Singles awareness day (valentine’s day) has been and gone again, so I thought I’d
write about stammering and relationships. Specifically, dating. That awkward bit at the start of a relationship where you’re getting to know each other.
In my intro piece to this site, I mentioned that I’m close to being fluent, but I still always mention it fairly early on. I feel like it’s only fair that they know and understand that stuttering is something I deal with on a day to day basis.
Side note: One of my favourite common enough lines in girls, tinder profiles is “must be fluent in sarcasm” and I get to reply, “I’m not even fluent in English”.
Due to my level of fluency, I don’t think it’s ever been an issue, and I think it’s me projecting my own issues with stammering on to them but that’s for another post…. What I actually want to talk about is the most frequent comment I get on a first date after I stammer for the first time, it’s always the same…
“it’s alright, I think it’s cute”
Cute? CUTE? I’ve had a dark moment in my life due to my stuttering, its causes me daily anxiety when I speak up, it has caused so much trouble and you think it’s CUTE?
But these people haven’t had the same experiences that we have. They don’t think about what we went through in school, how we weigh up if our point is worth contributing based on if I think I’m going to stutter. That look of encouragement and pity all mixed into one that everyone gives us while we’ve been halfway through a word for too long. The one you’re giving me right now over an overpriced cocktail.
Other than for incredibly empathetic people, it must have been hard to imagine everything we’ve gone through. It’s only through honesty, communication and time that we can show partners everything else around stuttering and what it means to us.
But what are they thinking? How is it perceived? If you watch the TV show First Dates, you may have seen Paul who has a stammer. He had 2 first dates on the show and one of them, Kathryn, put an outside perspective fairly eloquently, “it’s like having an accent”
It’s something that hadn’t occurred to me until I read it. Stuttering, to me, is so much more than not being able to get words out. It’s anxiety, second-guessing myself and on some days, it’s debilitating. And it’s something that we’re just expected to be able to get on with and be okay with. Which I’m just getting to that point, after years of practice and self-care.
But that is my perspective, and occasionally I forget to look broader, at outside perspectives that would help me keep me grounded.