Cat on Hot Tin Roof

Everyone is born with talent. Generally, more than one talent. Obvious talents and hidden talents, like being able to twist the stem of a maraschino cherry into a knot (yep, I can), the ability to touch their tongues to their nose (nope, can't do that), or being able to belch out the ABC's, twice, in one burp. (Nope, can't do that either. But respect all who can...right, Tulip?) Some people search their whole lives to find their hidden talents, others discover it immediately. I knew when I was 15 that I have an ear for learning foreign languages. I didn't find out until I was 26 that I am a natural born killer on a paint ball field. Men fear me. I am the surprise warrior, the one every boy figures will be an easy target, right until the moment I shoot them between the eyes. They never see it coming. I am also exceptionally talented at picking off tin cans on a fence with live ammo. Much to Boo's disgust.

I can also draw stick figures well, and paint like Picasso. And I am exceptionally talented at spurting milk through my nose. Ask my kids. They have been sprayed. As I grow older, I discover new hidden talents, whenever I try new things. I also discover what I suck at. Which, as it turns out, is quite a few things. But no one is perfect, right?

As a small child, I harboured secret fantasies of becoming a famous rock star and marrying Michael Jackson and going on tour with him and our children. I used to listen to his music on my radio, and sing into my hairbrush while envisioning our future together. Of course, that future didn't include him feeding his Jesus juice to young boys, or forcing his children to wear table clothes over their heads, but hey, I was eight.

That dream was quickly squashed the moment my dad burst into my room with a panicked look on his face. As I was singing my heart out to Billie Jean, my daddy thought I was torturing our family cat. Apparently my singing sounds much the same as when a cat's tail is caught in the door.

That wasn't the last time my budding singing career was over before it began. I was once asked to sing softer in the school choir so the more gifted voices could be heard over my caterwauling, and my husband threatened to leave me if I persisted to screech If I had a Million Dollars while I showered.

I have made peace with my inability to carry a tune or even recognize the note. I know I am horrible sounding, I accept it. That doesn't mean that I am going to stop singing though. I just do it quieter, and generally, when I'm alone. Or trapped in the car with my kids. Because nothing is more punishing than listening to your mother belt out Respect while you silently cringe and hope none of your friends are in the car next to yours. Right?

Of course, there are millions of people who don't accept their vocal limitations. Thus, American Idol was born. The viewing public (i.e. me) loves to sit at home and toss popcorn at the telly whenever those bozos screech sing to the judges. And it thrills me when those dopes have a tantrum when they are told they aren't fit for human consumption. I want to ask them if they have working ears. Because really, how can you mistake that horrible squealing sound for music?

Last night, I was invited out. Tricked really. A friend called up and asked if I needed to get out of the house, have a drink, discuss grown up issues. What he failed to mention was the fact that we were going to a karaoke bar. Imagine, my horror (and secret delight) to realize I would be stuck in musical hell. And no one would laugh at me. I could finally be free with my vocal abilities, embrace my natural, God-given er, talent and let it all hang out.

Picture Cameron Diaz in My Best Friend's Wedding. That could be me.

Of course, it wasn't. I'm too uptight classy for that. Plus, the owner of the pub is my friend, and I wouldn't want to be singly responsible for driving away his paying customers. Which I was not. (I wouldn't want my access to free booze dry up.)

No, instead, I sat back and watched the crowd take turns at the foolishness. I quickly discovered there are three types of karaoke singers. The Good, the Bad, and the very, very Ugly. Every one loves watching the Good ones sing, as it inspires us, makes us sit up and take notice of that particular person and wish we sounded that good while belting out a tune. The Bad singers aren't so bad, they just sound awful. But they are having fun doing it, and hey, that's what counts, right?

But the Ugly ones, those are the ones to watch. These are the people who take this public singing phenomenon very seriously. They dress up for the part, totter about in their leopard print stilettos and their tight green skirt with hot pink belt, with their shoulders back and boobs out; while looking you in the eye and daring you to laugh at them.

Which, of course, I do. But only when they aren't looking, because I am a bit of a pansy that way. These are the ones who truly believe they sound good, and they are just waiting for their big break. These are the ones it hurts to watch. Unless you are intoxicated, in which case, it is just plain fun. Especially to heckle them.

Which I would never do. At least not drunkenly. If I'm to heckle, I'll do it sober.

I never did work up the courage to step up to the microphone. The voices of my past kept ringing in my ears. That, and the sound of a cat screeching. I decided my life was too short for that sort of public humiliation.

I would much rather humiliate myself in other ways. Like talking loudly about my vagina in a public place or walking around with toilet paper stuck to my shoe.

But you can bet your ass that last night inspired me. When I step into the shower today, I'm gonna belt out a tune. And maybe with enough practice, I can convince myself that the world is wrong. I don't stink.

At least, I won't when I get out of the shower.