When I was 17, a friend asked me why I did not speak English with the same accent as my Dad. Accents had been a fraught issue for me growing up because my mother was from England, and she wanted her children to speak with English accents, but I went to both international British and American schools and would imitate the “local” language when I started at a new school. I didn’t so much speak English growing up as I spoke many versions of English. Most of the time, these versions were in succession as we moved from one country to another, but at one point, I spoke American English at school and English English for my mother’s sake at home. My father’s accent I had never thought twice about: it was North American English, and after 7th Grade, so was mine. Permanently. At home and at school.“I do speak like my father,” I said.
“No you don’t. He has a French accent.”
What?!?! As soon as my friend pointed it out, I heard it, but until that moment I had never noticed that my father spoke English with a French accent. (He’s from Quebec.)
Here’s another example: until I was in my 30s I had never noticed the effect that asparagus has on–well, how to put this delicately?—on the smell of one’s urine. A friend made an off-hand comment about asparagus pee, and I hadn’t a clue what she was talking about.
“You know. The funny smell of your pee after you eat asparagus?”
“Well, maybe it doesn’t have the same effect on you,” she mumbled, and it wasn’t clear if she thought that I was weird or if she thought she had a problem with her pee.
Of course, now, I am hyper-aware of the precise and very distinctive smell of asparagus pee. How could I never have noticed it?
And now, I am having things I have not noticed about my children pointed out to me by friends. A friend was imitating my youngest, and she said, in a really animated voice, “Guess what? And then, guess what??” He does, in fact, pepper his every utterance with those words, building up the drama every time he speaks, but I had not noticed it until she called attention to it. And it is cute!
A more optimistic person might take this as an example of a lovely gift to have been given: a new awareness of a new dimension of cute in one’s baby. But all I can think is, “What the hell else am I missing??”
Has this happened to you? A sudden realization of something that has been staring you in the face?