I’m a total Gleek now.
But in high school, I was a certifiable nerd-bomber.
Which is why I, like so many of my fellow social misfits — the other tragically geeky, peripheral, shadowy, anonymous high schoolers — have embraced the TV show Glee with such an unusual fervour. And why others — like the high school jocks, the valedictorians and the pretty and popular Jennifers and Jessicas of the world — never quite will.
Glee is our anthem show. It’s for those of us who had nowhere to go during the lunch hours throughout high school, so ate ham sandwiches in the library study carrells while reading Madame Bovary or Jane Eyre (cue guffaws of sneering now). It’s for those of us who spent our weekends studying or reading, and went to our proms dateless. It’s for those of us, like me, who sang in a girls group.
Or, as executive producer Ryan Murphy said, this show is for anyone who’s ever gotten a wedgie.
Now, I shouldn’t misrepresent myself. I was never deliberately excluded or ridiculed, and never got a slushie in the face like the unfortunate kids at Glee’s McKinley High. Though I was, as coach Sue Sylvester would call me, the token “Asian kid” in my predominantly white high school in Kitchener, I was never abused as such. Okay, come to think of it, there were a handful of other Asians in my year, but they would have just been called “Hey, other Asian kid” by the show’s queen of snark, God love her.
But therein was the sting. I was pretty anonymous at the school. Case in point: In the show, guidance counsellor Emma Pillsbury knows the students by name and is sensitive to their predicaments. When I went to my guidance counsellor for advice on university applications, she refused to believe I had been at the high school for five years (those were the days of OAC). I recall the conversation went something like this:
“Are you sure?”
“Are you sure you didn’t come here later, like in your third or fourth year?”
“What’s you name again?”
“Vivian, Vivian Song.”
“I’ve never heard your name before. I’ve never seen you in these halls before. I’ve been at this school for 83 years, know all my students by name, age, birth date, social insurance number, what they ate for breakfast this morning and what they’ll eat for dinner tonight, and yet I’ve never even heard of you, never knew you existed at this school.”
Now here’s where my guidance counsellor could be forgiven for ignoring me. When asked to produce photos of me in my junior high Triple Trio girls’ singing group for this story, I called my mom in Kitchener to see if she could hunt some down. The conversation, loosely translated from Korean, went something like this:
“Mom, do you remember when I sang in that girls’ group, Triple Trio, at school?”
“You were in a singing group?”
“I don’t remember.”
“Do we have any photos of me performing in school concerts for my story?”
“No. Oh, but I do have a photo of these other adorable girls in your school fashion show.”
“I was never in a fashion show.”
“Oh, too bad.”
But lest you think I’m comparing myself to Rachel Berry, the annoying yet endearing lead soprano of the show’s glee club who’s crushing madly on Finn Hudson, I should clarify. I think I’d be more like Kurt Hummel, the flamboyantly gay kid also crushing — hopelessly — on Finn, McKinley High’s star football quarterback, such was the extent of my unrequited love.
But where Rachel and I are alike is our love of song. Before I retreated into anonymity in high school — due in part to my nagging insecurities and just plain old laziness — I was a proud and committed member of the very exclusive all-girls singing troupe Triple Trio, for which we had to audition to get in.
Like Rachel, I was the cocky lead soprano, who knew she could belt out the high Es better than any of her other TT sisters of mediocre range. I nabbed parts in the school operetta, and sang solos like “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” as a crazy old hag, and played understudies to the lead roles.
There were lights, there was action, there were choreographed moves of outstretched arms and there was music, by God there was music. We harmonized, we scatted, we tooted, and be-bopped until we could bop no more.
To this day I am a shameless, unapologetic karaoke singer..
Since watching the show, I’ve added to my Bucket List the roles of back-up singer and alsoa tree in the chorus of a play.
And I believe the show has likewise awakened old, buried dreams among fellow viewers with mediocre voices who also quietly, secretly, dare to imagine.
Rachel is banking on her voice as her ticket to fame and glory. My ticket out and into the post-secondary world was to be a good little girl with top-notch grades. Is it a coincidence that my chosen profession, the thing I am most passionate about, includes seeing my name in print as if to confirm my existence?
If there’s one thing I have learned from Rachel, it’s to “Don’t Stop Believin’,” to hold on to that fee-ee-ling. That and to put a gold star beside my name.
Vivian Song is a freelance writer and can be reached through her website www.viviansong.com. She does a great tree impression, is fierce with the tambourine and can carry a tune. Show producers: Call me.