People who can sing well think that you’re always joking about not being able to sing. Those who were born with the ability to effortlessly hit notes can have a difficult time understanding that you can’t—not won’t, but actually can’t. This means that when you try to sing and your best attempts get you nowhere near the right notes, they’ll smile and gently shake their heads, assuming that your horrible singing is intentional. Oh, you! Always joking around!
Auditions for school musicals are deeply humiliating. You would think that professional music teachers would be more empathetic about kids who can’t sing in tune, but they too seem to think that you’re just not trying hard enough. “Sing this note. No, this note. Here, let me play it again. Sing this. No, no, no! Just sing this note!” Fortunately, if you’re also out of shape, you’re already familiar with public humiliation from the Presidential fitness tests.
You learn to lip-synch “Happy Birthday.” Especially if you happen to be standing near someone who’s taking a video of the candle-blowing, which puts you at risk of being the source of that loud atonal mooing that drowns out everyone who’s singing the song in tune.
Your only option in karaoke is comic relief. You know that person who grabs the mic and brings the whole bar to tears with their thrilling rendition of “My Heart Will Go On”? That will never be you. You know that person who semi-raps Donna Summer’s “Hot Stuff” and then bends over to sloppily twerk up against the old lady running the karaoke machine? That’s a reasonable option for you.
Taking the mic in Rock Band is a perilous adventure. You watch the bead move up and down as you try desperately to modulate your voice to hit the tonal target, however briefly, and score a few elusive points. This means that when you’re expected to hold a note, you just sound seasick.
You have to give up that dream of being a singer-songwriter. If you dare write a couple of songs and bring your guitar to an open mic at your local coffee shop, be prepared to watch people look up from their lattes and furrow their brows at you with expressions that mingle annoyance and pity.
You learn to value extreme simplicity in songwriting. You’ll find that one folksinger who rocks out in three-note songs that land squarely in what might be considered your “range,” and that performer’s records will become your road trip soundtrack for life because you can sing along with minimal danger of sounding completely ridiculous.
You hate a capella groups even more than most people hate a capella groups. When you find yourself on the campus shuttle with a group who spontaneously bust into their elaborate arrangement of “Locked Out of Heaven,” it will take all your strength to refrain from whipping your MacBook straight at the syncopated tenor’s throat.