When I was 9 years old, the local YMCA held a lip-sync contest.
It was open to all kids, and my name was the first one on that sign up sheet.
Through a promotion at McDonald's fine restaurant, I owned a record.
It was Whitney Houston's single, The Greatest Love of All, and my older sister and I would play it over and over again, screaming into our imaginary microphones about the children of the future. We'd leap from the bed to the floor in a flourish, ending with Find your strength in looooooooove!
Self-love! That song was about self-love! And how to teach it to the children, who are our future.
Even then, I was preparing myself to blog.
In a swift move of overconfidence, I believed that silently bellowing out this song, passionately mouthing the words, would be the same feat in a gym of 350 sweaty kids as it would with an audience of one sibling.
When it was my turn to perform, and the record was playing, I instead did my best impersonation of a Great Blue Heron: stood on one leg, the other leg folded behind me, foot held by hand. The hand unoccupied by foot gripped the microphone, held it directly against my lips, which were parched and imperceptibly moving. If the contest had given points for which kid could remain motionless for 3 minutes and 47 seconds, I surely would have won. But instead I received a sympathy prize, a bag of candy, sort of like, "We felt embarrassed with you, here's some candy."
I thought of this the first time I saw a spoken word poet perform at a poetry slam.
Like, that lady would have killed it at the Y contest.
No shame candy for her, she'd go home with a medal.
This is poet Kate Makkai performing at the National Poetry Slam in 2002.
The poem is called, Will I Be Pretty?