Thursday, November 17, 2005
So, I have a nervous stomach. Some people get butterflies before they see their cute boy, some get a nerve related need to pee before a performance. Personally, I very nearly vomit before anything big that I have to do. Or sometimes I actually vomit. I also get sick from difficult conversations. It is strange because I am a natural extrovert, and I have always been.
As a kid at Holy Redeemer Catholic School in Pickering, I routinely did well at the annual public speaking contest. And when I say I did well, I always placed second to either Kirsten or Christine, a pair of freckled faced, red headed twins who almost always did a speech about what they would do if elected Prime Minister, why their mom is their hero or, the tried and true, funny things about being a twin. They knew how to cater to a crowd of dim-witted teachers and secretaries. I hated their cute red headed look and freckles. I hated that they dressed the same on speech day. But, mostly, I hated their transparent, yet successful, attempt to romance the judges with inane babble and white ribbons in their hair. I thought they were boring. Holy Redeemer wasn’t ready for my heat; the judges always played it safe. The winner went to the Kawanis festival – the holy grail of public speaking contests – and our school always sent the ‘cute’ speech. There were some that felt my genius. But, I think the sarcasm of a nine-year-old was a bit too abrasive for the chalk and typewriter set.
Starting the speech off with a bang, I held up the compass from my geometry set and said “Our teachers tell us not to run with succors, but then they give us these.” I gave them three solid minutes of brilliance: Why Math is Bad for your Health. I had them rolling in the aisles. It was a great start. I looked the audience members in the eye and played the crowd. God, they were with me every step of the way. I could see the hunger in their eyes for my take on the dangers of a meter stick. They were begging me to kill them with a quip about a protractor. After my speech my schoolmates continued to laugh through the teacher’s introduction of the next competitor.
Kirsten followed my knock-‘m-dead performance. You would think that it would be the prefect position. I had warmed up the crowd. I was actually annoyed because I had to open the show, go in there dry. Even as a nine-year-old I had the instincts to know, I had an uphill battle and they gave Kirsten the sweet spot. She was like the Banyon to my Gerry. Predictably, she managed to kill the mood in the first 30 seconds. A minute into the speech the audience could only manage a chuckle here and there.
I thought I was home free. It was clear – if you were to take audience reaction as a barometer of success – I was the victor. I realize now that the twins had something I didn’t (and it wasn’t talent). They played to the judges. Ignoring the audience, Kirsten looked right at the judges playing with her ribbons at precise moments and then knocking them out with her steel mouthed grin. Obviously Kirsten won first prize that year with a speech about the day she and her sister got braces – fascinating.*
*As a side note to this story, my mother was always appalled by the twin’s domination in public speaking. Mainly because I was MUCH more talented in this realm than they were and she felt I was being discriminated against. She told my teachers as much. If you do wrong by me, or my sister, you will bare my mother’s wrath. My mother also hated the twins because she thinks twins are creepy and she thought this set were particularly ugly. In grade 8 Christine was chosen to give a speech at the 30th anniversary celebration for Holy Redeemer. It was probably the most boring thing I have ever had to sit through mainly because Christine had the presence of a slug. Mom felt the same way, to this day that she thinks I was wronged.