Vocal fry with a side of adulting
Women aren’t the only ones using vocal fry. It isn’t just hipsters and indie music hosts. It’s everywhere.
Vocal fry is the breathy, vibrating of the vocal cords that produce this slowed down, creaky and weary voice.
The first time I heard of vocal fry was in 1982 when I took a summer of classes at Performing Arts Academy. The voice coach specifically called me out for too hard of Rs, which made me sound regionally Californian, and too frequent of glottal or vocal fry.
I didn’t mean to do it. I was nervous and the thoughts edited in my head came out slower than I could hold enough breathe for a sentence. Hence the fry. I didn’t do it to be cool, or because I was urban and upwardly mobile, I did it because I ran out of air.
I was tired. So. Tired. Then.
I had survived a college attack, had a fall in a theater and broke my tailbone, had nerve damage to the backs of each leg and I blew all my freshman classes over it. I was a failure and had to come home, at 20, with my tail between my legs. Adulting was exhausting.
Yesterday, my waitress spoke almost exclusively in vocal fry. She has two jobs. One in the morning and another in the afternoon. She wants to go back to school, but her BA excludes her from returning for a BS in our Cal state and UC schools. She is one of the smartest, prettiest girls in town and she is so overqualified for her job asking …if you would like a drink with that… but she is adulting, and adulting is harder than it’s ever been.
I’ve heard the nurse do it, and the winery server, and the accountant, and the cashier at Miner’s who saw me three times on Saturday. Maybe they were young, but they really weren’t all young. Maybe they were urban and upwardly mobile, but maybe not all of them. The one thing they all had in common was exhaustion.
They were soooo tired. They sounded fried.
Each of them were being adults and doing adult things they all were compelled to do, and in that, they were out of breath. On a more personal level, they each seemed like their souls were exhausted. This adulting thing isn’t working for everyone.
Maybe it’s the 79 cents a woman makes to every dollar a man earns, or maybe it’s the huge burden of college debt that rests on the back of these ladies, or the fact that they are working as waitresses, cashiers and servers when they are highly qualified to be professionals…if they can just get a job in their field. Or, afford the next level of training.
I hear the vocal fry in artists and actresses all of the time. When Kim Kardashian does it, it’s as if she is trying to act like her big fake life is “just so hard.” I get the affectation. When artists do it, I believe they really are genuinely exhausted because they can’t just sell music now, they have to fight off all the cheap 99c or free distribution of their music and they have to travel and perform constantly just to survive as artists. It really is hard to “adult” these days in the music industry.
Vocal fry may be an annoying vocal trait. It might seem like an affectation for hipsters, but look a little deeper and you’ll find it is the sound of the financially exhausted, the wrung out and the soul bruised adult women who were all taught it would be easier to be a woman and an adult by the time they got there.