I came across an old photo of me in my elementary school choir.
I’ve always had a high-pitched voice and I won’t lie, it’s difficult to not let that affect my sense of masculinity. Back in the days when we actually answered phone calls, on multiple occasions I’d answer the phone with “hello” and get a telemarketer who responded “Hello, ma’am.” I’d respond in the deepest voice possible and they’d typically backtrack, embarrassed, but the damage to my masculinity was already done.
It’s always been like that. Our elementary school choir was comprised of grades 4-6 and had a soprano section and an alto section. In grade 4 I was a soprano and that was fine – even at that age boys tended to be altos more than girls but there were enough boy sopranos. But by grade 5 enough of my buddies’ (all male) voices had changed subtly enough that most of them were altos. Before grade 6 I was determined to not get stuck as a soprano where I’d be all alone with none of my guy friends. But I had my high voice working against me.
The way the director Mr. Seylar divided us at the beginning of the year was he’d arrange us all in a big line then he’d go down the line and have each of us say “hello”. Based on what he heard he’d have you move to the soprano group or the alto group. It all happened real quick, just a second or two for each kid as he went along: “Hello.” “Soprano.” “Hello.” “Alto.” “Hello.” “Alto”. etc. By 6th grade I knew the drill and again, was determined to be an alto. So Mr. Seylar went down the line and when he got to me, I responded in the deepest voice my 11-year-old self could muster: “HELLO.”
This threw him off his rhythm. I still remember him pausing and staring at me. Then after a few seconds he pointed to the left and said: “Soprano.”