Thursday, May 30, 2013

Theory 4: Don’t judge a woman by her accent or her breast size.

Throughout my life, I’ve endured harassment, remarks, and teasing about two prominent personal characteristics: my accent and my breast size. I am not complaining, just explaining, or should I say, “I ain’t whinin’, ima just splainin’!”

 I think Winston Churchill said there is no more beautiful sound than the voice of an educated Southern woman. The women of my mother’s family come from the Deep South—Georgia and Alabama. Their Southern drawls drape their phrases like Spanish Moss softens the branches of a live oak. If a Deep Southern woman’s accent is coconut rum, mine is sour mash. I am an East Tennessean. We have our own sound. My words clang and clash like the breaking down of a moonshine still. I do not sound beautiful.

 In addition to my twang, my breasts have always been a point or points of intrigue to many and have driven me crazy most of my life. Don’t get me wrong. I appreciate being well-endowed. A lot of confidence comes with breast size. Maybe watching Miss Piggy swat other Muppets down with her boobs (or was it her snout?) helped me. I felt empowered by her feminine yet confident example.  I had something most girls wanted and couldn’t have, until silicone came along. At least I could still brag, “Mine are real.” But I’m not sure that’s a good thing, especially at my age and size. At least the fake ones are perky. If mine were a yoga position, they’d certainly be called Downward Dogs.

 I suppose everyone has characteristics or features that must be overcome, embraced, or worked around, just like I have this thick accent and these large breasts.

 A friend suggested I post a video book trailer for my novel, The Eye of Adoption, to YouTube. Another writer told me it’s the second largest search engine behind Google. I know a guy who can film me, and I know the marketing is worthwhile, but I am extremely self-conscious about how my voice sounds in a microphone. Think Ellie Mae; just subtract the bailing twine belt and add pollen-induced hoarseness, or, as we say in the hollers, a frog in my throat. Ugh. I fear that my uneducated-sounding self would turn off potential readers. Maybe I can find Julia from “Designing Women” to do a voice over for me. My best friend at work also sports a country accent and a nice set of knockers. We talked a few days ago about how we worry that colleagues from other parts of the country may underestimate our academic and professional ability. I apologize that they must wade through our swamp of colloquialisms, but they do eventually cotton to us!

As far as the “girls” go, I do my best to conceal them as I teach high school freshmen. I steer clear of v-necks and always wear tight camisoles, which my work buddy’s daughter calls “squeezers,” over my high-dollar, minimize bras. Just after Tall Child and I married, I told him that, although I came with little money, he should consider my boobs as a dowry, since many of his friends had to purchase their wives’ attributes.

In college, my accent drew harassment from romantic competition. I was on a date with a really cute frat boy when his “sorority sister” questioned me in a valley-girl condescending tone, “Oh my goodness, your accent is so thick. I’ve never heard anything like it! Where are you from?”

I replied (typed phonetically here), “Well, I’m French. I grew up in Pea jhion four czhay, which is just east of Ville` day Seveeyay.” (Pigeon Forge, just east of Sevierville.) Frat boy laughed. Sorority sister did not.

Also, in college, because of the boobs, boys mistook me for a wild girl. In the early 90’s, when I was at The University of Tennessee, fashion trends called for tight tops. I had to be in style, so my girls were on display. I got lots of attention from boys, but their expectations were as large as what they wanted to see. And, I was a good girl. So, they often called me a tease, based only on what I looked like! At least they had goals.

One summer in high school, I attended Tennessee Governor’s School for the Humanities in Martin, TN, in the northwest corner of the state. Basically, it’s language arts nerd camp. Shakespeare in a classroom in July. Not cool. The high-brow crowd had a hay-day with my dialect. Back where I came from (Gatlinburg), we all sounded about the same, but when I got to Governor’s School, I was called out mercilessly. That was tough on my fifteen-year-old soul who was already showing up at nerd camp with size 34DD boobies and praying I didn’t have to swim there. My roommate finding my mother’s letter to me, which detailed how Delicious had dipped the dogs for fleas, did not help. I tried to soften my twang, employ the other campers’ catch-phrases, and convince them I had a brain, but ended up sounding ridiculous, especially when I returned to the hollers. I should have left the fake voice in Martin, like Madonna should leave her British accent in London. 

In high school, the no one called me a tease because Delicious was there to make sure all the boys knew I was a good girl. But, she couldn’t protect me when I ran track. Trying to keep my royal blue Umbro shorts from sliding up my rear to expose my lily-white thighs was bad enough, but that was before sports bras, too. I was all over the place as I pounded around the track, “running” the 880. My most memorable moment came as my team, the Gatlinburg-Pittman Highlanders, raced against the Seymour Eagles. I had a bad crush on a Seymour boy and he was on their track team. I remember plodding slowly down the long side of the track opposite where he sat with his teammates, and hearing a chant of some sort. As I rounded the turn, the chant became louder and clearer. Along with my Reeboks hitting pavement and my labored breaths, I heard, “Boom chugga lugga lugga. Boom chugga lugga lugga. Boom chugga lugga lugga.” Then it dawned on me. They were chanting with the rhythm of my bouncing breasts! I closed my elbows in toward my chest to try to control things, but it was hopeless. I gave up and let it all hang out, even my thighs. I crossed the finish line in last and walked straight up the bleachers to confront the crowd of skinny teenage goober boys. I said, “I’m glad y’all enjoyed the race. If you liked that, you should see me dance!” Oh, they liked it alright. I went to the prom with that boy a couple of years later. Boobyah ya’ll!
                                                                 Show some respect!

Which brings us to Theory 5: Play a sport, even if you suck at it.

See you next post. Until then, think outside the barn!

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Also, visit or my website to read about my book, The Eye of Adoption, my short story, Field Day, and my collection of essays for parents and teachers, Parents, Stop and Think.

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Just thinking outside the barn...

Just thinking outside the barn...