I love to sing. It’s part of who I am. I sing everywhere. I sing in the shower, I sing while doing the dishes, I sing in the car and I sing in the grocery store. I even sing while mowing the lawn!
This last fact has long been a bone of contention for Stephanie and me because when I mow the lawn, I sing along to my IPod. I turn up the volume to drown out the hum of the lawn mower, but Stephanie also says it makes me sing louder and sometimes out of tune. But make no mistake about it, the volume of my singing is the real culprit in this debate because singing loudly while mowing the lawn draws attention to the family. But as I said above, I sing everywhere.
When we moved to North Carolina last summer, Stephanie implored me to be subtle in our new community. She didn’t want me to draw attention to our family because she didn’t want to be “that family” that gets talked about by everyone else in the neighborhood. I told her I would do my best to keep a low profile but every time I mow the lawn, I can see that she cringes. And as much as my wife wishes I wouldn’t sing while mowing the lawn, we have reached a point where she has accepted that it won’t cause us any irreparable harm. Well, until yesterday, that is…
I woke up. Got the kids on the bus and on the way back to house, I realized that I needed to mow the lawn again. So I went inside the house and got ready.
I put on my powder blue UNC shorts with a dark gray tee shirt tucked into them. I then put on my light gray tee shirt with a pocket for the IPod. Unfortunately, though, the length of the light gray tee shirt stops right around my belly button but it is the only shirt with a pocket for the IPod, so it must be worn. I put on my UConn baseball hat. And to top off the ensemble, I wore my gray and orange sunglasses, socks and an old pair of grass stained sneakers.
I was a fashion nightmare, but it was Monday morning and most of my neighbors were at work. So I put the IPod ear buds in, turned up the volume, hit shuffle in the music menu, started the lawn mower and got to work.
I was in heaven. The sun was shining, the IPod was serving up an eclectic variety of great music and I was singing my way through the yard work. And just when I couldn’t think the day could get any better, the IPod served up an old James song and I started to belt out the lyrics with gusto. And just as I was making my way towards the sidewalk, mowing along the left side of the house, I sang out loudly, “Dressed me up in women’s clothes, played around with gender roles, Dye my eyes and call me pretty.”
The word “pretty” gets sung in a very high note that gets elongated throughout an instrumental part of the song. And as I was singing it in perfect pitch, I looked up to see a man in his fifties staring at me with his mouth agape while walking his two dogs past our house. Two women giggled at the lyrics that had just left my mouth while they passed right in front of me as they were out for their morning stroll.
My heart sank. I wanted to tell them that I was married and had two kids, but the damage was done. As I stood there in my short, light gray shirt, my orange and gray sunglasses and my powder blue UNC shorts, the idea of me dressing up in women’s clothes, messing around with gender roles and calling myself pretty became a distinct reality for my immediate audience. No! This was not going to work out well for me and the family. I could see the headlines of the neighborhood gossip column as they walked on down the street. And in an instant, ten months of obscurity was sliding quickly down the tubes. Their faces gave away my suspicions. We have officially become “that family.”