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Friday, May 5, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Giving voice to her inner "Idol"

Special to The Seattle Times

I watch "American Idol." Go ahead, mock me, but I defy anyone with a heart to escape the audition episodes without getting misty-eyed at least once.

I don't have a favorite and I have never voted; instead I watch to fan the flames of envy within. I am jealous. No, not of Ryan Seacrest's impish charm, or Simon Cowell's license to deride, denigrate and taunt or even the fascinating dichotomy of Paris' big singing voice and her teeny-tiny squeaky speak.

Nope, I am jealous of the contestants — all of them. They can sing. I can't.

Seriously, I cannot sing. I don't mean that in the "oh-golly-I-can't-sing-but-I-am-perfectly-willing-to-take-the-lead-in-Happy-Birthday" way. I know people like that, and I hate them for tricking me into briefly revealing my shame before I revert to lip-synching.

I am tone deaf, off-key and defy the laws of harmony. My three children yell at me to stop if I dare to sing in the car. Before they could talk they just cried.

My voice is so awful that in the rare cases I let my guard down and sing in front of my husband — maybe a lullaby or a jingle — I immediately regret it. I'll catch him staring at me, stifling laughter, with a look of sincere and loving pity mixed with fear that I might make a habit of it.

The most humiliating proof that I cannot sing still makes my cheeks burn (note: I hold the Bon Marché directly responsible). Years ago, I bought one of those newfangled answering machines with a microchip recorder for the outgoing message.

I could change my message at whim; no more silly time-consuming cassette tapes for me. I had officially entered the digital age. This made me feel über-cool.

In a weak moment, I wondered if I too could sing like Whitney Houston. After all, I had totally nailed the curly hair, headband and pink lipstick look from the video "I Wanna Dance With Somebody." So with my confidence soaring, I recorded multiple versions of myself singing "I Will Always Love You." Of course, I carefully erased the evidence after each session.

Then I started to get a lot of hang-up calls. I thought it was my mother, or finally, my very own stalker. Finally, many days later there was a message; a long pause followed by the tentative voice of my best male friend saying "... ummm Heija ... just don't ... OK?"

I locked myself in my apartment for three days because in that moment I knew that every caller to my home for over 72 hours had been treated to the world's worst rendition of "I Will Always Love You" — ever! This was even more traumatizing than the time I accidentally gave a love letter to my boss.

Suddenly, it became clear why my mother waited until I was at a friend's house to send my sister to audition for "Annie."

I finally knew the awful truth. I cannot sing. Talk, yes; sing, no.

I will never sing a spontaneously sexy version of "Santa Baby" at a Christmas party, or grab the karaoke mike at a wedding to dazzle the crowd by boisterously belting out "Love Shack." I will never don the cool pink dress with the giant bow and sing "Material Girl" on any occasion. I probably shouldn't even admit to wanting to. Saddest of all, I will never be invited to join my 7-year-old's rock band, because I'll just "ruin it."

Maybe someday I'll take voice lessons; until then I think I'll just stick to voicemail. Now shhh, "American Idol" is on. Oh Kellie, we hardly knew ye!

P.S. Have you seen my dancing shoes? I can't seem to find them either.

Heija Nunn is writer living on the Eastside. Heija@heija.com

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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