• jeffreypohn


Blasting perpetually from mom’s hi-fi in the living room are Broadway show tunes. I can’t avoid listening, and I make the fateful mistake of memorizing the songs from Fiddler On the Roof. Mom throws a huge holiday party, before which she turns her eight year-old son into a eighty year-old Jewish man, with a long white beard, a long black coat, and a very long face. The last thing in the world I want to do is entertain a mob of sloppy drunk socialites. But, as with so much in my life, I am powerless.

Hidden in the powder room, I peer through a crack in the door at the party - a room full of noisy guests who look like a bunch of Batman villains. The rented piano player is playing, but I can’t hear him over the din. It’s late and I’m sleepy. My beard is itching me. The piano player clinks a glass, and introduces me. I don’t move. Mom enters the powder room and gently pushes me into the living room. I trudge to the front of the room, in full costume. I suppress the overwhelming urge to flee, and I begin to sing “If I Were a Rich Man”, from Fiddler. The guests explode, howling and laughing at me. I can’t remember feeling more horrible.

I had no way of knowing that this experience would kick off a lifelong fear of performance (and public speaking). For years afterward, I won’t raise my hand in class, even when I know the answer.

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