So something that hardly anyone will know about me, because you only read what I say and don’t hear it, is that I have a lisp, and as far as I’m aware, I have done my whole life.
I say as far as I’m aware because if I’m being perfectly honest, I can’t remember what age it was when I realised I had it, but it was a LOT later in life than you’d think; I’m pretty sure it may not have been until I was in my teens. Now I’m sure you’re thinking ‘how on earth could you not know you have a lisp for all those years?’, and well, I think I thought the same thing, but when I started to think about the reason why, its actually pretty amazing. Quite simply, I never knew, because no one ever made a fuss of it. My family never mentioned it, or treated me any differently (with the exception of my nan, who I remember trying to train me out of it when I was very little, except at the time I had no idea that’s what she was doing), and I think that’s a pretty great thing, because I think had I been treated any way but normal, I’d have been so much more conscious of it, and felt a lot worse.
Fast forward to the point that I discovered my lisp, and I felt a lot of questions got answered. I knew there was something about the way I spoke that wasn’t quite right, but I could never put my finger on it. I had been teased a little in primary school, but never understood why, and I just became increasingly nervous about talking in front of people that I didn’t know. When I realised that I’d been speaking with a lisp all these years, it made sense, but it didn’t solve my problems.
I have what I guess is considered the ‘normal’ lisp, where I don’t quite pronounce the letter ‘s’ correctly. Being aware of it only made it harder. At this time, I was doing a lot of singing, and I quickly found myself worrying about song lyrics, trying to avoid songs that had too many words starting with an s, and I even started doing this with general conversation. While talking, I’d be rapidly thinking ahead to the next few words I knew would come out of my mouth, and often rewording phrases on the spot so that I wouldn’t use words starting with s too often. My brain was like a constant thesaurus.
Being aware of the ‘problem’ meant I was also that much more aware of the little comments or jokes that I’d previously been able to naively brush over. As a teenager I had a lot of guy friends, and while the majority wouldn’t dream of making fun of me, there’s always a few teenage boys who think they’re funny to make little digs, and of course I’d never let them see that it was bothering me, but it did, and this just drove me further into avoiding the letter as much as I could.
I also can’t remember at what point I got over this. Who knows, maybe I haven’t and I’ve just got better at it, but I certainly don’t feel in any way as self-conscious as I used to. I do also think I’ve maybe started to grow out of it more over recent years; I’m certainly not going to kid myself into believing its totally gone, but I do feel like I notice it less. But the fact is, there is nothing wrong with the way I talk. It my voice, slight hiss or not, and I’m learning to accept it. I think back to the many many years when I had no idea I even had a lisp, and I’m actually so grateful that I was never treated differently, or taken to speech therapy, because if anything I’ve owned it for so long that I’m not going to stop owning it.