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6:12 a.m. - 2002-01-15

I LITHPED. THO WHAT?

These new Crest Whitestrips are causing me to dredge up a painful memory of the past.

They're causing me to lisp like a prancing little boy with a fistful of daisies.

Yes, when I was a young Uncle Bob, I had a lisp. More specifically, a lisp from Hell.

I was quite content with my lisp. It never bothered me that my tongue would instinctively poke through my teeth whenever I said my "S"'s, taking the hissing edge off the sound of the consonant and replacing it with "th". To me, it was a helluva lot easier than trying to learn how to actually say the letter "S" like a normal human being.

I'm sure it crushed my father. Every father has dreams of his young son excelling in sports, or someday leading America into a strong and secure future.

But it's admittedly tough for a young boy to grow up and lead America to a thtrong and thecure future. Nobody's going to follow a guy that sounds like he desperately wants to be fondled by an older man.

I was in the second grade when Mrs. Inskeep came into my life. I had seen her around our little town on occasion. When you grow up in a small farm town, you end up seeing everyone at least once, except for the crazy cat lady on the other side of the tracks that the adults think died several years ago.

Mrs. Inskeep would take me to the upper floor of the school each afternoon and show me flash cards with pictures of snakes, seesaws and scissors on them. My job was to tell her what I saw. Her job was to make sure I kept my tongue in my mouth and didn't grow up sounding like Daffy Duck.

"What's this?" she'd ask as she held up a picture of a snake.

"A thnake," I'd say, with my tongue slipping past my teeth and flapping around on my lower lip.

"No. It's a 'snake'," she'd say. "When you say the 's', put your teeth together and push on them with your tongue."

Eathier thaid than done, Mithuth Inthkeep.

We'd go through this drill for about an hour every afternoon. It was a good thing that I was a brilliant student who was bored with his studies. While everyone else was struggling to figure out why the hell Dick and Jane put up with that mongrel Spot, I was upstairs struggling to say Spot's name in a way that wouldn't get my ass kicked in a high school setting.

Eventually with time, Mrs. Inskeep was able to curb my extramural tongue activities and get me to speak like a movie star. My parents cried tears of joy as I was able to say "Sally sells seashells by the seashore" in a way that wouldn't make Charles Nelson Reilly salivate and clap his hands with glee.

It was a struggle to say my S's correctly. It was something I had to think about and practice on a daily basis. Now, even though I may sound normal to others, I hear a hissing noise when I say my S's. I still sound like a talking snake in my ears.

And with these Whitestrips that are wrapped underneath my teeth and sticking on the back of my teeth, every time I say "Stop!" or "Sit", my tongue instinctively slips through my teeth in order to hold the whitestrip in its place.

Susie thinks it's funny to hear me talk with a Whitestrip on.

I wonder how funny she'd think it was if I talked this way 24-7?

Who am I kidding? If I still lisped as bad as I did when I was a kid, I would have gone the gay route a long time ago.

Which would have sucked.

Because I don't know dick about fashion.

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