I thought you’d have an accent!

IMG_20131010_171801Sonia Paz,
Boston, MA.

Would it make you more comfortable if I did? I was born in Boston. Raised in Boston. Educated in Boston. Did I mention that I was born here?

My mom is from Colombia, my father from El Salvador. When I look in the mirror, my facial features (along with my lack of height) scream Latina. This is what my features say to those who meet me. But for many who meet me, the assumption is that I couldn’t possibly have been born here. It’s automatically assumed that I either don’t speak English or that I don’t speak it well. I cannot tell you how many times in formal work settings people have started their conversations with me speaking slowly and loud. I can see them trying to hide their surprise when I respond in what I jokingly refer to as “the kings English.”

This sometimes makes online dating a little uncomfortable. You meet someone online, you text and you e-mail. You share your life stories, where you’re from, what you do, your goals. And then comes the first meeting. I’ve seen dates try to hide their surprise when I open my mouth and not only do I speak English, I speak it perfectly and I don’t have an accent. Some have even been disappointed, “I thought you’d have an accent!” Why? Because accents are genetic? Then I spend the evening correcting their grammar. Not a lot of second dates after that.

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