As you may already know, I was a radio disc jockey for 16 crazy years. In that time, I spent countless hours with headphones over my ears, listening to myself speak as I hosted public affairs programs, read the news headlines, and introduced the latest song or shared the latest celebrity gossip. I quickly got over that weird feeling most people have when they hear themselves on a recording – you know, when your recorded voice doesn’t sound at all like your “real” voice. Of course, in reality, that recorded voice IS your real voice – it is what people hear when you speak. So, while you may think your “sexy” voice sounds just like (if you’re a guy) James Earl Jones or (for you gals) Kate Blanchett in her narration in the Fellowship of the Rings intro…
…you may actually sound like Mike Tyson or Fran Drescher instead.
Since I had so many years as a radio announcer and heard myself so much, I was able to modify my speaking voice, creating a “radio voice” that was well modulated and reasonably well paced . I sounded professional, authoritative and, dare I say it? Yes – sexy. Ostensibly hundreds of inmates in the state pen thought so! While I quit the radio business over twenty years ago – I always thought that my radio voice and presence was there to stay.
Last spring, I was invited to perform a live reading for the Albuquerque show of Listen to Your Mother. They liked the story I had picked for auditions, which highlighted the fabulous job I did as a mother and how I only occasionally exploited my children for personal gain. The show itself went brilliantly – it was full of talented writers and performers and I was flattered to be included in the mix.
I was scheduled to speak second to last – so I got to spend a good deal of time watching my co-performers do a bang up job and wondering what the hell I was doing there among such talented writers and speakers. When it was my turn, I climbed the stairs to the stage (I’m not sure who thought having us climb stairs was a good idea – it seemed fraught with danger). Against all odds, I made it to the podium unscathed and saw that the binder was opened to the first page of my story. I smiled at the audience and began to speak.
Now I’ve always been a fast talker – I blame it on my brain, which seems to whirl at an unholy speed and sends words tumbling out of my mouth so fast that those near me risk a thorough and unexpected spit shower. Inevitably, the target of my “conversation” looks confused as they try to make sense of what I’m babbling. I’m aware of this issue – and I try to slow the fuck down – but when I’m excited, or nervous, verbal vomit comes spewing out.
Thus was the case as I started my Listen to Your Mother reading. I heard it happening and was helpless to stop it. I was so distracted by the volume of words issuing forth – and trying not to stumble in my presentation – that I suddenly realized that I hadn’t been breathing. My heart was pounding in my chest – a mix of nerves and lack of oxygen. I had to consciously make myself take a deep breath – and at the same time told myself to relax! I knew – well, at least I hoped – that the audience was not aware of my internal dialogue or anxiety. I knew – again, at least I hoped – that my radio training would kick back in and I’d get through it. I took comfort in the fact that at least I was projecting my voice at an appropriate volume and that no one in the audience would have trouble hearing me (nobody ever has difficulty hearing me…ever).
The small audience laughed several times – which was a good thing, as that was what I was aiming for – and before I knew it, the reading was over. I gingerly made my way down the stairs again, praying that I wouldn’t end the performance with a spectacular fall.
All in all, it was a great experience – one I would recommend. So, if you’ve got a story to tell about motherhood, dust it off and start practicing. Listen to Your Mother happens every spring and will probably be in a city near you.