Dating someone with a stutter
I began reporting for a story about adult stutterers in New York, confident that if I heard their stories, I'd start to understand my own.Three million adults stutter in the United States, roughly 1 percent of the population.Together we are strong." I expected stale coffee and teary hugs, but the meeting I attended at Brooklyn College on a weeknight in March was more complicated than that.In a sterile, brightly lit classroom on the second floor of an old building, a handful of people, mostly young men, spoke eloquently about their lives, and I joined in.That makes sense, though, since I rarely met their eyes, and under no condition would I speak to them, since the two of us in conversation would have been a reminder of the shameful thing we had in common. I became, finally, a petulant, terrified subject of a malicious and incomprehensible god.And so I ignored the other kids, never joined group therapy classes, and convinced myself that we shared nothing. One of my biggest fears, along with the low hum of fear that I always felt about speaking, was the prospect of meeting other stutterers, and in hearing their voices and seeing their contorted faces, confirming my own grotesqueness. One that follows an arc from despair to self-acceptance and emotional growth.The phrase was meant to be empowering, but even then, I saw it for what it was, a plea to the wider world: I was always uneasy in that room.
At least, that's what I hoped when I was young, and then later, when I wasn't young anymore, what I told myself in disgust.The hour or two a week I spent playing Trivial Pursuit or reading aloud with my therapist was so unlike the rest of my life -- speaking was so comfortable and easy -- that it came to seem useless and false.The worst moment in the waiting room was when the hour changed and my turn came.I am 26, and suspect that I'll stutter for the rest of my life.
But as a kid, I figured that just as I'd grow, one day I would speak normally, and get on with my real life.The same frustrations came up repeatedly: how we felt we had failed our parents, who so desperately wanted us to get better; how we thought we would outgrow stuttering but never did; how embarrassed we were at the various acrobatics of avoidance we practice to hide our stutter.