Make Room For The Stuttering

Fried Ice Cream and Stuttering

Posted on: May 1, 2009

“Fried ice cream is an oxymoron. I just can’t visualize it. It doesn’t make sense.”  These were the words of a fellow stutterer as I  convinced him to split an order of fried ice cream for desert after sharing great food, great company and the best stuttering. He was skeptical, because he’s not crazy about sweets and just couldn’t imagine what fried ice cream would look like. He could not wrap his brain around the notion of two completely different things coming together and tasting good.

James and I went out for a nice Thai dinner and good Belgian beer. He had wanted to “pick my brain” about stuttering, which was great, because I love to talk about stuttering.  And talk we did. And stutter we did. About lots of things.

First up was schizophrenia! James talked about how stuttering sometimes feels like two personalities, the fluent one who goes along comfortably for a while, and then the stuttering one who sometimes come out of nowhere. We both shared our experiences with how covert stuttering is very much like two distinct personalities. You never know which one shows up.

We both wanted to try food we had never tried before, to really enjoy the experience. Kind of like stuttering, we both enjoyed each others different stuttering. Our waiter was awesome,and recommend things for us to try and gave us plenty of time to talk and order at our own pace. We were so engaged talking that several times the waiter came and went, not wanting to disturb us.

We started with calamari. It was not what we expected – just like stuttering sometimes. We thought the calamari would be fried and crispy, but it was served cold and raw. Very different taste sensation. But we were game.

Interesting conversation. James mentioned something early on that resonated with me. He said he wanted to keep up with me in conversation. When I asked what he meant, he said that being with me, a stutterer, he felt he needed to stutter with me, so he curbed his natural inclination to substitute words and stuttered with me. He said its lonely if you are the only one stuttering. That was so cool! We also talked about eye contact -he mentioned that he thinks its great that I don’t break eye contact when I stutter, and that he notices that he does when he stutters. We talked about that. He gets embarrassed. I shared that sometimes I do too, it’s human and situational. Sometimes I break eye contact when stuttering at work and I shared that sometimes I squeeze one eye shut in an effort to push the stuck word out.

James leans in when he blocks. That is his tension. I told him he looks engaged when he leans in! Like he is so interested in what the other is saying that he leans in to hang on every word. I don’t think he bought it! James has silent blocks, and he told me how frustrating that sometimes feels. I don’t think I have ever really experienced a silent block. We talked about the different ways we stutter.  It was liberating.  So was the Belgian beer!

James asked me if I notice that I get more dis-fluent when with someone else who talks really fast. Yeah, I do, and he does too. We talked about slowing down, and both agreed that we talk and think so fast that it is very hard to slow down.

Over delicious tapioca and yam tum soup,  we talked about how the stuttering world has opened up for us both through the Internet, talking with others who stutter and doing advertising. We also talked about family histories of stuttering and family’s reactions.

Over the main course and the second bottle of Belgian beer, we talked about stuttering advocacy and ways to feel comfortable in your own skin. “I Do Me” is the first thing that came out of my mouth, and James agreed. He wants to feel as comfortable in one stuttering situation as he is in other stuttering situations. He stutters most on the phone and in groups. We both agreed that stuttering is so situational, that’s what a lot of people don’t get.

When it came time to consider desert, our wonderful waiter gave us recommendations and I convinced James to try the fried ice cream. When it came, he was amazed at how good it was and how two exact opposites so perfectly complemented each other. It was a perfect combination. The fried crunchy part on the outside, the soft and sweet ice cream on the inside. Just like stuttering.

We are complex. What you see (and hear) on the outside is quite often the opposite of what’s on the inside. Sometimes we stutterers keep a lot bottled up inside. But not on this night. Put two people who stutter together to talk and share for hours and stuttering magic happens. Just like fried ice cream.

Have any of you ever had fried ice cream? Can you see how its like stuttering? Warm and cool, crispy and soft, covert and overt all at the same time.  And have any of you ever had such a good time stuttering that you couldn’t believe how fast the time flew?

I’m telling you – there’s nothing like it.

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