(Western Australia from 30, 000 feet; photo by yours truly.)
I used to hate going out. I know, hard to believe considering the volume of partying I’ve been doing lately. I liked getting dressed and ready (loved doing my makeup) but meeting new people? TALKING to new people? Um, don’t think so.
Was I shy? No.
Was I nervous? No.
Was I socially awkward? Yes, but that’s not the point.
I HATED the questions about my accent. I hated them so much that I’d immediately ignore people who brought it up or turn it into an argument. It felt like it was all I ever talked about and I hated being made to feel so different, right off the bat. It got so bad that one of my friends (Hi Cait!) started telling people not to mention my accent when they met me. Fortunately for everyone in Chicago, I’ve mellowed out quite a bit since I was twenty and I no longer bite when someone asks where I’m from.
If you don’t know, hello, my name is Alle Malice and I grew up in Australia. Yes, I have an accent and occasionally I use funny words. And Americans? You LOVE it. You love it so much that you don’t hesitate to dig right in with both hands and ask every little question immediately. Please enjoy almost every bad conversation I’ve ever had about Where I’m From:
Me: Words words words–
Stranger, interrupting: You have an accent. Where are you from?
Stranger: Wow! Australia! I’ve always wanted to go there!
Me: Well, if you can stomach a 28-hour flight, I say go for it.
Stranger: Hah hah hah!
Me: Hah hah hah…So anyway…
Stranger: So what are you doing here?
Me: Well, my parents decided that not only could they not share a household, they couldn’t share a hemisphere. (Laugh track)
Stranger: Oh! Hah hah hah! That’s hilarious!
Me: Hah hah…yeah, not really…
Stranger: How long have you been here for?
Me: Eight years now.
Stranger: Wow. What kind of Visa do you have?
Me: Um…I actually have dual citizenship, so I don’t need a Visa.
Stranger: Yeah, great. So I love the Crocodile Hunter.
Me: Oh. Okay.
Stranger: Did you ever wrestle crocodiles? Crikey!
Stranger: And Crocodile Dundee? That guy was awesome. Is it really like that there?
Me: That was a movie…so, no…
Stranger: God, I love your accent. If I hang out with you long enough, I’m going to start talking like you. Seriously. I pick up on accents so fast.
This is usually where the conversation ends, because at that point I feel thoroughly cross-examined and slightly annoyed. I don’t mind sharing every detail of my life–hello blog!–but I like to do it on my own terms and in my own time. As an aside, do you guys know how many people have told me that they’re going to pick up on my accent and start talking like me? Hundreds. And how many have ever actually done so? NONE.
I know that Americans are just curious and nobody means any harm, but it seems like my accent gives people license to ask me intimate details about my life that they might not ask someone from, say, Texas. I’ve had strangers drill me for details about my parent’s separation and the ensuing move: “Was it hard for you? Tell me more about the most painful thing that’s ever happened in your life.” When I was a photo babe working at Walgreens, customers would demand to see my green card. I try to keep it light and funny and answer people’s questions as nicely as I can, but even after eight years it gets hard sometimes. Some stuff–like “Wow, your Dad still lives in Australia? Don’t you miss him?”–is downright painful to answer. Other times, I’d just rather talk about something else and skip the 20 questions.
(Hillaries Boat Harbour by night; photo by yours truly, again.)
Not bashing on my accent, of course. It makes me different and sexy and it’s opened doors for me that maybe otherwise wouldn’t have opened. And I am proud of where I’m from, both geographically and otherwise. Australia will always be Home to me. It’s shaped who I am, and not a day goes by that I don’t miss it and all the people that I love. But…I live here. And I’m more than my accent. It would be nice to talk about something else in excruciating detail for fifteen minutes every time I meet someone new.
While it’s sometimes rude, occasionally people ask me things about my homeland that make me laugh. Here are some of the best ones:
“Australia? Isn’t that where England sends its convicts?”
“You don’t look Australian…”
“If you’re Australian, that means you’re not white…right?”
“I love your accent. I’ve always wanted to go to London.” (Response: “Me too.”)
“So, what, are you a prisoner?”
“Did you have a pet Koala growing up?”
“Are you from Boston?” (So taken aback was I by this that I blurted out “Have you ever actually BEEN to Boston?”)
“What’s that thing, that animal, that’s superpoisonous and lives in Australia?” (Answer: pretty much all of them.)
“You speak English very well. What’s the language over there?”
“Australia? Is that near Portugal?”
“Do they have electricity there?”
Occasionally I like to get really devious and lie to people. It’s not nice, I know, but it’s so funny to see how much I can get people to swallow about my home country. I’ll tell you my favourite story one day and you guys can be the judge of whether I’m awesome or unkind for spinning this yarn (Hint: it’s the former). Apologies in advance if you’re one of the people I’ve told this story to; we Australians have a predilection for telling tall tales.
Happy weekend, darlings. I’m quadruple booked like a total asshole. See you Monday.