Sometimes when I hear people with southern accents, I almost wish my own were stronger. It’s not because of a desire to sound southern so much as because I don’t want people to think I’m intentionally trying not to.
“Oh you’re from Mississippi! But you don’t even have a cute little southern accent! I’m so disappointed!” the Brown University yearbook photographer said as she rearranged my hair.
“I can fake one if you’d like,” I offered.
I wonder how differently you’d treat me if I sounded like my sister. I wonder if you’d take me seriously if my accent were as strong as my father’s. There have been several times when my mother’s called the university to ask a question, and the conversation has barely begun when the person’s tone of voice all of a sudden changes into something like fond amusement, a voice that suggests being on the same side of an inside joke. “Now where are you from?” they ask before the conversation ends.
I can relate. I was interviewed for a web commercial for the book The Help, and they were very disappointed in my lack of Southern accent, to the point where they asked me to add it back. I did, sort of, but that part was cut out. I guess they decided they preferred me as the sophisticated New Yorker who liked the book, over another Southern fan.