young age that I was a lesbian, it took a silly amount of time for the pink penny to finally drop. Into my university years I was writing entry after entry in my diary about how beautiful my latest girl-crush’s eyes were … yet expressing in the very next paragraphs my bewilderment as to why I never felt excited when a boy touched me. My diary makes for a forehead-slapping read.

So, how could I know I was gay when I didn’t know? What were the mental prods? What were those early signs?

Sun rise

Jamie: What do you think of yourself when you look back at what you wrote?

Natasha: I feel just slightly remorseful, as I was far more whacky, interesting, adventurous, irresponsible, self-destructive than I am today. What I gained in self-respect and self-awareness, I lost in character.

Diary speech bubbles with text


I must not be obsessive

Although I feel mentally stable, self-aware, and well balanced, I do sometimes question my addiction to recording my life, and the two or more hours every day that I devote to it. Do you feel that Anne Lister’s obsessiveness was in any way unhealthy?

Secret Diaries Past & Present book cover

I have just published a new book—a Q&A collaboration with Helena Whitbread, author of The Secret Diaries of Miss Anne Lister. Anne was a wealthy lesbian diarist who lived two centuries before our time.

warning sign, forbidden, prohibited, do not

What was to become a life-long obsession with diary-writing was largely spurred by the chance overhearing of this comment at school when I was seventeen. …

Thursday 9th October 1986
“Not in an unpleasant way.”

keyhole on grunge background

In my mid twenties (in the mid 1990s) I was persuaded by a friend to read a book called Obsessive Love, by Liz Hodgkinson. The author, having experienced the phenomenon of obsessive love herself, offers many ideas on how it arises. The idea that remained with me is that my teacher, ‘Miss Williams’ (as I call her in my published diaries) and I were lovers in our past lives, that I had had a sudden death and so had carried the intensity of our love, grief from the rift, and recognition of my lover, into my current life. Miss Williams, on the other hand, had lived for a long time after my death, she had overcome the love, her grief had subsided, and she no longer recognised me in this life.

question marks, love hearts, school logo, phoenix

Four summers ago I met a woman called Cath who had tried out three husbands and who had concluded that marriage is “boring.” Her sister is a “gold star lesbian” (in fact has never even kissed a man), and still the penny didn’t drop for Cath until she herself was fifty-three, when she first fell in love—with a woman. How many women have spent their whole life not realising that they’re gay? How many women realised when they were five years old? How do you know?

Diary spines

Diary writing became an obsession for me. I have around eight million words of diaries in total. That’s the equivalent of eighty novels. So how did this obsession start? … It all began with a Muppet Show notepad that I received for Christmas as a child. I started to jot down the odd sentence about what I was up to and, of course, what was number one in the charts.

Unrequited love hearts
  • Six weeks I’ve wanted you. I know how you move, and how the sunlight makes a shadow on the curve of your cheek, and the shape of your ear.
    Laura Kinsale


Girls and boys icons

I have always been a lesbian. I have never had a boyfriend. But in my teens and early twenties, I did go out with quite a number of boys (… briefly …). From my own personal experience, I offer some advice on how to proceed.