Why You Should Sing in Public
It truly is an injustice that lots of things that give people pure, wholesome joy are deemed as “socially inappropriate” when done in public settings. A few exceptions exist, but for the most part, what makes people think freely and relax is usually saved for private moments or time spent with few others. Why do we push so hard for social appropriateness when it lessens our ability to feel true, unrestrained joy? I believe that if we were to break these common norms, we could create a community that would not only welcome individuality, but also encourage people to express themselves in healthy ways.
Why are things considered “unacceptable” in social circumstances? I literally have no good answer to this. That is my big question in regards to my claim. Is it based in some misconception or fear of being judged? Is it a self-confidence issue? Are we not “good enough” to share our joy with the world? I am trying to decipher this social construct, and so far I am doing a crappy job of it. My personal theory is that it if we ask all these questions, we will find that we don’t have a very good reason to abstain from sharing what gives us true joy; it’s just what we’ve been told time and time again from people throughout our lives.
I find myself experiencing that sense of joy when participating in music-related activities. Singing, dancing, and jamming out to tunes is something I thoroughly enjoy. I grew up as a part of a very musically-gifted family. I have been singing and dancing almost as long as I have been walking and talking. I have had many opportunities to showcase my own musical gifts throughout my years. I am not on the same level as your average music major, but I have developed my talents so that I am pleased with my own prowess. However, if I were to shimmy down the street singing along to my tunes, whether I sound like a tone-deaf Nick Nolte or Freddie Mercury in his prime, it is not seen as particularly socially acceptable. My parents taught me that I shouldn’t sing in public to avoid embarrassing myself in public. I do not remember how many times my loving father told me “it’s fine to sing in the car, but you do not have to perform.” In his defense, I do get carried away when I sing and dance in the car or walking on the street. I tend to put on a show and flirt with the limits of my voice. Despite my training, some other aspects also get in the way. I have a particularly deep-set voice, which though it may sound mesmerizing when I talk, it does not match the range or timbre of the vast majority of popular singers. People tend to equate the ability to sing high with the ability to sing well (when was the last time you heard a man’s voice on the radio and thought “Wow, his voice is so deep, what a good singer). For someone who loves singing along to popular music, that causes a wide assortment of challenges when I feel like pouring out my soul in song.
Do I let this stop me? Absolutely not. I find myself enjoying life so much more when I am jamming out while walking down the street. It always has a way of instantly making my day better, no matter what kind of mood I was in before. When I am ornery and grumpy about having to get up early and tackle the day ahead, getting lost in some guilty pleasure songs makes me a little more bright-eyed and bushy-tailed than usual. When I talk to a particularly interesting and attractive young lady and secure a first date, my go-to method of celebration is snapping on my headphones and strutting down the street. When life seems a little “meh,” jamming to my playlists always put a little more spring in my step. It is a healthy self-indulgence that provides the much-needed respite and chipper attitude that I need most days.
So far, it seems as though I am not the only person who benefits from my indulgence. When I started college, my father was not walking the sidewalks with me to tell me that I should abstain from breaking into song, so I did what every college student does, I rebelled against what my parents told me for years. I started singing or lip syncing on my way to classes, and it was AWESOME! People would turn away and shyly smile, laugh, give me a thumbs up, fist bump me, give me a high five, make a comment about how much they love that particular song, and occasionally join with me in singing. I have yet to have someone confront me and tell me to refrain from sharing my joy with the rest of campus. There have been a few rare cases where people seem mildly annoyed, but overall, the reactions I observed were overwhelmingly positive. One experience in particular gave off a particular vibe that I was doing something worthwhile. My roommate and I were both walking back to our dorm after our class was over. He had a head start and was chatting it up with a young lady from a nearby building in our apartment complex. I was belting out the melody to what I consider most underrated boy band songs of all time (Act My Age by One Direction), and my roommate addressed the fact that we were in the same apartment and apologized on my behalf. She responded with, “Oh no, I love it. It’s my favorite part of the day” (to answer your burning question, no I did not find her and ask her out, my life is not that poetic). Weeks later, a different young woman came up to me after class and told me that whenever she heard me sing, it made her day better (Like the first story, I was an airhead and didn’t get her contact information either). As someone who loves to please others, this interaction reiterated to me by said roommate made me feel like this little impulse I’ve been dealing with my entire life may not be as bad and “socially unacceptable” as I’ve been led to believe all these years.
One possible reason that people don’t consider it acceptable is due to the source. The perfect paradigm of this is the story of Joshua Bell. Bell is a world-renowned violinist and has performed in the most prestigious concert halls for over 30 years. In 2007, the day after he performed in one of the biggest venues in Washington D.C., Joshua Bell decided to dress down and perform his same repertoire in the subway station. Hardly anyone noticed, and he felt pretty downhearted as hundreds, maybe thousands, ignored his masterful playing as he tried to bring life to his passion in a different social setting. What was the difference between playing for thousands of people in a concert hall versus thousands of people in a subway station. The ethos of the performer changed and dampened everyone’s experience. The same man playing the same songs received praise after praise one day, and the next was ignored (source). If we lived in a community where people were not only unafraid to share their talents like this, but felt comfortable doing so in a public setting, then we would likely recognize talent more when made manifest and probably would be quicker to compliment and buttress one another.
I have specifically included the word “wholesome” for a specific reason. Obviously there are activities that, while they may induce a feeling of pleasure, should be reserved for personal time. The obvious example for this would be intimate displays of affection. Innocent displays of affection are cute and welcome in a public place. I have no problems with couples holding hands, hugging, or sharing a gentle kiss when walking on the street. I would include this under the umbrella of the definition of “wholesome.” However, passionate makeout sessions, petting, or intimate affairs of that sort probably should be reserved for a time where bystanders are not in a situation where they can be offended or grossed out. Even with some of the activities referenced before can violate this part of my claim. You may want to evaluate your audience a little more thoroughly before singing a profane or raunchy song or constructing an obscene piece of art. My argument lends itself more to innocent activities that stipulate more pure joy rather than simple pleasure.
Obviously, singing and dancing is not everyone’s cup of tea. Some activities that give people the same stimulus as my singing are a little more acceptable in public settings. Reading, writing, and sketching can give people that same wholesome joy. But lots of other benign, fun, joyous activities are rarely seen in public for fear of being judged. If we took the opportunity to not only share our gifts and joy with the world, but encourage others to do so, we could become a society that not only welcomed talent, but people, and isn’t that what we all want deep down inside?