There are times in my life where I think to myself, “holy hell I was one weird kid.”
This happened a couple of days ago, as I sat in my office regaling one of my co-workers about the time in grade six when I wrote an award-winning speech on the life of Evita Peron. At the time I was unabashedly obsessed with the movie musical starring Madonna and Antonio Bandaras, and my presentation was written from the perspective of one of Evita’s childhood friends (played by me). In my zeal to create a compelling narrative, I fictionalized a series of letters that (I liked to imagine) the two women had sent back and forth between the time she moved to Buenos Aires in 1934 before her death in 1952. I even cried at the end, reminiscing about our lost childhood innocence.
It was pretty nuts.
(The reason that I was telling this tale in the first place was because I felt my work aesthetic that day to be very “Evita-esque” and had asked the same co-worker how she thought the two below photos compared):
“Hair needs less bangs, and more height,” she rightfully critiqued.
Then we laughed like drains.
After we regained our composure, I told her about my speech, and my ever-enduring love for the Evita musical.
She again started laughing, before shaking her head and asking the oft-repeated question: “how did you end up being this way?”
To which I answered, as always, “I have no friggin clue.”
I was just a weird kid who was into weird things.
But not only that – I really, really liked the things that I liked, and even though I desperately wanted to fit in, I could never truly let my desire for social approval and acceptance outweigh my desire to be strange as hell.
Case in point: every year my elementary school held a day totally dedicated to airbands (or lip synchs if you will.)
It was a huge thing. Kids had to audition in front of their class and the king of teachers himself – the formidable Mr. Bell – in order to get on the program.
The best outcome one could hope for was to be cast in the both the morning and afternoon shows, which meant you were out of classes for the entire day and were able to showcase your routine for multiple audiences on different shows.
It was the best.
In grade five I was a new student to the school and, despite loving to be on stage and wanting desperately to perform, I was too nervous to put anything together for the auditions.
I remember very clearly the only acts that tried out from our class were two groups of boys who literally performed “air bads” – with guitars, basses and drum sets – to “Lump” by the Presidents of the United States of America and “Basket Case” by Green Day.
I had never seen boys hop around on stage, pretending to play instruments before. It was totally bizarre.
(I had also never heard the latter song and quickly became obsessed. I would sit by my radio with my blank cassette at the ready, poised for the exact moment it would begin to play.)
The next year however, I was primed and ready. I had a solid group of friends – some of whom who had even agreed to act with me!
Together we put on “Hakuna Matata” and “RESPECT.”
Imagine, if you will, the tallest, skinniest, whitest twelve year-old, harnessing everything her bad-ass, budding feminist self has to offer, so that for approximately four minutes, she WAS Aretha Franklin.
It just may have been the finest performance of my life.
I distinctly remember all the teachers absolutely losing their minds.
Hakuna Matata too was a pretty good show. We had an absolute blast, dressed head to toe in tie-dye, pretending to be the animals, and really getting into the spoken word sections.
Nothing like a farting warthog to get us going!
However, because I wasn’t one to ever leave anything well enough alone, I decided that I wanted to do one last airband to round out that year’s revue.
At that time of my life I was also pretty obsessed with the Forrest Gump Soundtrack (being as it was that I was Benjamin Buttons, and reverse aging like a fiend, from eighty to eleven) and I especially like the song “I Don’t Know Why I Love You, But I Do” by Clarence “Frogman” Henry.
I mean, to its credit, it’s a solid, nice song.
But what I could have possible been thinking when I chose THIS tune as my third airband is an enigma wrapped in a mystery folded inside of an ARE YOU EVEN KIDDING ME?
The one thing that sold the entire act was that I committed like crazy. I dressed up in a suit, wore a tie and bowler hat, and carried a cane. The whole thing was so earnest I was basically Charlie Chaplin in an after-school special.
Evidently Mr. Bell really dug the performance, because he cast me in the morning and afternoon shows.
I never for a moment even stopped to think that what I was doing was brave, or nerdy, or subversive, or strange.
I just liked the song and thought people might identify with the lyrics!
The reaction I received left me absolutely stupefied. People were impressed! And not necessarily by my performance, but by my bravery for going through with the performance in the first place.
I’ll never forget Carrie Knoll coming up to me after the morning’s show and just blurting out “That was one of the coolest, cutest things ever. I cannot believe you had the guts to do it.”
I thanked her profusely. Being one of the coolest girls in our grade, her words were more than just a compliment – they were an act of legitimization, of the acceptance that I really truly did crave.
I was just flabbergasted that they were born from (what was perceived to be) such an extremely nerdy public endeavor.
Which just goes to show, you totally can kill two birds with one song.
Especially if it’s from a soundtrack you love.