Friday, January 21, 2011

So I like to sing. So what?

I like to sing along with the radio. I have always liked to sing along with the radio. My parents also like to sing along with the radio, and Relly and I picked up the habit. We sang along with any and every song we knew. If we found a song we hadn't heard, we learned it in one hearing and belted it out the next time we heard it.  As far as we knew, everybody liked to sing along with the radio in the car or at home or in the store when it was on the speakers. Wherever we were, when music was playing, Relly and I were singing with it.

When I was eight my mom had a friend in the car with her, and our favorite Dixie Chicks song came on. Not stopping to think, we started singing along, failing to notice that Mom wasn't singing with us. After the song was over, her friend laughed and said, "Do they always do that?"

"Do what?" my mom asked.

"Sing along with the radio."

"Oh, that. Yeah, they always do because JR and I always do."

"Even when other people are in the car?"

My mom shrugged as she turned her truck onto the highway. "They aren't shy about singing."

"With voices like that, they shouldn't be. I've just never seen kids sing along with a radio like that."

Relly and I heard the conversation, but we didn't comment. We just started singing the next song that played. It didn't bother us. Although not nearly as talented as Daddy, we knew we'd inherited at least a passable portion of his musical abilities. We loved music. We loved singing with it, dancing to it, listening in awe as Daddy played something by ear and made up words. There was nothing more fun to us.

Because our family did it, I assumed that everybody sang along to music, regardless of who could hear or what you sounded like. When we visited Memaw and Papaw over the summer, Papaw would sometimes turn the radio off mid song, just to see what would happen. We never failed to keep going, keep time, and when he turned the music back on we were right where we were supposed to be. 

In middle school, when I would go hang out with friends, I did the same thing. Though my sister wasn't there with me (we had our own separate friends by then) I didn't stop. If I knew it, I sang it. And it was always that way, and nobody ever said anything about it. Sometimes my friends would even join in. When Daddy started dating Step Mother, she and her children also sang with whatever music was playing. It only served to reinforce my belief that everybody did it.

When I was sixteen, I started hanging out with Coltizzle and Matteo. (Obviously these are not real names.) They each had a car of their own, and whoever's car we rode in on any given day, I sang along without thought. And one day, Matteo turned to me and said, "How do you just do that?"

I stopped mid note and asked, "Do what?"

"Just sing in front of people like that. You always do it. It's like you don't care who hears you."

"Everybody sings with the radio," I answered.

"Coltizzle and I don't," he pointed out.

I thought about it. "But everybody else does."

They shook their heads. "Haven't you noticed that nobody sings until you start singing?"


"Well, nobody does if you're not."

"That's stupid. You mean to tell me that if I'm not in the car and you guys are listening to a song you like, you just...listen to it?"

"That's exactly what most people do."

"Well, that's just weird."

They both stared at me. "It never crossed your mind to think that you're weird?"

"What? No! Does it annoy everybody or something?"

"No! You have a pleasant singing voice. It's just that you don't care who listens. You can't stand reading a paper you've written in front of the class, but you can hop on a stage and play a part in a play, and you can sing with the radio and not care who can hear you. It doesn't make sense." That was Coltizzle. In those days, he rarely spoke unless he had a really good point to make. 

"But...everybody sings with the radio," I repeated.

"I'm telling you, none of us sings with the radio if you're not in the car."

Suddenly it dawned on me that maybe I should care who heard me singing. Maybe they all laughed and made fun of me behind my back. Maybe I was a freak or annoying. Maybe I should stop.

And I did. For the rest of high school, I only sang along with the radio in the company of my closest friends and my family. If somebody I wouldn't talk to about my deepest secrets and my biggest problems was present, I just listened. It wasn't nearly as fun, and sometimes I really had to concentrate on not doing it, but I was successful. 

Until one day Coltizzle, Matteo, five other friends, and I all piled into his Suburban to head off for Senior Lunch together, and Coltizzle switched his CD player on and one of my favorite songs by a German band came on, and I didn't even hesitate. I launched straight into the song and belted it out like nobody was listening because the song was just that awesome. 

I heard MK in the back seat say, "Wow, Chanel has a surprisingly pleasant voice." And then I remembered that not everybody sang along with the music, and they all probably thought I was weird. But when the awesome song was weighed against what everyone else thought, the song won. I finished it in high spirits.

And that day I decided that I didn't care who sang along or not, who laughed or who didn't. I didn't care if somebody I'd never met before heard me singing with the radio and thought it was the funniest, most horrendous thing they'd ever seen. I had a lot more fun singing with the song than I did just listening to it in awkward silence, and if anybody had a problem with it and had the nerve to complain, I could find a other friends to spend my time around.

So if I know a song, I sing it. At work, I sing along with my iPod, regardless of how many customers there are  and who can or can't hear me. I sing as I walk down the street with my headphones on. I sing when I'm cleaning or I'm walking Choo Choo. 

A co-worker commented one day when I busted out a Taylore Swift song.

"You're not supposed to sing at work." We work in a music store. 

"If you don't like the way it sounds you can cover your ears or go somewhere else," I said sweetly.

"I didn't say I didn't like it. Just that most people aren't allowed to have that much fun at work."

I picked up a trombone lyre that was sitting on the counter, held it up like a microphone, and started singing again. He laughed and went back to pricing things.

My name is Chanel. I'm five foot four and a half inches tall. I have brown hair and green eyes. I like to paint. I have a dog that I like to chase around the living room. I play the flute. I can tune a guitar and play Smoke on the Water. I can restring a guitar. I own over forty pairs of blue jeans, and a million pairs of shoes. I wear pajamas to the store sometimes. I like to wring my wet hair out on Padawan while he's sleeping in the morning after I've had a shower. 

And I sing whenever I can because it's fun, and life is too short to miss out on all of the little things. So sing along with me and never mind the people who complain. They need to learn to have fun.


  1. This was nicely written. I too used to sing along with the radio. I stopped as I got older and more self-conscious. I didn't have a problem performing in a musical or being up in front of others speaking. I think it was just the idea of me singing and nobody else was doing it. I applaud you for your ability to do what you enjoy.

  2. I don't know what planet these people are from, but I know plenty of people who sing along with the radio. Not everyone, but enough that I wouldn't think it was weird if I saw someone doing it. A friend of mine said it best once, "If people wanna sing, let 'em sing."

    Unfortunately, my singing ability is about on a par with my Paint ability. I couldn't carry a tune in a bag. Even I still sing sometimes, though. Especially if I have a song stuck in my head.

  3. Well, thank you for that. And...If you used to, then you should start doing it again. Music is so much more fun when you're interacting with it. And being self-conscious keeps you from having fun a lot of the time. And what's that saying? Work like you don't need money, love like you can't be hurt, dance like no one's watching, and sing like no one's listening. Something like that. Well, it's a good way to live.

  4. Bryan: It doesn't matter if you can sing or not. You should ALWAYS do it when you feel like it. And not being able to carry a tune isn't an excuse anymore. William Hung was offered a record deal because he was the worst singer who ever auditioned for American Idol. And I've heard people say they couldn't sing who turned out to have very nice voices. So I think it's just an excuse.

    And if you have a song stuck in your head you have to listen to the whole thing and sing along with it to get it out. The reason songs get stuck in your head is because you can't remember all of it and your brain plays it over and over again trying to figure out the whole thing. Or that's what I've been told.

  5. I also get the names of medical conditions and terms that I don't know the meaning of stuck in my head. Such as: fibromyalgia or brachiocephalic. I just like the way they sound, I guess.

  6. *laugh* Do you just walk around making lists of medical terms in your head?

  7. Naw, I usually just pick them up from commercials for medication or documentary shows. (By the way, when did they change it from "medicine" to "medication"? That damn secret committee has slipped another one under our nose.)

  8. People should ALWAYS sing along with the radio!!! Who freaking cares who's listening? They can either join in or go away!

    I come from a musical family too, so I can definitely relate. One of the reasons I knew that my husband and I could get along was when we would ride in the car together and we'd both sing along with the radio. It's a bonding experience. :)

    So I say: Rock it, Girl! Good for you!

  9. Bryan: I still use "medicine." When I go to the pharmacy, I buy medicine. When I'm suffering effects from whatever it is I've been put on, I am under the influence of medication. I thought the two were interchangeable. This is really unfair if they're slipping words by me, too.

    Candice: Aw, it's nice that he sings along with you! Padawan doesn't sing along ever, except for that one song that I can't tell you about because I swore I would never mention it again on a blog after I wrote about it on my old one. But Padawan enjoys listening to me do it. It's just not his thing. But at least I know that there are other people out there who like to do it. I bet Alisha Keys sings along with the radio.

  10. Never stop singing with the radio. I always, always do. I don't care who sees me in traffic and things I am insane. I sing at the top of my lungs AND car dance! hahaha.

    As for ringing out your hair on Padawan...hilarious! Sucks for him...but hilarious!

  11. Jewels, that is AWESOME. Car dancing takes it to a whole new level of fun.

    Padawan should consider himself lucky that I revised the system. Before I started wringing my hair out on him I'd just get out of the shower and not bother toweling off at all. Then I'd run and pull the covers off of him and jump on him. It was cold, and it woke him up. The new system is far less cruel.


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