The things we did for love

Cry and the world laughs with you
By SHARON STEEL  |  January 30, 2008


Unless you somehow peaked early like Gossip Girl’s “underdog” hero Dan Humphrey, your high-school experiences probably fall between middling and unspeakably horrifying on the unofficial scale of shame. Thirty-year-old Los Angeles–based David Nadelberg thinks those humiliations ought to be fêted. He views the heinous hook-ups, appalling relationship debacles, and unbearable unrequited romances of adolescence as glorious train wrecks that most of us survived.

Consequently, only the most excruciating love stories comprise his romance-themed anthology Mortified: Love Is a Battlefield (Simon Spotlight Entertainment, 304 pages, $14.95). If these first-person accounts don’t make you feel better about your own shitty teen years, well, then you’ll finally have something perversely healing to relate to that doesn’t air primetime on CW.

“This is youth for once and all,” says Nadelberg. “It’s an ugly experience, and it’s a beautiful experience, and it’s an unfortunately hilarious one. It’s an experience that we’ve all had.”

Love Is a Battlefield is the second volume of Mortified books based on the cult-favorite stage show of the same name. (Mortified: Real Words. Real People. Real Pathetic. was published in 2006.) In seven cities across the country — including Boston, where a chapter has been running at the Paradise Lounge for the past two years — volunteers regularly entertain live audiences with readings from their diaries, journals, song lyrics, poems, e-mails, and various other personal relics. Once a mere grassroots comedy collective, the concept has won itself a devoted Internet fan base, including Mortified disciples outside of the US (there’s a stage show now running in Sweden), and has recently expanded to include an animated Web series called the Mortified Shoebox Show.

Nadelberg compares his job choosing dark-meets-funny stories to that of a documentarian’s — with a little thoughtful editing, a wonderfully sad narrative emerges. There are a few token suburban-crush pieces in Love Is a Battlefield, though the majority of the 34 valentines approach passionate angst from uniquely fucked-up angles.

Jane Cantillion’s “My Life as a Biker Babe” details her 1970s affair with Bear, a member of Hells Angels. In “The New Girl,” a pre-pubescent Leonard Hyman, growing up in American Samoa, freaks out when he ends up falling head-over-heels for the very girl who threatens his “resident child genius” status.

“There’s this undertone in a lot of these pieces where they don’t feel like they’re being heard, and ‘Woe is me!’ While that’s funny, I think it’s important for kids to finally be heard,” Nadelberg says. “Twenty years later, someone’s listening and laughing, and doing so in a way that is supportive rather than snarky. We always want our audience to laugh at, but cheer for.

“You take these artifacts, these things that are what they are, and through just enough shading and context, you can understand — oh my God, there’s an interesting and funny and often heroic story hiding in those pages. Our job is to simply bring those out.”

David Nadelberg will sign copies of Mortified: Love is a Battlefield at Mortified Boston, February 6 at 8 pm, at the Paradise Lounge (967 Comm Ave, Boston). Admission is $12. Visit for more info.

Related: Mean girls, Protest II, Dirty dancing with the Douchebags, More more >
  Topics: Lifestyle Features , Culture and Lifestyle, Hells Angels Motorcycle Club, Family,  More more >
| More

Most Popular
Share this entry with Delicious
  •   YO, JONNY! THE LOVE SONG OF JONNY VALENTINE  |  February 05, 2013
    Sometime after becoming a YouTube megastar and crashing into the cult of personality that has metastasized in contemporary society, Teddy Wayne's 11-year-old bubblegum idol Jonny Valentine is hanging out in his dressing room getting a blow job from a girl who doesn't even like his music.
  •   LENA DUNHAM AND HBO GET IT RIGHT  |  April 13, 2012
    When a new television show chronicling the lives of young women arrives, it tends to come packaged with the promise that it will expertly define them, both as a generation and a gender.
  •   EUGENIDES'S UPDATED AUSTEN  |  October 12, 2011
    For his long-awaited third novel, Jeffrey Eugenides goes back to look at love in the '80s — and apparently decides that it's a lot like love in the early 19th century.
  •   REVIEW: RINGER  |  September 08, 2011
    Sixty seconds into the CW's new psychological thriller Ringer, star Sarah Michelle Gellar is seen running from a masked attacker in the darkness.
  •   LOVE'S LEXICOGRAPHER  |  February 10, 2011
    As the editorial director at Scholastic, David Levithan is surrounded by emotional stories about adolescents. Being overexposed to such hyperbolic feelings about feelings could easily turn a writer off pursuing such ventures himself — despite the secrets he may have picked up along the way.  

 See all articles by: SHARON STEEL