Today I talked to someone on the phone for the first time since meeting him through Becca two weeks ago — although cannot even really say met as have only been corresponding over MSN Messenger all this while. Despite the lack of sobriety on his part, he was still able to say that I didn’t sound the way he thought I would — though am not too sure if that’s a good thing or not — because (a) my voice is surprisingly low for someone with a 3-octave soprano range and (b) I don’t sound as ‘American’ as I probably should after living here for four years. After explaining that the accents can be called up at any time, and that being in the Pitches has possibly contributed to the widening vocal range, thus making it possible to sound as low- or high-pitched as I like, I started to think about how skewed one’s perception or impression can be, and how easily they can be swayed in one direction or the other.
When I was younger, I lived in three different countries for four years. Upon returning home and starting high school in a school so small that everyone knew everyone else’s business, my unrecognizable accent — a result of growing up hearing so many different accents around me — did nothing but bring out the derision in the people I went to school with, and earning a nickname equivalent to that of ‘white trash’, because it seemed as though they didn’t know what I was. I could have called on a full-blown American accent to let them think I’d spent my whole life in Florida instead of just a year, or used a pronounced French accent to give the impression that I hadn’t moved anywhere else except to France, or adopted the Cockney slang picked up from imitating Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady too often, simply to make it difficult for anyone to understand me, or I could have just gone all Irish the way my mother does when she’s angry or excited, which would have been impossible for anyone to decipher.
But any of that would have just been imitation, and it might have given them even more reason to associate me with ‘white trash’. And yet, choosing to be myself, the girl with the funny accent and the ‘English hair’, as a boy from high school once put it, and later on the girl who spoke English in a college that spoke mainly Chinese, might be why I have only two friends left waiting for me to arrive home in May.
More often than not, people choose to see only what’s on the surface. They pay no heed to anything else because what matters most is that they are comfortable with what they see, that it goes to their liking, and that it bears no threat to them. Then they don’t bother to look any further because they decide that they don’t like what they see at first glance. But they don’t realize that it’s all only an illusion.