If I’ve ever been good at anything, it’s talking. All my elementary school teachers told me so. I guess I was also good at taking a compliment because when Mrs. Henderson would shoot me eyes across the classroom and say, “You’re getting a little too good at talking,” I would immediately become filled with pride and consider my communication skills superior to the other second graders around me. It wasn’t until I set an unprecedented record for yellow lights (an even split between talking excessively and my inability to stop crying) that I determined that my gift for gab may not be the best thing in the entire world.
However, coming from Tennessee, I never considered that my voice was any different from anyone else’s. Sure, I talk a little louder than other people, but that’s because so many people ignored my very important things I wanted to contribute to conversation as a child. Naturally, I spoke louder so that they could hear me. It wasn’t until I was older that I realized that the way I say things may not be the way that other people say them. What I have never understood is the reaction that people have when there is a communication barrier. It’s the same kind of lapse in judgment that people have when there’s a bad connection on a cell phone; walking around a circle with a three feet radius repeating Can you hear me? is not going to give your phone any more bars than it had before. Holding it up fourteen inches above your ear won’t do anything either.
When I visited a high school teacher after graduation, we sat down for dinner and began to talk about how life was in college. I told her and her husband about joining a fraternity, making Dean’s List… all the basic things that people recap when you talk about your college life. She told me about things that were happening at school and all the things privvy to everyone except the students that actually go there. As we approached the end of the night, I collected my pea coat from the closet, fixed my scarf around my neck and said the fatal word: Goodnight.
In unison, they responded: Good knot?
I retorted: Goodnight.
Again: Good knot?
This literally went on for at least forty-five seconds. I explained how, for some reason, my teachers had not beaten the Southern accent out of me as a child, and when I use certain vowels, the drawl comes out a little more than it would regularly. As if I hadn’t picked up on the hint, they went on to explain to me how odd my accent was. It sounded so… rustic, which is a politically correct way of saying podunk. Then it usually follows with someone saying how endearing my voice is, which is a politically correct way of saying, Hey, I’m really entertained by your voice. Let’s draw some attention to it. It’s a burden and a curse I suppose, but I’ve never really been bothered by it. That is… until appa bahp.
Last summer, a couple of friends and I decided to escape campus for a while and go grab a bite to eat. Smokey Mountain Brewery was a new restaurant in the area, so naturally, it seemed like a good option. We had decided that with it being a brewery and restaurant that focused specifically on Southern favorites, it only made sense to order something that would be specifically Southern. When our waitress approached the table she seemed nice enough: young, pregnant, and without a wedding ring… something not too uncommon for a waitress in the greater East Tennessee area. I find myself immediately attracted to people like this. She said she would have married her boyfriend, but she hadn’t seen him since she told him that she was pregnant. She asked us for our drink orders, and I thought we had a connection. I thought she cared. I thought she wasn’t obnoxious, but when I said that I wanted the “Apple Pie Moonshine,” she put her hands on her hips and announced “APPA BAHP?!” Like I usually do, I repeated myself Um, the apple pie moonshine. And like clockwork, she responded APPA BAHP?! My friends couldn’t get enough; what a funny joke it must have been. Completely unamused, I responded I don’t understand. Like someone who can’t quite find appropriate things humorous or who just has to tell everyone the last black joke they heard, she responded yet again APPA BAHP?! It literally went on and on for three minutes, the longest that I’ve ever seen anyone choose to be so blissfully obnoxious. I wasn’t sure what to do because it seemed as if I was at that point in Mario where you don’t really care enough to actually go into the green PVC pipe that takes you to the next level… you’d rather just throw your controller out the window. I didn’t even want to get a drink anymore; I just wanted her to deliver the baby inside of her so I could shamelessly toss her through the window, then steal the baby and raise it as my own so that it would have a chance for an okay life.
|Oh Meredith, what have you
done with your hair?
And I guess that my voice is no Dan Rather, but calling upon the distinctness of someone’s voice, particularly someone from the South that could be deemed as “stupid,” is kind of unfruitful if you make yourself sound like an idiot in the process. Unless you’re in a debate with strategic facts and figures in between your statements, repeating yourself is something that kind of makes you look like a, well… a dumbass. To this day my vowels haunt me; some would say that it’s my Achilles Heel–my weakness and my strength. My hope was to come to DC and use my accent as a distraction, making any “competitors” think that I am some dumb hillbilly and then skating past them when they’re not looking. I think the plan has worked halfway so far, but without any opportunities to skate yet, it’s more just people thinking I’m kind of dumb.
But at the end of the day, you should be proud of who you are and where you come from. Everyone in the world is so plain, so ordinary, so uninspiring. That’s why Meredith’s mom on Grey’s Anatomy never loved her enough. She doesn’t have an accent, her scrubs are never ironed, and she has a frumpy haircut. And that’s a frustrating thing to see in your child, let alone another person. You honestly need something to make you distinctive from everyone else in the world because who wants to go through the world being just another person with a non-distinct personality/accent/face/haircut? Look at Matthew McConaughey; he can’t act or do anything helpful for the human race, but he still gets hired for movies because of his voice… or his body. Whatevs. Surely you can’t be that worthless; imagine the possibilities.