I have an undiagnosed speech impediment. According to a speech and language professor at WWU, it’s some sort of tongue thrust or (orofacial myofunctional disorder). My tongue feels too big for my mouth and I can’t control it. Sometimes, I swear, it wants to fall out of my mouth when I talk. My impediment gets worst when I’m nervous. I’m lucky it is slight, and not everyone even notices it.
You would think my speech would have had a major impact on my life— especially during childhood, but it didn’t. I wasn’t teased (too often). I grew up in a very small town and interacted with the same 50-or-so kids since age 5. We saw each other every single day until high school graduation. We knew each others faults, scars, bumps, and lumps as well as our own. The way I talked, was just the way I talked. My peers were aware that it was different, but thought, “That’s just Rachel.”
Have you ever noticed it’s the adults that tend to point out and notice the “differences” in children? I was sitting in my third-grade class one day when a man, (we will call him Mystery Man) stood awkwardly beside my desk and asked if I would come with him. I looked skeptically at my teacher and she told me that Mystery Man had a few questions to ask me and that I should go with him. After getting the “go ahead” from my teacher, I followed Mystery Man into a room I had never been in before. He introduced himself and said he helps children speak “correctly”. This was the first time someone had pointed out to me that I speak differently.
He asked me to read a few simple words off of some flash cards, “Dog. Cat. House.” I was a third-grader that read at the eighth-grade level, so I was offended that someone doubted my reading capability. I remember blatantly asking, “Why am I here? I read very well.”.
He responded, “You have a different way of talking and I’m here to help you. If you would like the help.”
I looked around the room, and then I looked Mystery Man in the eyes and said, “No I don’t want your help. I would like to go back to class now.”
Poor guy. Rejection from an eight-year-old, that’s rough. He accepted my answer and walked me back to class.
I went home and told my mother what had happened at school while she was sitting in the bath tub shaving her legs . I told her, “A strange man pulled me out of class today…” I think that’s as far as I got before my mother jumped out of the tub, threw a towel around herself, and stormed out of the bathroom. Her fingers of fury dialed the telephone faster than anyone has ever dialed.
I could hear her ask, “Why did nobody contact me to tell me she was going to be tested and evaluated? The school was very out of line…if my daughter doesn’t want to work with him, I support her decision.” Slam! I was impressed the phone didn’t shatter. That’s my mom, always my defender.
She turned to me and asked, “Do you want to work on your speech? Does the way you talk bother you?”
I just looked at her and said, “I didn’t know I was different. I don’t want to change.”
She nodded her head, and that-was-that.
There was the occasional teasing, but it never bothered me, especially when I knew the other kid’s weaknesses too—small town remember?
It wasn’t until I graduated from high school and went to college that people would comment on the way I talked. For some reason the guys I dated really wanted to discuss it. I was 19 when a guy told me, “I like the way you talk, I think it’s cute. I know some people probably find it annoying as fuck, but I like it.” Mmmm okay. Thanks. He was such a gem.
Other guys made similar comments, “Oh it’s cute.” Sometimes they would mimic me (that was pretty annoying). The only time my rebellious tongue ever bothered me was when I had to speak in front of a large audience.
My friends and family are accustom to my speech. I haven’t had to lead any meetings, or give any presentations in over a year. When my job did require me to present, I just battled my wayward tongue and said what I had to say. My husband doesn’t bring it up because according to him, he doesn’t notice it. I hadn’t thought about my speech impediment for a really long time.
Then I posted THIS video that I made to celebrate reaching 100 followers and to explain the progress on my YA novel. I watched and listened to myself trying to talk around my fat tongue and some insecurities arose. I asked my husband, “Do I really sound like that? Do I really LOOK like that when I talk?”
He conceded, “It’s a little more pronounced in the video, but it’s just because you are nervous.” (He is always honest, and I love him dearly for it.)
I dwelt on it for a day, and thought about not posting the video, but then I realized that what I needed to say was important. I wanted my viewers to hear me say, in my own unique voice, “Thank you.” for following my blog. I was scared of the trolls who could potentially find the video and make fun of the way I talk. Then I realized that there are trolls everywhere and if I let that fear control me then I wasn’t being true to myself or my dreams.
So far no troll comments, just lovely encouragement from you, my dear readers. I’m so glad I went ahead and posted the video.
Remember to embrace who you are, and don’t view your “differences” as your enemy. Think of them as a magnifying glass to spot the trolls in your life.
THANK YOU MILES MCKEE PHOTOGRAPHY FOR LETTING ME USE YOUR PHOTO.