The accent. This is self-explanatory.
Study the news, slow down, stretch your mouth.
Avoid saying steel mill, TV, and smile.
They will give you away every time.
Try foundry, television.
Find your own replacement for smile.
Practice nodding without inviting conversation.
You know how it is…
Generalize. Generalize. Generalize.
When they ask, say the city, not what part of the city.
If someone happens to know the area, Oh, near X,
say yes. They will always suggest the place you cleaned
and nowhere near where you’re actually from.
If they do know, do not react, let them think
they are clever: Grovetucky, Slutport.
Let’s practice number two.
Remember Cabbage Patch Kids?
Correct: I think I’m just a year or two too old for those.
Incorrect: Granny made me one.
She fell in the dirt and wouldn’t come clean,
so she always had a shiner.
Last ditch option: Borrow memories.
Old school friends, cousins whose mothers
married men who wear ties, favorite sitcoms.
Vacations. A tricky one.
If people are swapping stories:
Went to Norfolk to get your brother out of jail?
Picking up your homeless cousin?
Staying with Granny at the house by the old dump?
This will sound counter-intuitive:
Get with someone who’s doing it too.
Baby, this shit gets old, it gets so old.
Jennifer Schomburg Kanke, originally from Columbus, Ohio, lives in Tallahassee, Florida, where she edits confidential documents for the government. Her work has appeared in Prairie Schooner, Pleiades, and SWIMM. Her chapbook, Fine, Considering, about her experiences undergoing chemotherapy for ovarian cancer, is available from Rinky Dink Press. She serves as a reader for Emrys.