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Voice, Beauty and Brains

Summer before high school and my close friend and I were shopping at Forever 21 or Wet Seal, or some sort of pre-teen shop. There were a couple cute guys making eye contact through the store's glass windows and waving at us. We, of course, were also making googly eyes and flirtatiously waving back. What's a girl to do, right?

Eventually, these two cute boys joined us at the store. They started talking to us and my friend responded with some sort of joke, and we all laughed.

They asked us what school we went to and I responded, "We are going to John Burroughs High School next year."

Except, out of my mouth, I did not say 'Burroughs.' I most likely said, 'Buhwoughs.'

Their eyes of admiration and interest changed suddenly. If you've ever seen your first impression shatter before your eyes, that's what I saw.

Their interest turned to, "Oh, you looked cool but you didn't look like you had a problem."

Out they left.

My friend cheered me up, saying boys are stupid and we continued shopping. It was fun, I didn't let it bother me. How could you when your among friends, right?

Later that night though, when I got home, I immediately cried.

For the life of me, I did not understand what these boys meant.

I could understand the name-calling, the "funny accent," and pretty much everything else I've heard in the past. Bullies I was used to, but this was new territory for me.

To be rejected from what was a fun, flirty moment at the mall the second I opened my mouth? It was beyond me.

I recall asking my mom what these boys meant.

What do they mean-I didn't look like I had a problem?

Was it really a problem to begin with? They knew what I said, didn't they? How does the way I look pre-designate what 'issues' I may or may not have.

My mom, of course, responded with generic advice of, "Everyone has something they need to work on..." and "the right people will be in your life."

Which, of course, is true. But at the pre-teen age, this advice was beyond my years and wasn't truly resolving what was bothering me the most.

Mixed in with those teenage girl hormones, was the ultimate question of whether or not anyone could find my 'accent' attractive, or was it bound to be my 'ugly' characteristic?

Could there ever be some romantic partner out there that would actually like the way I spoke?

See, I had my close friends and family that liked me and my speech. It had no impact on my relationships.

But romantic relationships were a whole new ball game, one that my naive teenage brain had no clue about nor have ever thought of before this mall moment.

**See, Apraxia doesn't stop the normal, teenage girl stuff afterall**

I learned at a young age, that I do not want to be called beautiful. I hate that compliment still to this day. It's nice here and there, but it should never be the central quality of anybody.

What people see  physically does not reflect how I speak, my intelligence, nor my Apraxia Journey. People look at me and have no idea the battles in and out of special-education nor do they see a girl who started speaking at 7 years old. A part of me is thankful they do not "judge" me from this and that I don't "look like that", but at the same time why does somebody need to look like they have a problem in order to have an actual problem?

I'd much rather be known for my hard work than anything else. I have fought so much harder for my speech, for my brain, and for my personality to let these go on the back burner behind some physical, genetic pool that gave me physical looks and appearances.

It's courteous, courageous, and kind to appreciate someone's mental beauty.

Thankfully, for the most part, I have had many friendships, family connections, and romantic relationships that have all respected my desire to be seen as an intelligent, outspoken woman regardless of the accent I have.

If only I could talk to my pre-teen self; reassure them that romance with a speech disorder 'accent' is truly possible and best of all I'd truly have the right people in my life regardless.


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