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The Three Most intimate Things You Can Do With Other People

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What are the three most intimate things you can do with another person?

I’ll give you a clue – they all begin with S. Any ideas what they are?

Ok, so the first one is obvious.

Sex – this is probably the most intimate thing you will ever do with another human being.

Although in my opinion, it does come a close second to number two on the list.

Sleep – this is an extremely intimate thing to do with another person because it does take a massive amount of trust to be completely unconscious for eight hours in the presence of someone else.

So what is the third one? In my opinion, doing this thing makes us pretty vulnerable and requires a lots of trust in the other people involved.

[bctt tweet=”What are the three most intimate things you can do with another person?” username=”GillyMaddison”]

It is…ta da…

Singing. Yes singing!

Because – think about it, singing with or in front of other people you don’t know is an extremely intimate thing to do if you are not used to it or confident in your vocal ability…unless you are Ed Sheeran of course, in which case your vulnerability may have melted away with your growing fame – although of course it may not…I guess I’ll never know.

Whether we are having sex, sleeping or singing with other people (and in the case of sex, I would say person rather than people because – well, just call me old fashioned) – we make ourselves extremely vulnerable for reasons I don’t have time to explain here.

Obviously I can’t speak for others but for me, doing any of those three S things should always be out of free choice and only when we completely trust anyone else involved.

Which is probably why I got so upset when Miss Butler tried to force me to sing, alone, in front of people I did not trust, at 13 years old when I was at my most vulnerable.

Way too intimate for me. And yes, I made her cry. I made my music teacher cry because it was her or me and it wasn’t going to be me.

So I rebelled big time and, with my heart in my mouth – I defied her commands to sing.

It was far less threatening for me to be seen rebelling against authority at 13 than it was to sing solo in front of my class and the handful of hard-assed mean kids it contained.

So when Miss Butler decided to make me sing in front of the class, my mouth dried up so much my tongue wouldn’t move and I began to laugh hysterically every time she played the opening chords of Scarborough Fair.

Miss Butler didn’t like me. Looking back, I don’t know if she liked any of us. But I took it personally and dreaded her lessons.

On the day I made her cry, (sobbing in front of your class is probably quite an intimate thing to do now that I think about it) we were in our music lesson at High School.

At the time, it was called a Secondary School and was for the dumb asses who failed the 11 Plus (are you kidding me? – that is another blog post all of its own!).

We were in what was known as the small hall. The small hall had double doors at the back that opened to the outside of the school building.For reasons known only to her, Miss Butler decided to humiliate me that day.

It was a bad move on her part. Like most 13 year olds, I didn’t have the maturity to handle humiliation well. Especially not in front of the mean kids.

So on that day, she plays the opening chords of Scarborough Fair and at the moment I am meant to start, she leans forward and nods her head for me to come in and of course I don’t.

I think that is why this SNL video makes me laugh so much.

I’m burning up with the embarrassment of having the eyes of the class on me and there are already stifled giggles coming from my little band of rebel friends sitting around me.

Miss Butler turns from the piano and tells me, very sharply, that I missed my cue to sing. (“Oh…don’t make me sing!” – seriously – watch the SNL video with Kristen Wiig!)

By this point, my face was crimson.

My heart was racing with the stress I was under and all I wanted to do was burst into tears and run.

Couldn’t do that. Didn’t want to get sent to Wally (that was what we called Mr Webber, our Head Master).

So I waited until she started the intro again and at the point I was supposed to come in, I began to laugh hysterically and of course, so did the whole class.

I don’t remember how many times she tried to make me sing but each time she played the intro, I laughed more and more until it was uncontrollable and the whole room was in stitches.

And each time, Miss Butler’s face got redder and redder until she leapt up from the piano in a fit of anger, stormed over to where I was standing, dragged me out the double doors by my arm and once outside, whacked me several times, very hard across the back of my legs with her hand.

She was out of control. Yes you younger people reading this – it used to be acceptable to physically attack children at school in the 60s. My reaction?

More hysterical laughter. What else could I do? She then stormed back into the lesson, sat down at the piano, bashed her hands down on the keys (just any old keys, she wasn’t too bothered about tuning by that point) and screamed, “Do you know girls, Gillian is STILL laughing!”

At which point she began to cry tears of utter rage.


I never did sing solo in that lesson or any other, because she never tried bullying me again. And I have always avoided singing in front of people. At funerals I always used to mime.

So when my old school friend Sue invited me to go along to the choir she’d just joined,

I laughed and sign-posted her back to that day in the small hall when I left the lesson with Miss Butler’s hand-prints on my legs and suppressed sobs of shame in my chest.

Joining a choir 48 years later was the furthest thing from my mind. I reminded her of the attempted forced solo singing debut when we were in Miss Butler’s class and we both laughed.

Sue and I both remember each others worst times at school.

She remembers me being dragged outside and having my legs attacked by a crazed music teacher and I remember her having her eyebrows and fringe blown off while trying to light a gas oven during a cookery lesson – but is another story.

“Come to the choir” she said, “just for one session and see what you think.” So I went. Just for one session. To see what I thought.

I honestly had no intention of ever going back again because…well, I don’t sing, so why would I?

But going to a choir was an interesting diversion in my week. Something to drag me away from the self-imposed exile of being self-employed working from home interspersed with taking care of elderly parents.

It would be a trip out with Sue doing something different. An interlude in my working week.

I had no idea that Pop Chorus existed until I walked into the rehearsal hall and found myself in a music lesson for the first time in 48 years.

Once again, Sue and I were in a room with 30 other people, side by side, facing a singing teacher, and for me, memories of Miss Butler came flooding back like a tidal wave.

As Jen, the vocal coach for the Felixstowe branch of Pop Chorus, called for quiet to start the session, I wondered if we would sing Scarborough Fair and how she would feel if I suggested she tear it up and eat it.

But oh my goodness – here we are, three months down the line from that day and what a transformation in my life and possibly the lives of all of us who joined Pop chorus in January.

22 thoughts on “The Three Most intimate Things You Can Do With Other People”

  1. I loved singing in a group or alone! But it’s been years since I’ve been in choir – finding it difficult to find one that was not too intense! Enjoy your singing both in and out of the shower.

  2. Hi Gilly,
    How are you? It’s been a while. I will be linking to you this Sunday in an article I’m writing about bloggers’ health concerns. You once had a moving comment about blogger burnout. I can’t find any comments from you on my blog, strangely. Do you remember if you wrote about it (the need for walking, etc.) in one of your articles? If so, can you please send me the link? Thanks. My email is coming in with my comment. I hate to impose, but can you please send it there? Thanks, Hope all is well.

  3. Super, stupendous, spectacular post, Gilly. When I was a kid, I resented it when my mother tried to get me to sing in front of people. I sing when I want to sing. These days, that’s every day!

    1. I am in good company then Ann! Remember that song, I’d Like To Teach the World To Sing In Perfect Harmony? That could work! Thanks so much for reading and commenting in this busy life we all have.

  4. Well done Gilly!!! a brilliant account of our music lesson at school. Sweeter memories we are now making with Jen and all our new found friends at Pop Chorus. At the age we are now we don’t need to worry about anything other than having fun, trying new hobbies, having confidence and giving it all we’ve got to please ourselves and many more people hopefully, that comes to see us performing with the choir.

    1. Glad you like it Sue! Despite the traumas – we did have a good laugh at school didn’t we? Shame we didn’t learn much!!!! 🙂 And so glad you dragged me along to Pop Chorus – never had so much fun with such a great bunch of people.

  5. Since I can’t carry a tune in a bucket I never sing for anyone except animals, such as our three dogs, who seem politely amused. My first and only formal music training was on the violin which, I now realize, is like taking someone who’s only drawn with crayons and trying to make them do Dutch still lifes.
    It’s incredibly admirable that you’ve not only joined a chorus but are helping people as well.

  6. Oh my. I used to love singing in school chorus until about middle school (6,7,8 in the US) and then I joined band playing the clarinet. There I used to like blending in because I didn’t like to practice. Music lessons got us out of regular music class though so I took them. Used to frustrate my teacher. So he assigned me the big bass clarinet. I hated it because it came with a solo and I had to carry the damn thing back and forth from school, which was–no lie– a mile each way. Every time it was my turn I would laugh and giggle while I tried to play because I was so embarrassed. He eventually had someone else take the instrument and I quit band the following year.

    1. Thanks Jennifer – I am really enjoying reading these memories of music and singing in school – it’s always interesting to get other perspectives because we tend to think it was just US that had problems 🙂 But walking 2 miles with a bass clarinet could not have been fun!Isn’t it funny how we sing so freely when we are young and then discover embarrassment as we get older. Such a shame. Thanks for reading and commenting.

  7. Gilly, that breaks my heart. I can understand the urge to hit students, tho!!
    I’m so glad to hear you are singing in a choir now! What a healing experience for you!

      1. Thankfully, I no longer have the urge, since I don’t have to face the demons, oops, I mean darlings anymore!!

        BTW, have you noticed I had 1 or 2 posts with NO links?? I thought of you, while I was writing those!!

  8. Lift every voice and sing! Great story, Gilly. Brings back memories of always being around some sort of singing at school. Having gone to a predominantly Irish Catholic school we were always singing and not because we were in a choir. There was always some high mass that required our angelic voices. I think we were so used to it wasn’t anything special. It was like an ongoing Songs of Praise phase.

    As for teachers hitting students, it was over by the 70’s. I remember a teacher going ballistic on a student one day and gone the next. Teaching was definitely not his calling.

    Loved the choir shows with Gareth Malone and thought it would be great to get a few choirs going on this side of the pond as long as I wasn’t in any of them. Everyone should find their voice.

    I find mine in the shower, and anytime I am alone in the house.

    Keep singing your own song Gilly.

    1. Thanks Judith. It’s interesting to hear other people’s experiences with singing through childhood and into adult life. I think I had always sung freely in primary school too, before I had learned not to trust people with my vulnerabilities. I loved what I saw of Gareth Malone – our choir founder has a similar belief in people and it really seems to work magic. Hope all is well with you Judith. Thanks for coming by and sharing your experiences.

  9. Oh what a glorious story. As it happened, I used to love singing and I had a great voice. My mom would trot me out at gatherings to sing in front of friends. She would get me to sing her favourite song, wait for it, Scarborough fair! I would sing in front of my class mates too. Being always the new girl (we moved around a lot), I was shy and yet singing transcended me from that shyness. At around 17 though, I stopped. I left school and the choir and lost confidence in my ability to sing. I had an awful karaoke experience that further solidified my fear of singing. But then my mom died and she had asked me to sing “Scarborough Fair” and “amazing grace” at her funeral. As I rehearsed with her church band, my confidence grew and I felt proud to sing at her funeral. I was going to get lessons and join an adult choir – I’ve been mulling it over for 7 years – and reading your post has given me the impetus to give it a go. Look forward to reading about Pop Chorus. Glad you have found your voice after such a horrible experience. ❤

    1. Wow – what a journey you went on with singing! And how lovely you sang for your mum. I am sure Australia has some brilliant choirs that would love to have you. If you have had singing experience, it wouldn’t take you long to get back in vocal shape I’m sure – go for it Sarah! Thanks for reading and telling me your story – glad things are going well for you. Your new house sounds fabulous and your planned craft room looks wonderful! xxx

  10. I can’t imagine, as an educator, hitting a child. For sure they’d whack back today way harder… lol. What a crazy experience. Glad you shared.

    1. Hi Patricia – thanks for stopping by. To be honest, we didn’t really think anything of it at the time because those were the times we lived in. I don’t agree with people hitting each other – certainly not children but I have to say, there were no serious behaviour problems in our schools like there are today and my acting the way I did in that lesson was born out of embarrassment rather than naughtiness. I totally agree with what you say, children today would hit back! Thanks again – I am about to make a long overdue visit to your blog!

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