Singing as Social Justice
I'm eleven years old in synagogue sitting with my butt on the
turned-up leather theater seat, training my finger across the line of
Hebrew, trying to keep up with all the old men who have been singing
this song their whole lives. The sound of their voices is so sad, like
they want something they lost, like they can touch it inside themselves
to bring it back through their bodies. I imitate. Chadesh, chadesh
yomeinu, chadesh yomeinu ki-ke-dem... (return us to days of old...)
I want to be a singer. I want to feel it like that. Singing loud
enough to hear myself, hoping to stand out as a natural, I push the air
through my clenched throat, simultaneously trapped by the specifics of
my surroundings and freed by my ability to give voice to my
Later, at play practice (I'm Toodles in Peter Pan), I work to
project my voice, pushing the air up into my nose to sound bright and
perky like Heidi and Melissa and the girls who get the good parts. If I
don't sing loud nobody can hear me and I'll be overlooked. By the end
of play practice my throat hurts, but I don't want to stop. Singing
makes me feel good, like I can imagine another me. I could practically
write a song about it right now! Look at me, you may think I'm fat,
you may laugh at my fake leg, but you don't know what I got
In the car ride home I sing for my mom, proud of my volume and the
bright tone that I've learned from the theater girls. My mom rolls her
eyes and rolls down the window.
"What, you don't like it?" I ask.
"You sound so nasal, I can't even listen to you," she says.
I cry the rest of the way home, hiding my red face as I run to my
room, wondering if I will ever be loved for what's inside of me.
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