Not the Same Girl By:Leah Petty

“Mom where is father”

I have called my dad father for about a year now, It started out as a joke but I like it. I also used to call my mom mother but she hated it, I wasn’t sure what she didn’t like about it but she just didn’t.

I was raised being taught to sit, eat and walk as my great grandmother would say a “young lady”. My latest childhood memory with someone correcting me for the way I spoke when I was about three or four. When I was little I watched a tv show call “Dora the Explorer”, it was a kids cartoon about a young hispanic girl that explored places and taught kids Spanish. There was a fox on the show named “Swiper the Fox”, and he would always try to swipe things away from Dora. Sometimes he would get them other times he would not, but when he did not he would always say “Aw Man”. I would repeat often this phrase. My great grandmother would always tell me not to say that. . Sometimes in the middle of me saying it she would this a face, that would make me know not to say something. Whenever my mom was around to hear it she would defend me by say “It’s is off of a TV show she watches”. When my mom wasn’t around she would still stop me from saying it.

When I started school, I started off in a small private school in West Philadelphia. It was primarily black, but it was Pre-K so my language didn’t really change most just expanded. It was when I started first grade at another school in West Philadelphia, in the the Powelton area, called Powel Elementary. This one was sort of diverse, but I would say it was more “white” than any other race. The kids there spoke proper as well as the teachers teacher.. Instead of say “I’m very mad at the class” they would use synonyms for mad. So they would say “I am very angry at the class to today” or  “The class has angered me today“. I didn’t think anything of it at the time, but now I look back at it a lot.

Powel wasn’t a school in my neighborhood, but I was fairly close to me. But if anyone wanted me out of that school, and told someone that wasn’t my neighborhood school I would have been transferred. In the book Hunger of Memory by Richard Rodriguez, in the text he talks about his school being mostly white. He says “An accident of geography sent me to a school where all my classmates were white.”. This is almost the same for me expect the opposite. My parents fought for me to go to Powel. They wanted me to be exposed to people that would help benefit me the the future.      

When I graduated from Powel, I went to Middle Years Alternative (MYA). This school was majority of black. My language changed a lot, I used much more slang, not even slang but words people would not consider proper English. Like “ain’t”, “funer” and “hurted”.It something that I am not proud of today. My fifth and sixth grade year are what I would call now, the rock bottom of my language. My family was correcting me on things I honestly did not care about, because it was the way my friends and I talked.

It was not until my seventh grade year in MYA is when I wanted to change my language. My little sister had started my old school Powel the year I started MYA. In my seventh grade year my mom had become really involved in Powel’s home school committee, and she became Vice President of it. I started spend a lot more time at Powel. I remember time there was a meeting at the president of the Home and Schools house. She lived in University City, in a pretty big house to be living in the city. Six bedroom, two bath, and a wonderful kitchen out of a magazine. While I was at the house I was listening to the meeting, and they talk so proper, even my mom had code switch. Around that time is when I decided that I wanted to talk like everyone in that room. They were all so successful, and had nice big houses, and really good job. Not saying my parents didn’t have good jobs, but my parents are college professors at Penn, I pretty much envied the people in that room them. Most those people are all good friend of my family now, I babysit most of their kids, at the same house. Every time I am there I am reminded of how it changed that person I am today.

When I decided that I wanted talk proper, I reason I did it was because I thought it would take me places. Which I feel like it did, I started getting better grades, and even became president of my school. My principal loved me, and I was because I was like a diamond in the rough. Compared to the kids in my graduating class I was a mini adult. I soon got into SLA, the only kid in my whole graduating class. To this day I refuse to sound like a girl born and raised in West Philadelphia, but like a girl from somewhere in the Suburbs.