Plugapalooza: Cringe

On my top ten list of Internet Crushes, Sarah Brown’s name appears three or four times. For years she has been revealing funny and embarrassing details about herself via Que Sera Sera; now she’s letting the whole NetarWeb in on the action with Cringe, which she describes as “A monthly reading series … [in which] brave souls come forward and read aloud from their teenage diaries, journals, notes, letters, poems, abandoned rock operas, and other general representations of the crushing misery of their humiliating adolescence.” — MB

I wish I’d never made the joke that Cringe was “better and cheaper than therapy,” because every interviewer since then has really tried to grab onto that and make it their “hook,” which is funny to me, because why can’t the hook be that this thing is really funny? Because it is; it’s really, really funny. That’s the best part about hosting it, and reading all these book submissions. They make me laugh that kind of laugh where you sort of bark really loudly in surprise and then your stomach hurts and you say, “Oh… ohhhhhh. Oh no.” That’s probably my second favorite kind of laugh. Definitely beats the accidental fart while being mercilessly tickled laugh.

The entries that kill me the most are the ones where people simultaneously exaggerate or embellish the truth, to their own diary, and then, in the next sentence, lay all their hopes and dreams bare. There was a great reader named Roslyn, who at seventeen was determined to stay a virgin until marriage, but she was also “dying for some play.” She then launched into this elaborate fantasy about her dream boyfriend, and what they’d do if her parents went out of town. It jumped back and forth between the sweet and clueless, like them having cookies and watching a movie and ordering a pizza, to the unflinchingly raunchy, all handjobs and oral references (apparently her definition of sex was the Clinton one), but lingered mostly on these heartbreakingly small details, like how her hair would be “perfectly blow-dryed,” and how she hoped he’d come into her bedroom and ask questions about each little thing she had on display, every picture on the bulletin board.

That kills me most of all, because at that age, you spent so much time assembling your room because you couldn’t really assemble the personality you wanted any other way, and to have someone pick up each and every thing and ask you about them probably would have made most of us happier than actually getting in on. Most of us. And the honest truth is, a part of you still wants that. You want someone you like to come into your room and ask you if you’ve read all those books and which was your favorite and who is this in this photo and when was it taken, blah blah blah, you want that tractor beam of attention, that teenage feeling. And that, to me, is the best part of Cringe: you laugh off your most unbearable moments and everyone laughs with you, but there’s the unspoken understand that we’re all still pretty much just like that, clueless and horny and full of hope and dread.

Also, handjobs.

Submissions are open for the Cringe book until February 14 at cringebook.com.

– Sarah Brown
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