You know the feeling. You are alone, in the shower, or cooking in the kitchen, or driving the car, singing along to the radio at the very top of your voice when, suddenly, you become aware that due to the key you have started in, you are not going to be able to make the high notes and, even though, as in space, no-one can hear you scream, you are wracked with embarrassment. What do you do? Do you just stop singing? Do you abruptly change key? Do you just think, ‘Oh bugger it!’ and let rip anyway? Whatever you decide, this is a decision you will only ever have to make when you are alone. Why? Well, in company you would almost certainly have not started singing at the top of your voice in the first place and, if you did, the ‘yelling on’ alternative would be quickly taken off the table. Being out of control in public makes us feel vulnerable; like being the last person on an otherwise full bus with an empty space beside them – even worse if the next person on takes the decision to stand anyway. In company, there are things that you just do not do. Full throttle shrieking of a song that is obviously beyond your capabilities is clearly one of them – unless, of course, you are auditioning for ‘X-Factor’, when it might just get you on the telly.
Being alone widens horizons; increases options. Take, for instance, the common experience of realising – pants down, too late to back out – that there is no toilet paper. Alone, no problem. In a house full of strangers, the kind of panic only otherwise associated with losing your trunks in the swimming pool: to cover up, is to drown.
We make these micro-decisions a thousand times a day, each one of them influenced greatly by company and circumstance. Consider taking your child to the soft play area at a restaurant and realising that your big toe is poking through your sock. Do you brazen it out, remove your socks altogether, or snatch up your screaming child and exit without paying the bill? Consider going to your doctor’s appointment, remembering only once you are settled in the waiting room that the only clean bra you could find that morning was the peep-hole number an ex-boyfriend bought you as a joke. Do you see the doctor, or stay sick? The words ‘OK, just open up your blouse and we’ll have a listen to your chest,’ could well bring on the kind of hyperventilation that results in the nurse calling a hearse.
Not only do we make decisions when we are on our own that we would never make in company, we make decisions when we are alone that we will later regret when we find ourselves squashed into a lift with half a dozen strangers: ‘My, wasn’t that garlic bread a good idea,’ ‘Thank goodness I had those two extra coffees…’ It is so easy to make a decision when you are alone in anticipation of remaining alone, despite the fact that common-sense dictates that you will not do so; that the postman will knock, that the car will break down and you will have to catch a bus, that the tills at the all-night supermarket will not be self-service, that the police officer will not be the forgiving sort…
Now, please don’t get me wrong here, I am certainly not suggesting that you should never take decisions whilst alone – it is the time, after all, of least distraction (unless Countdown is on) – but, perhaps that once made, you should run them past yourself whilst in company before implementing them. Perhaps Superman would have thought twice about wearing his pants outside of his trousers, if he had just run it past Lois first.
Anyway, as for singing at the top of your voice, you should do it whenever and wherever you can. The further you veer off tune, the louder you should become, because if you keep ploughing on, you will pop right back into it sooner or later and, anyway, like the falling tree in the forest, if there’s nobody there to hear you, do you actually make any sound at all?
I always try to cheer myself up by singing when I get sad. Most of the time, it turns out that my voice is worse than my problems. Anon