Several days a week, I work out during my lunch break at a downtown church/gym. If I show up at noon, I'm guaranteed to encounter a bunch of women I call the Alpha Belles. The Alpha Belles go to step aerobics, and they speak in loud, exaggerated Southern accents. As in: Ah cayant believe how hawrd that cla-yass wuz today-ee!
(My friend H. also pointed out that they have conversations about things like "purple peas.")
Look, I grew up in South Georgia, so I'm used to accents. At best, a Southern accent can be mellifluous and romantic. At worst, it sounds like something between bleating and braying. The Alpha Belles have the kind of former-mean-girl accents that take me back to my junior high locker room. For some reason, the most popular girls at my school had accents so thick that I occasionally wondered if they were kidding. It was especially unfortunate that Valley speak was all the rage at the time. Gayag me with a spoon!
I suspect that's partly to blame for my barely perceptible accent, which only my Yankee friends can hear. I must have purposely submerged it, the way some people make up a new identity after leaving home. Upon hearing where I grew up, one colleague demanded, "So where's your accent? You sound Midwestern to me."
It's just one of those things about the South that I'm weird about. I can criticize it because it's mine, but I don't want to hear from any Northerners about how we talk funny.