I've never been a fan of my voice. In elementary school I'd often get made fun of for its high tones, labeled ”Mickey Mouse” and other appropriate names and variations. I learned the hard way that if bullies didn't take well to sarcasm, they really didn't appreciate it in a higher octave. As soon as I learned what puberty was, I could not wait for it.
Concerned with my vulnerability and the decline of the public school system, my parents opted to send me to a private Catholic high school. Our local school was rumored to have a drug problem and was overly lax in its policies. Students had numerous free periods, and were allowed to leave the school grounds during school hours. It offered way too much freedom to kids who weren’t mature enough to handle it. As it was, I had trouble focusing and concentrating on my academics, despite being in the “smart” classes, so removing distractions was a good thing. There were no free periods in my high school, and certainly no leaving the premises before the last bell of the day rang. Everyone had to wear suits which eliminated some of the pressure of labeling people by fashion, but we didn't have to wear a uniform. Kids will work with what they have, so while NO ONE was dressed cool they still found things to criticize. Maybe someone's tie had an ugly pattern. A plain belt buckled normally instead of a braided belt tied with the excess hanging in preppie high fashion? That was fashion suicide. Perhaps someone found it appropriate to scrawl ”Love Shack” in ball point pen on the back of one of my suit jackets. The suits didn't eliminate the class divisions from public school; they simply created new divisions. Uniforms might have been preferable.
Around Freshman year my voice finally began to change, but it was a long process. It would crack and waver somewhere between the voice it was, and the voice it would become. My potential status to start over in a new school as a new guy with a clean reputation and no nicknames lasted days. Early on I was branded with the nickname “Squeaker”, which some kids used right up until graduation. It didn’t help that it sort of rhymed with my surname either.
During a class reading, my English teacher advised me to speak from my chest and in mid sentence, I snapped into a masculine bass. I think some of the guys applauded. From that day forth, I continued using that voice in school, but it was not my voice. My friends in the neighborhood and my family knew my true secret identity, that I was still Squeaker. I began leading a double life of sorts, talking one way in school and another way at home. I stopped picking up the telephone, because I didn't know who would be on the other end and how I should answer. Fortunately, my parents finally got an answering machine around this time which solved at least one dilemma. In hindsight, I suppose I should have always kept the deep voice but it wasn't my real voice, and took conscious effort. I felt dishonest when I used it, even though I preferred it. It got me through Freshman and Sophomore year, and I grew concerned. With a birthday in November, I was younger than most of my classmates and could justify being a late bloomer. But too much time was passing. Would I always speak in a cracking voice? Would I always have to fake a man's voice? When would my voice finally settle?
Worlds collided when one of the guys from my school somehow started dating a girl in my neighborhood that he met at some party. The situation was exacerbated by the fact that the girl, a friend's older sister, was already something of an arch nemesis, Lucy to my Charlie Brown. She did far worse than pull footballs away. She called me names at every turn, turned the girl next door from my “girlfriend” into her partner in mocking me, and at times even hit or scratched me. My only retaliation was to call her a dog, but that only escalated things. I never did find a good atom bomb to cripple her endless gibes.
One Summer, riding home as the sun was falling, these two girls were standing in the street in front of their houses with the guy from my school. I saw an evil smirk illuminate the face of my friend's sister and I knew she had me. If I stopped to say hello, which voice would I use? Had they already compared notes? Was my reputation at school already torpedoed? Only a few still brought up the “squeaker” nickname, but that was more than enough. I did the only thing I could do. Even though she commanded “Come here!”, I pedaled faster, nodded and waved, and zipped up my driveway as quickly as I could. It was an extremely close call. Thankfully, before Senior year, my voice finally settled. One day while talking something just snapped, and it was no longer high and cracking. It wasn't the rumbling bass either, and I found I could no longer summon forth that voice. To this day, I'm not quite happy with the nasal quality of the voice I ended up with, and one college friend even labeled it a Pidge voice. Personally, I think it's closer to Wiggum, especially when I try to do impressions.
I might never be brave enough to record a podcast, but the important thing is I haven't been Squeaker in years.