Today I'm writing about the concept of the stuttering support group. I have a ton of work I need to do including writing a research paper, reading, studying for two exams, and getting some more hearing testing done (graduate school is hard, kids), as well as 35 hours a week working for Idiot & Co. at Tatnuck Country Club. So though I usually put a lot of time writing these out, editing, et cetera, this entry won't be as long.
While at UMass I attended the local chapter of the National Stuttering Association, which met once a month on campus. I attended these meetings off and on because my attitude about the concept of a "support group" fluctuated fairly routinely. I don't know about anyone else but when I think of a "support group" for anything, I picture a group of people sitting around sobbing about their problems, like in Fight Club. After my dad had his gastric bypass surgery, he had to go to a support group to talk about his new diet and how he was dealing with it to make sure that he lost as much weight as possible. He had the same feelings that I had about attending a group like that, there are stereotypes about a support group that imply weakness. The stuttering support group I attended was not like that at all, but I still feel hesitant about it sometimes. The meetings were open to anyone in the area who stuttered and to any graduate students who wanted to observe and learn more about stuttering. We talked about our experiences and how we deal with them. They were very refreshing to meet other people who had dealt with the same difficulties that I have been through. Outside of my father and my cousin Griffin (who, now that I think about it, don't think stutters anymore. He might just have had normal childhood disfluencies that most children have, but I'm not sure), I have never met anyone in the real world who stutters. Marty Jezer, who's book I mentioned earlier, was one of the leaders of the group before he got sick with cancer and passed away. It was always fun to hear his stories, and again, his book Stuttering: A Life Bound Up In Words is a great read.
(One thing in the book that made me jump out of my chair was when he talked about being a guinea pig for an experiment about a stuttering theory at the time. The theory at the time was that the brain wiring crossed at the wrong point, which confused the mouth, tongue, lips, and all the other articulators. The reason for the theory was that Marty had the very rare attribute of being able to throw a baseball left-handed but swing a bat from the right side of the plate. I flipped at that because I do that, too and Marty is the only other person I have met who does that. I remember as a kid I would look through all of my baseball cards trying to find one that said "Bat: R Throw: L" and after looking through the thousands of cards I had, the only player who threw and batted the way I did was Rickey Henderson, and he might even be a switch-hitter. As much as he talks, I would noticed if Rickey stuttered or not, and no such luck, so that theory goes out the door, but it is still amazing that Marty and I share that trait.)
I guess my problem with it was that I sometimes don't like the idea of a "stuttering community." If you look at a population like the Deaf community, they are a group of people who are born deaf and take a special pride in the fact that they communicate a different way. They have an entire culture that is just for them. I don't look at stuttering the same way, so it felt weird for me to hear about stuttering conferences, associations, cookouts, and even those LiveStrong knock-off bracelets that say "Be Heard." Maybe it is because there were no other people my age at the group meetings, or maybe it's because I'm 22 and still think I'm cool. Sometimes I would go to a meeting while at UMass and tell my roommates I was going to a "meeting for my program" just because I don't like the feeling of saying "Off to the stuttering support group! Welp, see you later!" I still enjoy going to meetings on occasion and since a chapter meets at Worcester State I plan on attending the next meeting, but I'm not going to any conference or cookout.
This is another conflict for me because as much as I consider myself to be very open about my stuttering, I hate being one of those people who brings up their problems for no reason, but maybe that's my 22-year-old male pride. This blog is the ultimate way for me to talk about it without feeling too forward. Some people have complimented me for the blog about how I am finally ready to talk about it, and while I appreciate it, I have always thought of myself as willing and able to talk about it, I'm just not in-your-face about it, so unless you ask me, I won't talk about it. The metaphor I use is that my stuttering is a tattoo: It's a permenant mark on my arm, right there to see if you just ask me to show it to you, but it isn't something I wear on my sleeve. As embarrassing as it can be, I do not like to hide it. It's one of the first things I want people to know about me because it eases some tension and confusion right away and frankly I think it makes me more interesting. If I talk to someone I don't know and they ask me if I am alright, start laughing, or have a confused look on their face, I just say "I stutter" and they understand.
..So this still ended up being pretty long. That's just how prolific a writer I am. I'm the Jay-Z of blogs, it just comes to my head and I spit it real. One-Take Hov? Try One-Take Griffty. Speaking of rap, next time I'm write about the fact that I love rap and hip-hop so much and how my stuttering might be a reason for that. Maybe it's because I don't even have to try to say G-G-G-G-G-G-Unit!....Christ that was a bad joke...Till next week