When I was in my 20s and 30s, I collected a lot of movies on VHS tapes and didn’t have cable. On long, lonely weekend afternoons, and occasional weeknights, I would grab a tape and pop it in for comfort, sometimes even while I was doing something else like crafting or cleaning. Life is pretty different now. I gave away all the tapes a few years ago, no longer craft, and, gasp!, have cable because it was the only way I could get cheap internet.
However, one of my beloved favorites to return to in those days was About a Boy. I thought Hugh Grant’s struggle to get past his philosophy of Island Living was poignant. This month, my Literary Therapy book club is reading Attached, which posits different personality types as styles of relating to each other, either secure, anxious, or avoidant. Hugh’s character is definitely avoidant, but he’s secretly fascinated by people who are different from him.
One of the characteristics he points out is others’ ability to sing with their eyes closed, using the metaphor to describe a state of being completely without care of what others think, totally in the moment. He scoffs but is fascinated in that way that we all do when feeling conflicted about something we don’t understand and yearn to be at the same time, as if staring through a glass at exotic creatures.
In the film’s culmination, Hugh’s worst nightmare/secret fantasy comes true, and he finds himself singing with eyes closed on stage in front of hundreds of strangers. Worse, they are surly, judgy teenagers. Read: Your basic nightmare.
The reason I’m telling you all this is, for the past five weeks, I’ve been experiencing such unfettered joy on Thursday nights, I have to share it with you. I have laughed with deep down belly laughs. I have witnessed as others have sung with eyes closed. And yes, I have done so myself.
What’s bringing me such joy? The Atlanta Karaoke League.
Having done a bit of karaoke from time-to-time, I always had my standard three songs I would pull out everywhere I went. They were crowd pleasers; I sang them moderately well. I might even have won a cruise ship competition once.
But, now, we are deep into an eight-week long competition with three rounds of songs each week. The standard songs are long gone. I and my teammates have all had to dig deep. By the second week, we knew we’d been thrown in the deep end as teams started showing up with costumes and props. Somewhere around the week I found us out in the restaurant parking lot, practicing our dance routine, but trying to conceal ourselves from the other teams, I began seeing it all as a magical cross between American Idol and camp skit night.
To date, we’ve seen the long, dangly beards of the Soggy Bottom Boys; the red, plastic hats of Devo; hula skirts; Garth Brooks with his head mic; Prince. I may even have worn a mullet somewhere in there. The best week was when my team won the whole night, particularly for our rendition of “A Whole New World” from Aladdin, wherein I was the Magic Carpet.
Let’s face it, my team does better when we foreground my skills as a goober, and background my singing. But, who cares? Last night, I sang, or butchered, “Me and Bobby McGee” with eyes closed, wearing a cowboy hat, with such vigor I felt completely awake and alive and in the moment. And I’m definitely having more rampant fun than I’ve had since camp skit nights.
What makes you feel that alive?