After writing a post about me finding my fifth grade diary, someone told me about Cringe, a monthly reading series held at a Brooklyn bar.
On the first Wednesday of each 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.
Leahpeah had organized something like this in Los Angeles, but Cringe is the big momma of this genre. It is hosted by Sarah Brown, a popular New York blogger, and there is even a Cringe book being published.
My plan for tonight was simple. I would attend this reading, my diary in my knapsack. At a certain point, I would volunteer to read. I would stand in front of the Brooklyn hipsters and wow them with my elementary school wit. A literary agent would be sitting in the front row and ask me to write “The Penis Monologues,” which would become a huge bestseller, and I would become so famous that men all over the world would stop calling their members “Dicks” or “Johnsons,” but rather will all call them “Neilochkas.” Millions of women would be screaming for “Neilochka” each night.
But life has a funny way of changing a person’s plans —
Sophia’s father loved marriage. He loved it so much, he was married five times. From everything I heard, he was a nice and exciting guy, but difficult to live with. Sophia’s parents divorced when she was young. Recently, Sophia learned that she had an older half-sister who lived in Brooklyn. The woman, Anya, was born to Sophia’s father and his very first wife, twenty years before he married Sophia’s mother, Fanya. Anya… Fanya…the whole story is more complicated than Crime and Punishment, or All My Children.
Sophia decided that today was the perfect day to meet her half-sister. We would meet Anya in a restaurant for an early dinner, and then Sophia and I would take off to Cringe.
We picked Anya up and headed to Spoon, a Russian restaurant in Brighton Beach.
It was a very joyous meeting, which was surprising, because there was a lot of tension before the actual get-together. It was almost canceled because at first Anya refused to have Sophia come up to her apartment to pick her up, and Sophia was somewhat upset and confused as to why wouldn’t her long-lost sister want to invite her into her home. Once Sophia understood that Anya was insecure about how her Americanized new relative might judge her modest home, she wasn’t feeling hurt any longer and laid Anya’s worries to rest. Both women were also nervous about what this meeting meant. For all their life, they knew nothing of each other. Are they instant “sisters” now or still relative strangers with little in common?
The jury is still out about where this relationship goes, but Sophia and Anya seemed to bond well. We all had a lot of fun together. Anya’s English was decent enough so I could talk with her, and I impressed her by singing the one Russian song that Sophia taught me. Since we were on Anya’s territory, she insisted that she pick up the tab to the restaurant, and proceeded to order enough food and drink for fifteen people.
After the huge meal, Anya invited us back to her home for dessert, and to meet the rest of her family.
At first, I wanted to say no, since this would mean we would miss Cringe, since it was already getting late. Then I realized that this meet-up was so much more interesting and authentic than reading from a diary to a bunch of strangers. A diary is all about connecting to the past — but only through words. Here, the past was coming together in the present…in actuality! Two women from the same father, both testing the waters to see if this vague family bond matters in any tangible way. Who needs Brooklyn hipsters laughing at old diaries when I could witness real life?!
At Anya’s house, there was more food, dessert, and more drinking.
Putin may be bringing Russia back into the Cold War, but no one can doubt that Russians know how to party!
To the half-sisters!
P.S. — After all that, when we got home, we saw that the Cringe reading was cancelled tonight.