A post about French horny mimes.

I do not sing in public. For that matter, if you are a passenger in my car, you don’t want me singing then either. I wonder sometimes what happened in my family. I was the only one born without an athletic gene. I can’t draw either.   My attempts at dancing look curiously similar to Elaine from Seinfeld. But I definitely am the worst singer. (Not counting my brothers, who have never sung in their lives. I’m not even sure they’ve spoken more than 50,000 words total.) I was the smart one, but it’s not as useful at social gatherings as you might think. You can’t show up at the company picnic and start dazzling people with arcane facts like the Hammurabi Code of ancient Babylon was written in the lost language of Akkadian, or that armadillos are one of the only animals that can transmit leprosy. That tends to scare people away, and then they avoid you by going for a heaping spoonful of suspicious looking potato salad because botulism is more tempting than another 5 minutes of conversation with you.  Why, Universe, can I not even handle one Wiffle ball at-bat?  Even my family took pity on me at summer picnics, where my older brothers and cousins would carry me like a football for the potato sack races or my grandfather would help me cheat at croquet.  Miss Daisy, the former gym teacher, took no pity on me and would spike the badminton birdie in my face and tell me to try harder. I still have badminton flashbacks.

But singing is subjective. If you are tone deaf, you don’t realize all the dogs in the neighborhood are howling at YOU. I didn’t even realize I had no musical ability as a child. I desperately wanted to play the French horn. Miss Daisy, ever the encouraging parent, told me I wouldn’t be any good at it and they weren’t going to waste money on lessons. In hindsight, it might have been more lucrative for me than my future ex-pat street performer career than a mime.

My French horn Boston Pops fantasy having been crushed along with my dreams of being a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader (Miss Daisy: “You’re too short, and you look like a Cuban refugee boy!”), I tried out for the school choir. Being a Catholic grammar school, we were all forced to sing in church on a regular basis, whether we wanted to or not. Choir, though, was a regular gig. Non-paying, but you got to wear a robe over your uniform. And occasionally play the tambourine just like Laurie in the Partridge Family, or Art Garfunkel. (It was the 70s, not much to choose from.) Many of my friends were in the choir.  In Catholic school, that was the height of the social scene.

I auditioned after school one day. I had nervously practiced my “do re mis” for weeks. When it was over, I thought I did well. I should have known when the music teacher wouldn’t make eye contact. First he tried to appease me by saying it’s not me, it’s just that he was already seeing too many altos. I don’t recall if I tried begging at that point, but finally he gave me the Simon Cowell treatment…I just didn’t have an ear for music. (Cue Miss Daisy: “Told you so!”) I was humiliated, because just about everyone made the choir.  I found out, some 30 years later, that a few other friends also didn’t make the cut.  That knowledge didn’t make up for the lifetime of social and performance anxiety that audition spawned. So thanks, Mr. B., for causing all my anxiety today. When I froze and choked at the diocesan spelling bee, when I froze and choked at high school cheerleading tryouts, and probably when I failed the bar exam…all your fault.

I haven’t given up entirely though. Even William Hung reached 15 minutes of fame on American Idol. I finally found one song I can sing at karaoke – the backup singer for Barenaked Ladies “If I Had a Million Dollars.” Probably because it doesn’t require any musicality. It sounds much better accompanied by the French horn.  I’m working my way up to bawdy English soccer songs…accompanied by copious pints.

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