Cheaper Than Therapy?

ByJohn Berman and Steve Baker

Aug. 11, 2006 — -- They call it Cringe Night at Freddy's Bar and Backroom in Brooklyn. Real-life grown-ups reading from real-life diaries they wrote when they were very real, very angst-ridden teenagers.

Megan Berk, 27, read from her diary. "September 15th, 1992. 9:42 p.m. It is getting very annoying that my left breast is so much smaller than my right. The difference seems so enormous to me. On other topics, let's discuss guys. ..."

Twenty-nine-year-old Sarah Brown and her roommate started Cringe a little more than a year ago. Question is, what were they thinking?

"I have a theory that it's kind of cathartic. You read it out loud and everybody laughs," Brown said.

Sometimes it's the honesty and the knack for details in these diary entries that get the laughs.

"January 5th, 1991. He was wearing jeans, a purple and black striped Rugby shirt and a white turtle neck underneath. He looked good. I am not going to call him. I'm going to stick to my promise for myself. I have faith it will be OK," Brown read.

Although it is a predominantly female audience, Cringe does attract a few male readers to the bar's backroom.

Marc Balgavy, 32, read to the crowd a letter he originally wrote to the TV producers of a former Fox series about the lives of students in California. "I like all the characters on 'Beverly Hills, 90210.' I think that the death of [Jason Priestley's character] Brandon Walsh would be a great topic for you to cover."

Marc explains, "Without him, the unity with the friends would be lost. For a few episodes, chaos would reign. In those episodes you could experiment with different forms of storytelling. Make the show more like 'Twin Peaks.'"

Thirty-one-year-old Amy Shapiro described losing her virginity through the metaphors she wrote as a teen. "Last night was passion. So much passion, it turned my fruit into a vegetable. ..."

But what does it say about grown-ups who want to read their deepest, most intimate thoughts in public?

"That we're all really narcissistic. In New York, a lot of people are in therapy. Everybody's trying to figure out what's wrong with them," Brown said.

Law student Harris Danow agreed. "I think anytime you get overconfident in yourself or think that you have it all figured out and you think that things make sense ... then you can look back at this."

When Harris was 15, he had some troubles with the ladies.

"Here I am again, alone in a bed, tired. I'm always tired, listening to music. Nothing went on today. I've got a girlfriend I love, like someone else, and someone else likes me. But I'm still losing," Harris read out loud.

However, Cringe is not for the faint of heart. It isn't Marcia Brady writing about her crush on Desi Arnaz Jr. After all, Marcia never snuck out at night to meet up with a cab driver.

But Blaise Kearsley did. "Guess what? I snuck out of my house last night and Ian picked me up in a yellow cab -- what a babe. Climbing in and out of my window is such a rush," Kearsely read.

However, Kearsley and the others insist that Cringe isn't just kiss-and-tell; it's really learning about all of us.

"[I] think we were a lot more alike than we think we are and than we care to remember," Kearsley said. "It makes it easier to relate to each other when we just strip down and we talk about how we were when we were, like, 15."

And we can all take solace in the fact that teens grow up. Or do they?

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