“Well is not lik I chos tah get in tah trhuble ovar this!” I say talking quickly as I got more, and more aggravated with the situation. I had just gotten into an argument with my parents over a few things that were missed in school. It was bugging me a lot they were making too big a deal out of it. They never seemed to understand much when it came to their youngest daughter.
“Ok ok. I understand.” My friend tells me as my out bursts become more, and more hard to understand as my Irish accent comes out of hiding.
“It juhst not fairh! I dow mah best tah make them happy an….grrr!” I was too upset with my parents at the time to realize I was talking too fast to be completely understood. When I calmed down enough to speak normal it was more of a south philly slang then an Irish accent. It had been unintentional, and hard to understand. I could tell by the look on her face that she had no clue what I had been saying. It didn’t take me long to realize what I must of sounded like, and it wasn’t exactly a good thing. “Sorry, I just can believe they’re actin like this.”
“Yeah I know what you mean.”
No, my argument with my parents didn’t exactly matter in this scene we don’t see eye to eye enough for it to matter. No, what I want you to see is that accent placed so oddly in my voice. That slight higher pitch, that quickened pace, the rolling r’s, all signs I had gotten too upset to keep my crazy Irish accent out of my speech. Was I born in Ireland? Answer no. I’m third generation in this country on my father’s side. Was I introduced to it a lot as a kid? Same as before no. My father only spoke it to show how his Grandmum spoke when she was alive. I taught my self by practicing every time I thought of it when I was younger.
I hadn’t realized that with an already fast South Philly accent I could easily get myself into unconsciously to start speak with an Irish accent when upset. I never intended to do such a thing as this. I admit at one point I did use the Irish accent on purpose to impress others, but after a few years of doing so it became a force of habit. I regret doing so though more then likely I speak with the South Philly accent I was born into. I hate to do things unintended, because it got me picked on sometimes. When in elementary I got picked on a lot, but I was laughed at because when I would get upset the South Philly in me showed in how I spoke.
“Mon’ that ant cool! Could ya do me this one favore, an leav me the hell alone?” I would yell at the girls sitting there making fun of anything they could pick at to kill my already dying self-esteem.
“Stop tryin ta be gensta, when ya know ya ant!” they would counter.
“I ant tryin nothin you’re the one’s startin something wit me! Comon can’t ya just leav me alone already!” it was one thing to have my looks and personality looked at, and completely demolished by those who were my fellow school mates, but my speech was something I couldn’t hide for too long. When I would get angry not only would I speak like a south Philly girl, but I would yell, and make my voice shrill with rage. That always got a laugh every time. I began to hate talking at all not only was my emotion in it made fun of, but I got shut down by my classmates for even talking.
It’s like James Baldwin says “Language is also a political instrument means, and proof of power”. What he said made sense to me who never seemed able to find power in my speech even when emotional. If language is power then it seems obvious that even when angry I had none. My voice was too shrill, the Philly slang coming out of a person so small, and proper under most circumstances was bound to be unthreatening. The fact that everyone laughed when I put my powerful emotions in to my voice shows that they had stripped me of that power. It also shows that I don’t have a complete understanding on how to use my voice, even when emotional, as a tool to be heard. It goes with out saying now that I have no real power in the voice I have.
After being laughed at for so many years I learned better then to open my mouth. I became soft spoken, I would try not to answer questions I knew the answer to and would keep as quiet as possible when not with friends. As I got older I started to use my voice as a whip. I would spit out cruel words, and retorts when angry also without the yelling. I had gotten good at hurtful phrases with a tone of voice that could cut, and burn the ears of the people who had once used them to hurt me. After all my years of being the one stung, and cut I was now turning their hurtful weapons against them. The scars, and my rage coming together to turn the tables on the battleground that was my self-esteem, and theirs’. I held on to those taunts, and words waiting for just the right moment to turn them against the people who needed some revenge induced karma as I call it.
Maxine Hong Kingston said something that works very well with what I was doing in my head. She says in her story “Tongue-Tied” that, “The hearer can carry it tucked away without it taking up much room.” The ‘it’ being something a person says, like telling a person a story. What I did was similar, I took every horrible and painful thing they said to me, and tucked it away. I held on to them for years, and years they never got in the way. I waited until I finally had just about enough of their taking advantage of my quiet, and pacifist personality to unleash on them what they had said, and called me all those years ago. “Bitch” was the first word in my arsenal, and it came out as a shocker to every person in the class who heard me say it. “Did that just happen?” they seemed to be collectively thinking. Did the small person who was almost always invisible till someone wanted someone to hurt another just snap back with a cuss word? They were shocked. I on the other hand wasn’t, I had been holding on to that, and many other words for years just waiting for the right time to put anger, and memory to work.
In reality it had taken me much too long to learn how to put power in my voice the right way. It wasn’t so much how I spoke or how loud I was when emotional. If you didn’t learn the right words, and tone to use when trying to get the results you wanted you got laughed at, and hurt. I to this day can’t decide if that’s the right idea or not. Looking back at how much time I spent studying the right way to be heard by others I couldn’t tell you if I was wrong, or right. It had taken 6 years to even get a clue on what words to use, or how my voice should sound. In the end I think I learned how to use words as a weapon rather then a means of getting my point across, so I still get ignored at times, and it does still bother me, but I at lest try to be heard now, and again.