48 essays by Elizabeth Shé

Posts Tagged ‘voice’

Essay #15: sing out

In Love on June 13, 2011 at 5:06 pm

I have a song in my heart. But somewhere along the way to growing up I decided I wasn’t good enough to sing it. Recordings of my voice made me cringe. I sounded squeaky, and girly. I wanted a tough-babe smoky growl – muy macha.

Whenever I think I should be different than I am, it causes problems. Sigh.

Pre-self-consciousness, when I was a kid, we sang everywhere: at home, in the car, on camping trips. My mother sang us to sleep every night. I used to make up songs on the way home from school. I didn’t worry about being ‘good enough.’

Two nights ago, on the way home from the grocery store, I passed a yard patrolled by a frantic, barking hound. Doesn’t matter how often she sees me (I’ve lived down the street for years), she prefers to announce my presence to everyone within a quarter-mile radius.

Last night, she ran along the fence as usual, but could only grunt and wheeze. Apparently she’d had her vocal cords severed. Someone had removed her voice.

This is not okay.

I silenced my song out of fear: that you won’t like it, that I’ll sing off-key, that I’ll do it wrong. But silence became a habit that was hard to break, even when my health depended on it (domestic violence, sexual abuse, poverty).

Not only did I silence my song, but I silenced my desires, my dreams. I have reams of poetry, stories, essays, scripts, and, yes, songs — bundled away in composition books and loose-leaf binders. Filing cabinets full of writing, rarely shared, yet carefully moved from place to place over the years.

It’s easier for me to speak up for someone who cannot. Even a fearful, not-too-smart dog should have the option to speak, to sing.

She deserves that much.
And so do I.

John Lennon didn’t like his voice much, but he sang anyway. Maybe I will, too, with a little help from my friends…