The Theory of the Karaoke Gene

I was lucky enough to be the honoree recently at a book signing/celebration to introduce the denizens of my hometown to my new book, “Extracurricular Activities.” My hometown is not very far from the town I live in now—just twenty miles—but because we’re separated by a bridge, it seems to be harder and harder for me to get home and for my extended family to visit me. Look for a future blog entry where I discuss “the theory of why we won’t cross the bridge to see each other.”

But cross the bridge I did and I was happy for the opportunity. My parents have decided that every year an Alison Bergeron mystery is published, a book signing extravaganza will take place. Last year’s party, to celebrate the release of “Murder 101,” the first book in the series, was a free-for-all held on a Saturday night, complete with open bar, DJ, food, and dancing. It ended, as many of our family’s gatherings do, with the manager of the Knights of Columbus hall respectfully asking the attendees—we’ll call them “fans” for brevity’s [and ego’s] sake—to leave quietly so as not to disturb the neighbors. And to leave the silverware and the napkins behind. So, when the subject of this year’s book signing came up, I said to my parents, “Why don’t we have it on a Sunday afternoon? You know, make it a little more low-key?”

“Great,” they responded, they who go to bed at seven thirty and rise at four in the morning, “Sunday afternoon it is!”

“But more low-key,” I reminded them.

“Yes! More low-key! We’ll have karaoke!”

At this point, I guess I should mention that I have a reputation as a bit of a party girl. But when I say “party girl,” I mean that in the most wholesome way possible. But I guess at this point in my life, I think it would be more authentic to say that I’m a “party woman.” I’m not a lampshade on the head type (except for that one Christmas) and I’m generally fairly responsible. I’m usually the first one on the dance floor and the last one to leave and that’s without the benefit of liquid courage. But even in my warped view of a “good time,” I didn’t think karaoke qualified as “low-key.”The reactions to the news of the centerpiece of the frivolity were mixed and ranged from “Oh, good Lord, no!” to “I’ll sing a song—maybe, if I have a couple of beers,” to “You’ll have to pry the mic from my cold, dead hands.” (The last one being mine.) All of the interesting feedback leading up to the event lead me to surmise that there is definitely a karaoke gene.

And proof of this came when my niece, Erin—three years old and full of spit and vinegar—grabbed the mic from her mother (my sister) and belted out “Twinkle, Twinkle.” Who knew it had fourteen verses?

My sister looked at me dolefully. “I gave birth to you.”

Because growing up, even though we didn’t have karaoke, specifically, I spent many a day singing along to the Supremes on my close-n-play record player while my sister practiced her foul shots on the back driveway with the neighborhood boys. (They were very tall and she was not but she always kicked their collective butts. And probably still could if she wasn’t a respectable mother of two.)

I begged my sister all day long to do a song with me. In another life, my sister was a professional musician, so I thought it would be a no-brainer. But she doesn’t have the karaoke gene so she kept ducking me until it was no longer possible. After about an hour of exhaustive searching through the folders of potential songs, we finally decided to do a duet of Pat Benatar’s “Hit Me with Your Best Shot,” a song I consider my signature tune. I thought we were good to go until a certain young lady, clad in a green velvet dress, approached the stage and said, “I want to sing, tooooo.” I dare you to try to sing the song successfully with someone else singing “shot!” three seconds behind you.

Based on the theory of the karaoke gene, then, it would seem that it is not a direct blood line from mother to daughter, but aunt to daughter, a maternal bloodline, if you will. Yes, the theory needs work, but all in all, makes a bit of sense, no? We’ll check back when Erin’s thirteen, and hopefully, a little more inhibited.