Tuesday, December 1, 2009

How do you feel about stuttering and dating?

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.


Lionel Messi said...

Buen artículo

Lori Melnitsky said...

First, I want to say I think your post is very honest and appreciate that. I think you have to do what you feel most comfortable with. However, I have a question for you, is stuttering who you are or just a way you speak? For ex: I know that you have a great sense of humor and love the Yankees. Don't forget about your other great qualities. People are wary of internet dating and when they see someone talking about an organization it makes them nervous because they don't know you and it sounds like excess baggage or at least that is what my friends and I used to call it in our dating days. Don't give up and you will find someone who will appreciate you for all your great qualities.

t said...

you seem like a very sincere and sweet man! i would hope the woman from your cosmopolitan story was trying to be light hearted and not mean, but i can empathize, and i can see how it could hurt you. i really hope you find someone who deserves you.

Manohar said...

nice post again, but the verdict is not mentioned very clearly. is it okay to disclose that you stutter or not? please jury, answer this very honestly. i really wish to see an answer other than the ubiquitous "depends" :)

ArwenLyn said...

Hi steve,

I just wanted to thank you for writing something so honest and so true.

I have been dating my soon to be husband for three years and he stutters. We met as bandmates in college and it began as a friendship. While for some people stuttering is a deal breaker, for me it never was. I guess it all depends on the person. But i have faced moments when people make fun of my boyfriend right in front of me; the worst feeling ever..but nothing compared to what he might be feeling.

I hope you find someone who can see you as a complete person and love you without conditions. As I have loved my boyfriend all these years.

dfgd said...
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dfgd said...
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vanizorc said...

As someone who also stutters (moderately/severely), I know how terrible the dating game can be for people with our disorder. Firstly, the general public is generally clueless about speech disabilities when compared to what laypeople usually know about other disabilities, like blindness or deafness. I've had people say that they simply can't date someone who cannot verbally communicate, which is incredibly hurtful because I do try, with all my might, to communicate verbally with a text-to-speech device. These people have said that they prefer a human voice over an electronic one, and I'm just at a loss because I can't do anything about it. Sometimes I think I'd rather be paraplegic instead, because at least more people seem to understand and sympathize with people who are in wheelchairs.

As a 22-year old woman, I see all my peers around me on campus in relationships, and mingling with new people and starting new friendships, etc... All of which is difficult for me because having a communication disability is so incredibly isolating. I've even thought of suicide in past, but have come to realize how ridiculous this would be. Our only hope for lessening the burden cast upon us stutterers is to raise more public consciousness about this condition, and perhaps encourage more (positive) portrayals of people/characters in the media who stutter.

Gerard said...

Good blog Steven. Your guilty of only one mistake walking away from the date who made a passing comment about cosmopolitan. As someone who has a moderate stammer and just turned 40 I will say we should be proud of who we are and to HELL WITH THOSE WHO HAVE A PROBLEM WITH IT.

In my teens I was very conscious and impatient with the 2 sessions of speech therapy, but after a while I thought, this is me I will just have to try to practice breathing and not take to heart people who want to make fun, I even started laughing at myself.

In terms of dating do not make it an issue and try not to be self conscious, it will get better with time. I do agree with you and Vanizorc about more awareness should be made about it. Some of the most confident people I have met in my life are stammerers and it took me a while to realize it. As an inspiration especially those with a christian background Moses was a stammerer and had to talk sometimes even though his brother Aron was on hand. Men and women who have a problem dating stammerers pity them rather than resent them. In fact if I had to come to this life again I will still come as a stammerer. Once again it gets better with age, learning to control speech, breathing, word substitution and getting comfortable with pausing. Keep up the good work on this blog Steven.

Pericles Athenian said...

My story on stuttering and dating (English is not my mother tongue):
Countless, really countless rejections. I was rejected instantly or at the first date (there was no second one). I had even problems of finding MALE friends (just friends, I am not a gay), how about a romantic relationship?
I followed a "head-on" approach: I just talked to the girl I liked.
I tried everything, going to organized trips, tennis lessons, dance lessons, clus, discos, seminars, church gatherings, pre-defined dates.
I even tried dating foreign (non-Greek, immigrant) girls. I got rejected by Russian, Pole and Serbian girls too.
I do not want to brag, but apart from my stuttering, some of these girls were FAR worse than me in physical appearance, education, wealth, abilities or manners.
The only "successes" was two girls with obesity problems (not just fat) but the relationships ended because of my initiative. I just realized that I cannot tolerate obesity.
The more frustrating were the univesity years (I studied civil engineering) witnessing other students freely getting in and out of relations easily and constantly.
My first sex experiences was with prostitutes. Hopefully some of them were good professionals.
Finally I tried internet dating. I had a subscription to three internet dating sites. After maybe 20 failures (no second date) I met F. in a blind date.
She was reasonably good.
I was in a exceptionally good day regarding speech when in our first date. It followed a second one and finally, in my 32 years, I got a real kiss.
We got married and now we have a lovely baby.
Dating for a stutterer IS a "frustration game":
YES, you will be rejected over and over and over again and the reason will be your "weird" speech and we all know how much women dislike weird things and guys.
But if you try hard enough the improbable will be an almost certain possibility but don't wait for Brad Pitt-Angelina Jolie relationships.
Try to be good at other parts of you, physique, dressing, manners, education etc. and IMHO don't start havily with statements like "my hobby is involvement with the NSA nation".

Regards and good luck
P.K. (mild to severe stutter)