Are They Dating Me or My Accent?

Dating is already awful, especially in this era where you score a great or a terrible date with a simple finger swipe across your phone screen.

Throw in a rare speech disorder, and that's a curve ball. Sure, there's dating books and blogs that offer advice, but there are no books about dating with a unique accent or disorder.

I just googled "Dating a girl with apraxia of speech" and absolutely nothing useful arose. There's no dating advice for funny accents and apraxia-having girls.
 I already know what Apraxia is, but nothing on 'dating with a rare speech disorder.'
Thanks Google. 

I have had boyfriends in the past and currently I go on occasional dates here and there. Regardless, my speech or accent always arises as a discussion topic. Mainly since I address it straight away. If I do not blatantly admit it, I'm not truly showing who I am. Especially with all the Apraxia activism I'm involved with, I am compelled to share this with others.

When I first started going out on dates, there was one whom I'll call Adam that taught me something vital.

I am a complete control freak when it comes to talking about my speech. 

I'd rather be the one to initiate that conversation than to have someone initiate it with me.

It was our second dinner date and my speech had never come up. Not over messages nor our first date; it just never arose.

I ordered something and, of course, the waiter asked, "Oh is that an accent? Where are you from?"

I quickly smiled and explained, "Actually it's just a childhood speech disorder I had-it now sounds like an accent."

The waiter thought it was cool and left to put in our order. Adam and I continued our date, but that led into questions about my speech. I suppose he became more comfortable with asking questions since I was so open to the waiter .

 I was fine with the questions; they weren't awful questions. They were legitimate inquiries, such as, specifics to what disorder and what it was like as a child.

You know when you've hidden something, like some quality about yourself, and it gets noticed by others. For instance, when you have a giant pimple that you've hidden with makeup, but somehow the makeup smears and someone remarks on how large your pimple is.

You feel embarrassed; almost this feeling that you've failed to hide this blemish.

That's exactly how I felt when he began to ask questions. He found and addressed the blemish of my accent and that irked me.

Naively, I assumed that if I did not mention or address my speech, the subject wouldn't arise at all. I should have known better; avoiding the subject doesn't eradicate my 'funny accent.'

By not telling Adam initially, I was at the whim of his questions.

With each spoken question, the more I realized I should have just upfront told him about my speech. At least that way, he probably wouldn't have asked several questions. He'd be taken back with my forwardness to even create them to begin with.

I never went out with him again, just as a result of different interests or what have you.

I recall getting in my car, driving home, and having to admit that it's not just me and my personality for display on dates; it's also my speech and my voice. And, more importantly, how I present it.

It's strange to me, the majority of girls my age do not ponder, 'Is he alright with my speech?'

They have the luxury of not having those thoughts, but I have those thoughts all the time. Every single guy I've messaged or physically met, I've always had this concern of whether or not he will accept and appreciate my voice.

After Adam, I considered ways that I'd be more comfortable with this combination of dating and a rare speech disorder.

This is where confidence comes into play.

The average person has five seconds to provide a first impression; whether that is an online dating profile or in person. Five seconds is not enough time to explain Apraxia, but it is plenty of time to:

1. Exude confidence

2. Admit my accent, at least

Knowing the impossibility of hiding my speech, I've now included it in my Tinder Bio that I "sound like I have a British/Australian Accent."

Guys will message, automatically asking where I'm from, and I'll admit it as a childhood speech disorder that I outgrew, but now it sounds like an accent. I explain my blogging now, my passion for the organization CASANA;  my speech is not a hindrance at all.

I've never had a single guy run away. Usually they'll compliment me and the fact I'm so involved with the speech disorder community now.

Likewise, I utilize my speech more as a tool to measure people's character. If someone jokes rudely about my speech, I guarantee you they also joke about other disabilities and disorders. If they respectfully ask about my speech, or even lack interest, I perceive them as individuals that do not judge others with disabilities and disorders. They're not the type of people to bully or mock others. I'd much rather spend quality time with people who aren't bullies, wouldn't you?

In my plethora of online dates (no judgment), I'd say 90%  have been more positive towards my speech than not. The indecent and immature boys that wouldn't know respect if it came up and bit them in their bottoms-they would be the remaining 10%. (Come on, we've all had those dates!)

I will let you in on a little secret though. My struggles with dating is not merely my 'funny accent.'

That would be too simple.

There's an even greater personal struggle involved- finding my balance. I not only must remain confident while dating with my voice, but I also must recognize that there's more to me than Apraxia.

It's an extremely delicate balance of  embracing my funny accent and knowing it does not define me entirely.  Knowing that Apraxia is a part of who I am, but it is not and will never be who I am.

I'm defined by my personality and interests-not by some rare diagnosis made in the nineties. My hatred of dirty hands, my anxiety attacks when I seek perfection, my love of Oreos dipped in Peanut Butter, my passion for writing, and anything Disney-related; these qualities define me. Not my funny accent.

If I ever assume that my speech is the only important characteristic that a guy should appreciate about me,  I'd be selling myself short. Frankly, this seems difficult to remember, the fact that they are dating me, not my accent.