“My Friends Make Fun of My Stutter”


I am a 23-year-old woman with a stutter that I have had since before I can remember. It’s unusual for adult women to have a stutter, so it’s typically the first thing that people notice about me. I got teased a lot in school and, for a long time, my self-worth was pretty low and it made it hard for me to meet friends or attend social activities, but that was a long time ago now. These days, I have a small group of close friends and, until recently, everything has been great between all of us.

My roommate “Dee” had been telling all of us about this cool, interesting new girl “Marla” who just got hired at her work. The first time Marla came over to the house, the three of us were drinking and having a fun time playing horseshoes in the backyard. But when Dee ran inside the house for something, Marla took the opportunity to tell me how much she enjoyed “The Kings Speech” and that she really understood the challenges I face everyday because of my “disability” (I never really thought of it that way) and then she gave me a reassuring pat on the shoulder. I resisted the urge to roll my eyes and laugh into my drink because I didn’t want to be rude, and I knew she was, in her own way, trying to be helpful or share a connection with me or something.

Well, Marla soon began to spend more and more time with my group of friends and it became more difficult to tolerate her rude behavior toward me. When we’d all go out to eat and the server would take down our orders, Marla always ordered for me. The first time she did this I sort of looked at her wide-eyed and surprised, but she just smiled and mouthed “It’s no problem” at me. I have tried explaining to her that this is inappropriate and that I don’t need someone to order my food and drinks for me, but she doesn’t seem to understand. She keeps insisting “No, really. It’s no problem.” Or she will tell me that the place we have gone to is crowded and she knows the waitress doesn’t have a lot of time waiting for me to spit out my words. This one hurts, because quite often I feel that way, too. It took me a long time to have the nerve to go up to a bartender to order my own drink. I used to pretend I didn’t speak English, and I would point to what I wanted or have someone else order for me. A few times I even tried bringing flash cards with my drink orders written on them. Being able to order my own food and drinks was a big step for me. I do sometimes need to stop in between words because my jaw feels clenched. Sometimes, I am in a busy place and I do feel bad when a bartender or a waitress has to stand there and wait for me to spit out “G-g-g-gin and t-t-tonic”. But I think it’s important for me to do these things even though I hate to think that I may be an inconvenience to someone else.

Whenever I am excited and I run to tell Dee or the others about some good news that has happened to me and Marla is also there, Marla gives me this weird smile and goes, “Aww, honey. That’s so sweet. Good for you,” the same way you would talk to a young child. I suppose there is nothing particularly malicious in this, but I am the only one she does this to. She always finds a way of bringing the conversation back to my stutter. When did I start stuttering? How did my parents try to help me? Have I tried taking up singing? Is it weird for guys on a first date? I think there are many more interesting things about me and I have more unusual qualities than this one thing.

I have tried talking to Dee and the others in private about this, and they have all told me the same things. They believe that I am being too sensitive and that Marla is only trying to be nice towards me, and that maybe I perceive people’s kindness as rudeness because I got teased a lot in school and I’m probably just “overly sensitive about this stuff.” I have stopped hanging out with my friends when I know Marla will be joining them, which is almost all the time now. When she comes over to the house, I smile and say hello and then head straight to my room. Dee says I am being unkind towards Marla and that I am being “petty.” She says that I can’t expect everyone to treat me with the exact level of understanding and patience. I’m starting to think that perhaps she is right. It’s just… I can’t get over thinking that Marla thinks of me as some kind of novelty or someone to feel pity towards. I don’t like being around someone who thinks that way because it makes me feel embarrassed. I don’t think Marla is trying to hurt my feelings, but I feel like she does not understand or won’t understand my point of view on this.

Am I being too sensitive? I don’t want to lose my friendships with Dee or the other girls over this. I don’t want to have to make anyone choose between someone else and me. But ever since Marla showed up, my friends think her behavior is acceptable while before we used to joke about people who acted the way she does towards me. — Can Order For Myself, Thanks

There’s no doubt, Marla is a jerk. But she’s not the only one here who is behaving badly. Your friends are acting even worse! They know you. They know how much you’re capable of and how much of a non-issue your stutter is. They know you as YOU, and not for the person who talks a little bit differently. They know how much you hate people making a big deal about your stutter and treating you like you’re unusual or like the most interesting thing about you is your stutter. And yet, here they are sticking up for a person who repeatedly condescends and patronizes you, treats you like a child, and behaves grossly inappropriately in your presence. I know you don’t want to lose your friendships over this… but, frankly, among the things worth dumping some friends over, the inability to appreciate you for who you are and to stand up for you when you’re being treated badly, and insisting that you’re being overly sensitive when someone challenges your independence and tries to make you feel inferior, are pretty close to the top. True-blue, honest friends wouldn’t treat you the way your friends have been treating you. Marla? She’s just some girl your roommate works with. These other people are the ones who are really hurting you and they should be called out.

I urge you to summon the power and strength to tell them exactly how you feel. No more “trying” to tell them or “trying to explain” how you feel. Just fucking set them straight. You’re a grown-ass woman who can order for herself, dammit. You’re a grown woman who has overcome a childhood of ridicule and is better and stronger for it, and you’ll be damned if you’re going to let some Shirley Temple from the office waltz into your life and shake all the self-confidence you’ve worked hard to gain. You’re willing to lose friends over standing up for yourself — especially if they’re the kind of friends who would leave you for doing so — but you sure as hell are NOT willing to lose your self-respect by allowing anyone to continue treating you the way Marla and your “friends” have been since she entered the picture. This is not you being overly sensitive. This is about demanding to be treated like everyone else, because the only thing that differentiates you from them is a few extra syllables and that’s hardly a “disability”! And even if you did have a disability, unless you are asking for help or have expressed a need, either verbally or nonverbally, for special treatment from anyone, NO ONE has the right to step in and do shit for you that you can perfectly well do yourself, especially when you have already explained that the “help” is unwanted and unnecessary!

My hunch is that Marla’s effort of making herself feel superior to you is her way of combatting what is probably low self-esteem. I also bet she has trouble maintaining friendships and sees your ready-made circle of friends as an ideal solution to her loneliness. Pushing you out to make room for herself is a super lazy way of trying to fit in, and I think it will probably come bite her in the ass sooner or later. But that’s beside the point. What’s important to remember is that you don’t deserve the way you’ve been treated, that you need to stand up for yourself loudly and clearly, and that you need to accept that, if you lose friends over doing so, they weren’t your true friends to begin with and that Marla, in an effort to make room for herself in your circle of friends, has succeeded in making room in your life for people who will actually respect you. They’re out there, I promise. And they’re going to love you for all the unique things about you — your stutter not even making the short list of those qualities.


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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy@dearwendy.com.


  1. Frankly, you need a new group of friends. I know that you worked hard and overcame a lot to get these friends, but they are not helping you. Good friends stand up for you when someone else treats you badly. Good friends listen when you tell them how you feel. They don’t accuse you of being “too sensitive”. That’s a cop out so they don’t have to feel bad over the way they’ve contributed to making you feel bad. They’re not owning their actions and that’s not what a good friend does. Do your best to reach out to other people, maybe join a club or volunteer. (Actually, the singing idea is not a bad one, despite the source.) There are people out there who will not treat you this way.

    1. Juliecatharine says:

      Totally agree, this is dump worthy behavior without a doubt. LW, if this is a blip in an otherwise fun friendship group, tell her in front of everyone that you don’t want or need her to speak for you. If her behavior persists and your friends don’t stick up for you say ‘I can’t believe I need to say this again, stop treating me this way’. If that doesn’t do it dump these girls because they aren’t worth your time.

  2. Okay, yeah. You are more sensitive because you got teased. More sensitive to assholery. Especially passive-aggressive assholery.

    These people are not your friends. Real friends help you fight your demons, not feed them.

  3. dinoceros says:

    They are crappy friends. You should find new ones. Normal people don’t treat their friends like that.

  4. Bostonpupgal says:

    Holy shit these people are terrible, and I’m so sorry you’re dealing with this. Wendy and the others are absolutely right, true friends stand up for you. That they see nothing wrong with the way this woman treats you is appalling. My uncle and my brother both had/have stutters. Don’t for a single second worry that you are “taking too long” when you order or if you are inconveniencing someone. Part of their job is to be patient and respectful of everyone whow walks into that establishment and your money is as green as the next guys. She orders for you?? Omg.

    Some phrases to keep in your pocket for the next time someone brings up your stutter or orders for you (!?!), say them calmly and politely with a mildly confused look on your face. “It’s a problem for me. I prefer to order for myself”, “please don’t do that ever again”. For inappropriate questions or focus on your stutter: “why do you need to know?”, “what an odd and hurtful thing to say”, “I am uncomfortable talking about this, I am not defined by my stutter”, “oh I don’t want to discuss that. Has anyone seen that new movie?”, “you mention my stutter a lot; every time I see you. Please stop”, “I’ve asked you repeatedly to stop mentioning my stutter and I’m done talking about it. Has anyone seen that new movie lately?”. If any of these phrases seem rude to say, remember she is the one being rude and is forcing your hand. Responding politely and firmly is appropriate.

    1. Definitely some good stock phrases are in order here, delivered calmly and politely. Your phrases are nicer than the one I had in mind, though: “Shut the fuck up, Marla.”

      And yeah, LW, your friends suck! I have a friend with a stutter (which I never even really noticed until he mentioned it about 6 months after we started hanging out) and I’d be super pissed at somebody treating him like that.

      1. +1. LW, you should practice that a lot. “Marla shut the f* up” . As insensitive a jerk as Marla is, I don’t think she could ignore that. Or just put your hand over her mouth in a ‘fun’ way and complete your order.

    2. zombeyonce says:

      I love these phrases to say to Marla. LW, practice these at home and be ready to pull them out the next time she (or the other women) say something terrible. Note: I’m not saying to practice because you have a stutter, I’m saying to practice because it can be really hard to say these sorts of things for the first time with conviction, so making sure you can say them decisively is important (I sometimes have to do this when I know I’m going to have to stand up for myself in an uncomfortable situation).
      And be ready for someone to say something to try and get you to back off like “I didn’t mean to upset you” or “I’m sorry you feel that way”. Be ready with a follow up that goes right past their pseudo-apology (which sounds like something a person like Marla would say) with a response like “Good/I do feel that way, now it never needs to happen again.” And then immediately change the subject. If at this point someone stands up for freaking MARLA instead of chiming in to support you, you know there’s no hope for a continued friendship with these people.

  5. shakeourtree says:

    What the hell? I have a friend with a pretty severe stutter. Honestly, the only appropriate way to respond when he starts stuttering–even when it gets really bad–is just to be patient and let him speak because he’ a grown man who can speak for himself! Marla is so out of line, as are your friends for not having your back.

  6. Yeah, that Marla is a total jerk. But if this with the ordering in restaurants has happened a few times, why haven´t you said something to her? Like, look Marla I appreciate the fact that you think I need help, but I don’t. I can order for myself from now on, thanks.

    1. I mean it instead of trying to explain to her why it’s inappropiate. Just tell her to stop, no need to explain anything to her.

  7. Hmm. Yes, your friends and Marla are being insensitive and acting like jerks. But you’ve been friends with these people (minus Marla) for a while and they’ve been great friends up until this. I think you would just be acting like a bad friend back, if you immediately dumped them the first time they messed up, without having a real heart to heart. Yes, there is a time to just move on from people, and it’s good to be strong enough to do so. But to always have that be the first reaction is a recipe for never having lasting relationships.

    I also get suspicious when a LW says something like “the whole group of people agrees I’m being too [sensitive/overreactive/etc.].” We only have the LW’s version of the story. And yes, from that version it seems pretty clear that her friends and especially Marla are being jerks. But the part of LW’s story that is somewhat vague is regarding the efforts LW has made to have a talk with them. Her friends are probably right – she is a lot more sensitive to stuff about Marla that the friends may have barely noticed, because it’s just not on their radar. The friends are probably just being somewhat ignorant and not attuned to what’s going on. And if LW has reacted by very quickly just shutting herself in her room, then SHE’S probably the one that looks like the jerk that’s not handling this well.

    So LW, before you jump to dumping all your friends, have you tried having a sit-down talk with each one of them, individually? Explaining which particular actions of Marla’s hit you in your gut and make you feel terrible? And then also talking to Marla and explaining this (because even though she’s acting terrible, it’s again probably just complete ignorance, and it seems like she does think she’s helping)? And then telling each of them exactly what you would like to see happen in order to continue the friendships (whether it’s not having Marla around all the time, seeing if she can do X, Y, and Z differently, etc.)?

  8. Cheesecaker2911 says:

    Like everyone else has said, you need new friends. I put up with way more crap that I should for a long time because of my weight and how my family treated me growing up. I’ve gotten to the point recently where I’ve realized that people keep trying to stifle me in certain ways in attempts to cover up my personality when it’s not something they want me to be. If people don’t want 100% of who I am, then they aren’t going to get any of me. It’s all or nothing.
    LW, take it from me, people who want to stifle you aren’t the people you want to be around, and are not true friends. Yeah, making new friends as a grown up can be harder than when we were younger, and it might take a little while, but it can totally be worth it.

  9. SpaceySteph says:

    Yeah I think that anytime a friend tells you “you’re being oversensitive about this” rather than listening to your concerns and being on Team You, it’s probably a good opportunity to reevaluate the friendship. I mean, even when being a little oversensitive about something (which in this case, I’d say you’re really really NOT) friends should be there to make you feel better, not worse.
    Even if you don’t fully dump them, it would probably be a good idea to seek others to hang out with instead of this terrible bunch- either spending more time with other friends you already have or making new ones.
    As for Marla, I think there’s some truth that you can’t expect everyone to treat you with the same level of understanding. She’s obviously not a nice person and you may just have to live with that if you continue to hang out with this group of friends. But you can and should loudly, emphatically defend your boundaries. Interrupt her. Say “Don’t order for me, I can order for myself.” Every time. Your friends should be able to see that it is HER and not you who is violating boundaries and acting like an ass. I hope they do. I can’t promise it though.

    1. SpaceySteph says:

      Oh also, how is she ordering for you? Are you telling her what you want? If so, stop doing that. I know that I go out with friends and we often discuss what we’re ordering beforehand and that’s probably common, but since she’s using that info to order for you, I’d keep it to yourself. Just say “still deciding” when they ask you and save your order for the waiter.

      1. Bostonpupgal says:

        Yes to this! Don’t tell anyone what you’re ordering and if they ask say you aren’t sure yet. If she insists fall back to one of the phrases like “why do you want to know?” said politely with a look of puzzlement. Then repeat “I will tell the waiter what I want when he gets here” if she insists.

    2. Avatar photo Skyblossom says:

      If she starts to order for you turn to the waitress/waiter and tell them you’ll order for yourself. Don’t even take the time to tell Marla to stop. Then order.

  10. Wow. Your friends suck. You are not overly sensitive. Not liking someone’s mistreatment of you is overly sensitive. It shows good sense. I, myself, am incredibly sensitive to rude, racist, and stupid people. Unapologetically. Tell miss passive aggressive to stop ordering for you. Tell her You’re not going to tell her again. When she says the waitress is in a rush tell her that’s the waitress’ job and the only person with the problem is her. When she orders for you again – shake your head at the waitress/waiter and say no. Then point to what you want to or say it or whatever makes you comfortable. The fuck. You need new friends though sweetie. Maybe take a good long break from them. None of this is okay.

  11. I’m not sure the problem is so much your friends not caring enough about your feelings, but more about them following Marla. She sounds kind of like a Pied Piper to me – the “cool” girl who attracts people like flies, your friends are following her lead and that is where the problem lies.

    Once Marla gets bored, she’s going to drop your friends and move on to another group. And your friends will be left in the dust, wondering what the heck happened. Don’t let Marla take over your friends. Its also a fairly common trend – groups of girls being led by this like alpha female and somehow they all become brainwashed by her.

    Is there one friend in particular you feel will truly listen to you, one on one? Start with that person, lay everything out calmly, and explain exactly how Marla makes you feel. Hopefully that friend will get what you are saying and be able to talk some sense into the others. Marla is condescending and is treating you like a carnival exhibit. Its a near guarantee that at least one of your friends doesn’t really believe that you are being overly sensitive and/or that Marla is being inappropriate. I would however not choose Dee as the person to have this initial conversation with, being that they work together.

    If you aren’t able to get through to your friends, you may have to let things run their course. You are young, and the friends you have now you may not always be friends with, that’s just life. But stand up for yourself. If you’re out with your friends and Marla is there, and she tries ordering for you, interrupt and say actually, I’d like to order for myself. If she keeps bringing up your stutter in conversation, say hey Marla, that’s a personal topic I’d rather not discuss anymore, can we move on to something else?

    Either way, standing up for yourself will be a lesson here, not just for you but those around you. Let Marla see that it pisses you off and you don’t want to be coddled like a 5 year old. If your friends can’t get that, they aren’t worth hanging around with.

  12. “Marla, I’m not a child, please don’t speak for me again. I’ll place my own order.” Repeated as necessary until this clueless dipshit gets the hint.

    You are not overly sensitive. What Marla is doing is spectacularly rude. Atrociously bad manners. Who the hell raised this woman, that never taught her that you don’t treat another human being who’s working through a challenge like a helpless child?

    Your other ‘friends’ should have yanked her aside as soon as she started this and told her in no uncertain terms that she’s embarrassing herself and needs to stop. Now.

  13. Miss Anne Thrope says:

    You need to ask Marla for a one-on-one chat. I’m guessing that Marla is at most in her early twenties. Just because she’s acting like an asshole doesn’t mean she IS an asshole. In fact, she probably thinks she’s more caring and understanding than all of your friends because she’s the only one willing to “help” you in uncomfortable situations (eyeroll). I’d try and take the time to explain to her that you do not have a disability. If you want to be a little nicer and maybe take terms she would understand better, tell her you’re always trying to push yourself outside of your comfort zone. But take the time to, without everyone else around, explain how you feel. Focus on yourself and what you can do (not as much what she does). If she’s still an asshole, then yeah that sucks.

    1. Bittergaymark says:

      Eh, if somebody was CONSTANTLY ordering MY food for me, I simply would never tell them what I was going to have.
      Problem. fucking. solved.

  14. I lost a lot of friends for finally realizing I no longer wanted to be treated like garbage and gas lighting is real.
    You already examined yourself and saw you are not being petty or sensitive so it’s time to stand firm and remember that if you made friends once you can make better ones again.

  15. Have you ever had speech therapy? If it’s been a long time since you’ve been to one, I’d really recommend finding an SLP who specializes in stuttering! There are so many more layers to stuttering than just the dysfluency, there’s the anxiety, the avoidance and many of the things that you describe as barriers in your everyday life. A good speech therapist can coach you on situations just like this one and give you the skills to advocate for yourself! Your stuttering is definitely a small part of you as a person, but it doesn’t have to have such a big impact on your life.

    I am a speech language pathologist, I’d be happy to give you more information if it is something that you are interested in finding out more about.

    As for your friends, I agree, they are being jerks. I don’t think it is intentional, but they likely don’t understand what you’ve dealt with. I think you need to practice being direct with them and owning your stutter. Yes it exists, but that doesn’t make you an incompetent! You are the only person who can advocate for yourself. You have to express to them how you feel when these things happen, and how you’d rather they act instead.

  16. Don’t let this Marla damage you and your social life. Just ignore her. Don’t give a dam of what she says, and don’t let her disrespect you. She is not important. By the way, she knows perfectly what she does. Wendy is right, she is excluding you deliberately. So don’t let yourself be excluded. Don’t trap yourself in an “either her or me” dichotomy. But enlarge your circle of friends, and take some distance with these friends (who act badly and know it): this is typically a group effect which targets a victim. Just state that you don’t like her, because she doesn’t respect you, but don’t let her affect you. And propose some activities individually to your different friends, to avoid this toxic group dynamic, as well as making new friends.
    I had once a very bad vacation with a group of friends where a new aggressive girl excluded me. I didn’t do it twice ! But I remained friends with the other girls, after an initial cold shoulder. As Wendy said, aggressive or mean girls who act like this have their own issues.

  17. Avatar photo plum blossoms says:

    Another speech pathologist chiming in. What Marla’s doing is clearly obnoxious and entirely inappropriate. Even though she presents it as helping you, it could simply be to help herself. A lot of people are really uncomfortable listening to another person stutter. Case in point: the class of SLP grad students on the first day of our disfluency course. Most were first years, some of us were second year students. One of the second year students, in collaboration with the instructor, produced a very convincing mock stutter as she asked a question a few minutes into the first lecture. The atmosphere in the room changed immediately. SLP students, in the stuttering course, tensed up. Even those of us who knew this woman did not stutter. Some of it was from empathy, some of it from panic. Marla is likely somewhere on that spectrum. But she’s being an ass about it. If you want, you can ask her if your stuttering makes her uncomfortable, acknowledge any feelings she might claim (though I suspect she’s more likely to deny any negative feelings), then tell her that her attempts at “helping” you are actually belittling and disrespectful. If she does it again, talk right the f*ck over her. Repeat as necessary. It’s not entirely diplomatic, but it’s one way of advocating for yourself.

  18. WWS. Don’t believe them when they say you’re overreacting. Something similar happened to me once, with a girl who entered my group of friends and then pushed me out. This probably would have happened anyway, to you or to another friend in the circle, stutter or no stutter. Personally, I think Marla chose you because you’re the least likely to follow her around like a puppy, like the other girls would (and do, or so it seems). Your past and the things you had to overcome (with the bullying) probably made you more badass than you realize. To Marla, you’re a threat.
    I saw “my” Marla once with a colleague of hers, during Friday afternoon drinks. The colleague was a very small woman, maybe 3,5 feet. Every time the colleague wanted to order something, or go to a nearby bar to get cigarettes, my Marla would say: “I’ll help you, I’ll get that, She would like a coke, right, colleague?”. The colleague’s response to everything was: “I don’t need your help. I can order for myself. No.” The colleague was clearly irritated. My Marla later started gossiping to me and my friends about her colleague, in a very subtle way, as if my Marla was being bullied by her colleague. She was so clearly intimidated by her colleague’s ability to take care of her own and take no shit from no one, that the only way she could deal with it was by badmouthing her.
    I think nothing will be solved by talking to Marla (all the Marla’s of this world) directly. She sounds immature and insecure and I’ll bet she’ll seize the opportunity to twist your words and put you down. She wants you out of the group. She’ll gain nothing from a good conversation with you. That’s not in her interest. The question is, do you want to remain friends with your friends? The sentences mentioned (including “STFU, Marla”) are fantastic, and a great way of finding out whether your friends take you as a person and your friendship seriously.
    Good luck! I’m wishing you all the best!

  19. MoominOtter says:

    Oh, LW. You deserve so much better than these alleged “friends.” They should have had your back the moment this shit began, and stood up for you. They’ve shown you who they really are. Believe them.

  20. Stillrunning says:

    Practice your phrases with a friend who doesn’t know Marla. Have that friend lay it on–Marla talking over and for you, her sickly sweet condescension disguised as concern, her passive-aggressive non apologies. Next time she tries something you’ll be calm and able to tell her you don’t need her help.

    If your friends take offense at you standing up for yourself, then they aren’t your friends. As others have said, you’re the strong one in this group and weaselly little Marla doesn’t like it.

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