When I was in my late teens and early twenties, my best friend was a real Lothario—who easily seduced young women. It was not easy living in his shadow. I remember one night sitting and waiting for him in his car while he was upstairs with a young ‘lady’ having sex.
I envied him his sexual prowess, but more so I envied him his gift of the gab. Perhaps he was also better looking than me, but I think he just knew the right thing to say. Girls just fell for him, hook line and sinker—with their legs open—if you don’t mind the image.
One time I was trying to get myself a date for a Saturday night. I was given a number. When the girl came on the line at the other end, I couldn’t even say ‘hello’. To say I felt bad is an understatement – I don’t remember, but I was probably near to suicide.
I always thought, and sometimes still do, ‘Why can’t I talk as easily as that guy – life would be so much better’.
A few years ago I decided to work in real estate. Now this is a speech intensive job. I managed most of the time, by remembering to breathe deeply and speak slowly. I also didn’t give a damn what people thought. My mother-tongue is English, but being a Zionist in 1979 at age 33, I emigrated from Johannesburg, South Africa to Israel – where we all had to learn Hebrew—the language of our forefathers. So I have lived the past 35 years bilingually –speaking English at home –even to our Israeli born granddaughter – but everywhere else we communicate in Hebrew. I think and dream in English most, but not all, of the time. So getting back to real estate, I found it difficult to think in one language and talk in another – mostly with ease.
I remember one ‘lady’ whose house I was trying to sell. Her husband, a bus driver, was a very friendly person who greeted all his passengers as they boarded the bus. She was an unqualified assistant kindergarten teacher. She laughed at me every time I opened my mouth. Can you imagine the trauma she could have caused some poor child with a disability in her care? Would she have laughed at a child with a limp, in a wheelchair, with a physical deformity? I don’t think so, but she found my stutter extremely amusing. In later years, I would meet her in the street and say ‘hello’ – even this caused her to laugh. Only my good sense stopped me from socking her in the jaw. Subsequently to retain my sanity and to stay out of jail, I just ignore her. This is the worst example, but I still sometimes feel self-conscious when I speak.
So I have learned to express myself in my writing. But, I can’t write what I want to say to the guy in the grocery store or the hardware store. However although I may feel self-conscious at times, I learned to ‘not give a damn’.