Real Cringe

I’m headed out the door in just a bit to huddle up with some lawyers, and by some I mean a few hundred. I think things should be settled like they were when we were still evolving, you know? Hitting people in the heads with rocks. Shoving someone off of a cliff. Feeding someone’s baby to a dingo.

In the meantime my good friend Sarah Brown, someone I met online in 2001, agreed to write a few guest posts for me so that I could concentrate on all the money I’m paying a lawyer. You can find her at Que Sera Sera, and I finally got to meet her in person back in late 2006. She is seriously one of my favorite people in the world, and I wanted to share her with you.


For the past five years, I’ve hosted a night called Cringe in New York and now in London. Cringe is an event where adults get up in front of a bunch of people in a bar and read aloud from their teenage diaries, the most embarrassing, cringeworthy passages. It’s always funny and entertaining. That said, with the exception of one or two real humdingers, these things don’t actually make me cringe anymore. They make me laugh, and want to buy the reader a beer, but revealing the most humiliating things from my adolescence to a roomful of strangers no longer makes my scalp hot or my teeth feel like I’m chewing tinfoil. However, since the universe always provides, I’m never at a loss for things that actually do make me cringe.

1. People earnestly singing when they’re not supposed to be singing.

This doesn’t mean karaoke; it means people who get up and karaoke Tori Amos songs. This doesn’t mean musicals, or the television show Glee, which are set in a world where People Spontaneously Sing and Everyone Acts Like This is Normal. It doesn’t mean that part in 10 Things I Hate About You when Heath Ledger sings “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You,” because he’s clearly making fun of himself. This means when someone in real life bursts into unaccompanied song somewhere in public where no one else is singing, and they don’t expect you to laugh at them, they expect you to hoot and clap and egg them on.

AMERICA! DO NOT ENCOURAGE THESE PEOPLE! If you behave like it’s okay for someone to break into song at a dive bar because you’re a little drunk and oh why not, I’m in a good mood, sure, I’ll clap, they’re just going to go for a second verse, or start dancing, and then acting annoyed that you want to continue with your conversation instead of hearing their encore. I do not know why these people need for their lives to be a music video starring them 24/7 but it’s up to you and me to shut them down mercilessly, every single time. I don’t care if their moms or their high school chorus teacher told them they have a good voice! I didn’t ask to hear it and now they’re forcing it on me and having the nerve to make me feel bad for the face I can’t help making!

One time, this guy at Cringe said he was going to sing a song he’d written to an ex-girlfriend as a teenager. That’s happened once before and it was hilarious, but the minute this guy opened his mouth, it was clear that a) he was currently an aspiring singer/songwriter, b) he wrote this song an hour before he arrived at Cringe, and c) he was loving every minute of it. It was the most cringeworthy Cringe moment for me ever, for all the wrong reasons.

2. People on the internet putting a phrase between asterisks as if they are actually doing whatever that phrase says.

This is pretty harmless but I can’t help but wince every time I see it. It used to happen more in forums or message boards, but now it happens on Twitter. Like maybe someone mentions swimming, and another person replies, “Sounds fun! *puts on swimsuit, cracks open a beer*” This is so nerdy it makes me feel feverishly uncomfortable on your behalf. You’re not really doing that. No one believes you’re doing that. We all know you’re in your office right now. And we all know that now you secretly want everyone else in your Twitter stream to follow suit and start some weird fake textual pool party.

Person A: *jumps in* Cannonball!
Person B: *mixes mai tai, passes to Person C*
Person C: *takes off top, forget she’s married*

So this is just like a strange live action role playing you’re playing by yourself, with words. It’s like you just can’t shake King’s Quest, or you still want to be Leisure Suit Larry. You are forever in the cavern of the Evil Wizard. Around you are the carcasses of slain ice dwarfs.

If you replied, “*picks nose, refreshes page*” at least it would be true, but it would still be lame.

3. Group prayer.

Without getting into my feelings about is there a God or what do I think of organized religion, this just skeeves me out and always has, even as a little kid. First of all, “group prayer” always seemed like an oxymoron to me, because shouldn’t prayer be some super personal thing? Who are you to speak to God on my behalf, buddy? I bet what you want and what I want aren’t the same thing, unless we’re talking about polite stuff like world peace, which by now should just go without saying and not really warrant its own 911 call to God. That’s fine, we can talk about world peace, but make it the sermon or something. Don’t get all intimate on me. I immediately want to put my fingers in my ears or cover the mouth of the person who’s praying. Dude, keep that to yourself! I don’t want to know what freaky shit you want God to do for you! That is between you and your freaky God. I know the freaky shit I’d like God to do for me, and there’s no way I’m sharing that with a room full of people.

4. Being on television.

The thought of seeing or hearing myself on a screen brings out every middle school insecurity I ever had and multiplies them by eleven. I would rather take off my clothes and run around the room naked.

5. Taking off my clothes and running around the room naked.

Please don’t make me do this.