Perfect Fifth

When did you last sing to yourself? To someone else?

Ask everyone you know whether they sing. Unless you're mostly friends with musicians, the answer will invariably be: "In the shower!" a statement accompanied by a scoff and shame-faced flush. People don't like admitting that they sing.*

I last sang to someone else yesterday. The kid has brought home a mysterious song, which is a thing the kid does, and it gets stuck in my head in spite of its puzzling lyrics and lack of discernible tune.

I like fish, I like fish, swimming in the waaaaaater.

I last sang to myself maybe also yesterday? Hard to say. I don't always notice when I'm singing to myself. Let's be honest, though, it was probably that same song.

I like sharks, I like sharks, swimming in the waaaaaater.

Parents of young children are unique creatures, though, and we probably sing a lot more than our toddler-free compatriots.

I tried to start a song circle among my friends a few years ago. I wanted the kid to grow up comfortable with singing, and my parents hold a monthly potluck with community singing that seemed just right. After a delightful start, and a great deal of vocal enthusiasm from several parties, people just...stopped coming. "No, no, keep me on the list, I really want to make it one of these days." But, you know, there's only so many times I can prep for company that doesn't come before I start to get a little discouraged. So I stopped.

The truth is, I have a complicated relationship with music myself. I love music. I can get lost in music. Mozart's Ave Verum Corpus is one of the most beautiful things I can do to my ears, and I can get just as into Hutton's Great Heat Engine by Botch. I will dance with the kid to Shut Up and Dance, and I will sing along enthusiastically to both Joan Jett and Ska-P. I discovered Sodagreen some time ago, and love them.

So whence the complication?

People who know my family don't ask me whether I sing or play music, they ask me what I play. And I don't play anything. I toyed with a variety of instruments over the years--the violin, the piano, the harp, the drum--but I've never had the discipline for them.

Ha. I can get up at 4:30 in the morning to write, but I never was able to make myself practice Three Blind Mice until I could play it without making people wince.

And there, that's the source of the complicated part. I don't like the way my relationship with music is judged. I don't like that something like singing, which brings me joy, is something that I must be careful of doing in public, lest someone hear me hit a note wrong and be displeased. I don't like how music, like drawing and writing and dance, has become an action only for professionals.

Music should be a source of joy, not of judgement or shame. If I pass you my playlist and ask you to choose a song, I shouldn't be worried about your response. If listening to Survivor makes me happy, so what? If you can't stand it, I won't listen to it when you're in the room. Or headphones. Whatever.

I'm getting all kinds of riled up here, folks.

The same is true for singing. We worry our voices will be offensive to those around us because they're not professional. We keep ourselves from dancing because we're sure we'll look foolish.

Imperfection is OK. Sometimes it's fun to be foolish. Missing a note here and there isn't going to ruin someone's day. It's OK to sing.

*This may be different for those not in the United States, or even those not in the Midwestern United States.

Mikki Kendall