When I was a little girl, I wanted to be on stage. Dancing, singing, acting – I wanted to be there, front and center.
When I was a little girl, I also had a humongous speech impediment. I am not exaggerating this. In fact, I’m pretty sure my parents would state that I was actually understating the enormity of my speech issues.
When I was a little girl, I knew that I couldn’t be an actor if I was spitting on the front row.
See, I had a major articulation disorder, and a possible phonological disorder. Meaning I could say all I want, but everything came out garbled, or mushed, or, well, spitty. The consonants I couldn’t pronounce correctly were S, SH, CH, Z, J, soft G’s, and R’s. My R’s were the first to be “fixed” – and therefore, the first to go if I get really tired or tipsy. Everything else came much later. Nothing was fully corrected until I was thirteen.
Needless to say, all the children around me were nothing but supportive and understanding about my speech issue.
No, I was horribly teased for it. It didn’t help that I was also the shortest girl in the class for always, and had psoriasis (a lovely, itchy, scaly skin issue.) Basically, I was a hot mess just waiting to be taunted by other horrible children. Imagine a movie scene where the weird girl with the speech issue is in the scene, being fourteen shades of dorky and spitting. I sounded worse. And no, I don’t find those scenes particularly funny.
But, in 8th grade, I finally did all the hard work, retraining my tongue to go into the proper places so I could pronounce words correctly. I moved on to high school, where the majority of people never knew I had a speech problem. Most of the time, they’d ask where I was from. “Queens!” one guy said suddenly at me.
“No!” I said right back.
“Well, where are your parents from?”
“But why do you have an accent?”
“It’s a speech problem.”
“No, you don’t have a speech problem, I’m just trying to place your accent.”
And suddenly, things got interesting. My speech defect had transformed itself into something more interesting, and nicer to have. I’d meet new people and they’d try to figure out where I was from based on my accent. NYC was always mentioned (those lazy R’s of mine), but I also got Romania once, and another time, as a group of guys sitting behind me discussed it, one said “South Africa.”
Another guy said “Dude, she’s white.”
First guy – “They have white people in South Africa.”
I couldn’t help it, I started laughing.
Then I finished growing up, had babies, and passed along the family speech issue, and got to spend more time fixing S’s and R’s with my kids. Speech therapists would meet me as an adult and be astounded that I’d even had a speech problem as a child. I remember telling one about it, and how excited she was. “I’m sorry, it’s just that we don’t always get to see how our kids turn out.” she explained.
Needless to say, with a past like that, I tend to notice any story about anyone with a speech issue.
Enter Alan Rickman.
I love him as an actor. He’s been on my list of “People I’d consider leaving my husband for” silly celebrity list – just so the man could read to me. He’s known for his voice, his way of speaking. Which, ironically, came about because he had jaw issues.
Yes, as it turns out, Alan Rickman had a speech issue. Which he turned into an asset.
That, and he was a hell of an actor. Any movie with him in it was better – I’m looking at you “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves”. The only reason I watch that film is because of Alan Rickman’s performance. It’s brilliant. “Sense and Sensibility”? Yes, him reading poetry to a young lady, of course she’d want to be with him, no matter what his age. “Galaxy Quest” – by Grabthar’s hammer, it’s hilarious. I love the Harry Potter series, and yes, he’s the reason why we all ended up loving Snape.
And then, I woke up this morning to the news he had passed away. The world has lost a tremendous actor, and there will be no one like him ever.