When in Rome…

By Lisa Sugarman

I have a problem. A problem that I’ve been conscious of for some time now, but simply haven’t been able to identify. I’ve always known I was different. So I guess maybe I’ve just tried to ignore it, assuming it was a phase that I’d eventually outgrow. Or maybe I could just bury it deep enough inside my psyche that I’d forget about it altogether.

Only Dave and my girls know my secret, for lack of a better word. Otherwise I’ve managed to keep it from most everyone else. And with the exception of the occasional slip of the tongue, usually when we’re traveling and I’m especially relaxed, I think I’ve done a fairly good job of hiding it. Amazing the kind of freedom you feel when you’re across the Atlantic and in a foreign country.

The problem is, it’s actually getting tougher and tougher to suppress these tendencies. And despite my best efforts to ignore the behavior, it’s only made the compulsion stronger.

See, for the most part, I haven’t really understood what I was dealing with. But now, after finally taking the time to search for answers, I’ve discovered that what I’ve been dealing with all these years actually has a name. And while rare, is nothing to be ashamed of or concerned about for the long term.

I have Foreign Accent Syndrome (FAS). Or a facsimile thereof. And I’m not going to be embarrassed by it any more.tumblr_inline_mo36u746u51qz4rgp

What does that mean? Well, it means that, at random times, and with no advance warning, I break out into a fake foreign accent. Could be British, or French, or Jamaican, or just a simple southern drawl. Sometimes it’s at the dinner table, other times it’s in an airport. But it’s almost constant whenever I’m in a foreign country.

What can I say, I’m an accent whore. I love them all. Foreign and domestic. Because to me, they all have a certain je-ne-sais-quoi quality. They all have a unique allure.

The truth is, I’ve wanted an accent for as long as I can remember. Sort of like how some kids grow up wanting a pony. But I wasn’t exactly like other kids. Just ask my aunt and uncle who live in central Georgia. Whenever I went down to visit my cousins, I transformed into a bonafide Georgia peach within ten minutes of debarking the plane. And I usually kept the drawl for most of the trip. Just couldn’t help myself. I just find accents so addictive. And my penchant for them has only gotten worse.healthdiagnosis_foreign_language_books

For instance, about five years ago Dave and I took our girls to Europe on holiday. Uh, there I go again. I said “holiday.” We were in London for about ten days and from the second I cleared through customs, I was like a language chameleon—taking on a British accent before we even made it to baggage claim. And, much to the embarrassment of both my kids, I kept it up for most of the trip. Em-barr-a-ss-ing.

The thing is, though, I’m not alone. You might remember how Madonna adopted a British accent almost immediately after she married Guy Ritchie and moved to the UK back in 2012. There’s also Nicki Minaj and Johnny Depp, both of whom are notorious for lapsing into British accents at random times.17xxv9jjs5611jpg

Now granted, some accents are sexier than others. You’ve got your South African, Italian, Brazilian, Australian, British, and French, to name only a few of my top-tier favorites. Texan and Southern are the only American accents that foreigners can really hear, and they’re just downright adorable, so those make the list, too.

Ok, so I guess, at the end of the day, I probably don’t have a legitimate case of FAS. But rather something a little more benign, like linguistic accommodation. (It’s amazing, the stuff you can learn when you’re alone in a room with a laptop and Wi-Fi.)

With linguistic accommodation, most of the dialogue adaptation happens subconsciously, with people just responding to what they hear around them. Much like in my case. I hear a French accent, and I automatically start replicating it.

Because let’s face it, if you’re an American, and a pretty decent number of us are, then you know that we really don’t have anything resembling an accent. It’s sad but true. And I think there’s probably a decent amount of accent envy here on our side of the pond.

Think about it. Start speaking to someone who’s British and they automatically appear more intelligent. More posh. You know they do. It’s a known fact that accents trigger emotional responses. I mean, just by virtue of the sound of someone’s voice, they can project an intellectual quality.joshandchuck--0188--dont-be-dumb-foreign-accent-syndrome--large_thumb

Now this is certainly not to say that someone with a foreign accent is smarter than someone without one, but general perception—and that’s really what I’m talking about—is that someone with an accent appears more worldly. More exotic. More glamorous.

So for those of us who are drawn to these mysterious, sexy foreign dialects to the point where we fuse them into our personality, I say, bloody brilliant! Because if inserting a twang into your voice or impersonating an Aussie is all it takes for you to feel a little more sophisticated and erudite, then I say have at it. And I’d be gobsmacked if people didn’t take to it eventually. Otherwise, the worst thing that happens is that you end up looking like a wanker. And people eventually forget wankers.

Lisa Sugarman lives in Marblehead, Massachusetts. Read and discuss all her columns at facebook.com/ItIsWhatItIsColumn. She is also the author of LIFE: It Is What It Is available on Amazon.com.

Novels AliveTV interview tells all…

Ok, so the interview isn’t scandalous or anything…but it does offer plenty of legitimate background on how I got started writing, what I love and hate about it, and why I feel like I won the lottery every time I see my column in print. And if you pay extra-close attention, you’ll find out what I’d want to be if I wasn’t a writer.

Just click on the NATV link below to read the full interview.

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Target: My idea of the perfect home.

By Lisa Sugarman

Now it’s possible that what I’m about to say may sound weird to you. Then again, it might remind you of your own childhood and the dumb things we used to fantasize about as kids. Either way, at the very least, I’m hoping you’ll be entertained.

So when I was a little girl, I used to dream about what it would be like to live in a department store. Full time; 365. And while I know it’s kind of an odd concept, I have a feeling more people have imagined the same thing than are willing to admit.

In my case, it probably stemmed from reading Don Freeman’s children’s book Corduroy so many times when I was a kid. You know, the story about the little toy bear named Corduroy who lived on the shelf at a department store who wandered the floors at night looking for his missing button. Always was one of my favorites.CorduroyBook

The thing is, as I’m sure you’ve learned too, once we grow up, our adult brains start processing through all the stupid stuff we believed when we were kids; and we realize that most of the brilliant ideas we had as young people just aren’t feasible. In other words, we realize that we really were a bunch of idiots. And in my case, it didn’t take me long to realize that living out my days in Jordan Marsh was a fundamentally flawed idea from inception.

Sure, they had bathrooms, so that took care of one critical human need, and water bubblers so you could stay hydrated, but after that, my plan fell short. Very short. Like once the vending machines in the staff lounge were tapped, I’d be dead in less than a week. Terrible plan.

It’s funny, though, how history tends to repeat itself so organically generation after generation. Just the other day, during a quick trip to Target, my fourteen-year-old daughter blurted out how Target would be the perfect home. Never knowing, mind you, that I had already pioneered the concept of department-store living back in the early 70s.

So of course I was like, “Oh my God! I totally used to wish I could do that!” To which Libby rolled her eyes and said it wouldn’t’ve been possible back then because superstores like Target, with every department imaginable, didn’t exist. (Hate when my kid out thinks me. It’s irritating.)

But in her case, her master plan showed far more advanced intelligence than mine. She accounted for things that, at the age of fourteen, would never have crossed my mind. Everything from home furnishings and electronics to food and clothes and every nuance in between. The kid’s got game.

Granted, you probably couldn’t make this theory work in a traditional Target store because they lack some of the key elements for survival like a pharmacy, a health clinic, a Starbucks, and a full grocery line.

But she had accounted for all that. Just walk into any one of the 239 SuperTarget stores, she said, and you could probably live a very fulfilling life if you never left the store again.untitled

And the more I thought about it, the more I realized that she may, in fact, have actually figured out a way to make my dream a reality. Because as long as you took enough vitamin D supplements to avoid getting rickets, you could probably manage just fine.

According to Libby, you’ve got a totally secure, climate controlled environment, complete with everything a person would theoretically need to live. Theoretically.

You’d have food, clothing, and jewelry (for those special occasions when upper management came to do audits). You’d have a full electronics department, free Wi-Fi and unlimited mocha lattes, so you’d be fully caffeinated and hardwired with the outside world. And, assuming you opened the doors every day and allowed people to either visit, or shop, depending on your preference, you’d never be lonely.

You’d also have a full health clinic on hand just in case you hooked up with one of the electronics department guys and got pregnant. At which point he’d probably do the right thing and hit the jewelry department and pick you up an engagement ring. Then you could have the wedding in the lawn & garden department, after which you’d get the photos developed in their one-hour photo processing lab, and then, once the little bundle of joy came, you could have carte blanche in the baby section.PharmacistGuest-Medium2

And to work off your baby weight, you could spend your mornings in the sports & fitness department, hitting the health and beauty aisle to clean up after your kettlebell workout.

Then, after you put the baby down for his nap, you could spend your nights reading all the classics and binge watching all five seasons of Breaking Bad.

And should your little one start projectile vomiting during season three, you could quickly and easily scoot over to the health clinic, see a doctor, get a prescription, then get it filled in the pharmacy. After which, you could swing over to the toy department and grab the little fella a treat for being such a trooper with the doctor. See, happily ever after. A flawless plan.

So unless I’m missing something, and I don’t think I am, SuperTarget may well be the perfect home. Now I just have to figure out how to break it to Dave and the girls that we’re moving…

Lisa Sugarman lives in Marblehead, Massachusetts. Read and discuss all her columns at facebook.com/ItIsWhatItIsColumn. She is also the author of LIFE: It Is What It Is available on Amazon.com, at Whole Foods, and at select booksellers.

To be or not to be an only child. That is the question.

By Lisa Sugarman

I was an only child. And despite my parent’s desire to have a bigger family, it just wasn’t meant to be. Don’t feel bad for me, though. This is a happy column. And I’m going to spend the next eight hundred words explaining why.

I guess you could say I was my parent’s one-hit wonder. At least that’s how they always made it seem. Love conquers all, right?1305OnlyChildTimespg

Now look, if I’m being straight up here, then I have to admit that there were definitely times over the years when I wished I had a brother or a sister. I’d be lying if I said there weren’t. But all things being equal, I was generally pretty content as an only.

I mean, you don’t really miss what you never had, right? And it’s probably because my parents were both famous for always rolling up their sleeves, grabbing an army of Barbie dolls, and hitting the shag carpet with me, that I almost never felt like I was missing anything.

I mean, looking back, I definitely do remember a subtle twang in my heart whenever my friends talked about things they did with their sisters and brothers. You know, like playing together or sharing clothes or having secrets. Because the truth is, even though you can have amazingly hands-on parents, there are just some things that you miss out on by not having another kid living in the house.twosisters

Ironic that if you asked my two high-school-age daughters how they feel about having a sister, they’d both probably roll their eyes and rattle off a detailed list of why they wish they were only children. Lists filled with words like annoying, selfish, rude, or obnoxious. But at the end of the day, when both of them let their guard down, they have nothing but love for each other. It’s weird how they can go so quickly from one extreme to the other. And that’s something I wish I had.

Yeah, sure, there were definitely times when it came in handy that I was an only child. Like when it came to my parent’s attention and affection. There was zero competition. And I always appreciated that.

There was also the freedom of having unlimited time in the bathroom without someone pounding on the door, stealing your makeup, using all the hot water, or taking the last tampon.

Those things aside, though, it would’ve been nice to have a sister or a brother around to break up the monotony of only having myself to play with. (Ok, that didn’t come out right, but you know what I meant.)

When I look back, through the eyes of my adult self, now a mother of two, I realize that not having a sibling gave me a unique appreciation for forging close friendships. After all, friends are the family we get to choose. And you become acutely aware of that as an only. Which is why I always tried to choose wisely.siblings

That’s why my friends always felt more like the brothers and sisters I never had. At least until I married Dave. Because when that happened, I inherited the closest thing I had ever had to a real brother or sister—I acquired in-laws. And while those of us who are married know that gaining in-laws is like playing Russian roulette, I got lucky. Not only did I get a great guy, but I got a full second set of parents who I adore and two spanking new siblings—ones I actually liked. Truth is, I legitimately love them. And while I could just as easily have gotten a clown car full of whack jobs, I came out ahead with a couple of winners.

Unfortunately, my brother-in-law has always lived out of state, so we don’t get much time together. But my sister-in-law has almost always lived close. So we’ve spent most of the last twenty-plus years together.

Now granted, in the more than two decades that we’ve been family, we’ve never braided each other’s hair or painted each other’s toes or backhanded the other in the head for stealing eyebrow gel; but we’ve done plenty of other sisterly-type stuff. We’ve confided in each other, laughed and cried together, traveled and shopped, counseled and consoled each other. And although I’ve still never deliberately locked her out of the bathroom and licked her toothbrush, I feel like we couldn’t be much closer. The bottom line being that I couldn’t imagine loving a biological sister any more than I love her.

So even though I started out alone, I’ve certainly compensated for my lack of siblings during the past four decades with friends and extended family and now two kids of my own. And what I’ve learned is that it really doesn’t matter how you start out, because life has a funny way of filling in its own divots. I may not have had a sibling’s toothbrush to lick, but I can sure as hell live vicariously through my kids secretly licking each others.

Lisa Sugarman lives in Marblehead, Massachusetts. Read and discuss all her columns at facebook.com/ItIsWhatItIsColumn. She is also the author of LIFE: It Is What It Is available on Amazon.com.

Sorry, but no interview or book signing can beat speaking to a classroom full of 4th graders!

Over the last year, since LIFE: It Is What It Is hit bookshelves, nothing has been more exhilarating or exciting than the chance to hang out with my pals in Mrs. Roy’s 4th grade class talking about what it’s like to be an author. Highlight of my year.

Joy Roy class visit 3-6-15 (4)