April 22, 2014

I read my embarrassing teenage diary at Cringe UK (and loved it)

FotorCreated2

I thought it was only right that I wrote this blog post the minute I got home from the London Cringe reading night in The George pub tonight, because I am still buzzing (and a bit pissed). I was one of six readers that dug my own comical grave by self-nominating myself to read a passage from my 2004 teenage diary. I chose to publicly welcome the seated audience into the confused and hormonal mind of 14-year-old me, and like the very aptly named event, it was very, very cringe indeed. On some bits I genuinely had to pause with shame. And those weren’t even the worst bits.

The “Cringe” reading series started in 2005, by a lady named Sarah Brown in New York – all very organically apparently (she discovered her teen diary, shared cringey bits with her mates and they all got their diaries out and then competitively over-shared in a bar in Brooklyn). It turned into a very popular event indeed, and now almost 10 years later, it’s still a regular occurrence and has spread to other cities across the pond. I learnt all of this tonight and my eyes grew wider and I became SO intrigued: I LOVE shit like this. 

On a shallow level, it was just a few shared lols in a pub. We all read in a very jokey, distanced tone – we collectively took the piss out of our once-so-real raw emotions which have now become laughable so many years on. We essentially rolled our eyes at our younger selves as we all read out our overly dramatic Dear Diaries. On a deeper level though, what we were doing was extremely therapeutic and if nothing else, bloody brave. We were ridding ourselves of our internal embarrassment by facing our fears head on. Here we were, a bunch of human beings, openly showing a room of strangers how utterly, disastrously sad we all were as teens, owning up that we would religiously scribble in our diaries about the mundane (what was on TV) to the personal milestones (french-kissing for the first time). We were purging our sins by addressing the skeletons in the closet, and what a good feeling it was. In fact, the cringier the better.

Any moment in time that is reminds us that we don’t have to be anything other than ourselves is something I would like to remain a part of.

The funny thing was the sense of community us ‘readers’ felt with each other upon arrival. There I was, on my own, rocking up to a pub in central London with nothing but a double gin and tonic in one hand and my dog-eared diary in the other – my opening line being “hey guys, I’m here on my own, what’s more cringe than that!” but my nerves fell by the wayside very quickly when I met Ana, the organiser of London Cringe, and what a lovely lady she was. She plonked herself down next to me with her super-size glass of white wine and she soon settled my nerves. She’d seen it and done it a million times. She told me that the funny thing about cringe is it gets strangely competitive, but in a friendly way of course. And she was right. As soon as others started reading their diaries, I wasn’t thinking of how scared I was, I was thinking “mine’s more cringe than that! Bring it on!” – which is the best reaction to have, really. It’s all about reading the worst parts. The bits that you think you couldn’t possibly read. The bits that make you want the ground to swallow you up and never belch you back out.

I am so glad I did it. It really was so much fun. Fourteen was a bloody awkward age. I’m glad that I could say “yeah – this is what I was like as a teen, and yes, I was an absolute freak!” But you know what, if 14-year-old-me can bring a few teary-eyed laughs to a pub on a Tuesday night in London then that’s good enough for me. I may have been “heart-broken”, or “drunk and in love” or “scared to talk to boys on the phone!” at the time, but it was all part of who I was. Who I am. And I’m not ashamed one tiny bit. 

I would whole-heartedly recommend it to anyone thinking of getting their dusty diaries out and sharing them with the world (/small pub). It is the loveliest atmosphere at Cringe, everyone is up for a laugh, no one is judging you. Ana opens the night by reminding everyone that “no one here is a professional comedian” – she was bang on: we’re just a bunch of normal people owning up to our cringe past and as a result, bringing people closer together and reminding ourselves that nobody is perfect. We’re all awkward and weird and not in the slightest bit alone.

And who knows, maybe in another 10 years time, when I’m in my 30’s, I’ll be printing off these blog posts and laughing in another crowded pub about how embarrassing I used to be back in the day. That would be fun, wouldn’t it?

  • Reading this made me so happy.

  • Sarah? As in the Sarah I’ve referenced in this post? The founder? If so, it is an HONOUR to have you here! Thank you so much for reading xxx

  • Ha, yes, the same! So glad you loved Cringe. Hearing that never gets old!

My Book

“In love with Emma Gannon’s Ctrl Alt Delete. So funny & smart, and reminding me of some of my own cringe teen Internet exploits!”

– Anna James, former literary editor of ELLE

"Funny, honest, and nostalgic!"

– The Debrief

“Emma Gannon is a bright spark of light in the world. I seriously dig everything she makes”

– Elizabeth Gilbert, bestselling author of Big Magic