The Unfortunate Importance of Intonation

 Photo by  Irene Strong  on  Unsplash

I love you.

I hate you.

When I say these words, they sound the same. To others.

Not to me. Because I don’t place importance on intonation. I listen to the words. And take them at face value.

Sure, if someone is yelling at me I understand the emphasis. But I am still listening to the words over the volume.

Everyone has always told me I am monotone. Which, as a person, would make me bland. I’m sure (I hope) they have always meant that my voice is monotone.

I am able to use my voice when I want however. When doing public speaking engagements. In trials. Being a guest on a podcast or webisode. So I am capable.

But my baseline is monotone.

The story of my lingual life revolves around being monotone. But to me it’s unfortunate. Because I have been judged on my intonation so much that I feel like people have missed the message.

When It Started

I was never excitable. I woke up on Christmas morning, opened the doors to the den at my grandmother’s house, saw all the presents and…

my face looked the same as if I had opened the door and nothing was there.

Inside I was pissing myself about the presents, but it didn’t show. I was always very calm. Passive. Stoic. On the outside.

And people began, early on in my life, to interpret that as something else.

My parents knew that a smirk on face was like a freaky clown smile on, well, a clown. But others didn’t. Teachers thought I was disinterested (I was). Friends thought I wasn’t as excited about the Yankees as they were (I was, but I wrote about it instead of wearing it on my face.)

So it started when I was as young as I can remember. That lack of intonation. A voice unchanging in pitch. As if I should have known my voice was supposed to be pitchy at times to show excitement or discomfort.

They called me shy (I was) because I didn’t talk a lot. And when I did, it wasn’t with fervor. But they were all missing it. The words. I meant the words. I didn’t understand that I was missing a tonality that others treasured so much.

 Photo by  Grant Ritchie  on  Unsplash

When Tone (or Lack Thereof) Makes You Suspect

Are you happy?

Yes.

You don’t sound happy.

Do you know how many times I have heard that? It makes me want to scream. Well, not really. It makes me want to sit straight ahead and say nothing. Or mutter something like, “Please shut the f*ck up.” But with my now classic monotone dialect.

Did you like it?

Yes.

It doesn’t sound you like you did.

FML. I liked it! Look at that exclamation point. It was f*cking amazing.

You’re just saying that.

<Puts head into hands.> Remains silent. Forever.

I’ve always been questioned. Repeatedly. About the same things. As if I was always lying.

I mean sometimes I was. Because people don’t like to know the truth. Even though they say they do. So occasionally my monotonous voice inflection actually meant that I was nonplussed about the whole thing. But most of the time I was just telling the truth. Without exerting my voice.

Do you love me?

Yes.

It doesn’t sound like it.

Can you see what this is like for me? I know my counterparts in all these interactions would say different, but I am the one suffering in these quick excerpts. Because I am answering. I’m just not answering with enough passion for the listener. Or viewer.

How My Face Can Be Monotone Also

Do you like your food?

Yes.

You don’t look like you like it.

My face has a tendency to look like my voice sounds. So it can be a combination of my monotone options that drives someone crazy. Because they judge my straight face to mean something more.

Because “regular” people express themselves more. With emotion. And actions. And higher highs. And lower lows.

But I’m not regular.

Are you happy?

Yes.

You don’t look happy.

The Unfortunate Importance of Intonation

The more hectic someone else gets, the more flatlined I become. To create more balance. But not on purpose. It’s just how I react.

And why is intonation so important? So much so that I become “hard to read.” Even though my words are expressing exactly what I am feeling. Somehow there is a mystery inside of me. Because I lack expression. Or suitable voice octaves.

It has been unfortunate for me. Because I have always had to explain myself. For something I have no control over. And for no reason. Because I answered already. It just wasn’t peppy enough.

And it doesn’t stop. People try to read me. But they can’t.

Listen to me.

I am.

No, the words.

People listen to me, but they are listening to inflection more than the words.

You sound depressed.

I’m fine.

You don’t sound fine.

How do I explain how fine I am?

How do I explain that I am really angry? Because when I say I am, it comes off as less believable because I am not yelling and screaming. To you.

I love you.

I hate you.

When I say these words, they sound the same. To others.

But not to me.