The advice sounded simple. “Try changing the tone of your inner voice. Make that voice appealing, make it sexy.”
After a lifetime of walking past the book in the grocery store checkout I had finally caved and bought it — A Powerful You! It was a gimmicky self-help book that promised to annihilate anxiety and destroy depression by harnessing the power inside of you! After flipping through it a hundred times (I knew it was the same copy because I’d been dog-earing the pages) I admitted it probably couldn’t hurt.
All the same, I’d gone through the self checkout instead of Becca’s aisle when I bought it. As if it was some mystery that I’m anxious and depressed and need self-help.
I started reading in the car.
“Try changing the tone of your inner voice. Make it appealing, make it sexy.” That stuck with me. Turning the mean little voice sexy. I’d never thought of the voice having character before, but I guess it does. It sounded like me impersonating my drunk step-dad; the kind of voice you can only make when your eyebrows are furrowed.
Trying to change it couldn’t hurt. I angled the rear-view mirror, waiting for a thought. All I saw was myself. I looked like an obese hamster going through a sex change — I caught the thought. Yikes, it was harsh. True, but harsh. No wonder I had low self esteem. I looked at myself again, trying to make the voice sexy.
‘You look like a hamster going through a sexy change, you sexy hunk, you.’ Too intense. Also not sexy at all. I dialed it back. ‘You look… nice.’ That was the right direction. The voice was starting to sound less mean and more like an effeminate impression of myself. ‘You look good today.’ This time the voice was smoother, more girlish. ‘You look good, like a guy about to make a change.’ The voice was husky, smooth, and feminine. It felt right. ‘A sexy change.’ There. Perfect.
But life doesn’t let you live in front of a mirror admiring yourself. At home I realized I’d forgotten milk. I had to hit the grocery store again.
‘You stupid idiot, how did you forget milk, you always need–’ I caught myself. Negative voice. I switched it.
‘You sexy mink.’ That was better. ‘You forgot the milk, probably too distracted thinking about…’ The voice giggled. ‘…other things.’ It was true. I’d been trying to see which aisle Becca was working.
‘Becca? Should I be jealous?’ the voice said, teasing.
I laughed at myself. I could see how this could get ridiculous. But it was also sort of fun. Much better than the last voice.
‘I think you should talk to Becca, maybe it’ll go great.’ I made the voice more supportive — I didn’t want to go all psycho killer on myself. ‘Just ask her about her weekend.’
I had the milk and was walking through the bakery section to grab some cinnamon buns — my comfort food. Becca had been at checkout five; if she wasn’t on break I’d be able to talk to her.
A familiar looking girl was standing by the muffins. Pita bread was the only buffer between us when I recognized her. One of my sister’s friends — Kelsey. She was blonde. She was beautiful. My hand froze on the cinnamon buns, breath caught in my throat. She hadn’t spotted me but she would — a girl can only read muffin ingredients for so long.
‘Shit, when she sees you she’s going to see how fat you are and laugh and are you sure her name is even Kelsey? What should you say? Hi? Or pretend you didn’t see her? You’re awful at this!’
I forced an inhale and tried to change the voice.
‘Shit–’ I tried harder and the voice softened. ‘–you’re pretty sure she’s Kelsey; after all, you grew up with her.’ The voice did its husky laugh. ‘Just say hi, it doesn’t matter. If she wants to talk just ask her questions about her life–’ the voice dropped an octave, ‘–she’s gonna think you’re a stalker–’ I forced it back up, exhaling. ‘There’s nothing weird about knowing your sister’s friend’s name.’
Kelsey looked up from the muffins, probably startled by my loud breathing.
She smiled. “Hey, you’re Scott, Tay’s brother, yeah?’
I nodded, accidentally keeping my neck stiff. My whole body bent forward. “Yup, that’s me!” I said too cheerfully. “You are Kelsey.”
“Ha ha yeah, good memory. I haven’t seen you in ages!”
‘Smile,’ the voice said. ‘You’re handsome when you smile.’ I tried and felt my cheeks tighten. It must have been working.
“Yeah, it’s been a while.” I fought for something to say. “You look older.” My stomach clenched. “In a good way! Like you look grown up and good.”
“Thanks, I wish I felt grown up too.” She laughed and picked up the muffins. “You look good. Like way more confident than I remember.”
“Thanks.” That was unexpected.
“Yeah…” She smiled and turned to go. “Well, it was nice bumping into you. Say hi to Tay next time you see her!”
“Okay, bye!” I said to her back.
I finally exhaled when she turned the corner. The voice chimed in, bright and excited. ‘I told you it would be fine!’
Somewhere off in my head the other voice was saying something. I couldn’t hear it over the grin that had taken hold of my face.
‘Just listen to me from now on and you’ll be fine. I believe in you.’ The voice was sweet and sexy and reassuring, and best of all — I felt it was right. ‘Now, I believe you were heading to a certain checkout five?’
I turned toward the front, leaving the cinnamon buns behind. What does a good looking, confident man need cinnamon buns for? Besides, I had some left over from last time. Through a few other customers I could see Becca’s brown hair. I joined the queue. I felt good.
Kyle Siemens knows that one day he will be a prolific writer creating world-changing books. But for now, he’s just trying to bring some encouragement and humor to the world.