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NTKOG #63:The kind of girl who, walking down the street, just bursts into song and sings like nobody’s listening — even when they totally, totally are.

I am: embarrassed for two kinds of people who sing in public: those who think they’re good, and those who know they aren’t but do it anyway. (I’m in the latter camp.)

I am not: the only person who, when walking while listening to the iPod on a deserted street sings along. Right?!

The Scene: The mean, unmusical streets of Brighton, every night this evening. Usually when I walk the four blocks home from my bus stop, I’ll plug in my earbuds and sing along a bit to the music I’m listening to — every once in a while snapping around, just to make sure nobody’s following me within earshot. And of course clamming up the second anyone gets within a half-block radius of me.

This week, though? I didn’t stop singing. Not when people approached me, not when they were a few steps away and grew quizzical and concerned. Not even when they laughed right in my face.

All week I’ve been listening to my country music “he done me wrong” playlist (Hank Williams, Toby Keith, Loretta Lynn, Patsy Cline — and, yeah, some Dolly and Garth, not even ironically), and paranoid that bystanders on the T could overhear my embarrassing music. But two nights ago, as I walked home around 10pm, I sang along not loudly but with conviction to “Your Cheatin’ Heart” while walkin’ (not after midnight) maybe a quarter of a block behind an uptight i-banker type. And though he was the kind of cute guy I usually blush just to look at, and though he turned around a couple of times and cocked his head at me, I kept on singing.

After the song faded into a moment of silence before “(Play Another) Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song,” he slowed down to let me catch up with him. When we both paused to wait for the pedestrian walk light another short block later, he turned to me and opened his mouth. I slid out one earbud and he said, “So you’re pretty into your music,” and I told him, “It brings me joy,” and he smiled a little bit and I just put my earbud back in and waited for the light to change.

Of course, not everyone was so cool. Just a few minutes ago, walking home from Sister’s, I was singing along with Loretta Lynn’s “Harper Valley PTA,” trying to get my voice around a few of the slidier twangpeggios. A man was unloading a chest of drawers from the back of his SUV, but when I walked up, he put the chest of drawers down and just looked at me. I chose to believe this is because it’s one of the all-time gorgeous, funny country songs and made eye contact with him, broadening out my twang in a self-mocking showy way. Once I got a few steps past, he said to my retreating back, “You know people can hear you, right?”

I mean, I guess they can, sir, but I’m not convinced that’s such a bad thing.

The Verdict: It’ll be at least a few months before you’re reading about my Nashville debut — or before I sing anywhere other than the karaoke bar or my shower again — but this was liberating. My voice isn’t great, but it’s not terrible, and maybe it’s not the worst thing in the world if someone overhears me using it and enjoying it. I would never dream of intentionally inflicting my singing voice on someone else’s blessed silence (that stuff’s strictly for drunk undergrads. and the couple who lives above me and who occasionally, weirdly, wonderfully sings together while they’re having sex.), but if I accidentally do? It’s not going to trigger the apocalypse.

So this one is a mixed bag. I wouldn’t do it again on purpose or so flagrantly — ’cause, yeah, my heart absolutely froze with terror every time I saw someone coming and forced myself to keep croaking along — but at the very least, during my mostly solo late night rambles, I think I’ll dispense with the panicked look-arounds and keep enjoying this simple pleasure. Once again, for the most part nobody seemed to care when I broke this seemingly inviolable social law, so why not keep breakin’ it? Just like that trampy ho broke Mr. Williams’s non-cheatin’ heart.

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