“You should be on the radio.”
I have heard this sentence from childhood, when my voice suddenly and without the typical teenager pitch shifts and volume wobbles—the “Peter’s voice is changing, this week on a very special episode of ‘The Brady Bunch'”-type changes—deepened and thickened to a baritone/bass. In the past, I blamed this on doing theater starting in junior high school, as that school did not have a stage at all and my high school theater did not have a sound system, so I learned at a young age how to project my voice and fill a big room without sounding like I am yelling. I now realize that this theory, like many of my theories, makes approximately no sense.
“You should be on the radio.”
A woman behind me on line said it to me a few days ago. She did not even say hello, which is usually how this moment transpires: A stranger hears me speak and tells me that I sound like an announcer. Some ask if they have heard me on the radio. (This is possible, but not likely.) Some suggest I send a recording to a radio station.
It is always a compliment and I appreciate it. There is no “but” to follow that sentence, even though it probably sounded like I was about to turn it into a complaint. Compliments are nothing to complain about. When I was younger, I did not know how to take compliments for things I have no responsibility for, like my voice or my height, any more than I knew how to accept insults for things I have no responsibility for, like my voice or my height.
I recently discovered that there are videos online from 1985 of a high school production that I was in. (The fact that the onstage star is currently the husband of a famous television personality is I think why these particular half-dozen are online, as he is the only person in all six clips.) It is a production of Frank Loesser’s “How to Succeed …,” which is a musical that must be performed by every high school in the United States once each decade for the school to retain accreditation. (It’s the l-a-w!) Because I can not sing, deep voice or not, whenever my school was producing a musical I had to find any available non-singing roles and make them mine. In this clip, I am the offstage voice of the book that young Finch is reading.
I was 16 and already sounded like, well, like someone who should be on the radio or someone who should be announcing subway stops. Or someone whose job is recording outgoing messages for funeral parlors—that young me sounds so serious, and it is not, I promise, not because of anything the “role” required. He was, sadly, indeed that serious. Well, that is how I remember me at 16. I had a lot on my mind.
My voice now sounds a bit more lived-in. Living will do that. I have a little more control over it. But my girlfriend tells me that she knows when something has my “alpha male” riled up: She says I sound like a radio announcer or the voice of a book when I feel like I need to make my point in a debate. (Not with her; she established long ago with me that she sees through a lot of my quirks and will ignore those that are unimportant.)
So now when someone at the grocery store tells me that I ought to be on the radio, I refrain from making wisecracks about how adults, unlike children, should be heard but not seen or twist it into an insult about how I am being told I have a face for radio. It is a gift, period.
We all hear at least three voices in our heads: our speaking voice as we hear it leave our mouths, our speaking voice as others hear it (when we hear a recording of it), and the voice of anything we read or write. The one voice most people claim they hate to hear is the second one, what our voices really sound like when we hear it. This is no longer the case for me.
The WordPress Daily Prompt for September 11 asks, “Your blog is about to be recorded into an audiobook. If you could choose anyone—from your grandma to Samuel L. Jackson—to narrate your posts, who would it be?”
I suppose my answer to this is me.