A Tale of a Girl who Talked Funny

by Debbie Britton

Once upon a time I knew this girl, actually she's a woman now but my earliest recollection of her was as a shy, sensitive girl with dark curly hair tied in pony tails that framed a serious face that went perfectly with her serious personality. One of her most outstanding traits was her funny speech and in her overactive imagination she perceived the world as seeing only this negative side of her. But chances are very good that this was not the only quality the world saw in her and if it was, they probably didn't care all that much about it. After all they had better things to do then make her the center of their Universe.

How she got to talk so funny is some what of a mystery. Many different factors could of lead her to talk this way but no family, friends nor professionals are sure how it got started. Any ways, her funny speech ruled every aspect of her life. It prevented her or rather it caused her to prevent herself from talking to people, answering the phone and doing normal talking things that are taken for granted by those of us who don't talk funny. Can you imagine being scared of answering the phone. What an imbecile this girl must of been. Well, at least that's how she felt.

Unfortunately there were a few people among her peers and in the background instilling this belief in her, constantly telling her "There is something wrong with you." "How can you be scared to answer the phone and talk to people?" "You are not normal." These taunts only magnified her insecurities about her funny speech and she began associating shame with the way she spoke. Because she had absolutely no control over her funny speech her life became one big vicious circle going from bad speaking days to feelings of stress to melancholy back to bad speaking days. In this process her self esteem just plummeted to its lowest depths.

When I look back on those year I wonder if these bullies and unempathetic souls realize the devastating effects they had on this poor girls life. It's amazing the ridiculous schemes she thought she had to stoop to in order to avoid all this negative backlash. In these attempts at appearing normal she came off as a bit comical or clumsy but her reasoning told her the world was now laughing with her rather than at her. But what we see in our minds eye is usually far different from reality. All this pretending and worrying must of eventually taken its toll on her because I can remember all the nights she would lay in her bed crying her eyes out wondering if or when her life would get any better. Sometimes the accumulation of all the pain and humiliation of these situations were more than she could endure.

But as it goes, life must go on and this girl continued doing her best to give the impression of some type of normalcy to herself and her life. But reflecting back I realize now what a coward she was, always taking the easy way out by undertaking a fearful speaking situation only if she had no other choice. When the option of forgoing the task or handing it over to somebody else presented itself she was sure to seize the opportunity. Little did she realize how much harder this would make her life in the long run by only perpetuating and exaggerating these feared speaking situation to magnitude proportions.

High School was an awkward time for her. While most high school students were concerned with "fitting in" this girl lived in a constant state of fear of being exposed as the funny speaker she was. Past experiences taught her to be 'speech wise' and she had learned a trick or two in avoiding certain speaking situations. Since high school students are allowed to pick their own schedules she learned quickly what teachers to take to minimize any kind of classroom participation such as oral presentations or in class readings.

Unfortunately one class she couldn't avoid was the literature class that is required for all high school juniors. This is the period in a persons life when they'll be reading Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet within a group setting and there was no way she could avoid taking this class. When that dreaded announced finally came early in the semester that they would be reading Romeo and Juliet in the next few weeks this girls heart started to pound and her mind started to spin. The fear of that situation dominated her every thought and she couldn't think of anything else within those following weeks.

Fortunately for her, there were always a few students in class who jumped at the first opportunity to be the lead in anything so the roles of Romeo, Juliet and other main characters were snatched up fast. The stragglers would be reading minor parts as they presented themselves in the readings.

Amazingly the class had gotten very close to the end of the play and she still hadn't been chosen for any of the reading parts. All she remembered about the entire scenario was sitting at her desk with her fingers crossed praying she wouldn't be called upon. Ask her anything about Romeo and Juliet today and I bet she wouldn't know a thing.

But according to Murphy's law, "What can go wrong will go wrong" and knowing her luck that's exactly what happened. The teacher announced there were a few more small parts to be read before the class finished reading the play. The teacher looked around the classroom trying to figure out who hadn't done their part yet. The girl sat at her desk stiff as a board with her eyes staring blankly at her book in order to divert attention away from herself. When she heard the teacher announce her name she automatically went into a panic mode. She spent the remainder of the class period in a frightened daze unaware of anything else going on around her.

Later that evening she had regained enough composure to start thinking of ways to get out of this hellish nightmare. She thought about playing sick but this was something she hardly ever got away with so she needed to come up with a more reliable plan. The only other option she could come up with was playing hooky from school. She had never done this before so for the rest of the night she planned out exactly what she needed to do. One of her major concerns was finding a safe haven where she wouldn't be discovered. She thought about going to the shopping mall but it was too public so after thinking long and hard she decided to go hiding out in the woodlands close to her school. She felt like she had no other options.

The next morning she got ready for school as usual but instead of going directly to her first period homeroom class she ran to the outskirts of the woods. She stood there for what seemed like a life time gazing into the cluster of dark and damp trees. The gray and cold weather made them look even more uninviting and she was scared to go among them. But in her mind she kept thinking about her literature class. She was so confused because she didn't know what was worst the terror of that class or the terror of the dark woodlands. She didn't know what to do.

But as fast as she had run to the woods she ran just as fast back to her school. She decided she still had time to come up with a new plan since her literature class was not until the end of the school day. As her first few classes passed she still didn't know what to do but in her subconscious mind she must of been scheming because when it came time to go to her literature class she ran straight to the girls rest room instead. After five minutes the bell rang for the start of classes and there she was still standing in the girls rest room. She was terrified of being caught as she had never done anything like this before. Luckily for her the time passed without any incidents. I think the entire situation became too much for her because she spent the entire fifty minutes in the girls rest room crying her eyes out. At that very moment in her life, she had never felt so helpless or worthless in her life.

Surprisingly when this girl attended her literature class the next day the teacher never asked her for an excuse slip nor did she ask her to read any more parts for Romeo and Juliet. Intuition told the girl that the teacher probably suspected she had some problems and out of concern never made an issue out of it. The girl was never so grateful in her life.

I think a lot of the stresses of this situation came about because the girl had nobody to talk to about her worries. She felt if she had told anybody about these fears they would only laugh in her face. This was unfortunate because this incident in her literature class was only one of many difficult speaking situations she would encounter in her life so similar scenarios would be played over again and again.

Later in her life she would find an organization for people who talked funny. By meeting and talking to members of this group she realized it was perfectly normal for her to have the fears and phobias she had been running away from for so long. She wasn't going out of her mind after all, what a relief. But the most eye opening thing that really touched her life in a positive way was observing how some of the members of this group lived their lives. They had gone out and achieved the success they had worked so hard for and they didn't let some funny way of speaking stop them. She greatly admired them and they gave her hope, something she desperately needed. She now had a more optimistic view on her life despite her funny speech.

Time has passed and this girl is now a woman. Life was and is a great struggle for her but she is trudging along making progress towards a better life for herself each day. She probably never would of thought this but the difficulties she encountered due to her funny speech had shaped her personality in a very positive way. She had grown to be a very strong woman but in turn she also possessed great empathy, kindness and sensitivity for the world. I really like this woman I've known for so long and if I could be just like anybody, I would want to be just like her.

added with permission May 30, 2001