Thursday, January 25, 2007

Eating My Words (One of My Favorite Meals, It Seems)

“I’m not a big fan of karaoke, even at midnight, when everyone’s drunk and it seems appropriate…but in the middle of the afternoon, when no one’s drunk, and you’re at a party with your colleagues?” This is an exact quote from an email I sent to a friend of mine who used to work at my former company with me. We’ve both moved onto greener pastures, and I was debriefing her on that company’s Christmas party this year, for which I inexplicably received an invitation. I’d decided to go, because I still have quite a few friends who work there whom I don’t get to see nearly as frequently as I’d like (or used to). If I’d known karaoke was going to be on the agenda, however, I might not have been so quick to accept.

In fairness, I’ve never actually been to a karaoke bar, nor stuck around long enough at a regular bar that does karaoke on Tuesday nights after 10:00, or whatever. But I’m very aware of what they are and what they’re like, which is why I don’t hang out in them. I’m someone, as you know, who can’t stand the notion of getting up and speaking in front of a bunch of people, let alone singing. And when I drink, depression of my hypothalamus exaggerating this tendency in me, I’m even less likely to want to do such things.

I’m also someone who is extremely uncomfortable watching others make fools of themselves, and I’m sorry, unless you really are Aretha Franklin, Debbie Harry, or Tina Turner, chances are, you really can’t dance and sing like them, no matter what you might think. Thus, you’re going to look like a fool when you get up on that stage and drown out the music (which always seems to fade into the background like the ending of an old 45 record the minute someone grabs a microphone) with your off-key warbling. Yes, I’m sure your mother did say you were going to be a star one day. What I want to know is: how many martinis had she had when she told you that? I want to know, because I want to replicate her experience right here and now, so I can see if I can hear what she heard, since, Sister, it certainly hasn’t come through yet.

So, you may wonder what I was doing at another party less than a month later singing karaoke. Eating my words; that’s what. I think they were, “It’s my party, and I’ll cry if I want to.” When our friends told us they’d gotten a free karaoke machine and were having a party, I didn’t believe we’d really be singing. After all, I’ve been to a few other parties with these machines, and they’ve always sat in the corner, quietly, where such things belong.

However, I’d forgotten that this party was being hosted by our friend Rob. Rob is rivaled only by Bob (does “Robert” mean “determined?”) when it comes to determination. He and his wife had somehow missed the opportunity to use this thing at their last party, and he was bound and determined that we were going to use it this go around. Before I knew it, I was sitting on the couch, mesmerized as all the words to all these old songs flashed on the television screen, and I found myself saying, “Wow, I never knew that’s what that line was.” And then he said to me, “Here, hold this for a second,” and I looked down to find he’d put a microphone in my hand.

Well, the next step was to start belting out some of these songs. I mean, how can you hear such things as “December 1963’ and not want to sing? I was cursing the evil manufacturers of this horrid machine. But then, as we all sang “Blowin’ in the Wind,” I realized this wasn’t really karaoke. No one was up on stage alone, American Idol fantasies running through their heads. We were a chorus of horrible voices. It was like an old-fashioned hootenanny.

A hootenanny. I’m about as familiar with one of those as I am with a karaoke bar. Somehow, though, like a kid forever stuck in middle school, this is the generation into which I was born. Not the one that sits around at hootenannies protesting wars, making up songs, and pretending to be Joan Baez, nor the one that hops up onto stage all alone, pretending to be Britney Spears, but no, the one in which the campfire is a large-screen television; the songs are as familiar as a bowl of Frosted Flakes; and everyone shares the stage together, laughing at how bad they are.

Perhaps it’s not quite such a bad generation after all: we’re all looking forward to being eighth-graders next year and ruling the school.


litlove said...

I've never sung karaoke, but have the same horrified fascination you do. The thought of being alone on stage and warbling to a half-remembered song is the stuff of my nightmares. But this sounds altogether jollier. Singing together is community spirit, not individual persecution!

Anonymous said...

What a great time! I've never done karaoke and never will if I can help it, but a group sing-along sounds like fun. It brings back memories of campfires for sure :)

Rebecca H. said...

I agree with the others -- singing with a group is fine, but singing alone? No. I've never done karaoke and I seriously doubt I ever will. Your party sounds like it was fun!

Emily Barton said...

You're all right: the singalong was great fun -- everyone searching through the CDs and happily "fighting" over what we were going to sing next.