Tuesday, December 19, 2006


i decided to rearrange some furniture in our house. in all of this, we ended up with a piece of furniture that just didn't fit our taste anymore. so we put an ad on craigslist. within a few hours, i had several emails and a couple phone calls.

i got the first call early in the day while i was in Fred Meyer shopping with my daughters, and it actually surprised me because with all the commotion just trying to get through the store with my kids, i had totally forgotten about the ad. the woman on the other end sounded so nice and i could tell she was a little older, maybe 40's or 50's. she talked to me like we were old friends and she was coming over to borrow something. she was so sweet. she made arrangements to come to my house, which is only about 5 blocks away! she even told me my name was cute (my first thoughts were to wonder what her angle was...).

later in the day she called, and addressed me by my name and made other arrangements to come see the furniture as something came up in her schedule. again, her voice sounded so familiar, and friendly. i was almost certain i'd recognize her from someplace when she finally showed up.

and then i stopped. i KNOW i sound white on the phone. i have a very sweet, white-ish sounding voice (yes, i said it, I sound white). we had 3 conversations on the phone and i could tell that when she finally came over we'd relate in a very friendly sort of way (same neighborhood, etc). and then i got all insecure and started not wanting to be home when she got there. i didn't want her to be disappointed when i opened the door and saw a black girl.

does that matter to people? 'cause whenever i'm in a situation where i talk to someone over the phone before meeting them (job interviews, or buying something from someone off Craigslist, etc), i always cringe because i know they'll be shocked to find out i'm black. and no, i'm not exaggerating. i've experienced that look of surprise before. i hate it. i don't know why i care so much. i don't know why i sound white. well, i guess i do. my mom majored in english and corrected my english all the time growing up. plus the fact that i grew up with a lot more white friends than black so i guess i never learned to have that "edge" in my voice. oh god, did i say that?

i know i'm gonna get flamed for that statement. but it's true. but the funny thing is, i could and probably will turn right around and blog about how ridiculous that there's "white way" and a "black way" to talk, and how dare any white person tell me that i talk white.


vj said...

The whole dealing with things on the phone is so hard, because you end up with a picture in your mind, not based on any sort of reality. So yeah, when you meet her, she might be taken aback, though I would hope that would be her going, oh, I had the wrong mental picture, not some sort of disappointment.

(anyways, I always try to stick with the f&*^ with the normals line of thought, though I'm dealing with "sexy" voice vs dykey-looking fat reality, which I know is a whole different thing)

Aly Cat 121 said...

I have friends who speak "standard english" with no usage of slang or other kinds of "bad" grammer that I myself like to use. The funny things is, they sound like "proper" speaking black folks and not white people. I think it's more of the sound and tone and not what is actually being said.

That black girl said...

aly Cat,
you are right. it is all about the sound/tone. i've never heard it put that way. but that's exactly what it is. my TONE, i guess, is pretty softspoken and the way i pronounce words (sound) has a lot to do with just living in the PacNW.

Kevin said...

You think she might be "disappointed" when she sees you? I dunno - "surprised," maybe (especially in PDX), but not disappointed. You got along fine on the phone...plus you have something she wants!

It is a paradox - certainly it's ridiculous to act like proper English is only for white people...but, yeah, I think everybody who's honest knows what you mean about "talking white" or "talking black."

And context is important, too. In New Orleans, it would be uppity and rude for me to say "To whom are you speaking?" in casual conversation - "Who you talking to?" isn't "correct" in a grammatical sense, but it's correct in the sense that you don't want to come across as someone who is putting on airs.

My last point is that NOTHING comes off as stupid as a white person who is trying to "talk black." But the difference there is that when I see Kevin Federline acting the ass, I never stop to say "He's making me look bad," whereas I have black friends who get uncomfortable whenever some random black person acts like an ass. Which is dumb, too, but sometimes people in the minority feel like they're being "represented" by others in their minority group.

Anyway, I understand your confusion. Did the lady show up? How did it go?

That black girl said...

Kev, i love your last paragraph. oh, i could go on about that. anyways, conveniently, i had to work, so, she came by and my husband dealt with the whole thing. heh heh...i know my feelings are silly.
anyway, if you're still in "nawlins", have a praline or two for me.

Anonymous said...

Don't feel bad that people are shocked when they find out you are different than they mistakenly thought. People mistakenly think all kinds of things all the time, and most of them you never get to find out about.

You shouldn't feel bad that you feel that way, but what I'd be curious about (were I in your place), would be: WHY do I feel that way?

I'm your generic white boy, so I can't even begin to imagine why you might feel that way, but I'm curious to know why.

Anonymous said...

I can understand your concerns, but they do seem inflated over a mater as trivial as this. I mean, a job interview or something, then I could totally understand! I've had this happen to be on more than one occassion, the last being a job interview, as a matter of fact. Over the phone, everything went well, but when I showed up they was a look of surprise on the dumbwhore's face, and she asked "were you the on I talked to on the phone today" with an aire of suspicion and incredulity, as if she were somehow tricked! And no, I didn't get the job, but it was honestly a shitty little place to work (I say that as a truth, not from hard feelings).

JD said...

Hi. I'm just reading your blog for the first time today, and I know exactly what you mean. I know that many people have been surprised to find out that I'm black if I've talked to them on the phone before meeting them in person. I don't get stressed out about it, though. Their reaction is 100% their issue, not yours. Good or bad, it has a lot more to do with them than you. You sound like yourself. All the "sounds white" "sounds black" stuff is outside of your control.