Being an immigrant means always having to say you’re sorry

I am an immigrant

Born in the Dominican Republic

Raised in NJ

Educated in Philadelphia

Married in Canada–Toronto

What does that mean?  I guess it means I’m a total cynic. I know how universal our stories are, and how so many of them go untold, because we no longer tell the truth, report “real life”  in our newspapers, and popular songs. The old and poor are not on Dr. Phil–he couldn’t fix them.

Last night I listened to a lovely young entertainer talk about beauty queens and pink cars, lives spent in American coal mines, or in West Texas, grandmas and grandpas who died too young…. I loved her sense of humour,  but her Appalachian schtick got me thinking. Especially after she mentioned her Harvard connected father. Ditto for her Baltimore bred partner. Maybe I should take a cue from them and milk my Dominican-German-Peruvian-American roots more. Hell, I’m truly exotic. But thanks to Howdy Doody, I grew up with a TV-Midwest-American accent. In other words, no NJ accent. What is it about American Southern accents that is so appealing, so “universal”, even for Canadians?

We have our own coal mines, beauty queens and stories. Hell, I was Miss Middlesex  and Miss Junior Miss in NJ and got to drive around in a convertible through the main street of Perth Amboy.  Never thought about making that into a song. Maybe my grand kids will. What can I tell them to inspire them?  Like Jeni (I suspect), I had a well educated dad and also a need to be an All American girl who wanted others to admire both her beauty and brains. So I sang All My Trials, Lord at the pageant and invoked Jackie Kennedy’s name and wowed the judges with my adolescent brains and beauty. My feminist mom sat in the audience wondering where she had failed. I guess I looked and acted a lot like Sarah Palin except for the glasses, which no teenager in her right mind would wear back in the early sixties.

Like Bruce Springsteen, I can do a dynamite southern accent if I want to. Especially when appealing to the kindness of strangers, thank you, ma’am. But southern accents don’t do much for women over 60.  No matter how youthful they appear, they still sound like aging southern belles.

I’ll worry about that tomorrow,

says 65 year old Scarlet,

stompin her foot.

Rhett nevah did come back

Tara is just a mess since I went on Social Security and had to let ahwall the black folk go

Mah teeth are falling out and the house is falling down around my pretty but deaf ears

Meals on Wheels takes food stamps but won’t come this fah outtah town

Medicaid sent me this darkie from Ghana who cooked me the most awful food

And stole all my beautiful jewelry.

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