as accents die

I have always hated the Boston accent.

I think because a lot of people I don’t like have it.

including me.

 

I know the problem with hating local accents.

It’s classist.

I get it.

But I think I’m allowed to hate the sound of my own voice

when I’m angry or drunk

and I drop my r’s.

 

my mother says

the boston accent

isn’t an accent, really,

but an attitude.

“come ahn, ked”

“pahk ya cah” and all that.

it’s angry, it’s drunk

just like me

when it comes out of my mouth.

 

i already feel gangly and too big

too noticable

(though I’m only 5’2).

I already don’t like to be noticed in person.

I only like my words to be noticed

when they are printed

and handed over silently.

 

i want people to read my words

and hear their own voice

not mine.

i want to be invisible.

 

i hate my accent.

“you don’t even have an accent.”

everybody has an accent.

even when i’m not drunk or angry

people at college knew where i was born.

i’ll never be free of this place.

my tongue remains a prisoner.

 

at least my fingers are free.

Where you from?: Conversation Starters

It’s the first day in a new class, or at a new job. You don’t know anybody, and have two choices: either hide in the back-left corner, take out your laptop, and pretend you can’t see or hear anyone, or strike up a conversation with someone nearby.

You know the class/job will likely be easier if you have someone to talk to. And look! There’s someone who doesn’t seem so loud or annoying. You start talking a bit, and it’s going well, but you realize you’re running out of things to say. You can only discuss classes and majors and previous jobs for so long, and you don’t know anything else about this person. Where’s the best place to go from here?

Place…that’s it!

It may sound lame, but asking where someone’s from is one of the oldest and best tricks in the book. No matter where they’re from, it can inform and further the conversation.

Are they from your hometown? What a coincidence! Ask about their high school experience, if they ever went to that great Indian restaurant, if they know so-and-so.

Are they from your home state? Great! You can talk about how you have/have not been to their town. You can talk about your ventures to the capital city, or the other big attractions. You can talk about how you’ve always wanted to go there.

Are they from a well-known place, like New York City? Now you can ask if it’s really like how it is in the movies. Is it as crowded/expensive? What stereotypes are true? You can ask this about really any place you don’t know well. They’re from England/Morocco/Alabama/Kuwait? What’s it like there? I’ve heard this, is that true? What’s the best part about it? This is a great way to learn about them and a new place at the same time.

Are they from a place you’ve never heard of? Like a strange farming town or a country you couldn’t point to on a map? Even better. Admit that you’ve never heard of it—they probably won’t be surprised that you haven’t—and ask questions.

The best thing about this question is that it’s easy and harmless. Plus, it gets turned back to you with no pressure. Someone will almost always ask the question back to you, but you have the answer prepared. You know where you’re from, and you know plenty about it.

Much like the “weather” conversation starter, this may seem obvious and maybe even cliché. But it’s a tool you can keep in your tool belt when conversation begins to run dry. You can always find another question to ask after you know where someone’s from.

However! This only really works with people you just met. Don’t ask it if you already know the answer! That would just be awkward. Good luck!

Notebooks never forgotten

Does anyone else fall in love with their notebooks? I’ve never thrown one away. I flip through them when I reach the final page and reminisce about the doodles in the margins, the swooping titles shaded and shadowed during boring lectures and five minute breaks. I love the feel of well-worn pages, I love the smell of quick-run ink.

I can’t throw it away! Not after hours spend sliding the side of my hand over the blue lines, not after flipping each page one by one—except the one that stuck and got skipped. I couldn’t possibly send this to the curb after it supported me during late nights studying, during impossible essays.

Dark, denting consonants when I was angry. Soft pencil scratches when the teacher turned on the overhead light. Slanted print when I took notes during a film. Perfect cursive at the beginning of class, slowly morphing into illegible loops and bumps, like my pen had monitored an irregular heartbeat.

All the knowledge I had soaked up and forgotten lay fresh on the page, preserved from light and water by thin shiny covers. Coffee stained corners, nail polish smeared on the edge.

The black ink haloes finished classes with rosy nostalgia in the wistful summer. The thing I snatched off my desk in a rush, threw across the room in frustration, attacked with red pens, bought for fifty cents at Walgreens—this is what I swoon over? This is what makes me sigh and shove in a drawer instead of a recycle bin?

Emotions are strange…but perhaps for a writer, who swears every word is her heart bleeding on the page, it makes sense for a notebook to feel like a part of her that can’t carelessly be forgotten.

On Being Overwhelmed, Part 2

Deep in the third week of class, my excitement has tapered down to a beige drone. I’m no longer ready to learn, I’m mostly just ready to go to sleep.

The to-do lists are piling up at the same rate as my homework assignments. I’m drowning in paper.

One of my teachers spends all of class yelling about how the environment is dying and we need to treat animals as equals. What class is this, you ask? Multicultural Literature. I wake up for her 8 am class and listen to her rant about the food industry, the pain and suffering in the world…all while drinking imported coffee.

Then there’s British Literature. We’re focusing on poetry, which to me might as well be written in Martian. We switch to prose in two weeks…just gotta hang on until then.

History of Islam is interesting, but the reading is a bore and I find myself drowsing during lectures.

Study of Behavior is alright, another lecture-heavy class. We’re on anatomy now, learning about neurons and how mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell.

Finally, my saving grace, my four hour Intermediate Creative Writing: Fiction class, which I love with my heart and soul and yet only happens once a week.

A lot of college feels like a waste of time. Trying to motivate myself to do my homework never works, because I’m not doing it because I’m being paid to, or to help someone, or for fun. I’m doing it for myself. Sometimes I feel like I just don’t love my future self enough to put my present self through such misery.

It’s like how you work out so you don’t break down in old age. Sure, it’s good for you, but it’s a lot of pain and suffering to save yourself…pain. And suffering. It’s, do I pay the toll now or later?

With education, I barely have a choice. I have to pay the toll now. I have to get educated. I have to hold my breath and clench my fists and listen to the lectures and read the books and manage a way to tie a crazy cat lady’s rant to Toni Morrison’s Beloved. For future me.

I better appreciate it.

First Day of Classes and The Concept of Names

I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with the first day of class. Going over the syllabus always filled me with excitement. I like learning, and learning about what learning I’ll be doing in the near future was like candy. The worst part about the first day was always introductions.

Hi, my name is blank, I’m from blank, I’m a blank major, and something exciting I did over the summer was blank.

Maybe it’s in part because no one ever seems to do something exciting over summers (except that one kid who went to Mexico or where ever) or because I know I won’t remember anyone’s name, but the biggest reason is because introducing myself fills me with anxiety.

Do I use my full name? Just my first name? My nick name? City and state? What in God’s name did I do over the summer? I draw a blank on it. If I’m lucky enough to go near the end I write myself out a script on the corner of the syllabus. I even write down my name in case I forget.

It’s funny how much emphasis people put on names. It’s perceived as one of the most important details about a person. I suppose it makes sense–what good is knowing random facts about someone if you cannot refer to them clearly? But yet they are still so strange.

The functionality of names is inarguable. But why are names sometimes popular? Why are there millions of Emilys, Olivias, Davids, and Sams? Why do we invent words and call them names? What is an “Emily” anyhow? Some names mean things, if you look them up, but no one ever actually names their daughter “Bringer of Light.” But why not?

Sometimes I think about myself and my name and it blows my mind that my name is mine. I will say it out loud, hear it come out of my mouth, and feel baffled. It doesn’t seem like a fact. It doesn’t seem important.

Something interesting about the English language–and I don’t know if other languages do this, but I don’t think most do–is that we say “I am Tom” whereas other cultures would say “My name is Tom.” Both sentences are correct in English, but the difference is that we often have such a close relationship with our name it becomes us. We are not our names–we are separate beings, we are bodies, we are minds. The name is just what we refer to each other as.

I also think it would be nice if it were more commonplace to change one’s name. Perhaps at 18 years of age, if everyone got to choose whether to keep their name or switch it. Many people don’t like their name. Someone’s parents may have named them Sunflower when they feel like an Alice, or vice versa.

Overall, a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. Just don’t forget yours during introductions.