Sunday, March 10, 2013

Handling the Pressure

When I was in 5th grade, Helotes Elementary celebrated its 100th anniversary. To commemorate this centennial, it was decided that the students would put on a variety show that showcased every decade in American history since the school began.  Each grade was assigned two decades and we were tasked with representing these periods of time through song and dance. My class was responsible for depicting the 1960s and The Future.

Obviously, most everyone was very consumed with how to best represent what the future would be like. We all had so many questions.

What kind of music and dancing will be popular in the future? Will Lindsay Lohan win an oscar? Will gel pens still be cool? What percentage of our population will be robots? Will robots be able to breed with humans? How? How popular will cloning be? Will it be a simple process by then where you just step into some sort of booth at the mall and you walk out with a clone? Will we be friends, me and the clone? Will we clone anyone famous? Will we clone AJ McLean from the Backstreet Boys? Should we clone AJ McLean from the Backstreet Boys? Will my Tamagotchi still be alive? Will I ever get married?

Do we need more than one of these?
These were the sorts of questions flying around our 5th grade class. So obsessed was everyone with questioning the future, that most of us forgot about the fact that we also had to portray the 1960s - everyone, that is, except me and a brave boy named Travis.

Travis and I were cast as Sonny and Cher to lip sync to the song "I Got You, Babe". I'm not sure Travis knew what he was signing up for but I, on the other hand, pleaded for this role with my life. From the earliest days of my youth, Cher has been my hero. Below is a prime example of why.

The hair flips. The rhinestones. The incredible dresses. That deep bow-wow voice. That part in every song where she starts to break it down and takes off her ridiculous robe as though she can't be tamed. That moment when the announcer says, "Ladies and gentlemen...Cher". 

At ten-years-old, this is basically all I wanted out of my life. With gladness, I took on this role. This meant that I couldn't be in the segment about the future, which was fine because they had decided to do a rendition of Stomp which I was pretty sure we would not be doing in the future (it was around this time that I also predicted the invention of the iPhone).

Travis and I would rehearse with our music teacher every day, and I proudly bragged from Day 1 that I already knew all of the words. So enthused by my spirit was my music teacher that she actually lent me one of her dresses to wear for the performance. It fit like a glove (remember that I was ten and she was thirty, so you can imagine how kind puberty was already being to me at this age).

On the day of the performance, I was beaming with confidence. They had given me a beehive wig which I felt was decidedly not Cher-like, but I was fine with that. Travis had a wig and beard combo that covered his entire face, making him look somewhat like a wookie. He had been struggling to remember the lyrics in rehearsals, and I was certain that I would have to carry this guy through the entire performance.

Despite my frustration with my Sonny, I was chomping at the bit to go on. When I envisioned that moment onstage, I thought that the curtain would open on a breathless audience. After watching my mistake-free performance and my effortless hair flips, the crowd would erupt in applause, many in tears. It did not occur to me for even one second that this could be construed as funny -- that children doing an impersonation of Sonny and Cher was anything less than a brilliant portrayal of, and homage to, pop culture icons.

This is why when the curtain raised and every parent in the audience was laughing hysterically, I did not know what to think. It's Travis, isn't it?  He's forgetting all of his words. No wait, he's actually doing fine. It's got to be this wig then. Ugh, this wig. Cher would never wear this wig.

It eventually donned on me that it wasn't my wig and it wasn't even my incompetent partner. I was a kid in a dress doing a weak impersonation. I was a fifth grader -- I wasn't Cher.

I remember that instead of mouthing the lyrics to my favorite song, I ended up freezing up there with a beehive wig on my head and a boy half my size on my arm. I wanted everyone to just stop laughing and listen. If they would just listen, maybe they would appreciate how soulful a woman I truly was, but that didn't happen.

At the end, I ran offstage humiliated and listened to the muffled sounds of the rest of my class stomping to the music of the future. I wondered about my future and whether an announcer would ever say "Ladies and gentlemen...Christy".


  1. I am confident an announcer will one day say "ladies and Gentlemen...Crispyana," or we as a sociaty have screwed up royally. I just hope I get to be the announcer.

  2. OMG I too have a thing for Cher. I totally related to this article. I felt sad at the end for you/us. You deserve a do-over, just not with that wig.


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