So then…my teen daughter shoots me the glare of a thousand blazing suns and motions for me to BEHAVE.
And for no reason!
I’m merely sighing, foot tapping, and looking pointedly at the clock in a subtle effort to indicate to the two employees sitting behind the desk of this tutor center that it’s well past our appointed appointment time.
Chloe, age 15, whispers, “Stop that!” and nods her head toward the employees.
I whisper mock-seriously, “It’s fifteen minutes past our appointment with the manager! I’m a super-important busy woman with super-important things to do!”
Chloe whispers, “Shhhh!” then texts me fast and furiously on her phone so the staff can’t hear us:
Tsk – she’s worried I might embarrass her when we meet with the center manager. How about the appalling lack of punctuation and grammar in that text she just sent?
Chloe took the mock SAT test earlier this week, so today the center manager will tell us the test results, recommend which areas Chloe needs to strengthen, and try to sell us on a package of SAT prep tutoring sessions. Many of Chloe’s classmates study for the SAT and ACT at this center.
If you’re wondering why on earth Chloe thinks I might embarrass her in the meeting…
1) I’m a mimic.
Not in a mean way. Just in a “that-seems-cool/fun/awesome-I-want-to-do-it-too” sort of way.
So if we’re on the dance floor and you’re bustin’ some sweet moves, I will instantly copy those moves. Not to make fun of you. Just because it looks cool and I want to do it too!
If you’re humming a song when I pass you in the grocery store, I’ll still be humming that same tune 3 aisles later.
If you have an accent, I will speak in that accent. To your face. I don’t even realize that I’m doing it. It’s an unconscious mimic reflex!
If you’re Southern, a slight drawl will creep into my inflection.
It’s undetectable at first, but eventually my speech pattern will emulate yours, even if you’re from New Yawk or Bah-ston.
Now if your accent is British, French, or Australian – my involuntary imitation of your manner of speech is either adorable – or awkward – or mildly annoying.
But if your accent is Spanish or Asian – my unintentional simulation can come off as slightly racist.
But I swear I’m not racist!
Honestly I’m not! You can ask my ethnically-diverse friends and relatives!
I genuinely make an effort to curb this inadvertent replication, but every once in awhile, I slip. My kids are there to shoot daggers if I do.
So Chloe might be nervous about our upcoming meeting since the manager and two employees of this education center are all Asian.
2) I like lemon.
Well, that’s fascinating, Darcy, but what the hell does lemon have to do with anything?
At restaurants, I always order “a Diet Coke and a water, with lemons, lots of lemons.” Usually I get no lemons. Or one tiny lemon slice in each drink. But I like LOTS of lemons.
So I’ve learned that if I say, “May I please have a Diet Coke and a water – with a little tray of lemons?” accompanied by hand motions that form a little tray, the server knows exactly what I want – and they bring me a little plate covered in lemon slices.
I’m thrilled – and my children are mortified.
“Why do you have to make the hand motions?!?”
“It’s the only way to get the plate of lemon slices. I’ve scientifically experimented with, and without, the hand motions. It’s the only way.”
“It is NOT the only way!”
“Shut up and eat your bowl of pasta I could’ve made at home for 79 cents.”
3) I like discounts.
Look, I’m not a fanatic. I’m not price-haggling every merchant like a loon.
But if I find myself buying something at Bed Bath & Beyond when my 20% off coupon is still back home on the kitchen counter, you’re gonna hear about it. All day long. And possibly into next week.
And if someone’s trying to sell me hundreds of dollars of SAT prep classes, you can bet I’m going to inquire about a discount – or at least ask if my friend Yvette can get a discount on her daughter’s classes since they referred us to this center!
So now you know the context behind these texts:
Chloe’s texts are on the left in grey – and my responses are on the right in green or blue.
Since she told me to behave at the meeting, I reply:
Chloe looks horrified!
I giggle a bit.
Chloe smirks, so I respond with:
I crack up laughing.
At this point, Chloe snatches my phone and texts me on my own phone:
Just then the door opens. The manager says, “Thank you for waiting. Please come in.”
Chloe fires me a warning look. I smile innocently. We follow the manager into her office.
— Darcy Perdu
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(What are your favorite ways to embarrass YOUR kids? Anybody else out there with “involuntary accent mimic syndrome?”)