Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Public Speaking

My first experience with public speaking was in 9th grade.

I was an awkward teen. I didn't have the cool hair, the cool clothes, the cool shoes or even the cool Adidas bag. (and yes I still spell Adidas the teenage way) To make matters worse I had what was called a powell expander in my mouth. A piece of hardware that connected to my back teeth that made me lisp, spit and drool terribly. And then the worst thing that could have happened did. "Write and give a controversial speech. Due in 2 weeks." I probably could have dropped over dead but instead I told the teacher as I lapped up some drool, "I can't give a speech because of this thing in my mouth." She was really caring and sweet in her insistence that I could and would give the speech.

Controversial? I'll show her controversial! How about making a kid who lisps, spits, drools and slurps give a speech in front of judgemental peers? I would be a hero to every awkward teen in the entire world. The teacher wouldn't approve my topic. Go figure.

So two weeks later, I stood in front of the class to give my two minute speech. (2 minutes was a really long time back then) I looked at all the kids with their cool Nike hightops, their Lee's, their Izod's and their Adidas bags. (yep I spelled it again...lol) I coulda died.

I started, "You thsave the whaleths, you thsave the thsealths, you sthave what everths cute and thsquealths," and that's when it happened. "SLURRRRRRRP!" Drool accumulated between my lithspths and started to exit my mouth. My peers in their Nike hightops, Lee jeans and Izod shirts laughed. Nay roared.

I still remember turning my head and looking out through teary eyes down at the IMC through the wall of windows that lined the north side of the classroom. How I longed to be among the hustle and bustle of the kids in the library. To bury my head in a book and forget about life. But I slurrped, sniffed, turned my head and continued on with my speech.

I tried to make eye contact as was the requirement of the speech. Each time I looked up I could see them laugh. The teacher kept making notes. Some kids rustled through their papers preparing for their own speech, hoping they wouldn't drool and slurp too. A couple of girls talked amongst each other. One boy shot a spitball. I was in hell.

Finally after 2 really long minutes the speech was done. The teacher thanked me and clapped. The rest of the class followed suite, if you call "clap, clap" following suite. I walked back to my seat, threw myself down in the desk and shrank.

The rest of the day, as I was walking down the hall, I would hear "Slurrrrrrrp!" During lunch, as we were out in the courtyard, someone threw an orange half and hit me in the chest. I went to the bathroom to clean up and sobbed. God I hated school! That could have been the day I subliminally decided I would homeschool my own children.

A few days later our grades were posted. I got a freaken "C". A "C"???? I went through my own version of hell and I only got a "C" with the comment that I needed to make more eye contact and, get this, "relax and slow down so you enunciate properly."

Yeah, I haven't cared much for public speaking since. I get clammy, shake my legs, turn beat red and stutter. Maybe if a Jr. High teacher would have had some compassion 23 years ago, I wouldn't have the fear of public speaking that I do today.

© 2009 Wicked Pickles-Homefront Lines

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