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Dude, I Totally Can't Help It
by michelle   October 8, 2006

dude I am totally a California chick. I wear flip-flops every chance I get. I eat sushi and drink smoothies when I am not otherwise occupied with endless variations of a raw vegan diet. I drive a lot. I tan a lot. I say, "Dude," a lot.

I totally can't help it. I talk like I am from Southern California, and really, who cares? I am from Southern California, so why shouldn't I talk like it? Southerners talk like they are from the South. Bostonians talk like they are from Boston. Mainers (Nor'easterners?) talk like they are from another planet. Why is it more acceptable to ridicule the lexicon of Southern California? I can't really work up the outrage to rail against this blatant discrimination, though. I am way too laid back for that.

I didn't discover that I was so laid back until I was in graduate school and I took a trip to New York City. When I arrived, I was like, "Whoa, this place is intense." It was too fast, too loud and too black turtleneck for me. That trip made me see that the California in me was there to stay, but I wasn't yet ready to embrace it. I was studying Forensic Anthropology and under pressure to appear scholarly and knowledgeable. I used long words in long sentences and spoke in serious tones. That didn't last long.

When I returned to California, degree unfinished, I flitted through jobs with abandon trying to get back to my writerly roots while paying the bills. Five years later I realized that I had been climbing a corporate ladder the whole time and was trapped in a world of esoteric non-words like "projectize" and "sunsetting." I wrote epic technical documents completely void of human vernacular. It was soulless work that made my heart ache.

In retrospect, I see that I am rebelling against the corporate culture with the only weapons I have: my words. Every day I battle against "pipelines," "post-mortems," and "deltas," with a barrage of "dude," "totally," and "whatever." Every now and then I throw in a well-timed, "crap," "freaking," or, "You have so got to be kidding me." I hate the corporate world and I wish I weren't in it. I hope that one day all the Directors and Vice Presidents hold a secret meeting and vote to kick me out due to my unprofessional language, but I know this won't happen. You know how I know? Ridiculously, unfathomably, they keep promoting me. Besides, if they are going to kick anyone out of the club for being unprofessional, I think the chick who shops the Frederick's of Hollywood Executive Collection is first in line.

The technical and business writing I do isn't me. It contains no trace of my personality whatsoever. I want to leave no evidence that I was ever here. The writing I do on my own time is a completely different story. It is intensely personal and saturated with me-ness. That writing voice is a cleaned up version of my actual voice - grammatically correct with proper word usage. I want people to publish and read my work so I tailor tone and style to content and audience. I have to admit that it is a struggle to keep out my super-casual, borderline adolescent speech patterns, but I don't want everything I write to sound like a post on my blog. But don't even think of getting all up in my grill with, "Why ain't she representin' West Coast, yo?" Dude, chill. I'm keeping it real where it counts - on my superficial exterior.


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