I've been digging through my childhood diaries, harvesting the most pathetic moments for the chance to participate in a September show of MORTIFIED.
If you haven't heard about MORTIFIED (and I hadn't until last month), read this from www.getmortified.com:
Hailed a "cultural phenomenon" by Newsweek and celebrated for years by the likes of This American Life, The Today Show, The Onion AV Club, & Entertainment Weekly, Mortified is a comic excavation of the strange and extraordinary things we created as kids. Witness adults sharing their most embarrassing adolescent journals, letters, poems, lyrics, plays, home movies, and art... in order to reveal stories about their lives. Hear grown men and women confront their past with tales of their first kiss, first puff, worst prom, fights with mom, life at bible camp, worst hand job, best mall job, and reasons they deserved to marry Jon Bon Jovi.
The project began in the late 1990s when founder Dave Nadelberg unearthed a notably awkward love letter and began sharing with friends. Formalizing as Mortified in 2002 with co-producer Neil Katcher, the project has since sifted through thousands of volumes of otherwise forgotten notebooks, photos, and envelopes in an effort crack the lid off our cultural shoebox and expose our inner geek. Participants include a wide range of people, from professional performers (comics, celebrities, singers) to total amateurs (architects, ad execs, salesmen) all in the noble pursuit of personal redemption through public humiliation.
There are a million stories buried in the pages of people's lives. Mortified's mission is to simply help people find them. Share the shame.
Now, why would any self-respecting individual choose to unearth the most embarrassing and humiliating experiences from childhood?
I recently attended a live MORTIFIED show and I'm hooked. Listening to the participants read exerpts from their angst-filled journals sent the audience through waves of laughter, tears, cringes and recognition. For most of us adults, childhood was a rough sea to navigate, and MORTIFIED reminds us how far we've come.
Reading through my journals has been...
...hilarious. After Confession as a sophomore in high school, I turned the tables and asked the priest a question..."When did you get your calling?" His answer was, "I never really got a calling. I just knew I was meant to be a priest." Perhaps an early indication of my career in journalism?
...embarrassing. The graphic details in which I wrote about my first encounters with a boy...and then many boys after...are the stuff of bad romance novels, a genre I'm clearly not cut out for.
...heartbreaking. I was often beaten up at school and (with hindsight, I now realize I was) molested by a boyfriend.
...enlightening. I'd forgotten so many details of my childhood, such as the time I gave my great grandmother a facial and a foot massage after her daughter (my grandmother) passed away.
...mortifying. My level of self-esteem often rose and fell with approval from others. I wore half-shirts. And, this excerpt speaks volumes:
July 14, 1984 (14 years old)
Halo! How are you? I've got stars in my big eyes & here's why -- I was at [a boy]'s house -- we were laying on his waterbed, him on me, kissing and kissing and kissing. He & me passed a piece of gum back and forth & in our mouths (I know it sounds gross but -- it feels so "sensuous").
Not only was I a 14-year-old slut on a waterbed, but my grammar was atrocious.
The other reason I'm digging through my diaries is that my oldest child, who's 14, is about to enter high school. He's a great kid, but he's 14. I've told myself (and him) that I remember what it's like to be 14, but sifting through the pages of my life at that time, I realize that I've forgotten so much, like how much my parents listened to my problems or how confused I was about social situations or how strong I acted on the outside when inside I was dying. I'd forgotten how exhausting school was and how much pressure I put on myself to please my parents (and my son's just like me). How curious I was about alcohol. How all-consuming first love can be.
I always knew I'd eventually look back on my childhood diaries, but I had no idea how helpful they'd be.
And, if I end up participating in MORTIFIED, I'll be sure to let you know...
Question: What's your most embarrassing childhood memory?