I'm currently trying to scare up a vocal duet for performance. I really shouldn't be doing it at 11pm. The best way to test them is, obviously, to sing them aloud, and I don't have much of a volume control. The very very top and the very very bottom of my range only work if I'm belting. Naturally, that's where all the fun notes are. I also get sidetracked a lot when building playlists, and I'm almost certain that the neighbors do not want to hear Beyoncé's "Halo" anywhere near as often as I want to sing it.

I can sing. Very well. I know this as a scientific fact. There are a lot of things that I think I do pretty well, but I could be easily convinced otherwise by an audience, and I'm never surprised to run into someone more competent than I am. Not so, with singing. I had a complete stranger hunt me down in the audience after a school concert once, when I'd come out to find my parents, to tell me that she was a professional vocalist, and that I should never stop singing. I wish I'd appreciated that more when it happened; at the time, I was mainly bewildered. My level of social awareness as a twelve-year-old was not high.

Junior high was the last time I got to be part of a choir and perform on a regular basis. Not for lack of trying. The high school I went to did have a theater program, I just didn't find it to be a very friendly place. I was an understudy in Noises Off my freshman year, never got to be on stage, and was thereafter cast as self-locomoting scenery in everything until I gave up and quit. Both the theater director and the choir director had favorites, and I wasn't one of them. I'm not just being bitter here -- it was common knowledge, even among the other teachers. One particular girl had a leading role in every. single. production. for four solid years, despite quite a lot of exasperating diva behavior. They transposed the role of Lead Player in Pippin specifically so she could have it, even though we had not only a good handful of guys but several girls available who could sing the part as originally written.

College was not any better. I tried to take beginning guitar lessons there once. Nothing serious, just the kind of intro course where a bunch of people sit in a circle and try to strum a chord without developing a hand cramp. I was told very bluntly that unless I was a music major or a music minor I had no business pestering anyone in the department.

(I probably should not have been surprised. This was the same state university where I tried to sign up for an Intro to Mandarin course for five consecutive fall semesters, only to be notified every time that the course had been cancelled because nobody had bothered to hire a Chinese instructor. The handbook listed an entire Library Sciences major which could not be completed. Not a single one of the required core classes ever appeared in the course catalog, mainly because the Library Sciences department had no faculty attached to it, and did not actually exist.)

Despite all this, I do my damndest not to start singing whenever anyone else is home. They might hear me. I had it drilled into my head when I was younger that 'nobody likes a show-off' -- or, in other words, 'your display of competence makes other people feel bad, and you are responsible for managing everyone else's feelings on this'. I'm fine on stage; anyone who accuses you of unfairly showing off while you're performing clearly has mental issues, because that's the entire point. It's only when I'm in more mundane situations where I get the overbearing self-monitoring lobe of my brain telling me that it's clearly time to sit down and shut up before someone gets upset at me.

Yes, I do realize that this is insane. I was not surrounded by functional people, as a kid. My mother has somehow worked out a way to kite reality checks, and as far as I know, I'm the only one who ever bothered to argue with her on anything. This is why, when I started tentatively asking people if it might be a good idea to not tell any of my relatives that I was moving across the continent, every single one of them immediately said YES, with the loudest answers coming from friends who had personally met my parents.

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  1. Ha. My best friend of 10 years' standing recently met my father for the first time, and spent the drive home apologizing repeatedly to me for having spent most of that decade internally doubting that he could possibly be quite as awful as I made him out to be. Errr, yeah. If my otherwise lovely mother didn't insist on remaining married to the arsehole, he'd have been cut off by both son and daughter quite a long time ago.

    Also, your animal anecdotes are laugh-out-loud funny. :)

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