I’ve always had a reputation for being a loudmouth. Not in the bad way, like someone who blabs about secrets and can’t resist a snide comment, but literally: I talk a lot, and I talk loud. To teachers, I’m the one to avoid calling on, because I participate too much in class discussions. To friends, I’m the one whose vocal volume draws unnecessary attention to personal conversations. But to everyone, I’m the girl who never shuts up.
My loudness manifests itself in a variety of ways. I have never in my life been told, “Speak up, I can’t hear you.” I’m always eager to launch into detailed descriptions of my opinions and heated debates with those who disagree, whether it’s over the pronunciation of the Harry Potter spell “accio” or the 2012 presidential campaign. I can’t help but blurt out whatever I’m thinking, and at times tend to repeat myself, under the misapprehension that I wasn’t heard the first time. Often unconsciously, I sing and whistle my favorite songs in public — much to the annoyance of the students in my calculus class trying to focus on derivatives. But whether I’m rattling off Jane Austen quotes or belting the lyrics to The Strokes’ “Someday,” one thing is certain: I do love the sound of my own voice.
Sometimes, I think I lack the rest of the world’s ability to distinguish between what is loud and what is deafening. When I’m blasting music or watching a TV show in my room, I’m always surprised to hear my mom thundering, “TURN THAT DOWN, I'M TRYING TO SLEEP!” from the other room — I thought she couldn’t hear it! Most of it is probably my youthful conviction that full enjoyment of Mumford & Sons or Doctor Who can only come when the volume is cranked up all the way. I do like noise — I even find it comforting. I feel safer surrounded by the clamorous sounds of banjos and chase scenes than suffocated in the eerie stillness of silence.
It isn't just me, though. I come from a very chatty and argumentative family. In my house, we yell from room to room to recap our days, and interruption is a common offense at the dinner table. As a toddler, I mumbled and had a slight lisp, so I was overshadowed by my chatty and outgoing big sister. Soon enough, though, I learned to hold my own with my family and started shouting back. Ever since then I've been the boisterous, booming loudmouth everyone knows me as: sharp, opinionated and prone to losing my voice at Giants games.
I don't mind that I'm a human megaphone, though. I used to get embarrassed when I’d hear recordings of my voice, screechy and ten times louder than anyone else’s, but I’ve long since gotten over that. When people ask me to pipe down, I do try to be quieter — I don’t want to damage their eardrums! Yet I’ve realized that it's better to be heard too much than not to be heard at all. I would like to apologize to everyone I’ve ever bothered with my incessant chattering, but I won't apologize for speaking up. Almost everything the world knows about me originated as words in my mouth. My political opinions, my love of British culture, my hatred of mayonnaise — how would anyone know about any of that if I hadn’t told them? My inability to keep quiet is a part of my identity: I am a liberal, I am a bookworm and I am a woman. Hear me roar.
Illustrations by Vivian Tong
A version of this article first appeared in the April. 27, 2012 print edition of The Lowell.