By Jody Fuller
I’m going to take a break from the new baby talk this week and write about what most people tend to remember about me—no, not my humor, charm, and good looks. Come on now. I only have space for so many words. Today, I’m going to write about my stuttering. Two recent events intrigued me to write this article.
Earlier this month, I had a speaking a speaking engagement with a lovely group of people. In fact, it was the first of four that week. It was a very good week. If I could string a few more together like that, I’d be in good shape. If you’re reading me for the first time, yes, I do stutter, and yes, I do speak and perform comedy for a living. Ain’t America great?
It’s not nearly as daunting as it sounds. For example, if I’m allotted to speak an hour, then I really only have to prepare about a half-hour’s worth of material. You see, we must find the silver lining in everything we do.
My talk with this group went really well. Most were frequent readers of my column. Afterwards, half stood in line to hug me, shake my hand, and congratulate me on the baby. As I was trying to eat, the other half walked up to hug me, shake my hand, and congratulate me on the baby. They were good, salt of the earth people.
Having said that, a few of them said things regarding my stutter that slightly irked me. They meant nothing by their words, so it’s not as if I was highly upset.
I always let my audience know upfront that the stutter is real; however, I do fake the stutter for several stories where I reenact a real or hypothetical situation. One lady politely accused me, in a non-confrontational manner, of faking my stutter altogether. Her rationale for such an accusation: “well, you’re not stuttering now.”
Like fingerprints and snowflakes, stuttering is unique to the individual. I can have a whole conversation with someone without a hint of impediment, yet turn around and stutter on every word with the next guy. Simply because the person you’re speaking to isn’t stuttering at that particular moment doesn’t mean that he or she isn’t a person who stutters. For the record, it’ll most likely be a he, since four out of five people who stutter are male.
Years ago, a man in Vegas accused me of faking. His reasoning was because he had a cousin who stuttered, so he was obviously a subject matter expert on what I’ve been dealing with me entire life. My stutter didn’t resemble what his cousin did in the least, so obviously I was a fraud. We don’t all stutter alike. We’re all unique. I wish I’d told him that all jerks aren’t the same either.
Another lady believed the stutter was real and even told me she was going to pray for a cure. While I need all the prayers I can get, that’s one area where I consider myself blessed. Please pray for me, but leave the stuttering out of it. I’m good. If it’s good enough for Moses and Bo Jackson, then it’s good enough for me. Besides, at this point, if I was cured, then I’d have to fake it.
Speaking of cures, no matter how sincere you are, unless you’re a speech pathologist, please do not try to tell a person how “not to stutter.” It’s okay. We got this.
One frequent reader called me an idiot to my face. “I read you all the time, but I didn’t know you were an idiot,” she said, as she smiled and shook my hand. I assumed she was a Bama fan acknowledging my love for Auburn. “No, you’re an idiot,” she said, doubling down.
“Oh, okay,” I said.
After seeing my facial expression, she said that she didn’t mean it in a bad way. She just didn’t know that I was so funny and crazy. So, I reckon this idiot will take that as a complement. At least she didn’t call me a faker.
The death of fellow stutterer Mel Tillis is the other event that made me want to write this article. He was a pioneer and somewhat of a role model for me. Someone mentions his name to me at least a couple of times a week and have done so long before I ever got into speaking.
Tillis served honorably in the United States Air Force. He even started a band while stationed in Okinawa. In 1976, The Coca-Cola Cowboy won the Country Music Association’s Entertainer of the Year award and was inducted in the Nashville Songwriter’s Hall of Fame. He’s also a member of the Grand Ole Opry and the Country Music Hall of Fame. And, in 2012, President Obama presented him the National Medal of Arts award. He lived quite an impressive life.
I’m fine with stuttering. I embraced my uniqueness long ago. If it’s good enough for Moses, Bo Jackson, and Mel Tillis, then it’s good enough for me. And, just in case anyone is wondering, no, I do not stutter when I sing.