Teenage angst. I’ve mentioned before that you could never pay me enough to be a teenager again. It seems, however, that I am willing to pay to watch someone else relive their teenager years.
Life never seems as dramatic as when we are teenagers. And some of us as teenagers put pen to paper. And saved those journals. Did you keep a diary or journal as a teenager? With the distance of years have you gone back to read it? Were you mortified?
Now imagine reading your diary in front of a crowd, friends and strangers.
A few months ago I went to “Get Mortified!” and I am going back for more. It is a live show where adults read from their teenage journals. They don’t get to change anything, except maybe names to protect the innocent. And it’s not people reading from someone else’s journal. (That would be just mean. Funny, but mean.) They are reading from their own journals, letters or poems. It makes for a milk-out-your-nose funny evening, a way to laugh at your teenage self through the safety of a proxy.
Mortified started in the 1990s when Dave Nadelberg shared a love letter with friends. From its beginnings in Los Angeles, there are now local “chapters” in Austin, Boston, Washington DC, Chicago, New York City, Portland, San Francisco and even one in Sweden. Some people that read are professional actors or performers – but they are still reading from their teenage diaries. The rest are amateurs (although professionals in their own field whether lawyers or architects or teachers).
I never kept a daily journal as a teenager, nor did I write love poems or lyrics (that I remember), but I did keep journals when I traveled. My dad always kept a journal of our trips growing up. I remember him writing, sometimes in actual books and other times on legal pads, at night when we were all getting ready for bed.
The first journal I remember keeping was in 1981 when my younger sister and I (I was 14) went to visit our older sister in New England, where she was working as a nanny. I know that journal still exists and I wish was it was securely in my possession (the design of the cover matched The Official Preppy Handbook). I don’t remember anything in particular that I may have written, but I do know that my sisters and I woke up early to watch live coverage of Prince Charles and Princess Diana’s wedding. I’d rather not know how much I gushed – and mostly likely about the dress.
My older sister and I have traveled together quite a bit over the years and that may be why my journals are quite tame. Even so, reading the journals after all these years makes me cringe. I had always liked to think of my teenage self as an intellectual. Not even close.
During one six-week trip when I was 15, “eating ice cream” got 27 mentions. In fact, gelato from a café on the Piazza Navona in Rome was mentioned in four separate entries. The second mention merited an entire page. In contrast, of the Sistine Chapel I wrote only one line. “The Chapel is much larger than I thought it would be.” That’s it. That’s all the oh-so-intellectual me had to say of one of the world’s masterpieces.
A couple years later I was in Vienna for the first time with my sister. On that first day, I interrupted my journal entry. My sister was on the phone with our family, and my younger brother told her news that would make all caps in my journal.
“OLD COKE IS BACK.”
The rest of the entry is peppered with phrases like “I am still stunned” and “I am in seventh heaven” – for two and a half pages. I did at least squeeze in a comment that Vienna was “beautiful and I could picture myself as a diplomat here.”
If you are not bold enough to read your own journal in front of an audience, encourage a friend to read from his journal. Why would someone want to do this? At Mortified they suggest that maybe they are “in the noble pursuit of personal redemption through public humiliation.”
Until you can convince your friends to humiliate themselves, check out the Mortified link below for shows in your city, video clips from stage shows and interviews with celebrities retelling their awkward years.