Once upon a time…
I grew up introverted and very shy. I barely spoke. When I was 9 my mother wrote me a lovely speech to give at my sister’s bat mitzvah. My sister did her part, we moved onto the reception, food, DJ, speeches.
I got to the podium and froze, gripped by stage fright so crippling that my 12 year old sister read my speech about her for me.
At my own bat mitzvah I joked about it.
Sometimes it seems like once I found my voice I didn’t stop using it. There are times I’m with friends when I can’t shut up, and then there’s talking to strangers. When I join new groups of people I observe before I speak. I can go several meetings barely saying a word. Some friends are confused that I consider myself a shy introvert. They don’t see that I sometimes have to psych myself up to talk to strangers.
Eyes on me
Fast forward to this past Sunday night. Jason and I sitting at a table at Caplansky’s, having just competed in the Latkepalooza latke competition.*
Him: “When it’s our turn, you should be the one to go up to speak.”
My internal dialogue answered: “Uh…. Um… but his is his thing. He has all the answers.”
I don’t remember what he said next. Probably something about me being his “stunt Jew”. We talk like that.
Up to the mic I went, as voluntold. With every other (it seemed) question I was asked I turned my gaze towards that table at the back of the restaurant looking for answers. A couple of times Zane encouraged me to just “make [the answer] up.”
And then I realized that I need to get better at this public speaking thing. I need to get better at speaking off-the-cuff.
I shared this when I returned to the table and was told that this is why he sent me up, for the practice. I appreciate that.
The inner voice says, “But, I’m the sous-chef. I’m not the face.”
And this is indicative of my life.
I’ve never wanted spotlight. I’ve never wanted to lead. I wanted controlled, measured attention, behind the scenes, and to support. Confidence plays a part.
I’ve done community theatre. In university I was in the chorus of Little Shop of Horrors – a large cast – and played Astrid in Morris Panych’s comedic play The Ends of the Earth – a small cast. I auditioned for the latter as a personal “do-over” after previously wussing out of an audition at the last minute. More often than act, I produced and co-directed. I preferred supporting those in the spotlight, helping a show develop from beginning to closing night.
The world needs both kinds of people, for sure.
With my catering company and BBQ brand, I’ve envisioned him doing TV appearances while I stood with the producer and tweeted. He was doing this long before me and while I think I’m quite funny, I’m still quite shy.
I want to improve, to be able to take the mic and “make it up” without feeling inauthentic. I can be charismatic and funny. I want to step up to the mic and rock it, whether it’s a deli full of people or a podium at a conference.
We didn’t win and that’s okay. We had a great time and got our name in more ears. During my “interview” Zane mentioned our catering company. Before answering a subsequent question, I shared with the room that we do an excellent brisket that my mother approves of. There are some situations that, back to the Little Shop of Horrors reference, make me hear Mr. Mushnik’s voice in my head shouting, “The address, Seymour, the address!” I still hear it with my friend Jon’s voice in my head, not the movie version or any other stage version.
Here’s a photo that my friend Marc took and posted to Facebook. After I told him that I liked the photo I learned that it was the second one he took. The first was awful and he didn’t think I’d want it on social media. I looked at it on his phone and the memory of it continues to crack me up. In it, I looked like I’d just smelled a terrible dog fart. This is the better photo.
The point of this post? To muse about public speaking, and to prove to myself that I can put up a blog post that doesn’t take me long to write, doesn’t require research, and deviates from the usual purpose of the blog.
*I’d have blogged about it beforehand but it crept up on us. At some point after 11pm the night before he told me that it was the next day. We’d both thought it was the week after. One should never trust me to know what I need to do on a specific date unless it’s in my calendar. If it isn’t, it doesn’t exist.