I don’t hide my reluctance to speak on the phone. If you need me, text me, email me, send an owl – just do not call me. I do not want to hear that ringtone.
Of course, I will answer, but it will sound like someone with a knife to their throat.
The only thing worse than calling me is leaving a voicemail. You better text that. The hell I want to press a phone against my ear to hear you say, “Hey, I guess I missed you.” (I guess you did.) “Well, call me back.”
My dad does that crap all the time. Admittedly, it takes him five minutes to send one-sentence texts. But obviously I will call you back if you’re an important person in my life. But I will also get the message faster if you send a text – and respond faster if you send a text.
What I am not so open about is why I hate talking over the phone. Besides being inefficient (It’s harder to multitask when I have to physically hold a device to my ear, e.g. I can’t clip my nails), I don’t like hearing my voice aloud. Besides the phone, I avoid speaking in public around new people. This is a strange confession considering I’m an outgoing extrovert and do public speaking regularly.
But for the entirety of my life, my voice has betrayed me.
On the phone I am consistently mistaken for a woman. I call and order a pizza (this is the early 2000’s before online ordering), and they tell me, “We’ll have that right over, ma’am.” I call to inquire about a product or service and “Yes, ma’am, that’s correct.” I order at the drive-thru and "We'll see you at the next window, ma'am."
I used to pretend they’re saying “man”: “Yes, man,” “We can do that, man,” “When do you want that, man?” But no, man, they are calling me “ma’am.”
I could interrupt these people and inform them they are speaking to both an X and Y chromosome, but in most cases I will never meet the operator and I haven’t even revealed my name. What is there to gain? Well, other than respect for my voice.
Now Cazey is an androgynous name, but my birth name is something more along the lines of “Steven” and what I use when phoning out. Have you ever met a girl named Steven? Didn’t think so. Except Steven still gets confused as a female.
At this point I would rather be mis-aged as a prepubescent boy.
Ask to talk to my parents; don’t ma’am me.
Other than the phone, I avoid speaking too often when I meet new people. There are connotations with being a male with a high voice. By this point in my life, I am never surprised when someone assumes I’m gay. Which is not an issue unless you’re an attractive female. Or just, like, I’m not. But while I really don’t judge people for misperceptions (unless they’re an ass about them), a lot of people get awkward when you point out their false assumption and may avoid you thereafter, which is usually not my endgame.
This is my voice. I do not make some daily decision for it to be high (or nasally). I can put on a deeper voice. I can easily freak out my friends with my faux baritone. We joke about if I was to go out and use this deep voice for a whole night how many women’s numbers I could collect. But the facts are, there would come a time when my curtain came down.
The morning after: “I actually sound like this.”
When I serenade my friends with “Something There” from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast (“There’s something there that wasn’t there before”), I can do both the Beast and Belle parts. Except the Belle lines are my natural voice, and the Beast isn’t.
All this led to the most brazen confusion I’ve ever experienced. This morning I called an eyeglass shop to order some new contact lenses. I had already told the woman on the line my name (“Steven”) when she asked for my name.
Me: “…My name is Steven.”
Woman: “Oh, you’re Steven? That’s so cool. My name is Toni, and I always get mistaken for a guy, too.”
I then probably forced a chuckle. The woman had done nothing no one else has ever done to me before other than acknowledge my feminine voice so forthrightly. I could’ve corrected her, but please let me know the best way to say, “I actually am a guy, but no big deal. Please continue processing my credit card.”
Toni and I got off the phone, and I sat there ruminating on all the reasons I hate talking on the phone, primarily because of this exact scenario, and how this would make a great blog. (Do you agree?)
My phone then rang. For a millisecond, I thought it might be Toni: She had seen the box checked “Male” on my record or maybe realized if my name is Steven and I sound like a woman, I may just be a male that sounds like a woman, and she had called to apologize. Instead it was a car mechanic letting me know my car was ready. He asked for Cazey, I told him this was him speaking, and we went on with the conversation. No ma’ams, no sirs, no confusion.
Why can’t more conversations go like this? Ma’am?