let me preface this by saying, yes, i know this is stupid. you don’t have to tell me.
my family and our closest family friends’ family (does that even sound the slightest bit right? but the mom and dad were my parents’ maid of honor + best man, i think) ate dinner together the other day. their son, who incidentally is only 5 days older than me, is in taiwan right now, so it was just them and their daughter – who is 18 i think? or will be 18 in may..our moms take great delight in life’s coincidence of both families having march and may kids; go figure. the two dads quickly began to talk about work, photography, and whatever dads talk about. the two moms whispered behind their hands while occasionally interjecting across the table. my sister pulled out a book and began reading it.
and the other two girls just….sat there. in silence. next to each other. occasionally pulling out their phones. commenting here and there whenever their moms’ conversations were audible.
it got to the point where her mom told her to ask me what my hobbies were. can you say, “awkward”?
the thing is, i remember a time when the three of us (two of us and her brother) got along alright. well, alright enough that we could busy ourselves while our parents were eating and conversing merrily. so what changed along the way?
i couldn’t think of anything until later that night…
but now i think it’s because of a really, really dumb reason – but it’s still reason enough.
for as long as i can remember, i’ve been able to switch in and out of my accents. of course, my “american” accent never sounds quite american enough for me, but it’s a far cry from my “singlish” – which, again, doesn’t really sound like proper singlish. stuck in between – an apt enough description. i’ve wished many times that i weren’t stuck in between, but this is what God has blessed me with, and i’ve honestly enjoyed having two worlds more times than not. i’m different, and sometimes it’s hard (moreso in the past), but would i enjoy being the same?
so when i speak to family and family friends (mainly my mom’s friends in singapore and family friends from the singapore area back in the US), i speak my version of singlish. when i’m around my friends, people my age, and people in the US – or in the working environment, like last summer – i speak a more pronounced ameri-glish. simple, right?
…until i find myself in the situation mentioned above. back home, i’ve settled on a somewhat compromise of a complicated dance in which i speak singlish directly to my family/etc, while switching to ameri-glish when i face my friends – even when they’re all together in the same conversation. so i sound like i have multiple personalities. whatever.
but do i want to sound crazy around people i don’t really know? i’m pulled to speak ameri-glish around those my age, but i’m obviously speaking singlish to my mom and her friends – their moms.
i think of different phrases in my head, how they’d sound in the different accents, if i’d even be understood speaking either way (ameri-glish is hard to understand here, but my singlish is so poor that it’s hard to understand too…), if it’d be something worth repeating when not understood the first time. especially if the thought i’m thinking of is an attempt at humor. because everyone knows that a repeated pun or punchline or joke is really not that funny after the first go-around.
i think, and i think, and inevitably – i’ve overthought.
at this point, everyone else has bound to have noticed the awkward silence milling in our direction, the fiddling of fingers, random glances around the room. so then to speak and break the silence would be noticed. and i, for one, feel awkward whenever noticed.
so put me in a room, 1 on 1, with anyone who speaks a language i can somehow manage. and i’ll be fine for a minute or two, five minutes or more.
but in this case? dinner felt extremely long, to say the least.