I woke up this morning and lay in bed thinking about American Idol… more specifically, wondering how they saw talent in individuals who clearly had none. Now, I know for certain that I can’t sing, but am I, no, is my whole family so musically un-inclined that what sounds hideous to us can actually be unpolished raw talent?
This led to me thinking about my own musical shortcomings, and my gratitude to Toni O. See, I can’t sing. And I use “can’t” in the strongest sense of the word here. I can’t find the tune, let alone carry it. Tragically, I have always loved to sing… and since you really can’t evaluate your own skills in this area, I sang more frequently than I probably should have… because very few people (besides Simon Cowell) are willing to look you in the face and tell you the truth. And unfortunately, if you love to do something, you tend to overlook the subtle clues that should dissuade you.
In sixth grade, I tried out for the Glee Club. Everybody tried out for the 6th grade Glee Club… and everybody made it. Except for me. Now let me ask you, how bad does one have to be to not make the 6th grade Glee Club? During practice session, I would sit in the classroom with 1 or 2 other kids and so homework while the rest of the class sang somewhere else. This really should’ve been my first clue. But I didn’t get it.
I went on to participate in the school chorus for 7th and 8th grades (it was a class, they couldn’t kick me out) and even sang in a trio with two of my best friends at a church pancake breakfast. We spent many, many afternoons with the church’s choir director practicing the song she had selected for us, I Don’t Know How to Love Him, from Jesus Christ Superstar. In hindsight, the question of the song selection for a nice Presbyterian church event, let alone for three 12 year old girls makes for some interesting discussion in itself… but it was the 70s.
It wasn’t until late in my 8th grade year, when, still undaunted, naïve, and clueless, I tried out for a solo in our year-end chorus production that I was painfully confronted with the truth. The messenger of this truth was one Toni O. Toni was a year younger than me but tough as nails and exactly the type of gal that a gifted student and member of the honor society like myself feared. (I still hesitate to print her full name for fear that she’ll find this in a Google search and come beat me up.) I will never forget the moments that followed my solo audition (in which I stood up in front of about 70 of my peers and sang my heart out). I sat down, full of hope and confidence, and Toni turned around and sneered, “That sounded like sh*t.” I think that might’ve been the only time she ever talked to me. And I have never forgotten it. Ever.
Of course I was mortified. It was one of the worst moments of my young life. But, that said, I am grateful. I am grateful that she had the guts to tell me when I was young, in a relatively private setting, so I didn’t have to hear it on national TV. Because if I have learned nothing else from watching American Idol, it’s that friends and family are either universally tone deaf… or they lie.
So please remember mothers… love is blind, not deaf! Our children deserve the truth. And if you aren’t honest with them now… someday Simon Cowell will be. And they’ll never forgive you.