It was a new hip-hop song that we both like, so I turned it up and we sang along to the parts that we knew, and pretended not to notice that half the words were bleeped out.
Then, because I’m that mom, I turned it up all the way and we put on our gangster faces and threw our arms and hands around like rappers do, you know, like part interpretive dance/intimidation tactic.
The song ended and I smiled at her in the rearview mirror. She blurted, “I can’t rap.”
She was surprised, and more than a little bit exasperated. She was disgusted with herself for not having this gift the way I get disgusted when I see people spit on the ground. She was disgusted with herself, a young girl born and raised in the suburbs who was on her way to play the French horn at her school’s board meeting, wearing a band T-shirt tucked into black dress slacks.
I wanted to say, Dude. Look at you. Look at me. You are obviously not born of rapper stock.
But instead I said, “I can’t either.”
Despite years of hearing “Can’t is a four letter word” and “Remove Can’t from your vocabulary” from well-intentioned but ultra-idealistic educators, I have learned as an adult that “I Can’t” is a valid declaration. I have learned that, unless I am willing to throw myself into intense study and practice, there are many things that I just can’t do naturally. This discovery comes after a lifetime of doing things that I love and finding out that I suck at them.
And I’ve learned to give up those things, or at least own my sucktitude. After all, we can’t all be perfect at everything. What would Beyoncé do?
For one thing, I used to sing in high school and in church choirs, but I am just not good at it. I have a decent level of musicality, but I have a thin, reedy voice that dies if I spend too much time talking at a normal level, let alone belting out songs.
Then there's dancing. I took dance classes for 10 years. Ten. Plus a few years of adult classes. And no one's coming around to pay me to dance for them. Ahem. I’m okay keeping up with a beat, but watch out if I get into producing a complicated movement or series of steps. And by watch out I mean stand back because you are about to get hurt.
As for playing sports, I can't. I'm just so awkward. I can’t even run down the street in a straight line.
I can't bake either. Every batch of cookies is questionable. I can’t quite figure it out, nor can I predict what kind of disaster is lurking within each ball of dough or bowl of batter.
Landscaping and gardening are not my strengths. I can’t get our yard to look nice no matter what I try. It is a conglomeration of ugly shrubbery and trees. Some are dead and others haven’t grown in years. Once I pitifully tried to grow peppers and tomatoes. We used to have an Easter lily that only bloomed in July. Each year I spend hundreds on flowers, only to watch them struggle under my terroristic black thumb.
My ironing skills? Laughable. Most of the clothing I iron looks worse after I had my hands on it than if I had just let it stay wrinkled. As an aside, do you know that there are about ten different ways to get scorch marks off of clothing?
There are other things I can't do, but I can’t remember them right now. Remembering things that I should is just one more thing I can’t do.
It’s okay. Like I said before, I've learned to own my weaknesses, and not let them get to me. I've found that I enjoy watching others do the things I can't more than I ever loved doing them. What's more, I know what I can do, and do those things happily, like love my family, provide a comfortable home, laugh at myself, and write a decent blog post.
Okay, that last one is hit and miss.