Looking back, I was a very principled child, to the point of pointlessness. I still have a tendency to stubbornly stick to my guns and make unnecessary stands over minor matters, even if the effort is self-sabotaging. Why? Because, say it with me, “It Is The Principle Of The Matter!” As far as personality flaws go, I suppose ‘too principled’ isn’t a bad one. Unless your principle is, like, white separatism or something.
But I digress.
I had a lisp growing up. Nothing wild, I just jutted my tongue slightly between my teeth while pronouncing ‘s’ or ‘z’ resulting in a mild ‘th’ sound. Sitcom lisping. In fifth grade I was placed in a speech therapy class run at my school, which meant I was plucked out of my regular class every week by the resident speech therapist. She was a very nice lady, but her name began with an ‘s,’ so once I understood what I was being scrutinized for I was too self-conscious to ever call her by name. Mrs. S__ was toooo many ‘s’s. Even the word ‘lisp’ taunted me!
It turned out to be an easy fix. I’d had mild hearing problems throughout my youth, so our theory was that I had simply misheard the sound and formed an incorrect habit. There was nothing physically hindering my tongue, so once I knew what they wanted me to do it was just a matter of practicing until it became my new norm. The therapist was very happy with how quickly I improved, and my days in speech therapy were over.
And it should have ended there.
Except my little brain started going. I mulled over the concept of speech therapy and its implications, and this was my conclusion: I had been perfectly understandable before, but my manner of speaking was slightly different than the majority of the population, and therefore I had been placed in a class to force the differentness out of me?! Oh hell naw.
I remember having these self-righteous little rants in my head. Would a lisp prevent me from doing well in school? No! Would a lisp prevent me from excelling at my future career? No! So you’re saying a person with a lisp can never be President of the United States?
(I now realize that a person with a lisp can never be President of the United States. The voting public and our many diplomatic contacts around the world would never take such a person seriously. I’m sorry, young Sam, the world is a cruel and unprincipled place.)
And so I sabotaged myself. I purposefully began to lisp again. I took great satisfaction in jutting my tongue past my teeth, because who says I can’t be successful in this world with a minor speech impediment? TAKE THAT, SOCIAL EXPECTATIONS! Sorry Mrs. S, your intentions were noble but this student needs no assistance.
Nobody ever called me on it. And then I hit puberty, that wonderful era in which everything imaginable is hugely embarrassing. I heard myself on tape, was promptly mortified at how ridiculous and childish I sounded, and I retaught myself how to speak without a lisp. I’m not sure if I was wholly successful, as I still think I sound ridiculous on tape, but ah well. Part of me will always feel like a bit of a traitor for giving up that crusade, because when all was said and done, I finally succumbed to speech therapy.