The Dumbest Thing I Ever Did: Eighth Grade Graduation

Natasha-Bedingfield-1261411

Hipper than a pelvis

Let’s set the scene, shall we? June, 2010. A suburban high school auditorium. Middle school graduation. I was in all my pubescent glory, resplendent in a floral J.C. Penney dress and matching beige flats. Food-shaped earrings dangled from my inflamed earlobes and the braces encasing my teeth were sparkling brighter than diamonds. In short, I was in my prime.

A teacher had previously asked my friend and I to sing a song of our choosing for the ceremony, based on our “fun” performances in the school talent show earlier that year. The two of us spent numerous hours mulling away on what song to choose. “Time of your life” by Green Day? Too on the nose. “Pomp and Circumstance?” Lacking in the teen angst department. Finally, we settled on what seemed to be a perfect song: Natasha Bedingfield’s “Unwritten.”

It couldn’t have been better. Bedingfield was cool, English, and a proven success at middle school dances. As someone who had previously suffered previous humiliation from a certain carpool-show tunes incident (in which a really cool neighbor of mine got into my mother’s car while this song was playing) I was determined to sing something hip n’ relevant that would resonate with my fellow youths.

There was only one problem: all the karaoke versions of the song included a disembodied female voice gently moaning in the background, something we found slightly off-putting. I played trombone, my friend played cello. We had no means with which to accompany ourselves. So, like all great artists, we decided to go it alone.

The day came. Before I even took my seat I was regretting our agreement to perform. During the various speeches about scholasticism and the other virtues of a junior high education, I was squirming in my seat, sweating through my Va-Va-Vanilla Scent Expressions deodorant. Then it was time to get on stage.

Having appeared in numerous community theater productions such as “The King and I” (as Twin #2), “Once Upon a Mattress” (as Lady in Waiting #4) and a spectacular 6th grade version of “Macbeth” (as a Scottish gent), I was no stranger to the stage. The bright lights didn’t faze me. I was in my element. Whipping out my pitch pipe, I squeaked out a tuning note, then began.

My confidence immediately disappeared. As I warbled through the first verse, my eyes swept out over the rows of tweens in the audience,  An odd peace, like the calm you get after vomiting, swept over me. It was happening. I was singing this song in front of everyone I’d ever had a crush on (except for Mark, who’d attended another middle school. He was always a soulful drifter, that Mark) and everyone to whom I’d lied about my knowledge of Carrie Underwood. My teachers, my parents, a stray custodian: they were all listening.

Minutes crept by. The song marched on in monophonic tedium, our voices thinly echoing through the auditorium. Finally, we ended strong by repeating “the rest is still unwritten” thrice, each time slower than the last. We walked off stage to scattered applause. I rolled my eyes at a girl in the audience in an attempt at being blase about the whole ordeal; she smiled uncomfortably back. I shimmied back to my alphabetically-assigned seat, sitting down just in time to see the three hippest boys in our grade walk on stage wearing vests. Vests.

They proceeded to play an original song (while accompanying themselves!!!) and the audience ate it up. They loved it. loved it, despite the white-hot jealously burning within me throughout the whole affair. So I didn’t play guitar. So their straightened bangs looked cooler than mine did. I had something none of those guys had. No, not artfully faded high tops or distressed skinny jeans, but someday I knew-I knew– I would be cool.

Because, like, the rest is still unwritten, right?

 

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