My stage fright knows no bounds.
In a most perverse way like much of the rest of my life, my talents such as they are, lie in the area of the performance arts. Before my ‘me-ness’ took control of this body, I was not a bad singer at all. Then somewhere in the process of growing up, I decided I would rather die than be on stage, and that was that. I forced myself on stage a few times after this malaise gripped me, hoping to conquer the fear and knowing that one good performance would do wonders for my confidence. These turned out to be occasions of such bitter failure and nightmarish shame that the fate of my singing on stage was sealed. Nowadays, if anyone were to ask me I just say I can’t sing. There’s no shame in that.
I thought, as did many others, that since I wasn’t bad with the written word, I would logically fare well in debate and recitation as well. But then again, though I conquered my fear of performing in public to the extent that I could be pushed onto the stage, gagging and willing myself not to throw up –when my turn came to speak, I would start shakily and then entirely forget what it was I was meant to say. The resounding silence of the auditorium would echo back at me, and I would open and close my mouth like a pop-eyed fish flopping about at the bottom of a boat.
Acting! By the time people had started suggesting acting to me, I had wised up to my condition, and lived my passion for it vicariously by helping out backstage as bouncer, makeup person, and general busybody.
But now that I’ve weeded out most things that inspire such terror (except trying on clothes in front of those ghastly lit mirrors in stores) I haven’t felt stage fright in a long, LONG while. (I’m a coward, but bravery is overrated anyway.)
Until yesterday that is. I went to the hospital for an abdomen scan. Apparently one needs to feel like one needs to go wee-wee, before they’ll do the scan thing on you (you need to feel the urge to go, but not go, of course.). People would keep coming at me and asking if my bladder was full, and despite the fact that I’d drunk an entire litre of water earlier on I could only shake my head miserably and whisper “not yet”. A little while later I tried to brazen it out and pretend that I needed to go. But the technician caught me out convincingly when he began the scan and sent me out with a flea in my ear, to sit and wait ‘For toilet to come to me’ in the waiting room.
An hour later and people were giving me the disappointed looks that teachers gave me in school when I walked off the stage after saying “Ladies and Gentlemen, the topic of debate for today is…is…excuse me I need to barf”. My husband, usually the most patient of souls, started looking quite distressed after one and a half hours of waiting for me “to get the urgency” as one of the staff described it. I felt like I was letting him down, the hospital technicians down, and most of all myself down. It was standing on stage all over again, I just couldn’t do it. ("feel the urgency", not do it).
I eventually got the scan done successfully, but that stage fright of mine made the simplest thing the hardest thing to do.