No, I Didn’t Just Forget My Name
Learning to Make Peace with My Speech Impediment After Nearly 3 Decades
You likely haven’t said it, but you’ve almost certainly heard it. The joke that never really feels like a joke, that’s spurred on by a certain level of shared discomfort and uneasiness at the situation at hand.
If you watched the clip, you’ll see that yes, the teacher promptly addresses and escorts Billy Madison out of the classroom. It’s meant to be a sign of chastisement, but that’s not what people remember when they think of this phrase (or scene), which this particular youtube clip alone has been viewed over 800,000 times, not to mention the movie it’s pulled from.
What people remember is Adam Sandler’s character’s reaction to how the young boy is reading his book, that moment of disfluency (breaks or disruptions that occur in the flow of speech) creating a palpable awkwardness among the classmates which is broken by the needed, and now often repeated, comedic relief.
We’re not meant to be appalled at the stammering joke. We’re meant to laugh. It’s ‘how to deal with a stutter’ 101.
I can’t remember the first time I stuttered or even the moment that I became innately aware that I had more trouble talking than the average person.
What I do remember about my stutter is going to speech therapy in early elementary school. I remember the notion of homework and fluency assignments. Of things to practice (which I did) and check-ups on how I was progressing (which I wasn’t).
I remember being teased in elementary school by some of my classmates, especially a few in particular.
Mercifully, I’m not sure their taunts and teases ever reached outright bullying as so many others with speech impediments and disfluency experience. I was a good athlete and an even better student, so while my classmates could emulate a stammer or point out when I got tripped up on a certain word, they weren't able to discredit me completely. Or so I taught myself to believe.
I grew up in a family of educators. My dad has been in high school administration for over 25 years, 18 of those as a principal. My mom is a Law Professor…