…and one of them starts stuttering (you may have seen that coming). In my 27 years on this planet, 24 of them having been spent as a full-time stutterer, only six months have been spent in regular interaction with other people who stutter and I’ve come to realize I have no. idea. how to make all the right moves when it comes to listening. When I’m in the middle of a block I am deeply self-involved. All I’m thinking about is how to get the word out, by any means necessary. I block (heh) out the person I’m talking to- maybe because I can’t bear to see a look of amusement or confusion, maybe because I’m just not good at multitasking. But at any rate, my grasp on stuttering etiquette is minimal at best. What I’m looking for my convo partner to do is wait for me to finish and move alon
But when I’m on the other side I start to get self-conscious- “do I make eye contact? Is that creepy? I mean, sometimes a block can go on for awhile, at what point does eye contact become ‘looking deep in your eyes and staring directly into your soul’? How often can I blink*? And ohhh now I understand the urge people get to finish my sentence. Don’t be that person. For the love of God, DON’T be that person.” Then the block is over and it’s all forgotten. I want to be clear- interacting with another person who stutters does NOT make me uncomfortable and I can’t tell you how happy I am to meet other stutterers- people know what’s up. I’m probably at my most comfortable in such a group. But I’m still terrified of doing the wrong thing and alienating the one group of people who understands. In fact, very early on I would get the urge to grin like an idiot when someone else started to stutter- after all, hearing someone else’s disfluency is the purest form of confirmation that I’m not the only one. That there are other people like me. And there is nothing more insulting than grinning like an idiot while someone is working through a block.
I think what this post really just reveals how self involved I am. Ah well. Isn’t that the point of a blog?
Also: What are we preferring these days? People Who Stutter (person first!) PWS (sounds like an accounting firm or workout regime)? Stutterers (my fave because it sounds like a gang).
* According to The Doctor you should never blink.