Make Room For The Stuttering

Wickedly Different

Posted on: December 14, 2009

I had the chance to go to the Opening Night of the Broadway smash musical “Wicked” on Wednesday night. It was a stunning, glamorous performance that delighted from start to finish.

My friend James went with me. He stutters, and tries to be covert about it. He works in a hospital, which is fast paced and stressful, and he often struggles to indeed keep the stuttering hidden. He was skeptical about the show – he was not convinced that he would like a musical. Well, he did. In the car, trying to get out of the bumper-to-bumper traffic, we had time to talk about it.

He loved it, and shared that the theme of the performance really “struck a chord”. He went on to say that it related to us, those of us who stutter, because the idea of differences was so starkly portrayed in “Wicked”. I asked what he meant.

He said he could relate to the character who was different – she was green! (I won’t say much more. Don’t want to spoil it for you if you have never seen it and want to or plan too. And you should. It is a wonderful show!). Her difference generated a lot of negative social punishment! Classmates in school feared her, made fun of her, shied away from her and she was largely isolated due to being green. She really only had one friend who even tried to understand what it was like being different.

James talked about how he has felt the exact same way with his stuttering. He feels different from his other colleagues and gets frustrated that communicating – something we take for granted – can sometimes be such a challenge.

The character in “Wicked” faces set backs, obstacles and being misunderstood her whole life. She strives to fit in, and be liked and accepted. Much what people who stutter do, huh? And people with other differences too.

James didn’t say too much beyond that. He is a thinker and can be quite reflective. I think he was pleasantly surprised by how much he really did enjoy the show and the story line.

I wondered about this: we who stutter only mildly or moderately can sometimes be very successful hiding our stuttering. The green character in “Wicked” had no such luxury. She was GREEN, GREEN, GREEN. There was no hiding it. She stood out from the crowd.

So do overt stutterers have it easier than covert stutterers, since it is so “out there” ? Us coverts use so much energy to try to not stutter.  I have wondered if that isn’t actually easier. There is no hiding, no game being played, no cover-up. What you see is what you get.

Like the green “Wicked Witch”. There was no denying she was different, and boy, did she have a story to tell. What do you think? What is your story?  Can you talk openly about your stuttering? How do you feel about being different? How does it feel “being green“?

5 Responses to "Wickedly Different"

Wow, I had no idea what Wicked was about and it does seem to fit very well with stuttering. I have started talking openly about stuttering within just the last few months, and it feels great. The other day, I showed my Mom the latest video on the American Institute for Stuttering Blog.

Me being a overt stutterer I cannot hide my stuttering, but I usually try and hide my “ugly stuttering.” So I do use tricks like covert stutters just not for the exact same reason.

With therapy I have started feeling better about being different. Meeting other PWS and talking about stuttering with them has really helped!

It is scary being different and I have spent all my life trying to fit in, trying to feel like I am part of the pack.

Beleive me this is really hard work, and sometimes when I am lucky to be in a conversation, I am thinking about the next thing I am going to say and trying not to stutter and sometimes it totally distract me from listening.

I hate social gatherings especially if its people I dont know.

I am now trying to be an overt stutterer, that is hard hard work, but I beleive its much easier on us to do this, because as you say Pam, what you see is what you get, there is no need to hide anything. I like that a lot and I am aspiring to get there one day.

I suspect that it’s probably the case that covert stutterers often wish they could be more overt while overt stutterers tend to wish they could be more covert. Doubtless, both groups privately believe that the other has an easier time of it. Such thinking seems regretable to me because it’s inherently divisive. Furthermore, I believe that it might be founded on false assumptions and misunderstandings.

I just wonder if there is such a rigid demarcation between the two. As an overt stutterer, I often use covert behaviours to try to be more fluent. Although word substitution doesn’t work for me because I’ll stutter or block on any word, I do compose sentences in my head before I say them and I choose words that I might have the least difficulty with. In the company of a group of others, I will say nothing or as little as I can. Everyone might know that I stutter but I actively try to minimise the extent of my stuttering.

My basic point is that maybe there isn’t such a big difference between the two categories of overt and covert as people sometimes seem to think. Perhaps, of course, I’m wrong in this …

I am also an overt stutterer and I completely agree with your comment.

Very cool Pam!
You find stuttering, or reminders of stuttering everywhere don’t you? And you make it easy for us non-stutterers to get the social punishment issue, by explaining the way you do. Thanks for that!
Now, the which is worse, overt or covert is something ppl could discuss until moss grew on them….
Does it matter? Can we simply say that stuttering is challenging period, and focus on supporting each other instead of trying to figure out who struggles most with it? We all need support regardless of severity anyway, so… We humans will always think the grass is greener, but is it really??

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