Thursday, July 05, 2007
Did You Stutter?
I met someone the other day who stuttered. Listening to a stutterer causes me about twice the anxiety as speaking with someone with a lazy eye.
I am gripped by the fear that the speaker is going to give up mid-sentence, mid-word, unable, finally, to utter sound. Every moment almost touches catastrophe. I try to pretend I'm not transfixed by the stutter. The stutterer is complicit in the fiction. I wonder "I wonder if he gets embarrassed every time he stutters."
This means, of course, that I end up trying to be polite while never really understanding what the stutterer was saying.
When I was around 10, I met a stutterer. It must have been the pre-teen version of Sunday school, where, instead of playing "Ring Around the Rosie," and singing "Deep and Wide," we talked about the Bible.
The kid said something like: "I think that D-D-D-David showed that um..."
Me: (in a mock-retarded voice) "Duh-duh-duh-duh."
Then I laughed, and everyone was silent. No one acknowledged it at all. The pretty Sunday school teacher, whom I must have had a pre-sexual crush on, didn't laugh. I must have thought it was a good bet to mock the weakest kid there to try to achieve some status in the little group. That is how it was done by the kids I knew. Often to me, but rarely by me.
I was desperately abashed by the Sunday School teacher's silent rebuke of me--and from the fear that followed the realization that I had horribly misjudged the situation. To this day, I am grateful the whole room didn't turn on me at that point. I don't think I could have taken it.