Home and Away
The roadtrip weekend was a lot of fun. For me, the highlight was our time in Pittsburgh. I fell a little bit in love with Pittsburgh, although I might need to check it out again in a different season. The thought of parallel parking on all those hills in icy winter gives me pause.
When we got to Pittsburgh, we were all sweaty and rumpled from the car, so we freshened up and changed clothes before meeting Sarah’s friends for dinner. By coincidence, we all ended up changing into sundresses. After dinner we went to this awesome divey bar in Polish Hill, where I had the best whiskey sour of my life, and I spent at least $10 at the jukebox, because it was all Dead Kennedys and the Dirtbombs and Pavement and GBV and the Yardbirds. We wanted to play some pool and ping pong, so we left our table up front and wandered to the back room, and immediately felt like Pee Wee when he walked into the biker bar.
This bar was full of regular dive bar folk, people I feel comfortable around, all T-shirts and sneakers and tattoos, and we were six girls wearing dresses, standing there in a pack, talking. You could feel it: everyone hated us. We might as well have been a bachelorette party, squealing and carrying penis straws. I suppressed my urge to shout, “Hey, we’re drinking whiskey! I just filled the jukebox with Dead Kennedys!” Instead we left and drank on Natalie’s front porch, which was much better, because she had chocolate cake. On our way out the door, a cute boy with a pool cue handed me a cigarette. I quickly tucked it behind my ear before his friends could notice and turn him out on the street.
I’m packing right now for Europe. I leave in 15 hours. I’m bringing the sundress.
The Lawnmower and RV Capital of the Midwest
On Friday, Sarah, Megan, Mary and I are flying to Dayton, Ohio, and then spending a few days in Sarah’s hometown of Richmond, Indiana, before driving her new car back to New York. While we’re there, Sarah’s mom is going to make us chicken casserole, and we get to meet her grandparents and go to her favorite bar, restaurant, and truck stop (not all the same place), as well as her favorite local ghost spot. I think that’s a pretty good indicator of how great your hometown is: how scary your local ghosts are. I mean, every town has a Crybaby Bridge or a Spook Light, but not every town has a Donkey Lady. If the man I agree to marry takes me home to meet his family, and shows me his elementary school and high school and the park/parking lot where he lost his virginity, but doesn’t bother driving me out to that length of railroad track where you can see the little kids’ handprints on your car, you can bet I’ll hand that ring back in a flash.
While I'm excited to drive down the highway and have someone else's mom cook for me, I'm mostly looking forward to playing 20 Questions with Sarah, because Sarah is the best (craziest) person in the world to play 20 Questions with. Sarah will get all the way to question #19 before asking if it's a man. Sarah instead asks things like, "Is it a ghost? Is it a real or fake ghost?" and "Is this person made of straw?"
We’re scheduled to arrive back in New York on Monday night, leaving me all day Tuesday to re-pack for my flight to London on Wednesday. I’m pretty excited. I’ll post more details soon, but the London Cringe is set for Wednesday, June 13. Let me know if you’d like to be on the email list.
I'm The Guy Who Sucks, Plus I Got Depression
Things I have, in all earnestness, likened my heart to over the past few years:
- a dead cattle skull
- a burnt cake pan
- the ice planet Hoth
- Woody Guthrie
Maudlin, right? It’s hard not to be a little maudlin when you’re circling the drain of depression. I hate that feeling, knowing it’s lurking nearby, thinking about paying a visit. Sometimes some event in life triggers it, but this time, there is absolutely no reason. My life is pretty fantastic right now. I’m one hundred times happier than I was a year ago, two hundred times happier than I was two years ago. I’m about to turn thirty and have a book published and spend a summer traveling with good friends. I have an amazing family and pretty hair. But recently I’ve been spending a lot of my time consumed with self-loathing, which leads to self-pity, which goes right back to the self-loathing, because what do I have to be upset about? Not a damn thing. The stoic Midwesterner in me hates this bullshit, but here it comes.
I have had a long history with depression. Sometimes it’s been bad. Other times it’s been really bad. When I’m depressed, I hate myself to the point that it exhausts me. Everytime I open my mouth, my brain says, “Shut up, you’re not funny, everyone wishes you would stop talking.” Which could totally be true, but that’s depression talking. It makes me irritable at first, and then when it gets bad, it makes me want to sleep all day. I start to daydream about those green hilly sanitariums where people in wicker chairs gaze at the horizon. I remember thinking once, during a downswing, that I would be okay if I could just lie down on the sidewalk and not move, for maybe a week.
Once, a few years ago, during a downward swoop, while running with my dad, I suddenly stopped running and started choking out sobs, out of nowhere, and admitted to him that I’d been thinking about suicide, almost constantly. My father’s answer to this was that maybe I should volunteer somewhere. I know what you’re thinking: what an insensitive response! At first I thought that too. It shocked me so much I stopped crying. But then the part of me that’s like my father (which, to be honest, is a lot) was like, “You know, that’s not bad advice.” There’s a lot of wisdom in that. Walk it off. Grin and bear it. Focus on something else. I’ve got a roof over my head and people who love me, so I should quit my bitching and keep busy and just wait it out. And that’s pretty much what I do.
I’ve seen a few counselors in my lifetime. I think therapy could help everyone a little, but it’s not a cure. I am completely averse to medicating during these downward spirals, even though I’ve had it explained to me over and over again that it’s safe and temporary and won’t change who I am. Except that I think it will. So I don’t do it. I’ve seen it work for other people, and I think that’s wonderful, but it’s just not for me. Does that make me Christian Scientist somehow? Is this like refusing anesthesia for an amputation and clamping down on tree bark instead? Maybe, but I feel better about the tree bark.
Once, at the very very worst part of my life—a time that stretched over a month or so, but the nadir, I can pinpoint to a single moment—I knew that if I didn’t tell someone I wanted to kill myself, I would actually kill myself. You know what they say: people who actually want to commit suicide don’t fail. But I didn’t want to kill myself, not really. I just wanted to be dead. So I called my friend Laura, the most no-nonsense person I know. It was really hard to tell her why I was calling. Have you ever admitted to someone that you want to kill yourself? I mean like in the present tense, not like how I’m admitting it to you right now. It’s the most humiliating thing you could ever possibly say out loud. I kept sobbing and not being able to say it, but when I did, her response was, “Well, that’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard,” which is 100% true. And then I started crying in a different way, out of embarrassment, but mostly relief, because I knew I couldn’t actually end it if it meant Laura was going to think I was stupid. I respect her opinion a lot. That’s why I called her. Also because I knew she wouldn’t put up with my bullshit. You need someone who will not put up with one tiny bit of your bullshit when you’re suicidal, because at that moment, you are all bullshit, regardless of whether or not you mean it.
I feel like I should clarify here that thinking about suicide and actually contemplating going through with it are completely different. I’d warrant that every intelligent person on the planet has thought about suicide at least once, and probably decided the way they’d do it if they had to. Just like you imagine the way you’d prefer to die of natural causes. My dad assured me once that I’d die in a bed, surrounded by my loving children, but I’ve always suspected I’ll die alone, late at night, bleeding out on a cold tile floor. Hopefully I’ll be at least 90 when that happens. Who wants to die in their sleep, anyway? That sounds like a gyp of a way to go to me. I want to be awake when it happens. And preferably not in the bathroom.
I’m not exactly sure why I’m writing about this here, especially since I typically make it a point not to write about really personal stuff online. Maybe because it’s not a big deal, it’s sort of just part of my life. Plus, I feel like it’s part of why I haven’t been writing, and it’s easier just to write about that then to try and come up with a post. I guess I owe you some dick jokes, internet, because this heartfelt aside is probably freaking some of you out a little.
Anyway, I’m not anywhere near suicidal right now. I’m not even depressed yet. Maybe it’ll skip my house this year. If it does show up, I’ll bite down on my tree bark and wait it out. I am okay. I am loved. But everybody probably does wish that I wouldn’t talk quite so much.
P.S. Post title comes from Achewood, which you should start reading immediately if you don’t already.
My friend Laura the biologist sent me this video of anthropologist Helen Fisher talking about the science of love and the future of women. If you are at all interested in love or sex or women, you might enjoy watching it.
In barely-related news, I’ve decided I’m going to get married, because I really want Tawny Kitaen writhing on the car in the Whitesnake video immortalized via ice sculpture.
Hi! Guess what, I wrote a book. That was fun. Then I didn’t want to write anything for a few weeks afterwards, so I neglected this site until yesterday, when an AP story about Cringe ran in 94 papers all over the world, and I realized maybe I should update the About Cringe page, but forgot that when I update that part of the site, it pushes that post to the top of the main page, and now it just looks like QSS is All Cringe All The Time, which is not true. I am still committed to dick jokes with the occasional heartfelt aside. But also some Cringe, because frankly, that’s paying the bills these days. It’s okay if you’re bored with hearing about it. I’m a little bored with talking about it. So let’s not!
In less than three weeks, I’ll be in Europe. I’m pretty excited about that. I’m going to turn thirty while I’m there, and I’m pretty excited about that too. The other day I was looking at my room, and thinking about how messy it was, and I thought, “I’m probably not going to clean it before I leave for Europe.” And then I thought, “But Sarah, that’s three weeks from now.” And then I thought, “Yeah, I know.” I love being a grown up.
2016: Tuesday, March 22, 7 pm
37 Cavendish Square, London, W1G 0PP
New York Cringe:
2016: New York Cringe is on indefinite hiatus, as your host had a baby and then moved away. But it'll be back, someday.
Follow Cringe UK on Twitter
Follow Cringe NY on Twitter
Join the London Cringe Facebook group
Join the Cringe New York Facebook group
Cringe is a monthly reading series hosted by Sarah Brown, originating in Brooklyn and now in London as well. Once a month, 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. It’s better and cheaper than therapy.
Why & How:
The first inklings of Cringe came about back in 2001, when Sarah Brown found her old diaries at her parents’ house, and decided it would be a good idea to send the most painful excerpts to her friends in a weekly email. Two years later, she moved to Brooklyn and told roommate Liz Schroeter about this endeavor, prompting Liz to dig out some old teenage zines of her own. The first Cringe Reading Night was held April 6, 2005, at Freddy’s Bar & Backroom. Since then, Cringe has traveled around the U.S. and across the ocean as well, and is currently held once a month in London, England and Brooklyn, New York.
The U.S. Cringe book
was published by The Crown Publishing Group
on August 26, 2008. You can order it
The UK Cringe book was published by Michael O'Mara Books, on October 1, 2009. You can order it at Amazon.
We are aware that there are similar shows out there. Ours is funnier. Also, free-er. But most of all, Cringe doesn't audition, and doesn't edit material. It's a straight reading. Anyone can tell a funny story about something that happened when they were fourteen, but to actually read it how you wrote it when you were fourteen is a different level of funny. This is the level of funny Cringe that is about.
Cringe is always looking for new readers. We try to book a month in advance. A good test to determine whether or not your material is Cringe-worthy: when you read it to yourself, do you physically cringe? Then it’s funny. If you’re still unsure about baring your sad teenage soul in public, bring your material with you and consider volunteering at the end of the show.
If you’re interested in reading at Cringe, or you’d just like to be added to the mailing list about upcoming shows, please email Sarah Brown at cringe.reading [at] gmail.com (NY), or londoncringe [at] gmail.com (UK)
If you’re interested in writing about Cringe, please email Sarah at cringe.press [at] gmail.com
If you're interested in starting a Cringe-like event in your own town, go for it! Just please don't call it Cringe. It's not a franchise, and has both a trademark and copyright.
Where & When:
In London, Cringe is held at The George Pub, located at 213 The Strand, London WC2R 1AP.
In New York, Cringe is held at Freddy’s Bar & Backroom, located at 627 5th Avenue (between 17th and 18th Streets) in Brooklyn.
Admission is always free.
Cringe in the Media:
Time Out London listed Cringe at #8 in its 101 Things to do in London - Ultimate Guide in July 2011.
French expat website lepetitjournal.com covered London Cringe nights on October 2, 2010.
The Guardian excerpted the Cringe book in the Family section of its weekend edition on May 16, 2010.
The Times featured the Cringe craze in its Sunday Style magazine on May 9, 2010.
The Independent mentioned Cringe in the same article as Samuel Pepys on December 30, 2009.
GRAZIA magazine ran a story about Cringe in their October 13, 2009 issue.
The Times (of London) put Cringe on the cover of its T2 magazine, plus four pages of serialization of the UK Cringe book, on September 23, 2009.
The Rocky Mountain News included the Cringe book in their Favorite Books of 2008 list.
The Boston Globe reviewed the Cringe book on October 5, 2008.
The Miami Herald reviewed the Cringe book on September 11, 2008.
The New Yorker reviewed the Cringe book on September 2, 2008 in the Book Bench.
Bitch featured Cringe in the article "The Shame Show" in its Winter 2008 issue, Lost & Found.
The London Paper printed both a four-star review and an article about Cringe on December 13, 2007.
NPR Weekend Edition Sunday aired a segment about Cringe on July 15, 2007.
The Los Angeles Times put Cringe on the front page of their April 14, 2007 issue.
Paste Magazine featured a story on Cringe in their April 2007 issue.
ABC Nightline did a segment on Cringe on August 11, 2006, and put five minutes of bonus footage on their website.
Time Out New York wrote about Cringe in the "New Dork City" issue, August 2006.
Newsweek mentioned Cringe in an article about diary readings in July 2006.
Spin called Cringe "the funniest night out in New York" in its June 2006 issue.
Time Out New York covered Cringe in an article called "Discomfort Zone" in December 2005.
Cringe is NEXT Wednesday, May 9
Not tonight, which is the first Wednesday of the month, I know, but there’s going to be a little shuffling for the summer Cringes. Bear with me. For instance, the June Cringe will be in London. The July Cringe will be a week later than usual too, since no one wants to go to Cringe on Independence Day. Look at us, growing and adapting together! I feel like we’re closer already. Next round is on me. Especially in London.
John Sellers is one of the scheduled readers at the May 9 Cringe. His book is funny and so is he.