When I was a teenager, I gravitated towards heavy metal, much to my parents’ dismay. They routinely pointed out their disappointment to me in the same manner of someone announcing news of a recent natural disaster. My parents, of course, thought it was a phase, so I tried to ease their worries by listening to it constantly at an excessively high volume. When they began to consider shock therapy, I told them that I could have done drugs, become an alcoholic, or listened to Michael Bolton. Still, my parents’ attitude didn’t change. So, I did what any responsible person would do: I ignored them.
Soon after, I realized that I was best suited to be a heavy metal guitarist. At that point, I had never actually held a guitar, but I knew with absolute certainty that I’d look amazing while holding one. Plus, girls loved rock stars, guys wanted to be rock stars, and, aside from the occasional heroin overdoses and children they’d discover ten years after the fact, it looked like a good deal.
Also, playing guitar would catapult my dating life to a level that would be the envy of everyone. Already I could see my romantic future:
Me: Hi. How’s it going?
Her: I have a boyfriend.
Me: I can play guitar.
Her: We just broke up. Please comfort me in my time of need.
Before I could reach that level of success, there was one minor thing I needed to do: learn how to play guitar. I heard stories of people who would pick up guitars and be immediately good. I also heard that girls would gravitate towards guys at an alarming rate simply by them sitting in the grass somewhere with a guitar. Since the odds were clearly in my favor, all I needed was to find a guitar. After picking up a friend’s guitar, it turned out that I wasn’t one of those “good” people, unless one defines “good” as being able to make the instrument sound like the extinction of an entire species. And also, no girls materialized and gravitated towards me, which was really depressing (I blame Nickelback).
Putting aside my sizable disappointment, I found a cheaper and more emotionally satisfying alternative: playing air guitar whilst jumping around like an enraged spider monkey.
For those who may not know, air guitar is a fine art, like origami, except that no talent is involved and you never want to get caught doing it. I know this mostly because it turned out that girls weren’t impressed with my air guitar skills, no matter how many times I demonstrated it for them in my parents’ basement. They seemed far more interested in notifying the authorities.
One day, I stumbled across something on the internet that I wish I could have found out sooner. Turns out—and I’m being completely serious—there’s a world air guitar competition. Included on their website are such helpful guidelines as the following: “The instrument of the contestant must be invisible, i.e. air.” I can only imagine the pandemonium that would erupt should a contestant have the misfortune to show up with a guitar made out of non-air materials.
Anyway, I took the time to watch a video of the world champion, and it truly was something to behold. It’s one thing to play air guitar, but it’s another thing entirely to realize that large groups of people congregated to watch this competition. I can imagine the hordes of journalists converging on this event with the same fervor as they would for a Beatles reunion tour. They’d conduct interviews that would probably go something like this:
Interviewer: So, how did you enjoy the air guitar competition?
Fan: I was really impressed with Jeremy. He did a spectacular job.
Interviewer: What in particular made him stand out?
Fan: With some of the other guys, I got the impression that they were playing a real guitar, but Jeremy was really able to look like he was playing a real guitar but not actually playing one. I really thought it was great how he had to tune it in the middle of the song. Really great stuff.
Interviewer: Truly inspirational. What about you? Are you thinking of competing next year?
Fan: Possibly. I have to work harder at not practicing real guitar. Every time I try to play air guitar, I get distracted by my real guitar, and it ruins everything.
I’m not sure what’s more depressing: the fact that this competition exists, or that after I watched the video I realized I wasn’t even good enough to compete with fake guitar players. It really is a special kind of feeling to fail at playing an invisible instrument.
This whole air guitar thing tainted my perception of the word “air”. I suppose it’s appropriate that there are shoes called “Air Jordans” since they enhance the wearer’s basketball skills about as much as actual air. Oh well.