Monday, April 20, 2009

If You're Gonna Suck, Suck Out Loud*

I am, by nature, a shy person and creature of habit. I am happiest when left to read a book in a corner by myself (or with my husband or children). This fact comes as a surprise to people who have met me recently, since I've become a full-time working adult. I tend to hold my own in conversation and do well in new situations and in front of groups (though secretly I am a great big ball of anxiety because I suck at small talk and hate the knowledge that people are actually looking at me). My transition from a shy person to someone who pretends not to be shy happened after I got married and had children. Brian is a naturally gregarious person who loves to be the center of attention and is genuinely interested in other people. Traveling through life with Brian means having to get used to talking to all sorts of people. When we had Frances it became immediately apparent that she, like her father, loved being in the world and loved being with other people. Not wanting to inhibit her natural curiousity and fearlessness, I found myself pretending to be perfectly comfortable with engaging in conversation with parents and kids we didn't know, venturing down paths we'd never going down before, and generally doing things just because they were new. I tried to model the behavior I wanted to see in Frances, despite how much I would have rathered just go home and read a book.

Which brings us to last Saturday when Frances and a friend and I went to the Avery Research Center for a demonstration of blues harmonica and African drumming. All of the participants were given a harmonica and taught a few basic notes. And then we were all supposed to jam together. Renard Harris, the harmonica instructor, would point to each of us in turn and we would play or sing or drum or do whatever. This is exactly the sort of thing I spend my entire existence avoiding. But there I was with Frances and her friend, both of them looking terrified at the thought of being called on, and there was only one thing to do. Whenever Renard pointed at me, which he did several times, I blew on my harmonica or sang with enthusiasm, as if my stomach wasn't a big knot of anxiety.

In the end I think both girls had a really good time. Frances has been playing her harmonica almost non-stop since Saturday (she's writing blues songs in her notebook and listening to old Chess blues--every once in a while we hear her from her room saying, "Amen brother, Amen" while listening to Muddy Waters or Bo Diddley). I kind of hope, though, that I don't have to play harmonica or sing again any time soon.

*When Renard tried singing in a band for the first time and gave a really timid, lame performance, his friend gave him this piece of sage advice.

1 comment:

susan said...

Great post. I am like your husband. People are equally surprised when we gregarious, talkative types need some downtime. We don't always want company. We like a good book, too.

Would love to hear more about your reading habits. Fearless daughters are great.