Growing up, things were ok. Then when I was about nine years old, my parents decided that I needed some extracurricular activities. Instead of asking me what I wanted to do, they decided for me, and I found myself being dragged along to do a bunch of stuff I wasn’t particularly interested in.
It seems that there was some sort of informal plan for me to be bred into a polite, well-mannered, cultured young lady. Sadly it didn’t turn out that way. But here’s what happened in the process.
I started with Old Lady #1 who taught using the Suzuki method. I’m not sure what exactly the Suzuki method was, but I remember that I had to bow to her at the start of every lesson.
I was taught from a book of easy piano tunes. They were all boring, childish songs. One I remember playing a lot was “Twinkle, twinkle little star”, but each note had to be hit to a certain rhythm that fit the pattern of “I-am-ve-ry-hap-py”. But I wasn’t happy; I was miserable.
Next I went on to Old Lady #2 who taught using a more conventional method. I remember her slagging off the Suzuki method as being really only suitable for highly disciplined Japanese children who start playing the piano when they were three years old.
I still didn’t enjoy playing the piano and the songs didn’t get any better. At one stage I remember having to regurgitate some tune at an old people’s home, and another time I had to play something for my grandmother and was rewarded with a chocolate bar.
Eventually my mother realised that when I said I didn’t like piano lessons that, yeah, I actually didn’t like them. She said that I didn’t have to go anymore, but she reckoned that in years to come I’d look back and regret it. Well, it’s over 15 years later and I don’t particularly regret it. No one has sing-alongs around the piano these days.
Speech and Drama Lessons
I’m not sure why I had to go to speech and drama lessons, but once a week for about two years I went off to see a lady called Doris.
I learned how to read poems and passages from books. I did improvisational drama skills. I learned all those techniques about how to project my voice and stuff. I passed level one and two of the New Zealand Speech Board exams. I’ve not yet included that on my CV.
I had mixed feelings about taking speech lessons. It was fun, but also kind of uncool. I think in the end of got really bored with it and kept pestering my mum to let me stop doing. Eventually she relented.
When I was at school I learned how to swim. I got all the stickers on my water safety card. If I went to the beach I could go in the water without freaking out. But this wasn’t enough. Apparently I had to learn to swim more, so off to swimming lessons I went.
Once a week I’d show up to this skanky old lady’s house. She had a big heated indoor pool built out the back where she taught classes of kids to swim.
The bit I hated the most was having to wear a rubber cap on my head. It pulled my hair and felt really uncomfortable. I learned all the techniques and tricks for swimming. I got right up to the advanced class, then the lady said that she had taught me all she knew.
I honestly think that since those lessons I’ve never, ever, done that proper, straight-line swimming, ever. I can’t even remember any of those techniques now. All the times that I’ve been in a pool or the ocean I’ve just floated around. It’s more fun.
These were the shortest-lived lessons. I think I only went once, maybe twice.
I don’t know why I was dragged along to get tennis coaching. I’ve never liked tennis. It’s boring to watch, and I don’t like playing it either. Oh look, here comes a little green ball hurtling at me and I have to hit it with the racket. No, that’s not fun.
So I had my Saturday morning disrupted by this stupid tennis lesson. I decided that enough was enough and I wasn’t going to have another weekend ruined by something so unpleasant.
The next Saturday I barricaded myself in the bathroom. I took food and books, enough to keep me going at least until the lesson time was over.
My friend and her mother came to pick me up and my parents made her come and talk to me through the bathroom door. She couldn’t make me change my mind.
Eventually the reality of the situation dawned upon my parents. Yeah, I actually didn’t want to get tennis lessons. Since then no one has asked me to play tennis, and I don’t think I even know anyone who plays. Funny, that.
About ten years after the glut of lessons, I decided I wanted to learn to play the guitar. I got a cheap guitar and taught myself a few chords, and then I got a nicer guitar and took lessons. I worked at it, and I enjoyed learning and playing. It was fun, and that’s the big difference.