Sometimes I feel like I’m from another planet, like I’m an alien sent down to this earth as part of a complex experiment. I imagine sometimes that there’s an alien leader in the sky who is messing with me, putting these neurotypical people in my path just to test me with things I find ridiculous, just to see what kind of reaction I’ll give.
For example, here in the U.S. we celebrated Labor Day yesterday. I say “we” celebrated Labor Day, as most of the country does – at least to the extent that many people get a day off work and barbecue with their families. For me, it was just another day, except that one of my neurotypical friends called me to discuss some fashion choices that are – evidently – very important to her.
Right away, I feel like this must be a test. I despise talking on the phone, and all my friends know this. In addition to being completely uncomfortable talking on the phone, I also have trouble hearing on the phone. My hearing aids don’t work well with my phone, so conversations are increasingly annoying with having to ask people to constantly repeat what they said or slow down. With the exception of my boss (who I have to talk to) or my mom (who doesn’t know how to text and has no idea what the internet is), I do not talk on the phone unless it is absolutely necessary. I will use the phone to make appointments and such, but hardly anyone ever calls me anymore. They know better.
So, my phone rang and I saw it was a friend of mine. I answered, thinking she must have some emergency such as that perhaps she broke her texting hand and was unable to do anything else except for dial my number. I say hello and ask how she is. She is fine but is dealing with a “fashion crisis.”
The terms “fashion” and “crisis” do not even remotely go together in my mind. I wear grey t-shirts and baggy men’s shorts or pajama pants. I do not brush or style my hair. I shower as infrequently as possible. I do not wear makeup and most of the time struggle to remember to apply deodorant. Clearly I am not the most qualified person with whom to discuss fashion.
But I listened as my friend described how she would need to get a special brand of shoes or sandals or whatever she was talking about, as she could no longer wear her white ones after Labor Day. I listened to her talk about some design of jeans I had never heard of. I listened to her talk about how her hairstylist did something to her hair when she asked her to do something else to her hair. Then she started discussing a manicure thing and I started singing the Sesame Street theme song in my head while she finished talking.
At some point, I realized she had stopped talking. I knew that this is probably the part where I was supposed to say something. But I had no idea what I was supposed to say. Then she said, “Well, what do you think?” And I said, “I have no idea. I’m sorry. I don’t care about any of this.”
What I meant was that I don’t care about shoes or jeans or hairstyles or manicures or whatever else she said after I stopped listening. I didn’t mean that I didn’t care about my friend. But I tend to be blunt, and I say what I think more often than my NT friends would like. (I often wonder why they choose to be friends with me as we have so little in common sometimes.) I do not have the appropriate response to a “fashion crisis” and probably never will.
To me, this would be like if I called someone who didn’t understand or care about math and continued to ask them for help with my algebra homework. I feel it would be rude and insensitive of me to call someone who doesn’t like to talk on the phone and ask them to discuss a subject that makes them feel stupid and/or that bores them to the point where they would rather be in a coma. My NT (neurotypical) friends and family, however, seem to think that I am the rude and insensitive one.
I used to see communication and social differences, or whatever you want to call them, as something I should probably work on in order to try to improve my ability to fit in with the rest of the world. Maybe it’s that I’m getting older, or that I’ve accepted my autism more, or a combination of things, but I no longer care about any of this. My current mantra is “Accept me or get out.” Maybe this is just the way I’m going to be from now on. Or maybe I’m experiencing total burnout when it comes to socializing.
I’m super grateful for my autistic friends who understand me. Thank you to all of you. xoxo