I asked a mother at Claire’s music class today to share her baby’s name. She curtly replied, “Annabelle” and then ignored me. My non-starter of a conversation starter is an example of why I never seem to enjoy music class with Claire. Each class has had an unnerving vibe, and I’ve been struggling to figure out why.
Yes, competitive mothers who eye you and your baby up and down make for a frosty 45 minutes together. And the mom who thinks it’s cute when her unruly child head butts a much younger baby is worthy of an eye roll or two. Of course, the nanny who doesn’t give a crap when her charge hurls a maraca across the room over and over again is unbalancing at best. But these things seem rather expected. What I hadn’t counted on was the creepiness of the people who run the classes.
It does make sense really. No one ever grows up saying, “I want to make a nominal living leading children in song.” It’s kind of like saying you want to be clown. These jobs are surely a detour from much grander ambitions -- especially in a place like New York City, where Julliard graduates are a dime a dozen. So it should come as no surprise that, along our musical journey together, Claire and I have encountered several distinct types of ersatz song leaders.
The first is the singer/songwriter who takes the kiddy job because, while his singing and songwriting worked like a charm at getting the ladies, now that he has a lady, he needs to feed a family and that’s not happening with the singer/songwriter career. Each week, he’s way too happy to see you, like “thou dost protest too much” happy. When he sings “The Potty Song”, his crooning is a little too good and reminds you that he is in fact a singing/songwriting ladies’ man. You find it embarrassing, although it’s clear from all the mommy groupies flocking around that you’re the only one cringing. He flirts with them just enough to reassure himself that he’s still got it, and to keep the mommies coming back for more. Between songs, he strums chords from rock and roll songs without looking at his fingers, because that’s just what he does when he has a guitar in hand. Oh, and did I mention he’s a singer/songwriter?
There’s another singer/songwriter, but she’s of a different ilk. She’s twenty-five and this job is not a detour for her but, rather, a way station before she really hits it big, or so she believes. She’s not much different from a waitress or an au pair with a thinly veiled disdain for a job that’s beneath her. You become paranoid that she’s stoned, drunk or hungover, because she’s really not very present. Perhaps, she’s dreaming of her big break at the Knitting Factory. She scares you the most of all the various song leader types. Her classes hardly have order at all. She doesn’t care if the child hits your baby with a maraca. She’s just a gun for hire. If you don’t come back, there are fewer children for her to deal with. Unlike singer/songwriter number one, she doesn’t need to tell you a damn thing about herself, because who the hell are you? You’re just a mom with a brat who surely can’t help her with her career.
There’s also another gentleman with a family to feed. He went to conservatory but an injury ended an illustrious career that was on the fast track to Carnegie Hall, or that’s how he likes to remember it. You know this fact about him because he shares his life story with you. He thinks that you spent your hard earned money on the class to listen to all his problems, particularly his different weekly physical ailment. He takes himself way too seriously and spends a lot of time explaining to you why his class is superior to the other music classes out there. One reason is the weird, esoteric Israeli bodywork that is incorporated into a music class for six month olds (complete with lots of homework for you and your baby).
The last type takes singing to kids way too seriously too. It’s because she’s the only one who actually wants to be singing to kids for a living. She derives way too much of her self-esteem from being a self-described expert at singing to kids. She gives you a lot of orders about how to sing to your kid. You end up wanting to say, “Can you just let me sing to my kid?” Other than that, she’s not too demanding. She’s just happy if you continue to show up from week to week to sing to your kid.
Intellectually, I know I should feel for these people, and shame on me for roasting them in this blog. But I can’t seem to drum up either patience or sympathy. I know why and George will concur. I’m cheap. These classes range from $15-$25 a pop. I think that’s expensive and I want to get what I paid for and get out. What I didn’t bargain for was the added subtext. But Claire seems to enjoy herself, so we’ll keep going. I’ll just have to content myself with complaining about it to George. And writing about it. Thanks for listening!
Photo Source: Figurative, Deviant Art