This afternoon at about 3:45, right around the time when the Wall of Complete Workplace Unproductivity begins to rear up from it’s post-lunch recovery, I was seized by the unconquerable impulse to sing. This happens to me sometimes.
“SAAAAAAAAAAAAAN-dy, Sandy’s his name, if you please!
If you don’t be-LIIIIIIIIEEEEEEVVVVVEEE me, ask! any one! of the fleas!
Residing on Saaaandy (truly a pedigree!), Saaaaaandy, there ain’t no better breed!
(deep breath for the high note!)
AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAnd he! Really comes in HAAAAAAAAAndy!
Specially when you’re all! alone in the night and you’re small! and terribly frightened it’s SAAAAAnndy, Sandy who’ll always be theeeeerrrrrrreeeeee.”
I performed this in front of two of my co-workers, complete with hand motions and appropriate facial expressions. One of my co-workers is pregnant, and she gave me a look that said “I cannot take this and hormones. I simply cannot.” The other (non-pregnant, as far as I know, and that’s really her business, don’t you think?) just gave me the look of wonder I often see on people’s faces when I sing. Like, why are you doing this? Why, indeed.
It’s not that I’m a bad singer, I don’t think. I’m not great, certainly, but most of the time I can hold a tune. In fact I am continually thinking of various names for bands I should be in. This trend, for me, was at its height in the carefree days of my early twenties, which happened to coincide with the late nineties, which happened to coincide with ska and with swing. I had a pretty hard time deciding whether I should be a torch singer or whether I should be Save Ferris. I think torch singer won in the end, and I had a pretty good version of Bie Mier Bis Du Schon going for a while, as well as a rather complete and various mental wardrobe for such times as I would need it. This wardrobe, as I recall, involved some t-strap heels and a very audacious hat, and if I ever actually do find either of those in some thrift store somewhere that is in real life too cool for me to shop at, I will definitely get them, Old Navy be damned. Thus far, however, I haven’t needed any of those cool imaginary clothes because thus far I have only performed that song in the privacy of my car. Other hits include Guantanamera by the lovely Celia Cruz, Teenage Dirtbag from the summer of 2000, and a duet from Chess. It’s not pretty. No, wait. It is pretty! Come on, you take the soprano!
I was singing all the time as a kid. Kids do in general, because school involves music class and then singing Christmas songs (with Dreidl Dreidl Dreidl thrown in) at the nursing home, and then drama club and Sunday School and all that. I was in Godspell when I was fourteen, and were you wondering if I still know all the words to all the songs? Wonder no more. I can sing you the little known Wizard of Oz song Jitterbug, and I could probably spit out something from Lil Abner too. One of the things I liked best about being a Teen Evangelist in college was that we started every Intervarsity meeting out with about a half hour of singing, and you got to clap your hands and close your eyes and sing in harmony, and those were always, if I may admit something so personal, the times I felt closest to God. Later I got embarrased about the hand-clapping and would make it a point to worship with my hands in my pockets, being the rebel Teen Evangelist that I was, but it’s a pretty amazing thing to hear and to do sometimes. One time we were on a mission trip to the Dominican Republic, I think, and our group filled this little chapel up on a mountain, and we sang the same short song over and over again, twenty five times at least. Like chanting, like meditation. After a couple of verses you empty out and the words just fill you up.
Most of my singing isn’t like that though. In fact today’s desire to delight my officemates with my vocal stylings was really pretty much out of character. I don’t sing in the shower anymore and I haven’t been listening to the radio very much so I don’t sing in the car. I don’t know anyone else who really likes to sing and I’m pretty sure that if I did, they wouldn’t know the same songs and might not want to sing soprano when I sing alto. And now I am a little more embarrased, too, I guess, about my voice. I keep waiting for rolled eyes, and I wonder if, even though I think it’s okay, other people think it’s dumb. Or maybe they’d just rather listen to recording artists with recording contracts. Still, every now and then I long for a sing along. With hand-clapping, even.
This Saturday I’m going to a birthday party that is very possibly going to involve some karaoke. Can you believe I’ve never done it? My Friend Ashley’s rehearsal dinner for her wedding had a karaoke machine, and I saw two boys I know favor us with a rendition of “Cat’s In The Cradle” I know I will never stop hearing in my head, but I didn’t get up the jones to do it. I have this feeling, somehow, that somewhere inside me is this Karaoke Diva (perhaps she’s wearing those imaginary ankle strap heels? I mean, like, dominatrix heels. They are the coolest imaginary shoes ever. And they go so well with the imaginary hat) just waiting for the first couple of bars of “The Rose” to come roaring out. Or possibly “Total Eclipse Of The Heart.” (Both of those are shamelessly stolen from the repetoire of the abovementioned Ashley, but don’t tell her, okay? She thinks I hate those songs). In my head, I get really into the song, and totally belt it out, and am on note every single word, and I stay on the beat too, which I understand can get difficult in karaoke, and everyone at the party turns and stares at me, and then, when I get to the last line of the song ( “In the springggggggggg, becomes (big dramatic pause!) the roooooooooooooosssssssseee” and the last word gets all faded out and sincere and emotional), my eyes close of their own volition and I sink to my knees and bow my head, weary with the Karaoke Muse that has, so briefly, possessed my vocal chords with such astounding results, and after a moment of stunned silence, the entire party bursts into applause! “We never knew” they all say.
Probably that won’t happen. Probably everyone will be too shy and when they do get up to sing they’ll be off-key in that way that makes everyone look at their drinks and cut their eyes at their best friends as if to say “Can we go now?” and then there will be a little perfunctory applause and then when everyone (and by “everyone”, you realize, I mean, “me”) finishes, people will not quite meet their eyes and go “Well! Never knew you had it in you! Ha HA!” and then everyone will feel embarrased and sad and will think longingly of days when they sang all day and night without anyone paying much attention. That’s the more likely scenario, I think.
Unless, of course, the songlist happens to include the soundtrack to Annie. In that case, my triumph is assured!