Maybe Reality Bites, But I'll Take It

by Tabitha Rasa

When I was nearing the end of my drinking I had some girl buddies I used to "party" with. That summer we went to the beach a few times to try to survive hangovers. On one of these day trips we contrived the idea that we were a girl group, a heavy metal band, just without the instruments, without the actual rehearsal or playing out, and without any of the work.

The band's name was Scrotum. We each of us invented a stage name; I was, famously, "Venus Envy." (With my penchant at the time for creating and maintaining alter egos who were a lot more together than I was in reality, I kept the name Venus, gave her a more real-sounding surname, and was, when I chose, but not in connection with this band, Venus Melding Grand. But I digress.) In our fantasy, I was the lead singer. My friend D----- was the lead guitarist and F----- was the bass player. I cannot recall the stage names of the other band members, except for the drummer, who was this very petite and fragile-looking chick, whose moniker was so fun to pretend to introduce: "Little, Tiny, Fluffy BUNNY!!!!!!!!" which we would scream out as though we were about to go on stage to the imagined roar of a stadium crowd, and then we would collapse into incoherent gasps of laughter.

We also loved to scream out, "THANK YOU!", a la Peter Frampton.

This was seven years ago, when grrrls were just starting to be happening.

One beach day trip I remember quite vividly, because we decided that just having this fantasy wasn't enough. We had to "share" it with our fellow travelers on the way home from Long Beach. So in very loud voices we made up our "play list," for a pretend gig we were playing that night. We composed song titles such as "Hair Ball" (a rocker) and "Mr Softee" (our big ballad). We were a little drunk, and in retrospect I'm ashamed and embarrassed.

Further, we invented other accoutrements of band life. We had our favorite rivalry with L-----, a legitimate heavy metal chick figure on the scene, and I would refuse to hear her name because of some heinous act she had supposedly committed against me, stolen a boyfriend or some similar idea. In addition, we had a band logo, which I designed. We even had t-shirts designed although of course we didn't actually have any made.

One evening my main drinking buddy and I went bar hopping in the East Village (of course I drank there; it was the only place I felt was gnarly enough to fit how gnarly I felt on the inside, knew myself to be) and we picked up this guy who was probably in his late forties, maybe early fifties. He was a businessman of some sort, I don't know what the hell he was doing slumming down there, and he and we picked each other up. What he hoped for I cannot even bring myself to imagine. Anyway, we began trying this fantasy on him for size, pretending it was real, seeing how he would react. And I have to say I was horribly ashamed by it. It wasn't that it was unreal; I was actually only embarrassed by the name we had chosen for the band. This regular guy, this normal dude who had a normal job and undoubtedly some kind of normal life, I figured him to be about the last guy on earth who could realistically deal with a couple of young alcoholic broads talking about their band called ! Scrotum. I was completely humiliated, even though apparently he totally bought it.

That experience kind of killed the fantasy for me. I didn't enjoy talking about our band much after that, and our ideas of actually writing songs to go with our fictional song titles, or of learning to play instruments and trying really to play music, sort of evaporated into the thin air, where the entire construct had come from in the first place.

Seven years later I find myself in the position of trying to learn to play electric guitar for real, finally. I have played acoustic, lamely, for years and years, but my interest in playing guitar is only secondary, as a means to support my singing. What I really do is sing. I have always been a singer. I have been in church choirs and choruses and musicals and rock and roll bands and madrigals. Last winter the choral group I am a member of performed in Carnegie Hall on two separate occasions. I can really sing. But I am horribly, horribly afraid to start a band on my own.

The best band I was ever in, therefore, was the figment of the collective imagination of five dissipated slacker girls at the end of the 80s.

While I have taken many risks and grown up in many many ways since then, have quit drinking and quit smoking and even given up caffeine, for chrissake, I am still held back by my fear, maybe the more so for not having any substances to drown it in.

It was easy to sing in a band in college; I was always a little bit tanked. It's even easy to sing in a chorus in Carnegie Hall today; I can hide behind the fact that there are 200 other people belting their guts out alongside me. But to begin to come out in front, to sing more or less by myself, to play rhythm guitar in front of even other musicians: that's a terrifying prospect.

The fact is, though, that I'm willing to say out loud, here in a public forum, in the most soul-baring medium I know, that I want this, I want to form a band, I want to front it and write songs and play CBGB (everybody else does) and hear applause (hopefully) or even shitty reviews. I can't waste any more time caring so much about whether it's good that I don't even do it.

I just want to have the physical experience of singing, singing loudly, maybe even offkey or better, on. And I know that being willing to admit that I want something is required before I can pursue it. I can't go on trying to look cool here. I might suck, but I'd rather do that than fail because I never fucking tried.

I'll keep you posted on my progress.

Copyright © 1996
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