5. Sing Karaoke... In Front of People

When I was younger, I was a "good" singer. Certainly good enough to be picked for solos in school choir, church choir, and play the lead in a couple of musicals. The last time I sang in front of people I was 17 years-old and played the part of Adelaide in the musical Guys 'N Dolls at Minneapolis South High. I remember rehearsing for that show when the musical director said to me as I was passionately belting out I Love You a Bushel and a Peck, "That's okay Colleen, I guess it doesn't really need to sound good." Ouch. It's amazing how someone can say one thing, and you can carry it around for 14 years. It still hurts a little (a lot) when I think about it.

Having been demoted to a "below average" singer, the list of places I will sing is limited to the car, church, and my son's bedroom. We have been known to go to karaoke bars, because my husband loves to ham it up and sing Neil Diamond songs while the crowd goes wild. He somehow understands that karaoke is not about being good. It's actually all about having fun and making a complete ass out of yourself for the entertainment of others. While being aware of this makes the experience slightly more accessible, I am happy to observe, but sing... into a microphone... with people looking... and more importantly listening... not so much.

When out for coffee with my friend Amy, she told me that I was expected to do karaoke at her birthday party. Her husband, Jim, and I had been friends in high school, and he apparently told her that he was certain I would do karaoke because he knew I could sing. Jim had been in a musical (Oklahoma!) with me when I was in tenth grade (for Jim's sake, I must note that in this true story, Jim plays the character of the cool guy who tried out for a musical on a dare - I, on the other hand, was straight-up-geek). Jim apparently didn't remember the episode where I had a solo taken away from me because I forgot the words during the performance (in the musical Oklahoma! it is imperative to accurately convey to the audience exactly why the Farmer and the Cowman should be friends. I was not the right woman for that job.)

I realize that this all sounds equal parts dramatic and ridiculous. It has been almost 15 years, after all. It's these little hurts that we carry with us though, and time has a habit of making them bigger. However, bearing in mind that at least two people who have actually heard me sing were not offended by my voice (my husband, being one, and Jim, the other), I figured, with a little liquid courage... I could do this... maybe.

At the Lindstrom house, the process of picking out a karaoke song begins days, even months before the karaoke event. My husband is a pro at picking out the perfect karaoke song. He understands the nuance of finding a song that is a crowd favorite, but that you do not have to sing well. He has provided me with options; Goodbye Earl by the Dixie Chicks, Walkin' on Sunshine by Katrina and the Waves, and I Touch Myself by the Divinyls. The conversation regarding karaoke song has occurred at least once a day since we found out we'd be going out for karaoke for Amy's birthday (almost exactly one month ago). I'm serious. Matt Lindstrom takes karaoke very seriously, and he wants me to understand the gravity of this decision. He is right, in order for this experience to be a success for me, I'm going to need to have the perfect song.

In preparation for Friday night's Karaoke Spectacular (I find that everything sounds more fun if you make it a "spectacular"), I watched the movie Duets. Okay, the truth is, I've sort of been wanting an excuse to watch that movie for years. I secretly love the song, Cruisin', and I very publicly LOVE Scott Speedman (who was an added bonus, because I didn't even know he was in the movie). This turned out to be an all around horrible idea. Despite the fact that the movie is just not really that good, the characters in the movie take karaoke a little too seriously, and that made me nervous. They are out there, you know. People who make karaoke their job. People who hope that they'll be discovered in a karaoke bar. People who travel the country competing for the biggest purse. There is nothing wrong with these people, I just must make sure that nobody thinks that I think I am one of those people, because those people are usually actually good. Here I go again, making mountains out of molehills. I bet nobody ever knew I had to think this hard just to have a little fun. Well, I do, and I wish I didn't.

The evening of the Karaoke Spectacular, I was enjoying a martini in a downtown lounge with my husband (this is essential to do before you bear your soul through song). Across the bar, I noticed someone familiar. It was my elementary school music teacher, who had everything to do with my appreciation of music and the arts. I imagined how ridiculous it would sound if I told that teacher who had given me solos in the school choir concerts and asked me to be in the special Madrigal choir at Hale School that I was feeling afraid of doing a little karaoke. This teacher knew me 20-plus years ago. She knew me when I would boldly march up to any microphone and sing my little heart out. Fearlessly. Then I thought about what a conversation would sound like between my current self, and my 20-plus-years-ago self... that girl would have thought this woman I am now was old and lame. I had something to prove to that girl.

The ingredients of a good karaoke experience are the right people, the right place, and the right song. I was in the sweet spot. Jim and Amy are great friends to us, and their friends (whom we had not previously met) turned out to be equally awesome. Good people travel in packs. This is a universal law. U Otter Stop Inn is a great karaoke bar. It's a karaoke bar without being a karaoke bar. It's a dive bar where karaoke is the experience. The best part is, at the Otter, the only people who care about the person singing are the people who came with the person singing. This makes it so much less intimidating. As far as the song is concerned, my invisible support group selected the perfect song. I'm pretty sure that the Divinyls created I Touch Myself specifically to be sung by women in karaoke bars. This must be true, because without karaoke, this song is nothing more than a masturbatory anthem, and I choose to believe that a song this awesome has more potential than that.

I was able to corral Amy and her friend Shannon to the mic along with me (note: this was immediately upon our arrival at the bar, and well before I discovered that Shannon is actually a super duper awesome singer) and we sang each word of that song like we meant it (and maybe a little bit like we had enjoyed a couple of cocktails). I like to think that my 20-plus-year-ago self was proud. I like to think, that if she could have had a conversation with me after my performance, she might have said something like, "I guess you're pretty awesome and cool, and what is that song about?" I guess I don't really have to wonder because she's still in there, and I'd like to invite her to make an appearance a little more often. She's a fun girl, and a really brave girl.

When I was 11, bravery meant being able to sing into a microphone without fear. As a 31 year-old, bravery means a lot more. I have spent the better part of the past 10 years learning a new definition of bravery. Bravely committing to a marriage with a loving man as my parents were divorcing. Bravely facing the birth of my first child, and then her sudden death three and a half months later. Bravely deciding to become a parent again, knowing that bad things can (and sometimes do) happen. Bravely surviving yet another loss, that of our third child at 20 weeks of pregnancy. When I put it in this kind of perspective, I am amazed that I spent any time building up the bravery to do karaoke. After all, if 11-year-old me had it... wasn't it there all along?

Next week, I'll make amends with my thighs by wearing a bathing suit in public.

1 comment:

  1. OMG Cal, you HAVE to do Goodbye Earl!!! And you could totally get the audience laughing by acting out the fact she kills her husband :)



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