Holy shit, I started dating someone, and it’s not going terribly—yet. She’s fun to drink with and likes eating steak and watching Tim and Eric, and what else could you want? She’s little. I can throw her around my apartment like a sack of onions. She doesn’t get too upset when I say she looks like a Senegal bush baby and behaves like Jabba the Hutt’s tiny henchman Salacious Crumb. She’s younger than I am, and I’ve taken to serenading her with Urge Overkill’s “Girl, You’ll be a Woman Soon,” which she hates so much but I guess tolerates because she hasn’t dumped me. She doesn’t have a gunt whatsoever but puts up with me poking her where a gunt would be and saying, “Mmm, I love that gunt, baby.” These are all good signs!
There’s one problem, though. Sometimes her voice is so annoying I wish I were deaf. Like many young women in the US, she has vocal fry. You’ve probably talked to someone who has vocal fry or read an article about it and how it can hurt young people’s chances of getting a job. It’s a low, croaky, drawn out way of talking that’s often most noticeable at the end of a sentence. Think Kim Kardashian or Ke$ha, or that girl at your office no one likes talking to because she ends every sentence in a question. (For the record, my girlfriend’s very intelligent. She’s a beautiful, smart girl with a dumb basic-bish vocal cords.)
While her vocal fry comes and goes, here’s what she sounds like some of the time.
It’s not always that bad, I swear.
Even when the actual words coming out of her mouth are well chosen and witty, the way in which they’re delivered can be so grating it’s hard to pay attention. Sometimes I can’t take it, so I’ll say, “You’re frying so hard right now,” and she’ll revert to a pleasant cadence. As much as I care for her, I couldn’t imagine listening to herrrrrrrr fryyyyy forrrrr my entire life. I was left two options: I could end things, citing irreconcilable auditory differences; or I could try to change her.
I decided to man up and made an appointment with Marissa Barrera, a leading speech-language pathologist and part owner of the ASPIRE therapy center in Manhattan. She’s taught at Columbia University and Hunter College, and is putting together a speech-pathology program at Yeshiva University. If anyone could fix my bush baby’s shitty voice, it was her. Barrera was bubbly, media-trained, and eager to teach us about vocal fry and how it can be treated. Here’s what she had to say:
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