Hey, all, I'm Catherine Burns, artistic director of The Moth, and we have exciting news for the first time in our history, we're helping launch a new podcast about ugly confessions from beautiful people.
It's called The Confessional, and it's created and hosted by beloved moth storyteller and friend Nadia Boltz. Weber now describes the show as a car wash for people, shame and secrets, and it includes confessions, big and small.
We're so proud to be a part of this collaboration between Nadya. Your producers at House of Cards in Denver and her longtime partners practice the confessional with valuables.
Weber is available now. Welcome to All Together Now Fridays with The Moth. I'm your host for this week, Aliza Kazmi. Today, two stories about the ups and downs of growing up. Our younger selves may have been self-conscious and made some questionable fashion decisions, but how we handle these awkward moments as kids makes us who we are as adults. Our first story this week is from Donte Jackson. Dante came to them all through our education program, just like I did.
We first met during a show produced by the Moss team at a public school here in New York City. We've told stories together over half a dozen times, and I love his story more and more with each retelling. My favorite part is watching the students hear it for the first time. By the end, they're usually rolling on the floor, laughing both figuratively and literally. Dante told the story at a New York City high school story slam where the theme of the night was freedom.
Here's Dontae live at the mall.
OK, well. Back in middle school, I wasn't really the type of kid to love myself having fun. I was always afraid that if I let myself have fun, I'd end up being judged. And I. I don't like being judged so on eighth grade comes around, prom is coming up, everybody's talking about it.
Hey, you're going to prom. I'm going to probably, you know, would you wear you know, you going, oh, I know what I'm going with.
But me, I. I wasn't planning on it. I didn't really want to go. I thought I'd just skip it. I thought I'd just end up being a kid in a corner.
Chicken and I'm standing there. So after being constantly bugged by friends and family, I decided, you know what, what the heck might as well go, that's just see what is going to be about.
So on graduation and prom was on the same day as graduation was early on in a day, we sang Celine Dion. I hated it.
So I go home, I got dressed. I thought my suit, how my little for dawn, you know, ston.
So I'm going to my friend. Shannon's house is a block away from my house not far. She lives next to this daycare I used to go to as a family trinidadians there. I've known him since birth like my second family. We're all outside Dillon. My mom's taking a bazillion pictures. You know how to get around this kind of time.
And yeah. So no, typically. Well, I should say first that Shannon Shannon comes outside and typically she's a tomboy. She's usually just a shirt, jeans, sneakers. That's it when she comes out. She got a hair down. She got a little ride dressage.
You got the real huge hoop earrings, you know? So now I'm standing. I'm like.
Well, no, so we we got a new trial.
It's about a 15, 20 minute drive, not very long. I get there, all my friends down, I'll say not a desire to show up.
I'm like, hey. So I go inside the spaces a little bit smaller than I thought it would be, granted, it's not a lot of us, but it was pretty fancy looking.
I thought it was a good place to be. Music starts playing Everybody is on the dance floor. I'm in a corner standing near. Checking in on. I had a few people come up to me and try me, put me on the dance floor, but I wasn't moving, I was not moving, I wasn't moving for anything but shaking.
So the deejay decided to put on his song and now he's saying, you know, everybody is not dancing. I'm gonna grab them, grab them, pull them on that dance floor. Everybody use the antibodies down on the all you've got to grab them, bring them on the floor. So immediately, 20 has come at me and and try to drag me on the dance floor, and at this point I'm just done fighting, I'm like, you know what?
What the heck, I'm just going to go on and therefore I'm going to have a good time. I'm standing awkwardly in a dance or just looking around. So I try not to make myself look suspicious, so I started doing a little.
I start doing a little Tuesday, was this where was that so gradually over time, I started getting more into it and did little to stop, turns into little things, a little to shuffle.
The shuffle turns into a crisscross. And now Chris concerns that God knows what. I don't even know what I was. I don't even know what I was doing anymore.
I just know that I'm on fire and I'm busting moves I never thought was possible for me. And I wasn't aware of this until I took the time to look around. And I'm stuck in that little circle.
They make everybody like they go down, they go down with it. And so and it turns out that was one of the best night of my life.
I was like my life up until that point. I was locked in a dark room, but I decided to unlock the door and I took a step out and I learned how to dance.
That was Dontae Jackson, Dontae first came to the mosque during his senior year of high school back in 2014. He went on to tell the story at the mosque first ever high school grand slam, where he won third place. Dante is an aspiring dancer and he promises he'll have videos to share with us very soon to see some photos of Dante in the eighth grade. Head to the extras for this episode on our website. The Moth again extras. Our next story today is from Ivan Kirov.
I've been told the story at a New York City story slam or the theme of the night was Romeos and Femme Fatale. Here's Ivan live with them on.
So can you hear me OK, so all I remember about Abby was that she had long brown hair and that as soon as I saw her, I was totally and utterly in love with her.
And what I remember best about her was that she wanted nothing to do with me. It was 1997 and I was eight years old and this was my first time in America. My English was really, really, really bad.
And I studied some English and Russian first grade, but we learned from the Soviet textbooks that were maybe from the 50s or 60s. And most of the lessons were something along the lines of, comrade, what time do you take tea or could you please point out the way to the Red Square?
So when I enrolled in second grade at Coralville Elementary School just outside of Iowa, these lessons were pretty useless. They were especially useless when it came to wooing Abby, because there are only so many times that I could ask her out to take tea with me, and there are only so many times that I could take to get rejected.
So Abby ended up being my incentive to learn English, but I didn't want to waste time. You know, there are other guys out there, so I thought actions speak louder than words and gift, speak louder than actions. So every morning on my way to school, I would walk by her house and I would put a chocolate bar in her mailbox. And I did this for about a week and I didn't leave any notes, but I was like, you know, chocolates, Russian boy, take tea with me, chocolates.
She put she put the two and two together. She ignored me. She didn't do anything. So I found a confidant in Mrs. Brown, my second great homemade homeroom teacher who was like the nicest Iowan woman in her mid 70s. And every two weeks she'd give the second graders assigned seating. So one day I approached her after class and I was like, Mrs. Brown, I am in love with Abby.
And you have got to put me next to her. So. So Mrs Brown says, I'll see what I can do.
And the next morning I come into school and oh my God, I'm sitting next to Abby and I'm thinking, this is my big break. My English has gotten better. This is going to be two weeks of like flirting and conversation and like the start of an endless romance. We get our worksheets and Abby's all business and we finish the worksheet and she turns to her friends across the room and turns her back to me.
And you know what? I'm kind of OK with that. Like, I'm kind of getting over Abby because my English is getting good and I'm making friends with all the other second graders. And maybe I have accepted that things with Abby aren't going to work out. But then in the late fall, we have an in school field trip to the gym, to the school gym.
Because there is a performance by a string quartet that's happening in this in the school gym for the second graders, so all the second graders file down to the gym and we all sit in a semicircle around these string players and we all sit cross-legged on the floor.
And I, I make sure to pick a position that's right underneath the first violinist, but still really close to Abby.
And then the string section starts playing. And it's a really moving piece. And I'm thinking, holy shit, this is it. This is the chance I've been waiting for. This is my this is my big break. Because if I just show Abby how sensitive I am, if I moved by this music, she will totally fall for me. And I'm looking up at the first violinist and I'm trying so hard to force tears and I'm trying so hard to force tears.
And then the tears come and then I'm crying. But then I'm weeping and then I'm sobbing and my body's shaking.
I can't control the crying once I've started crying and I'm sitting right under the first chair violinist and you know, he's playing and he's looking down at me.
And it's only now that I look back at it, I'm thinking I must have made this guy's day.
He is he is playing to this like group of twenty eight year olds who are like picking their nose and like shuffling around and talking to their friends. And then there is this one who is looking up at him cathartically sobbing. Whatever effect I may have had in the violinist, Abbey was stoned, she totally ignored me and you know what? Second grade came in and went and so did Abby. But I wanted to commemorate that. I wanted to give her a goodbye letter.
So in May, at the end of school, I sat down and I wanted to do it with my voice. So I sat down with my mom's little tape recorder and I put I put on this fake, like 50s crooner voice, you know, like one the 50 songs they have, like the bridge.
And then the guy drops his voice down an octave. So I sit down with my mom's tape recorder and I and I say, Abby, I loved you, but you broke my heart. And now I'm going back to Russia and I will never see you. Goodbye. And I spent like two hours getting this letter just right. And the experience proves to be so therapeutic that I don't need to give her the tape. And I lose track of the tape and I go back to Russia and I move on.
And then like a year later, I come home from school in Russia.
I come home from school to her apartment, and I open the door and I hear the sound and my heart sinks immediately because I immediately recognize the sound of my voice.
And I walk to the living room and I walk into the living room and I see my parents hysterically laughing by the stereo and out of the stereo speakers.
I hear, Abby, I love you. Bye. You broke my heart and I'm going back to Russia. Goodbye. And it's so loud.
My parents don't even notice that I'm in the room and they're replaying the tape. And and finally, my dad looks over me and he looks at me and I look at him and he sees the betrayal in my eyes. And I look at him and I'm speechless and he's speechless. And he just turns off the stereo and he's gathering himself. And I'm like gathering for the kill.
And he looks at me and he just says, you know, your English was really good.
Thank you. That was Ivan Karev. These days, Ivan spends a lot of his time listening to other people's home recordings and audio love notes. He's a podcast editor and sound engineer living in Poughkeepsie, New York, and he's also one of our beloved live sound engineers at Slams and mainstage is in New York City. Ivin story really captured the blissful naivete of childhood crushes, the lengths that we would go to simply be noticed, even if that means forcing yourself to cry hysterically during an assembly.
With age, we may be more hesitant to embarrass ourselves. But young Ivens courage is so heartwarming and maybe will inspire you to finally make that grand gesture you've been contemplating. If our stories this week have moved you, here are a few questions to got you thinking about stories of your own. When was the last time you stepped out of your comfort zone? How did that make you feel? Do you have an embarrassing moment that you've learned to laugh at?
You can also find these prompts in the extras for this episode on our website, The Mostaghim Extras. We're sad to say that this is our last episode of our summer special series Altogether. Now, Fridays with them all. We hope you've enjoyed these weekly episodes and hearing from so many different members of our staff and community. The Moth podcast is going back to its regular schedule and will continue to feature a rotating cast of hosts from the Moth family. Some you may know and some you might meet for the first time.
We always want your feedback, so let us know what you thought about all together now on social media or write us on our website. The Mall Sorgi contact until next time from all of us here at the Moth have a story worthy. We. Iliza Kazmi is a former math assistant, producer and alumna of the Moth Education Program. She began telling stories with The Moth in 2015 and her story, Pastels and Crayons has been heard on the Moth Radio Hour and published in Teen Vogue and The Moth Third Book, Occasional Magic podcast production by Julia Purcell.
The Moth podcast is presented by PUREX. The Public Radio Exchange helped make public radio more public. A Pyrex big.