April 15, 2010
Mortified: “a comic excavation of teen angst artifacts (journals, letters, poems, lyrics, home movies, stories, and more) as shared by their original authors before total strangers.”
I think reading at Mortified was on my 30×30 before I had a 30×30. It was the first thing I came across in a long time that I wanted to do for the sake of growing as a person and stepping outside my narrow zone of comfort.
Summer 2009: car accident, boyfriend dumped me, car window smashed in a random act of gang violence/EZ Pass stolen, laid off from job, discovered ex-boyfriend was already living with a new girlfriend (and not paying me back the money he owed me for rent.)
I can’t remember how I heard about Mortified. I probably read something, and luck! for once! There was a show in NYC in September. An almost-friend took pity on my sad sack self and accompanied me and I thought it was hilarious and cringy and wonderful.
I was probably at my rawest and lowest at that time. I was feeling completely out of control of my life. I needed a positive change rather than all this misery forced on me. I latched onto the idea of performing at Mortified as a way to take control. When I finally wrote out the 30×30, it was “to do” item #1.
I am not a performer. I loathe people staring at me, public speaking makes me shake, and well, I have been known to take myself too seriously. I hate being laughed at. Embarrassment automatically generates tears. Mortified – standing on stage in front of strangers reading humiliating private teenage thoughts – was everything I avoid, the antithesis of Megness. And I felt like it was necessary to be antithetical to myself just to know that the gloomy, desperate box I was living in was not the only place I could exist. I wanted to surprise people who had “ideas” about who I was.
I wanted to surprise my fucking self.
So I emailed Mortified with a writing sample. They were enthusiastic about my material. The next event was April 15, 2010, and just like that, I was on the roster.
This may be the thing on my list that is most terrifying. It’s neck and neck with skydiving.
I honestly couldn’t look it directly in the eye for weeks. Every time it crossed my mind, my heart rate jumped. I’d get voicemails from Mortified’s producer and I couldn’t bring myself to call her back. I procrastinated preparing my intros. I thought I was going to hyperventilate. Or die.
But time will kick your ass every time and finally I had to just fucking do it.
Full disclosure: I did drink a wee bit (ahem) before going on stage. I wasn’t drunk. I just wasn’t shaking like a neurotic little leaf in a great big thunderstorm.
I read too fast, and didn’t give everything room to land and the audience time to laugh. I think my piece was much shorter than the other readers, but I have no idea.
I feel like I took a few good dramatic pauses. I spoke a little bit off the cuff without tripping over my tongue. It was a straightforward reading rather than being acted out, but I’m okay with that. I like to let the words speak for themselves.
Here are some things I DIDN’T do, for which I pat myself on the back: fall/trip, throw up, slur/bungle my words, acknowledge the hideous sixth grade picture projected behind me, comment/justify/apologize for my 11 year old self.
But here’s the thing.
I can’t tell you much about the moment itself. It was definitely not a moment that I could stand outside myself and scrutinize what was happening for future contemplation. I just had to plow through it, exist in it so fully there was no room for observational Meg.
I think I thought (!!!) I’d feel different when it was over. I thought it would be a cathartic purge. I’d feel braver, like I can accomplish anything. Or I’d be horrifically embarrassed. I’d feel more fully alive, more fully tapped into my own humanity.
But I don’t feel any different – as if eight minutes could truly change me in a profound way (I guess it depends on the eight minutes…if you experience a profound change it’s gotta take place within some eight minute period of your life. But most changes to our actual selves are sluggish and labor-intensive. No instant gratification to be had.)
Anyway. I think I just had fun. I think I’d do it again, too.
And possibly the best part, selfish creature that I am: that people cared enough to show up and cheer me on. These friends have no idea how utterly I don’t deserve them and how deeply grateful I am that they put up with me anyway. They all told me I did great, and if they’re lying, thanks.
I am proud of myself. I decided to do something completely random and completely “not me,” and I did it. I’d forgotten that feeling of putting your mind to something and actually achieving it, by yourself, for yourself.
For those of you who weren’t there, here is a sample of what I read, written at age 11, about Macaulay Culkin, whom I loved. It also shows the grip repressive Catholic teaching had on my brain, that I was this anxious about sex in sixth grade:
“Mack and I are arguing. He wants sex, I don’t since I’m Catholic. So I write to him.
I don’t want to do this, but I can’t take much more of this. I think maybe we should break up. Everytime we go out you seem to be looking at other girls like you’re sure they would sleep with you. I’m not going to and won’t unless we get married. I’m sorry.
Love, Y.B.E.G. [ed: Your Brown Eyed Girl]
He writes back.
I’m so sorry! I had no idea you felt this way. I am not going to break up with you ever, Meg Schadl, you’re too good to let slip away. I’m not stupid. Besides, I promised myself a long time ago that you would be the first girl I ever slept with. If I have to wait, I’ll wait. I love you forever.
Yeah. Now you really wish you’d been there, right? Next time.