*Disclaimer – some of the links in this article may contain lyrics and videos that are not appropriate for children…and possibly some adults.
Harmony: Where do we find it? For some of us, our commune with inner peace comes when we sit quietly and meditate, slowly discouraging the marination on the thoughts of the day, or when we strap on our snowshoes and take a foray into the woods, chasing the magical glimpses of winter wildlife through and around the skeletons of the trees. And for yet others of us, our harmony comes, at times, from singing in the shower.
Yes, the shower. I recently read a piece by the incomparable Heather Heath Chapman (a writer out of Ann Arbor, Michigan), in which she tells the story of her habit of turning everything into a song and the role it has played in her relationship with her eldest daughter. Reading that story inspired me to write this post. Whereas in Heather’s piece it is a tale of a mother inflicting her singing on her daughter, in my case, it was all my mother’s fault that I became a shower singer; totally, absolutely, and unequivocally her fault, and it is something that I wouldn’t trade.
When I was little, in my late toddler to early elementary school days, my mom, an elementary school teacher, would (as most parents do) monitor me while I was in the bathtub. “Always test the water with your fingers first before you get in,” “Start with the cold water first and then add the hot little by little,” “No you can’t spray your play foam all over the walls,” “Your father’s shaving cream is not a toy,” etc. Now, as I grew old enough to know that keeping my head underwater for prolonged periods of time would have an undesirable effect (mostly that it would get me in trouble), my mom (again as most parents do) started letting me sit in the bath without constant supervision – with one caveat: I was to sing, loud enough for her to hear, and constantly while she was out of the room or had her back turned.
I have a few very distinct memories of her either dashing back and forth to the bathroom between scrub strokes as she washed the kitchen floor or cooked dinner and hollering, “Elizabeth, I can’t hear you! Why did you stop singing?” And that is how it started.
What was a rather ingenious bathtime safety rule set by my mother became a life-long companion to me. Now whenever I am scared or nervous or alone, I sing to myself and it calms me down. When I am driving and there is ice on the freeway and I can’t see very well because of all the precipitatin’ the weather is insistent on doing in Michigan, I sing. When I’m having anxiety about the overwhelming amount of work I have to get done, I sing. When I am in the shower and have the benefit of that little chamber of wonderful acoustics, I sing. And when the occasion calls for it, I hum.
This habit, as you get older, of course, has its consequences. For instance, it may not be as charming to hear both the woman’s and the man’s part of Once Upon a Dream from Disney’s Sleeping Beauty when it is belted out at the top of the lungs of your now almost 30-year-old daughter when she comes to visit and decides to use your shower as it once was when she was about, say…8. It could also make her appear odd and irrational to others as she parades down the street drop-drop-droppin’ those hips and swaying those arms as she does her nerdy best to rap along with Eminem’s Lose Yourself as it blares through her headphones. It also may make her look just the other side of lucid when she employs this strategy as she becomes uncomfortable in situations like waiting to be called at the doctor’s office (all eyes shift to her as the tapping of her foot goes out of control and the humming, once contained under her breath becomes – uncomfortably – audible.)
However, all in all, the benefits outweigh the risks. When I was living in Chicago and was often lonely and alone, I would sing to myself. Walking home from the bus at night by myself would have been more than enough to wig me out on some nights if it hadn’t been for that music never leaving me, just rolling right along with me whenever I needed it. It is just something I do. And I should say that I also do this when I am happy – the shower singing being a perfect example of this. When I was still living with my parents…how do I explain this without it coming out wrong…it was mildly, ever-so-slightly, mind-numbingly cramped. I had no privacy even in my bedroom (do parents ever knock? I mean really), and so the shower was a very welcome sanctuary. A place where I couldn’t be bothered by the outside world, a place where I could find some peace and wail out the tuneage from Les Miserables, Cats and Twisted Sister without any interruption from the…”Bang! Bang! Bang!” (goes the fist on the door) “ELIZABETH! QUIET DOWN IN THERE!” Apparently my music was no competition for the dramatic stylings of Melrose Place. Well Dad, ex-cu-u-u-se me!
I mean, is it so strange that when I come in to work early that I openly rock out to some Here I Go Again by Whitesnake? Is it really so weird that the other day when I was eating with my bff at Conor O’Neill’s and (it being trivia night) they played the first few bars of Montel’s This Is How We Do It that I abruptly broke from the conversation, turned my head and yelled “ha-ay!” as I raised the roof and pushed the walls (much to the surprise I’m sure of the man who caught my eye as I did this, his fork mid-way into his mouth)? Is it really so bizarre that when it’s warm outside and I have my windows rolled down that I blast Poison by Bel Biv Devoe so loud that the gentleman who was walking his daughter across the street was compelled to give me the “I gotcha” nod, causing me to sing along even louder? …no. I’m going to go ahead and say no. In fact right now at my desk I am singing (softly) and sliding my head back and forth to the tune currently playing in my noggin, which inexplicably at this moment in time is Iesha by Another Bad Creation. Who can help these things?