Tho what if I thtill have a lithp
I HAVE a love-hate relationship with my lisp.
Imagine the agony I go through when I come across a word like "senselessness".
I will never, for as long as I live, win a smile competition. Isn't that punishment enough? Why invent such words then?
And thanks to my father for adding to my daily struggle by naming me after the former First Lady of the US, Jackie Kennedy Onassis.
You see, the name Jackie was omitted from my birth certificate, which means every identification document I own has only Onassis on it. Yeah, daddy pulled a lifetime joke on me, didn't he?
So you can imagine me standing on the other side of a glass counter at home affairs shouting "Onathith" over and over. Even spell check doesn't recognise the word.
Primary school was absolute hell. The teacher would ask me to stand up and say my name in front of the whole class just for kicks. It was the highlight of her boring days.
I was told sucking my thumb was the problem. But I don't remember ever sucking my thumb, so if I did, it was probably in my sleep. Besides, my very strict grandmother would have never allowed it.
Fast-forward to my teenage years in Phiri, Soweto. My name was now officially "Onathith". There was no way of escaping it, because that's how it sounded like when I said it. So who was to blame? The little rascals knew better, but teasing me was much more fun.
Maybe my fellow lispers can testify to this, but there's something strange that happens when two people with a lisp talk to each other.
A quick example, when lisper one speaks, lisper two's tongue involuntarily sticks out. If you don't believe me, start paying attention.
This happened to me a lot when S'bongseni, aka Th'bongtheni, moved into our neighbourhood. Every time he spoke, I would sit there in a goofy trance with my tongue sticking out. Pure hell nje!
I always imagined myself moving out of the township to a beautiful place where my lisp would be accepted as normal.
My friends probably meant no real harm, but it got to me because it was something I couldn't change. It was part of who I was. And getting braces . well, that would have been the end of me.
So I became quiet and reserved. I would take time answering questions to construct a perfect response that didn't have s's in it.
If I couldn't avoid the word, I'd just run my fingers over my mouth to distract the listener. It worked wonders.
I wasn't willing to take the "Onathith" curse to high school, so I begged my mother to register me as Jackie. There would be that stupid ukhuluma ngelimi remark here and there, but the jokes were gone. Well, none I knew of anyway.
The name Jackie never really crossed over to my neighbourhood friends, but it didn't really matter anymore. I had finally found a place where there were other silly things to focus on. Today, I couldn't care less what anyone thinks of my lisp. It's mine to hate or love. Those township bullies gave me a thick skin, which I ironically thank them for.
When anyone comments about my lisp now, my answer is simple: "Tho what!"