Despite my stutter making it hard for me to meet new people and make new friends, I did have a great group of friends growing up. Sadly, I don’t talk to any of them anymore; but I think that is pretty much life, isn’t it? People come and go and dynamics change. But everyone we meet is someone we are supposed to meet. All of your friends, past and present, help shape who you are. And I’ll stop this current train of thought before I get too philosophical and psychoanalytical. Nobody reads my posts on this blog to hear that stuff!
This group of friends I had through most of my teens and into my early 20s and I shared many of the same interests. Most weekends we’d all be out playing hockey in the winter or soccer, football, tennis, baseball or other sports or picnics during the summer months. We’d even go to clubs together when we got older and decided that getting shot down by girls was a sport as well. Gold medalist at that sport, for the record.
At one point in time, four of us even had a part time job at the local bingo hall. One of the guys got a job there to help out his mom who worked in the cashier’s office, and he said it was an easy and, surprisingly, fun way to make a few extra dollars. The evenings we all worked together were brilliant if I’m honest. So many laughs. And there were times when only one of us was working and we’d go in and play. Yeah, I can speak fluent bingo. My mom played a lot so I used to go with her. Dad and I would go to the pub. Mom wanted to go to bingo. The things we do for loved ones, huh?
One night as we were sitting there, a table all to ourselves as most of the regulars wouldn’t sit near us as we weren’t quite as serious or superstitious as they were, one of my friends asked me a question that caught me off guard because it was so long overdue that I thought they’d never ask it. Sheepishly, because I think he was the most embarrassed he’s ever been, he quietly asks, “Do you know why you stutter?” The other guys look at me, only breaking eye contact to stare down at their bingo cards to dab numbers when called. I laughed to ease his nerves.
I didn’t really have an exact reason to tell them. When I was younger I went to see a speech therapist on a weekly basis. I had a clicker (the kind that doormen use at nightclubs to count patrons) and I would have to click it every time I stuttered and report the next week how many. There were times I’d hit the thousands. Some weeks I’d barely hit 100. It all depended if I felt like talking that week. I had heard many reasons I could stutter, all of which are applicable today on the odd occasion that I stutter now.
“Most of the time it comes down to being nervous. Other times it’s because my brain is thinking things too fast and in my hurry to say what I’m thinking I can’t spit the words out properly.” I could see them nod their heads and I actually believed that they understood. “The really bad times are when I’m concentrating on not stuttering. The more I don’t want to do it, the more I will. Because I’m so focused on not doing it, it occupies my thoughts and it’s over for me. Around you guys, where I know you don’t care, I don’t have to worry about my stutter so I don’t think about it so it happens less often.” This was true. I rarely stuttered around them such was my comfort level. However, cause there’s always a however, when I was really comfortable, the stutter returned with a vengeance. And no one had a problem with it. Even now, when I go out with friends in Dubai, there are times I’ll stutter up a storm and they’ll say, “I didn’t know you stuttered.” I tell them I do occasionally and it often returns when I’m really comfortable around people because I know they won’t judge me. Most see this as the compliment it is. Others are too busy not caring because they don’t see it as a big deal. Either of those reactions is fine with me.
“What do you mean your brain is thinking too fast for your mouth?” One of my friends asked me. I don’t think he ever had that problem. But damn was he an athlete!
“It most often happens when I’m telling a story. Especially if I think it’s a good story. I’m so excited to tell it that I just can’t keep up with my brain and memories of it and the excitement level in me is crazy high. [Editor’s note: I am paraphrasing much of this. These were the reasons given but exact words are unsure – it was nearly 20 years ago now].
“So you stutter a lot when you’re excited?” Another question I thought I had just answered.
“I just said that, yes.”
There was a long pause, and not just cause we were playing bingo. The guy who asked the original question looked at the others and then at me, and even quieter than his first question, hit me with this gem: “What happens when you’re with a girl then?” This question is followed by a snicker.
“When I took my trousers off your sister knew exactly what to do.” [Editor’s note: This is exactly what I replied]. The snickers turned to laughter. “It hasn’t been a problem as when it gets to that stage; there isn’t a lot of talking going on anyway.”
In the 10+ years we all hung out together, this was the only time they ever asked. About a minute of talking per year of our friendship up to that point. I don’t know how much of it they took in, but it was never mentioned again. And things between us didn’t change after they knew the reasons. I was still faster than any of them; even if it took me longer to taunt them at the end of the race then I would have liked.