Good evening everyone,
I wanted to use this edition of the blog to discuss an interesting experience I recently had online in a chat room. I am going to be turning 32 next year, and like many of my peers, would like to get into the dating game. Some take the road less traveled, with many bumps along the way, like I have done. Hindsight as they say is always 20/20, but if I knew then what I knew now I probably would have not done half the stupid things in high school and college. I've always been attracted to the Internet when it comes to meeting new people. It's really an oxymoron, but I do much better on the Internet than in real life, one-to-one conversations. Needless to say, you can't hide behind a computer your whole life, but I can admit that the online world of dating can help "level the playing field" when it comes to being a teammate who stutters. Thankfully, the NSA Nation has been a godsend in helping me grow not just socially, but professionally as well.
Recently I was in a "thirties love" chat room on AOL, and chatting with a young woman from the Chicago suburbs. We were discussing the usual things: where we live, what we like to do, and I of course mentioned my incredible love of my life and the greatest passion I have, which is working for the National Stuttering Association. Things were going pretty well and then I heard the dreaded "goodbye" from AOL. It's all right, I told myself, she'll be back in a few minutes. She never did.
I recently signed up for Match.com a few months ago and decided to do something bold, something I'd never done before. I mentioned prominently in my profile that the National Stuttering Association is a major driving force in my life. Now of course, I knew the risks I was taking, but I also knew that I had to do the right thing and be honest. Which brings me to this question: Is honesty the best policy?
You have heard me talk about the journey of self-acceptance every teammate who stutters must take within themselves. We all need to accept that we stutter-for some of us, it is a realization that occurs much sooner rather than later. It took me until my late twenties to realize that I stutter, and the choice is mine as to what I can make of it-after all, I can either make it work for me, or against me at the same time. But before I took that journey of self-acceptance, I would accept that I would be single for the rest of my life, and feel it's a death sentence. This world we live in isn't getting any better-the insults are becoming more caustic, the confrontations more violent, but I have seen hope, in the form of my NSA teammates in high school who are becoming more confident socially and growing into leaders in their own right.
Over dinner at the diner last week, I discussed this with a peer of mine, and she gave a very challenging response, which ate at me for a while: "I think what you're doing is courageous, but don't you think you're also throwing yourself on the mercy of the court without being tried?" she inquired. We all have certain qualities we look for in a potential girlfriend/significant other, but do we ever have deal-breakers? Sure. Smoking can be one. Doing drugs? Absolutely. My biggest one though, is a lack of acceptance of the NSA Nation. I could never date, or want to date, someone like that.
The greatest appeal of the NSA conferences is that teammates who do not stutter get just as much out of these seminars. It's not uncommon to see a teammate bring their girlfriend/boyfriend to this event, and they marvel at the life-altering processes that take place here. I know I am very comfortable as a teammate who stutters, and that needs to come through loud and clear. The NSA Nation is where I draw my power from. There may be those who just don't care about stuttering, or don't want to know about it. That's fine if they feel that way. All you've done is given me another reason not to want to get to know you.
I know that stuttering and dating can present a very big challenge. Stuttering affects men more than it does women, but we often wonder who has the greater challenges in the dating game. I have challenges too, of dealing with potential dates who may not understand the impact of a comment they make. I'll never forget one incident in my life that happened a year ago. I was out with a woman and we were having dinner at Houlihan's, and when the server came over to ask me what I wanted to drink, I asked for a cosmopolitan (yes, they really are good LOL) and it came out like "C-c-c-c-c-osmmmmmopolitan." The woman said "Wow, I didn't think that would take you a long time to answer." I got up and promptly walked out of the restaurant, and drove home. The next day I sent her an email explaining to her that because of that comment, I could no longer even speak with her. I was so angry after that, that I refused to even want to date because I was thinking everyone else would be just like that. But it's not true. It can be trying. It can test even the strongest of wills. But I know that in the end, I will find that woman who accepts the NSA Nation and how important it is to me.
We all want to find the "one." Here's to my teammates who refuse to let their stuttering stand in the way of that goal.
My name is Steven Kaufman and I am a person who stutters. Until next time, stand up and be counted. Make your voice heard.