Sometimes you’ve got to commit yourself. Granted, there’s a time for caution and a time for introspection, when keeping a low profile is, by far, the best course of action. But at other times, caution should be a treated like a kite, thrown to the wind. Dignity and composure be damned. Once in a while you’ve got to rise to the occasion like a phoenix from the ashtray. For me, that moment came last Saturday night. And it’s all thanks to Marvin Gaye.
I’ve never been good at parties. When it comes to myself, I’ve generally avoided them since I turned twelve and some friends and I went to see ‘ET: The Extra Terrestrial’. I decided that night there was no way I could possibly top it and should retire. Fact is, there’s not been a better birthday movie since. I’m not sure I’m that great when it comes to other people’s birthdays either. For some reason, I struggle to let myself go and surrender to the moment. Instead, I try to attend without drawing too much attention to myself and leave (hopefully) without incident. Until last week.
My girlfriend Katrina has twins who recently turned eighteen. Finding a venue proved a challenge. This was because a lot of places refuse to host an eighteenth birthday party. We claimed that, because they’re twins, it was technically a thirty-sixth birthday party. This was unsuccessful. Eventually, the local pub offered up a function room.
Ryan and Conor are as funny and interesting and entertaining as you’d hope a pair of eighteen year olds could be. Albeit they’ve lately taken to playing the music of Nickelback at every opportunity after becoming aware of my intense and passionate hatred for them (Nickelback, that is. Not the twins). Suffice to say, I can’t open the fridge without copping a blast of Nickelback for my troubles. But this aside, they’re great company and they deserved to have this momentous milestone celebrated. But they’re not the kind of guys who seek the limelight. Accordingly, we’d need to bring the limelight to them.
We decided on karaoke. I’m not sure if any other options were fully considered – it was always going to end up at karaoke. I knew sitting quietly on the sidelines wasn’t going to be an option. Despite my better judgment and a long history of feedback from others, I would need to commit myself to karaoke, for better or for worse. But before tackling the weighty issue of song selection, there was even weightier issue of what to wear.
In normal circumstances, ‘what to wear’ would be a minor consideration. By far and away, my main priority is to make sure each type of clothing – pants, shirt, socks, shoes etc – are represented in some form. But parties are a different matter. And, beyond that, karaoke is a law unto itself. There’s a reason why contestants in the Eurovision Song Contest don’t just turn up in tracksuit pants and a pair of Ugg boots. Songs are all well and good. But it’s the presentation that really sells it. You’ve got to dress for the occasion.
There’s only one thing to do when attending a karaoke-themed eighteenth birthday party – wear a tuxedo. Luckily, I have a tuxedo and by dent of a minor miracle that ranks somewhere above turning water into wine but a notch below helping the blind to see, it still fit. I was dressed to impress. Although it soon became apparent that the suit had other effects.
When the ten year old spotted me after turning a corner in the hallway, he fell to the floor, clutching his sides with laughter whilst shouting ‘you look stupid’ by way of encouragement. When we arrived at the venue, I was surprised how often guests told me their drink order, expecting I would fetch it for them. As people handed me their soiled plates and napkins, it became clear people had mistaken me for a waiter. There was only way one to disabuse them of that notion – sing.
Early in the evening, my name was called. As I strode onto stage and clutched the microphone, it suddenly dawned on me that my choice of song – ‘Let’s Get it On’ by Marvin Gaye – was probably not what a group of reasonably shy eighteen year olds wanted to hear from an adult. The same was true of our extended families, who looked on with the kind of horror usually reserved for a car accident. To be fair, it was a song I chose only because my preferred choice – ‘Straight Outta Compton’ by N.W.A. – wasn’t available in karaoke form.
The boys resisted the urge to heckle and, ultimately, it fell to their mother to yell things at me as I did my best to do justice to an all-time soul classic. They got their revenge a little later. Without my knowledge, they put my name down to perform the song ‘Photograph’ by Nickelback. I could hardly say no. It suddenly dawned on me that I’d never heard more than the first six seconds because that’s about how long it takes me to turn off the stereo when it comes on. I struggled through. The results were a complete schmozzle. Well played, Ryan and Conor. Happy birthday.