Yes, they are. Because you, their friends, are like teachers that have low expectations of their pupils.
I was out drinking yesterday with a group of friends, and one of them candidly declared that my stories were far more interesting when conveyed with my pronounced French accent. An enlightened, backhanded compliment. I was not boring nor prodigiously gripping. But fifteen minutes earlier, I’d decided to flick on my cultural joker, and my social meter was violently erupting.
All of a sudden, I’d become this charismatic, enchanting worldly Frenchman. And the drinks kept pouring, settling me deeper into my act. That goddamn clumsy accent had everyone smiling at Ello. Because yes, I usually sound like any other American guy, but when I choose to, I can become a very convincing Parisian tourist. I think it comes from my having spent so much time sneering at and parroting grossly maladjusted compatriots.
All hushed when my lips unlocked, listened to my insufferable struggling sketches of phrases. I knowingly butchered words, took long confused respites of intellectual nothingness filled with euhmm’s, spoke only platitudes and maxims.
I remember, goaded by the thrill of my undeserved megastardom, I whirled round to a pretty girl, snatched her arm, and just said:
Euhmm. Ello. I… I speek Anglish not very graceful bute neyd to tell u wan ting: wen eye furst sow u, eye just tink to me, ur eyes, zey are sparkeling like ze lites on ze Eiffel Toware, or maybe ze moon on ze Seine, or maybe ze bubeles in my favorite Moët et Chandon, oh babie let’s juste voulez vous danser?
She melted. I hated her for it. We danced. I said nothing or nothing of interest, which is the same. I was not expected to. Probably would’ve corroded my charm. Once in a while, I leaned back so far I thought I’d never come back up, spine and both arms stretched out like elastic bands, and I howled:
Why ze shit is my champagne gone from my flute? More champagne, I say! Merde! Am I not rite mie darlingz?
Then, when my muscles contracted back to grace me with my more normal silhouette, I leaned in, close enough to drool more saliva or balderdash-fromage into her ear, and I whispered the most vacuous things I could:
Oh, ma chérie, u make me get ze crazies! I want to tayke u away from ere and ave tree childrens with u, Paul, Jacques, and Sophie, and zey will run around in ze cobblestone streets of Paris, bringing us baguettes and wine as we ave our picnic on ze lawn of ze Tuilerie gardenes, and zey will be wearing mariniere jerseys and playing ze accordion Les Feuilles Mortes for us.
I kept that stupid accent going. That unfair arbitrage opportunity that allowed me to make Shakespearian inventions sound fresh or madness adorable. I became the most interesting man in the world. And she stayed thirsty, my friends.
And not I don’t know why I don’t peel out of my real self and become my role. Become a Frenchman as a full time job. I’d get internships as CEO of Louis Vuitton USA or Vogue or as the MC of the New York fashion week, as long as I wore a purple velvet tux, refused to speak directly to waiters and giggled uncontrollably with my model girlfriends.
I know people who are always the foreigner. Most of them can’t turn their accent off, they don’t have that daily choice of cape. But as long a they’re that stereotypical Frenchman, Italian Vespa Romeo, or whatever, all that’s expected is that they dress like effeminate snobs, stay unmuscular, make pretentious comments about the US being uncultured and calloused and look with superciliously raised eyebrows at any bro who hands them a Yuengling instead of a flute of pink Dom Perignon, who won’t set their suede or croco moccasins on the sticky parquet of a frat house but only the solid platinum floor of the VIP section of some swanky nightclub.
If I were you, dear victims of the foreign accent bias, I’d look at your international friends with more suspicion. Record what they’re saying. Plug that babble into some Siri or Google Translate type of voice reader, and gasp at their stupidity, and yours, and mine, and their Machiavellian brilliance, once the charm has been uncharmed.