Tuesday, February 15, 2011

On Being British…

One of the reasons I went into acting was because I was so insecure about myself. There was this feeling in my gut that said if I could be other people it was better than being me. The problem, though, was that there never were enough roles, enough shows, and I ended up having to be me far too often.

My solution to this problem was to not be me even when I had to be me. In high school – yes, that long ago – I adopted a British mannerism to try and sound cool, not realizing that I only looked like a dork. The accent didn’t just stick with me; it became difficult to use my normal voice at times. I was that accustomed to “speaking British”.

Those days passed and I grew up. I met my first wife and married her. Of course, being so insecure, I would often slip into my British voice in a vain attempt at impressing her. I’m sure it wasn’t too difficult for her to see through it and she’d tell me to stop. For 15 years, she told me to stop.

So, it shouldn’t come as any surprise that, when Vicky and I got together, my inclination towards putting on my British voice had been beaten down all together? Even when she asked me to do it, I wouldn’t. Even the thought of doing the voice was just embarrassing.

Which goes to show: Each relationship you have is built on the ruins of the one before.

Vicky wanted to hear my British accent, and not the dribs and drabs I’d give her.

I decided, then, to really let her have it. On Valentine’s Day morning, I gave her a card and within, I wrote, “Today, just for you, I will be British.” And, so, I was. I held up my British accent all day: in the hotel room in the morning, when we checked out, as we drove home, when we stopped at Starbucks… the whole drive.

I’m not sure how it was but I did notice that being out of practice had taken its toll. It took me a while to find it in my mouth. Accents are, to me, a matter of what I call “mouth feel”. If it feels right, it’ll sound right. And this isn’t just any British accent we’re talking about. It is what I call my “British voice”. That means it is the most natural accent for my mouth, the one I’d use if I was British. The difference between it and some accent is the difference between a caricature and a painting.

As I say, I kept it up all day. As the day progressed, my mouth sank into the voice, dropping the affectation and adapting to the fit. I realized something, though. And that is, drives down the length of California – or anywhere – don’t really call for talking very much. While I was using the voice, there wasn’t much reason to talk. And I wanted to talk! I wanted to show off my voice for Vicky who had waited this long to hear it…


And then, as we neared home, with Vicky behind the wheel, my voice suddenly returned to normal as I yelled, “Shiiiiiiit!” Vicky had neglected to stop and careened into a length of stopped cars. Just before we slammed into them, she changed lanes very quickly, basically scaring the voice right out of me.

Oh well. Maybe, I’ll get more comfortable trying on other voice for Vicky in the future. Maybe this was a one day thing. Either way: Happy Valentine’s Day, Vic.

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