My Kirstiekins and me. That may not be her actual name.
My four closest friends and I each have something unique we share with only each other. With my friend Kate, it's hilarious memories of accidentally going to watch a live porn show in Prague. With Lizzie, it's our regular mini holidays to Butlin's. With my bestie Lydia, it's a whole heap of stuff, but lately in particular, our shared adoration of all things Dan and Phil related.
Lydia wants to trade me in and have Dan as her best friend instead. I want to be Phil's girlfriend. It's a situation that works well for us.
With my friend Kirstie, it's our regular "Karaoke Challenges."
It all started several months ago, after we went to a place in Plymouth that has private karaoke booths. It was our second or third visit and all of us had a great time, belting out tunes. A few days later, Kirstie texted me and said she'd been thinking it would be really fun to do challenges, where one of us suggests a genre and we both have to send the other recordings of ourselves singing a song from that genre. It's meant a great deal of my life is spent searching for karaoke videos on YouTube and getting thumb-strain from holding down the "record audio" button on WhatsApp, but I love it.
As time has gone on, Kirstie and I have gone through various different "challenges." Highlights include:
- David Bowie songs: During which I tried - and largely failed - not to impersonate the late, great Thin White Duke as I warbled my way through his greatest hits.
- Blur songs: Which I quickly came to realise were almost all too low for me to sing comfortably.
- Songs by boybands: Which was a challenge I loved, but which I suspected Kirstie may have hated me for.
I couldn't pick, so I sang songs by both. Obviously.
We've been through so many genres (aside from rap, because we'd probably both die from cringing at our own efforts) and so many ideas ("songs that make you cry" and "songs you like by artists you hate" being notable ones), that we're now entering bizarrely specific territory, when it comes to setting the next challenge.
Like all my greatest ideas, the latest challenge came to me whilst I was on the loo, humming the theme tune to a cartoon I used to love ("Madeleine," in case you're interested and if you don't know what that is, you must educate yourself as soon as you've read this blog). I suddenly had a lightbulb moment and thought: "Songs that meant a lot to you as a child!"
And here's where we go from chirpy, happy blog with loads of gifs, to BLACK PIT OF DESPAIR.
To quote the 10th Doctor: "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry."
You see, the song that immediately came into my mind was from a classic Disney film called The Rescuers. The song is called Someone's Waiting For You and in the film, it's sung over very sad scenes of a little orphan called Penny, whilst she stands on the bow of a boat and gazes up at the stars, quietly crying to herself, because she longs for a family to adopt her, but she's stuck with a mean woman who treats her horribly and tells her nobody will ever love her.
It's funny, but I think I had mentally blocked out the reason why that song meant so much to me as a kid, until I just sang it as part of this week's "Karaoke Challenge" and my eyes suddenly got all watery at the end.
No, I wasn't a sad little orphan. I wasn't forced to go searching for a diamond, so I could make a cruel woman a fortune. Little mice in clothes haven't come to my aid at any point in my life so far (man, if you've not seen The Rescuers, you really should).
In fact, when I first watched the film as a little girl aged maybe 6 or 7, I couldn't explain why the song meant so much to me at all. It had no relevance to my life, whatsoever. But, in some seriously heavy-handed foreshadowing, I was certain that it was important.
Fast forward a few years later and there I was, a frightened, twelve year old girl, being horrendously bullied on the school bus. Day in, day out, I was spat at, shouted at, had food thrown at me, had people come and sit next to me and whisper the most hurtful things they could think of in my ear... I mean, you can click the link, I won't re-hash it all again, here.
But the one thing they would say, more often than anything else, was that nobody would ever love me. I was too ugly, too shy, too much of a "freak." I would never, ever be loved by anyone.
And suddenly, that song came back to me.
"Have faith little one,
Until your hopes and your wishes come true.
You must try to be brave little one.
Someone's waiting to love you."
It sounds pretty silly to cling so vehemently to a Disney song when you're going through something horrific, but hey, maybe that's why I largely blocked it out until now. That song, for me, represented never giving up. Trying to never truly believe what the bullies were saying, no matter how many times they said it. Someone, somewhere, someday was going to look past my massive nose and unruly curls and actually want to get to know me. Somebody was going to love me. The bullies were going to be wrong.
Older me cringes slightly, but I know for a fact (since the memories have come flooding back, like a tidal wave of woe), that I even used to get out of bed at night sometimes, when I was unable to sleep, because I was dreading getting onto the school bus the next day and having it all happen again, and I'd walk to my window and look up at the stars and sing the song quietly to myself, whilst a single tear rolled down each cheek.
Hearing the song again, recently - and singing it, tonight - I realised just how important it was. It's just a silly, corny, overly soppy song about an animated Disney orphan, waiting to be rescued from her lousy existence by a pair of mice who were in a will-they-won't-they relationship. But that song made me feel less alone, when it felt like there was nothing to hope for. It made me believe that things would get better, when I had literally no evidence that it was ever going to. I repeated the lyrics over and over in my head on those bus journeys, despite whatever I was actually listening to on my fantastic Sony Walkman at the time.
"Don't cry little one.
Make a wish for each sad little tear.
Hold your head up, though no one is near.
Someone's waiting for you."
I guess we sometimes never completely realise how important something is until we sit down and really think about it. And, weirdly enough, I didn't sit down and think about Someone's Waiting For You until I had the random idea that singing songs that meant a lot to us in our childhoods would be a good "Karaoke Challenge." But I'm so glad I did think about. Because, even though the memories aren't good ones, knowing that I had something to hold onto - something that gave me a little glimmer of light at an otherwise incredibly dark time - makes me feel strangely comforted.
I may not be in a romantic relationship at the moment, but I know now that I'm in a place in my life where people - friends and family - do see beyond my perceived physical flaws and love me for who I am. I didn't give up on that dream and it came true. The future was worth waiting for.