October 8, 2020 – Stage Fright

So many missed opportunities, so many. I yearned to perform, I knew I could really get the crowd on its feet. If only I could conquer ‘the beast’. While I was in grade school, a piano recital was the first time it reared its ugly head. I had practiced for weeks, months. I could play the song with my eyes closed. But on that dreaded day, when it came time to perform in front of all of those people, I couldn’t do it. I sat down on the piano bench and put my fingers on the keys, and my mind went completely and utterly blank. The beast (aka Stage Fright/SF) was standing directly behind me, its sinewy hands gripping my shoulders. It actually looked a lot like ‘Death’ but the hooded cape was red instead of black, and in lieu of a scythe, SF was brandishing a rather menacing hook (like the kind they used on the Gong Show to pull someone off the stage). The piano teacher was disgusted, my mom was disappointed, and I was humiliated and ashamed. It was my first and last piano recital, I gave up the piano after that.

It wasn’t long before I got my courage back and thought I’d try something different. We had just moved to a new town and I had enrolled in a new school (junior high) and figured it’d be a nice icebreaker. A talent show was being advertised and I signed up to do an improvisational ‘dance’ wearing a clown suit to the tune of “Cocktails for Two” by Spike Jones. Well, my guardian angel (GA) must have been working overtime because he/she shut that whole thing down before I managed to make a complete and total ass of myself in front of the entire school and commit social suicide. Whew. That was a close one!

A couple of years later, I found my courage yet again. I’m now in high school and as you know, I can be a bit of a slow learner sometimes, so when cheerleading tryouts were announced, this girl got busy and put her name on that list! “I’m not scared of you SF”, I said to myself. “I can do this!” I spent nearly every afternoon practicing the routine with a friend, who looked like a Barbie doll and was one of the nicest people you could possibly meet. I’m pretty sure the routine we were supposed to perform was backed by the track of “Billie Jean” by Michael Jackson or “Time Warp” by Richard O’Brien. The Rocky Horror Picture Show was all the rage at the time, so it likely was “Time Warp”.

It seemed like we played and practiced to that song at least 100 times in order to prepare. The cassette was probably worthless after we were finished with it. Anyway, the day finally arrived to try out for the team. I was a nervous wreck but I thought I could push through the anxiety and show ’em my moves. Ha! Was I ever wrong!! I should have known when I saw that flash of red just behind the curtain. Man, it snuck up on me so fast I didn’t even realize it was standing behind me until I felt that familiar grip on my shoulders, and my mind went completely and utterly blank yet again. “Time Warp” was playing in the background and I was standing there like a deer in the headlights. If I could have, I would have kicked SF in the groin but it was hard to locate it under that voluminous robe, so instead I spat in its face. I didn’t really. Actually, I hung my head, feeling completely devastated and humiliated, and walked off the stage.

Looking back, I actually wonder if GA and SF were one in the same? I never liked playing the piano, it always felt like a chore, so the experience at the recital which resulted in my quitting was actually a ‘win’. And of course, the fact that I didn’t actually perform in the middle school talent show and become a social pariah was an even bigger ‘win’. And what the hell was I thinking trying out for the cheerleading squad anyway? That would have been the most unnatural fit for me. I’m a low maintenance kind of gal and I shudder just thinking about having to spend all that time on hair and makeup, and the skimpy outfits that required daily shaving. Have you tried to shave an entire leg, top to bottom, front and back? Think about it. Now multiply that times two. I see you nodding in agreement. You understand. If I wasn’t so hormonal and had a clearer brain at the time, I probably would have come to that realization much earlier and saved myself a lot of time and effort. But as it stands, looks like my GA/SF stepped up once again and prevented me from making yet another bad move, which was in fact a huge ‘win’.

Thank you, GA/SF. You’ve saved my keister more times than I care to admit to. Maybe one of these days I’ll stop putting myself into situations where you’re required to swoop in and save the day. I will try, honestly, I will try. I can’t promise you because as we both know, I’m a slow learner. But, hey, there’s always hope, right? There’s always hope.


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