Des Moines Register reporter and friend Reid Forgrave sent me an email Monday night asking me if I have seen “The King’s Speech” yet. I said I haven’t, but I would like to. If there is one thing I have a hard time doing is sitting down for 2 hours to watch a movie from start-to-finish. I get uneasy watching uncomfortable or confrontational scenes. I don’t know why, but I do.
Anyway, the main storyline of “The King’s Speech” is the relationship between King George VI of Britain and his speech therapist,Lionel Logue. George VI had a speech impediment and it had a major effect on his self-confidence. George is thrust into a precarious situation when his brother, Edward VIII abdicates the throne to marry American divorcee Wallis Simpson, which sends England into a frenzy, and George ends up becoming King. With World War II looming, George’s wife finds an eccentric speech therapist to help George with his confidence and rally the British faithful for battle.
For those who know me, I have a form of speech impediment called cluttering. Yes, there are various forms of disfluencies and they are not the same.
Not everyone stutters like Porky Pig. I sympathize and root for Porky because he tries so damn hard to say what’s on his mind. The unwritten testament to Looney Toons, surprisingly, is that in nearly all of the cartoons that Porky appeared in, not one character, even Daffy Duck, laughed or made fun of him and his stuttering.
If only real life mirrored cartoons some times.
Some forms of therapy have worked and some have not. Those that have worked, namely in the last several years, have helped me slow down and speak clearly. But on some days, my speech falls apart like a bulldozer to a hollowed-out building.
That’s when I need the most support from people. By being patient and letting me stammer through what I need to say.
Monday night at the Juice YP of the Year award ceremony was a glowing example. A high-profiled vice president of a locally-owned bank introduced herself to me. I introduced myself. Then she asked what did I do. Try saying the word “in career transition” without hitting a verbal roadblock.
She couldn’t back away fast enough.
Despite that minor “I think I blew my chance to get my name out there” bump, a lunch meeting with Josh Fleming late last week may have been the best advice, along with the 30+ years of speech therapy.
“Own it. Let everyone know about you. You are a different guy in person than you are behind that blog.”
Keeping up appearances is a tough job. People know me as being open-minded, casual, and classy. On the keyboard, I’m inquisitive, seeking information and insight, and eloquent.
Writing, to be honest, is my lazy way to communicate. Talking takes a lot of work, I tell you. But, it is my speech impediment, and no one can lay claim to that. Does it make me unique? In the eyes of Josh and Reid, yes it does. It’s part of what makes me an individual.
It has been five years since Reid wrote his story about how I have battled my disfluency and how I had to come out of virtual “hiding” to live a public life without some jackass mocking or laughing when I start to speak. That includes VIPs who think everyone has to sound like Jeeves the Butler with the correct pronunciation to their liking.
I replied to Reid that maybe it be a good idea to revisit that story from December 2005 and tie it to “The King’s Speech” as a way to connect to a new group of people who feel that no one understands what they are saying literally.
And hopefully, I’ll make an effort to sit and not squirm when I watch the movie.
Here is George’s speech to England, courtesy of YouTube, in its original recording:
If you want more information on speech disfluencies and therapy, here are a few links that you can go to:
Stuttering Foundation of America is one of the foremost site dedicated to stuttering and other forms of speech impediments.
National Stuttering Association is another great resource as well.