Humiliation Doesn’t Actually Kill You

Know that, should you bomb

in front of an audience,

know that your body will not melt

into cheap carpeting,

poorly painted wood, or linoleum tile.

Know that God will not cause a miracle

in which earth swallows you like Korach,

or in which this stage becomes a whale’s belly

where you can hide for three days like Jonah.

Know that, no matter how much you wish for it

in that moment, you will not die,

for humiliation doesn’t actually kill you.

Know that you can walk – you will walk

weak-kneed offstage with whatever dignity

you can muster. Know that you’ll come back

onstage to do it again, all that awful suffering

in front of an audience all over again,

till one day you don’t bomb.

Photo by freestocks.org from Pexels

***

Written for dVerse and Go Dog Go Cafe

59 comments

  1. I know all about bombing. I hate giving presentations. I’ve done my share of performing music and dance. I rarely bombed preforming at dance because it I forgot the choreography I was good enough to make up what I needed to fill in on the spot. Not always that successful playing music live.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, I have my share of humiliating performance stories too! Karaoke league was full of them (https://jewishyoungprofessional.wordpress.com/2021/03/16/7-life-lessons-from-competitive-karaoke-because-i-learned-nothing-from-the-pandemic-year/) Probably most notable was the time that I got stuck with a rap solo during Hip Hop week because none of the classically trained sopranos on our team were willing to attempt it – it was as awful as you’d expect. I actually like giving presentations, but that does not mean that they are always successful; there have been some miserable failures there too.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I have never done Karaoke and never will. I had this vague idea that Karaoke was for people who were marginal or bad to have fun with, and make people laugh. Kind of like the Gong Show. But the first time I was at a club with Karaoke, all the pro singers were singing. I thought this is not fun or funny. If I want to listen to these songs with good singers, I’ll listen to the original.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Each to his or her own. One of the things I like about karaoke is that you can have people who are terrible and people who are amazing performing in the same room. I’ve met both opera singers and people who’ve never picked up a microphone and are too drunk to remember their song. Karaoke can be painfully awful and awkward for sure, but it can also be weirdly beautiful at times.

          I’m also not of the mindset that “the original is always the best”. The original is often the best, but I’ve heard karaoke renditions that I liked better than the original. Like I hated Taylor Swift’s music and then I heard this incredibly talented guy sing one of her songs at karaoke and he actually made me like a song I’d previously hated he was that good. I’ve heard songs that were originally solos turned into cool duets at karaoke. Yes, more often than not, you get someone drunk just having fun, but every so often, I’ll hear something unexpectedly awesome.

          Liked by 1 person

        • My experience of listening to Karaoke is really limited, and I hate bars in general, so you have the trump (OMG I used a bad word) card there. I have to appeal to your authority on karaoke. Now if I hate a song and I hear a version I like, that’s a whole other matter. That does happen occasionally, but people/groups doing covers trying to sound as much like the original as possible, drives me crazy. I want to hear something different, something original done with the song. Otherwise, like I said, I might as well listen to the original. I like parodies because they are changing the original and adding a new, usually quite twisted perspective to a song. I see these groups on YouTube dressing up, making expensive videos of covers. The people are incredibly talented singers and musicians and I ask my self why are they doing other people’s music? I want to hear original music coming out of those amazing voices and players.

          Liked by 1 person

        • Karaoke experience also varies wildly from place to place and I’ve heard anecdotally that there are regional differences as well. I think it’s also that if you’re drawn more to playing the instrumentals in music and less singing to the vocals, karaoke won’t hold much appeal. I’m into it, but I definitely get that it’s not everyone’s cup of tea.

          I don’t mind, and sometimes I even really appreciate covers. (I’m seeing Postmodern Jukebox while they’re on tour, so I suppose I’m biased. But their covers are truly inventive and amazing!) But even for reasonably-close-to-the-original covers, I sometimes wonder if artists use these as a marketing tool. Like if you’re an unknown, you figure that people will be more inclined to listen to you if you do a cover of a song people recognize, then they get into your style and listen to your original work. Idk if that’s actually true. But it’s something I wonder about.

          I always appreciate a good parody. We had parody-themed weeks in the league a few times where you had to sing parody lyrics. It’s been an interesting exercise trying to write parody lyrics in the post-competitive-league world without relying on profanity, deeply inappropriate language, and inside jokes. I mean, I don’t have a problem with profanity or bawdy jokes per se, but it can be a bit of a crutch sometimes.

          Liked by 1 person

        • You are right about doing covers to get attention and mixing in your original music, and that makes total sense to me. But I look for the original music by great cover bands and I don’t find it.

          The mass market audiences don’t want original music from what I’m told. 50 years ago when I was playing in bands there were 3 songs we had to know “Proud Mary”, La Bamba” and “Brown Eyed Girl”. They were always requested. I was talking to my brother-in-law who plays bass in bands and he said they still have to play those three songs. I was floored. He said they will be playing contemporary covers, and the dance floor will be empty. Then someone will request Brown Eyed Girl. He said people come out of the woodwork like cockroaches and fill the dance. Once the song is over, everyone disappears, again. It’s amazing how somethings never seem to change.

          Liked by 1 person

        • Fair point. I happen to like a lot of modern music, but there have been studies showing that modern music is worse than music from decades ago based on sameness and lack of dynamic changes. Also, the state of the music industry is such that nearly all the top songs today are written by one or two people, contributing to the similarity and lack of originality.

          I don’t begrudge any artist for doing whatever they need to do to make an honest living. So if no one’s making original music because it doesn’t sell, well, I can’t blame them for not doing it. It would be nice to have more original music, for sure. But I can’t blame people for prioritizing making a living.

          Liked by 1 person

        • You have to do what you gotta do to make a living for sure. Pop music has become much simpler. That’s one reason classic rock endures.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. This reminds me of the time I got up to play the keyboard on the school stage and only then realised I didn’t know how to play the keyboard! I made up for it in the school play later that year with a star turn as the Cowardly Lion 🤣

    Liked by 1 person

  3. On has to be willing to be bad at something before being good at it. Nobody wants to b laughed at, made fun of, or to fail, but that’s the price of admission. Only some are willing to pay it–the rest become critics.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Exactly. I kick myself now for not being able to play a musical instrument? Why can’t I play one? Because I couldn’t deal with the beginner stage of being bad at it. So I never ever got to a place of proficiency. And that’s also how my French skills deteriorated because I was too afraid to practice in conversation because I didn’t want to make mistakes. It was stupid. I wish I could tell my younger self to just keep practicing.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I guess there are many things we think we will die from and we don’t. Or at least we express it that way. “I would die if such and such happened.” But we don’t. We live with it. And that’s harder. But, as you say, there’s a learning curve. So I guess that’s progress. I wish I had a better answer to it all than 42.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I live in perpetual terror of humiliation. It’s part of the reason I have gone nowhere in life because I can’t even peek out of my shell out of fear of embarrassing myself and getting commentary.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. The first presentation I ever gave was a disaster (besides my primary school storytelling competition). So yeah, I can totally relate that humiliation won’t kill me. Does feel like it sometimes though, and I still fear it, like Hetty, lol. But part of the meaning of life is to face those fears down anyway, no? Anyway, thanks for this post!

    Liked by 2 people

    • My early presentations were disastrous too. The school presentation where I decided that it would be a good idea to sing a song in the middle of it (it wasn’t). The chemistry presentation when I didn’t know or practice the subject matter at all – oh that was awful! But you survive and you learn.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. so therapeutic for me
    I always have performance anxiety and its nice to know that ‘humiliation doesn’t actually kill you.

    Know that you can walk – you will walk

    weak-kneed offstage with whatever dignity

    you can muster. Know that you’ll come back

    onstage to do it again, ‘

    Liked by 1 person

  8. This is such a powerful write! Often we are led to be discouraged when presenting in front of an audience. For me, the trick is to have a hold on my nerves and get through it the best I can. 💝💝

    Like

    • Thanks! I generally don’t mind public presentations, but I’ve definitely had my share of screw-ups! Obviously I try to prepare as best I can so as not to screw up in the first place. But for something low-stakes like potentially making a fool out of myself at karaoke, reminding myself that I can survive the worst case scenario helps me with nerves.

      Like

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