On singing in public

by Anne Moore

I have a troublingly expressive face.

For the most part, I’m able to keep it under control when I need to–talking to people I don’t particularly like, listening to boring stories, what have you. But when I’m on my own, all bets are off. The trouble is, the same goes for when I forget that people can see me–which is pretty much any time I’m “alone” in public. Whether I’m walking down the street, or on the bus, or whatever, I have that 21st-century “we live in public” thing where it slips my mind that other people can see me back, and I end up grimacing or smiling or even crying, seemingly at nothing.

I had this great moment when I was first in graduate school , when a professor I really liked but had never had for a course caught me laughing out loud at my own internal joke while walking down the hall. My embarrassment was apparently as legible as my mirth, because his immediate response was, “Don’t worry, Anne–this only makes me respect you more.”

It’s a nice gesture, albeit one I didn’t really believe at the time–perhaps because I always fear that these kinds of moments are when the curtain is lifted and the truth of my dorkiness/insecurity/mental illness/what have you is exposed for everyone. My Matrix projection of myself veers back and forth between an impossibly glamorous film star and a shuffling madman. And when I’m busted laughing at my own jokes (or crying or talking to myself), I’m definitely more on the madman end of the spectrum.

I love it, though, when I catch other people in these kinds of moments, and maybe this is what my professor was getting at. This morning, after I ordered my coffee, the cashier was singing to herself for a moment to the Depeche Mode that was being piped through the restaurant. I know, I know, she was probably just performing some kind of Coffeeshop Girl Zooey Deschanel character, but it was so lovely, and made me feel less alone in my own dorkiness.

But the best part was a few minutes later, when I was scanning the restaurant from the balcony for the friend I was meeting, and I saw this couple swaying in perfect time to “Killer Queen,” each seemingly unaware of the other. It reminded me of a fantasy I had all the time when I was in college that the world would suddenly transform into a huge Broadway musical number (and this was before Moulin Rouge, for the record).

Rock on, fellow dorks.