Verbal abuse is so prevalent that it's widely accepted in society. I'm so used to it that it's like water off a duck's back. Insulting someone's intelligence is implying that those who do have an intellectual disability have less value as a human being.
"Thank God she's pretty."
"You're only here because of your looks."
"She's so stupid. She's actually dumb."
"Did your mother drop you as a child?"
"Are you re****ed?"
"Margo, I don't know if you realize this but you're not very intelligent compared to other girls. You can't find better so you might as well just stay."
"You'll need to explain it to her with crayons."
"She must have taken the short bus to school."
"I wonder who ties her shoelaces for her in the morning."
While being autistic does mean I've struggled with motor skills throughout my life, I was contemplating the universe while you were busy playing tag. My condition keeps me humble. High intelligence would be a dangerous weapon in the wrong hands. God works in mysterious ways.
"And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them."
- Ether 12:27
I took offence to something that was said to me when I was 20 years old but it planted a seed. Over time I realized how true the statement was.
"God tests you as much with what you're given and what you lack. Your beauty is part of your test."
I was always the reject as a child and suddenly things started to change at puberty; sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse. I know both sides of the fence and understand how easy it is to take advantage of a situation. I'm very God-fearing and I can assure you that I thank Him for more than being pretty. Thank God I'm pretty intelligent.
A defining trait of Asperger's is an encompassing preoccupation with one or more stereotyped and restricted patterns of interest that is abnormal either in intensity or focus.
This is usually very evident in boys because their interests are incredibly unusual, such as: stamps, coins, trains, vacuum cleaners, you get the point... Girls tend to have typical female interests, but the difference is the intensity of the interest. Think of horses, dolls, makeup...
This is not to say that girls can't have unusual interests, I had my fare share of them. One of them was bugs; the grosser, the better. I don't know what it was about bugs but it fascinated me that they live such a short life yet instinctively learn all they need to know about being a bug within such a short time frame. My mom used to bring me to the dollar store and I'd bring home little containers that allowed them to breathe. I never brought the containers inside the house because I knew my mother wouldn't approve. There was one problem. Our neighbour maintained our lawn so well that there wasn't much diversity in the soil so I had to venture out a bit to find the best selections! I found a goldmine when I discovered that a neighbour three doors down had grubs under his stones. My trophy insect was the June bug. I was so proud of it.
When I was 5 years old, I decided on my own that I was going to bring one of my bug jars to school. I didn't tell anyone. I just put it in my school bag and on the school bus I went. I couldn't converse with the other children normally so the only way I knew how to bond with others was by sharing my special interest. I told the girl sitting next to me about the jar and she couldn't wait to check it out. I took it out of the school bag and told her to be careful with it. She wanted to take a closer look so she tried to open it but the lid was too tight. She struggled with it for a bit and then suddenly it rained bugs everywhere; they were on every seat. All the kids started screaming and the bus driver had to pull over. He didn't know what was going on but figured out very quickly there were unwelcome passengers in his vehicle. He walked to the back of the bus to find the culprit and of course he'd never suspect this was the doing of quiet little margo innocently looking out the window. The girl who opened the jar is actually on my Facebook today. I don't think she'd remember but it still cracks me up to this day.
I was also very curious about whether insects had hearing. We didn't have easily accessible google back then so when we had questions, we had to figure it out the hard way. I was taking a bath one day and a spider crawled up on the wall next to me. I must have been around 6 or 7. I figured that if I started screaming and it stopped moving, that it could hear me in some way. My theory worked because every time I would scream it would stop moving, and then keep crawling when I went silent. I just googled it now and it turns out that spiders detect human speech from the sensitive hairs on their legs.
I used to buy candy covered bugs. It boggles my mind that it used to excite me but now the idea of it repulses me. I guess I changed a bit over time. There are some jewellery makers who let butterflies roam free and let them die a natural death before using them for pieces. That's something I'd be interested in. When I went to Australia a few years ago, I must have visited at least five different museums in Sydney. The nature museum had so many exotic types of butterflies and insects. My five year old self would have been on cloud 9.
My less proud experiment with bugs happened in grade 3. I had heard somewhere that worms have 5 hearts and that if you cut them properly, it would result in 5 worms. I very carefully sliced a worm into 5 pieces near the schoolyard fence. I made sure to cover it so that my results wouldn't get tampered with. The next day, I was heartbroken when I saw that none of the pieces had survived. I felt like I murdered all five of them in COLD BLOOD. It turns out that worms do have 5 hearts segmented throughout their bodies but can only regenerate if you cut one behind the clitellum. I atoned for my sins about 7 years later when I walked into a gas station, bought a container of fishing worms, and set them free.
The thing with trauma is that certain details can get distorted when you try to remember them. I rewrote a blog post from last week to make it more accurate. It's not a proud moment in my life that I wish hadn't happened. There's a seemingly small detail that I edited that actually highlights a huge flaw in how society treats one another. I'm only sharing my story to help prevent this from happening to other girls. High intelligence can go hand in hand with naivety. Aspie girls are incredibly vulnerable to being taken advantage of because of their trusting nature and lack of social support; they are perfect targets. Some of my posts are cautionary tales.
My weak spot is a smile. I was always a very smiley kid but developed a more stoic expression with age due to rejection but anytime someone flashes me a genuine smile, I go weak. It's a purely platonic reaction. Not a lot of kids were nice to me but this ONE girl in particular always gave me the warmest smiles and always smelled lovely. Double threat. I couldn't resist and felt comfortable around her immediately. I never name people in my blog for discretion, so let's just call her Chanel.
When I was 15, Chanel contacted me out of the blue asking me if I wanted to hang out with her friends. It was the first time I was invited to hang out with a group of people. Someone actually wanted my company! I didn't hesitate to agree. I was excited. We met up at a mall, and that's when she told me her friends were guys. I didn't want to seem "uncool" so I played it cool and said "okay". We got into their cars. There were TWO of them. They were both very smiley with perfect white teeth. Oh yeah, and they were also thirty years old.
One drive led to another and the next thing I knew we snuck into a club. By the time we left, I couldn't walk in a straight line. I told them to drive me home. They said they would drive me home and asked for my address. I didn't want them knowing where I lived so I gave them the closest cross-street. I closed my eyes in the backseat for what felt like THREE seconds. I woke up looking out the window to see my surroundings, but all the street names were in French. I wasn't at home, I wasn't even in my city. I asked them where we were. Their smiles turned into a grin and told me we were stopping at their apartment for a moment.
Chanel told me not to worry because they were nice guys. I walked in with her thinking we'd sit and laugh but she left me to go alone in a room with one of the guys. I was livid. I wanted to tell her that her behaviour was rude but I couldn't find the words. The other guy started sliding his hand on my thigh. I pushed his hand away at least FOUR times. He never made me feel threatened because he was short and scrawny. I figured if push came to shove, I could take him on. His grin turned into a smirk.
The next thing I knew, Chanel came out of the room screaming at the top of her lungs. The guy she was with came in after her yelling at her to be quiet. I couldn't make out what she was saying. It was nonsensical. She mumbled something about the number five. She eventually got a hold of her tongue and said "There were FIVE of you. How could I have wanted it?!". He grabbed her by her hair and banged her head against the wall repeatedly telling her it was her fault. It was at this point that I stopped feeling. I went numb. I wasn't afraid. I wasn't even sad. I felt nothing. Chanel fell to the ground and he kicked her in the stomach. He looked in my direction and the other guy pointed at me and said something around the lines of "She's a good girl. We can get in a lot of trouble with this one." They ran off. They never laid a finger on me. Something changed in me that night. I forgot how to smile.
Two years later, I was working at a voting station as a registration officer greeting responsible citizens at the door. My heart stopped when I noticed the same two men walk through the doors. I felt sorry for them. I don't know why, but I did (a trait of autism in girls is feeling sorry for people who have persecuted her/or others). They didn't recognize me. I almost didn't recognize them either. There was something different about them. They weren't smiling; they didn't need to.
A trait of autism is "inappropriate laughter". We may randomly burst into giggles. This confuses people because there's nothing seemingly funny. The thing is that I live inside of my mind all the time. It's as though I have one foot in the real world, and the other in a fantasy world. I may have remembered something funny, a funny thought may come to mind, or I imagined a funny situation in my mind. Also, I do find different things funny. To a neurotypical it may appear like I've flown over the cuckoo's nest, but sometimes I can get a chuckle out of someone if I actually explain myself. Aspies are known to have an unusual sense of humour due to the fact that we perceive the world differently. Sometimes I share with people what made me laugh, other times I keep it to myself because we're all better off that way.
There's one reoccurring joke that keeps me entertained that I'll share with you. Before I get into it, I'll start off by establishing the fact that everything is an illusion and everything, absolutely everything, is connected. 50 Cent stirred some controversy in the autism community when he insulted someone by saying he "looked autistic", which isn't even a thing but that's beside the point. Later on, he videotaped an autistic man and ridiculed his "odd demeanour" by comparing him to a drug addict. He doesn't realize that his entire career is supported by these types of minds.
"My insecurities could eat me alive"
"Ever heard of Aspergers? Its a rare condition"
Eminem is a lyrical genius. He used to absorb encyclopedias and dictionaries to enhance his rhyming abilities, something I can relate to being a poet. Learning new words makes my mind feel satiated. I don't believe that personality disorders are absolutes, like autism, it's a spectrum. Because Eminem grew up in arguably one of the worst possible living conditions, he developed coping mechanisms to survive, however unhealthy. I can see right through his tough exterior. He is a pattern thinker. He observed which behaviour others responded effectively to and mimics "rough" behaviour he witnessed growing up. Despite his often shocking verses, he displays an unusual level of sensitivity. He was bullied mercilessly in his youth. He also masks the fact that he can't socialize by maintaining a stoic expression. A lot of his bad boy reputation is actually his inability to cope and meltdowns. So that was my two cents on 50 Cent's misinformation.
It's not appropriate to "out" anyone alive but let me put it this way, Autism makes Hollywood go round. It's hilarious to me that people mistreat a community of people that they unknowingly worship like gods (like the Rap God). This same concept applies for regular life as well. Politicians, bosses, business owners, you name it, we're there. We're literally everywhere but you just don't know it, and they may not either. The only real difference is whether someone disclosed their neurology or not.
"When you realize how perfect everything is you will tilt your head back and laugh at the sky."
The cosmic joke is that a condition viewed as a weakness is the exact same genetic DNA that makes up all of the things considered great in this world. The joke is on all of us.
School has always felt like a never-ending obstacle course. I remember thinking as a child that I couldn't wait to turn 18 so I'd never have to be forced to go to school again. The sad thing is that I LOVE to learn but the school system isn't designed to accommodate autistic students; some of the brightest minds are slipping through the cracks. Here is why aspies can make poor students:
An author once commented that he saw me becoming a scholar. In a perfect world I would, but I can't give my schooling 100% without falling behind in my personal life somehow. It's too much for me to juggle. I know many aspies have become doctors and scholars. Just recently I was interviewed for someone's PHD. I asked why she chose me because I don't have that many followers compared to some more well-known advocates. The person responded "you had a way of explaining things that I had never seen before. I knew I wanted to talk to you and see what you had to say." I guess that's as close as a scholar I'll get for the moment being, but I'm glad to know I was able to contribute to a study that serves humanity in some way. I used to be insecure by the fact that I didn't go to university alongside my friends, but it doesn't bother me anymore. I always talk about how I have a trail, and I literally would not be where I am now (which is where I'm meant to be) had I gone to university. For now, I'll just have to settle with being happy, and debt-free. Who knows what the future holds? What I do know is that I intend to be a lifelong learner.
One of the main reasons autistic boys are diagnosed earlier is because it's easier to spot their difficulties with emotional regulation. Girls are better at keeping up with appearances. We're not called chameleons for nothing. Autism isn't a behavioural disorder but that doesn't stop people from branding autistic kids as brats, rude, and disobedient. I'm compliant to a fault but I struggled with authority that didn't respect me. Methods that work with neurotypicals will not work with autistics. You cannot lock horns with an autistic child. Autistic children respond well to logic and good character.
“These children often show a surprising sensitivity to the personality of the teacher. They can be taught but only by those who give them true understanding and affection, people who show kindness towards them and yes, humor. The teacher's underlying attitude influences, involuntarily and unconsciously, the mood and behaviour of the child.”
- Hans Asperger
Only a mind like mine would instinctively know that. Hans knew what was up because he was one of us.
“The teacher must have to become autistic”
- Hans Asperger
Alexithmya is the inability to identify and describe emotions in the self. I very rarely had outbursts but I remember feeling uncomfortable all the time without knowing why. I used to think that expressing negative emotions in any kind of way was bad, so I suppressed them. They always resurfaced in my dreams, the only place were I could make sense of what I was feeling because I had a visual image of what was happening in my psych. A lifetime of thinking that you're a good kid but being labelled as bad takes a toll on you. I had a telling dream at about 8 or 10 years old.
Dream: I was wearing a white prairie dress. I was smiling. I looked like an obedient and angelic child. I looked in the mirror and was horrified to see that my reflection was evil. I was wearing a black dress and giving my original self a deadly stare.
When you dream about seeing your reflection, what you see in the mirror is how you perceive yourself. I went to church on Sundays. I prayed and read the Bible regularly. I wasn't mean to anyone. Still, deep down I felt like I was a bad kid because I wasn't being genuine. There was a side of me I felt was not acceptable to show. I was struggling with something but couldn't communicate it. My outer appearance didn't match what I was feeling and it made me think that something was wrong with me. I couldn't be my true self. Mirror, mirror on the wall, who's the furthest from herself of all?
I'm constantly confused as to what age I feel. I'm more of a compilation of ages rather than simply just being my current age of 26. Being twice-exceptional reflects my abilities as well as my maturity. The same way I have a spiky learning profile, I have spiky maturity levels. For example, at the age of twelve I had the mental age of fifty but the emotional age of about eight. Think of it as being an old soul and young at heart. I remember looking at peers my age thinking they weren't educated on the world and didn't understand life. I thought they were immature yet I was the one who couldn't process and express my emotions properly. ASD is considered a developmental delay, but that doesn't mean that my development is stagnant; I have caught up to a lot of my missed milestones in adulthood. Autistic females can be childlike, but not childish.
Samantha Craft put together a lovely blog post about female asperger traits. One of these traits really resonated with me: perpetually twelve. I couldn't put into words what exactly about me was perpetually twelve so I asked Samantha to elaborate on this bullet to help me understand myself better and this is what she said:
"I don't feel like I ever changed at puberty... didn't become catty...gossipy...manipulative...develop understanding about relationships and boys etc I never grew up"
This confused me a bit because I did go through some of the typical motions of growing up, despite not really understanding the reason behind it. I spent a lifetime mimicking other people's behaviour so I can't base my "perpetual twelveness" on actions. I asked her to give me a bit more depth. She responded:
"I am naive and often think others will have the same qualities as me: transparent, honest, straight forward, hopeful... giggly, etc. I am not sure how else to explain it. Whatever clicked for everyone else at puberty, didn't seem to click for me."
Call me a spiritual-nut if you wish, but I truly believe that Autism reflects the nature of our souls in many ways.
"My autism means I don't lie, I am shy with strangers, I dance, I laugh and show myself how I am. Why would you want to change me?"
J.M. Barrie based the Peter Pan character on his older brother, David, who died in a skating accident. The boy never grew up because like me, he lives where souls Neverland and time is never planned.
Samantha Craft's blog post I referenced:
Believe it or not, learning to lie is a milestone for autistic children; it's a social and survival skill. People are so used to dishonesty that they don't recognize that casual lies permeates our lives. From our earliest years, we are taught to always tell the truth. Here's the tricky part: being honest is a black and white rule, yet we live in a grey world. In reality, there are many shades of grey. Neurotypical children seem to have a natural grasp of when to bend and twist the truth. Sometimes it's more socially sensible to outright lie. If you ask an autistic child a question, you'll get an honest answer. A really honest answer.
Tact is sugar coating the truth or blurring the motive behind a statement. I used to consider any form of deception as wrong; now I understand that right intentions are more important than being right. My need for correctness clashes with making nice. The same way that there are rude neurotypcials, there are rude aspies. That being said, not understanding how or why to lie is a trait of Aspergers. For the most part, autistics do want to be polite and respectful although they may not always come across that way. My advice is to learn diplomacy; it goes a long way.
People unconsciously want appeasement, not the truth. Society relies on certain accepted and expected forms of denial. Despite my brutal honesty and straightforwardness, I've always been very sensitive to other people's feelings. I've been made fun of enough in my life to know that I don't want to make someone else feel that way. As much as I've treaded carefully in my verbal exchanges, I struggle with impulse control because my brain operates faster than my artificially constructed filter which results in blurting things out accidentally. There are things I've said that I deeply regret. In my grade 11 English class a thought popped into my head that may have been appropriate to share with my friends in a certain context but certainly not in front of a class. I'm not sure how but my mouth sped right past my filter and I said my thought out loud. Very loud. The boy who was presenting up front stopped talking and I froze. My teacher blushed and the entire classroom gasped in shock. The silence that followed was deafening. If looks could kill... I kept a stoic expression but I wanted to disappear. I'm pretty sure it was after that slip up that people started calling me crazy. I can completely empathize with someone who has Tourette's, which by the way overlaps with autism. There has to be a connection there somewhere.
Tourette's = involuntary tics + vocalisations
Autism = stimming (some have tics) + low impulse control for blurting out thoughts/ feelings
When you meet an autistic person who's never learned to filter themselves, you'll understand why it can be problematic. Even though I have a pretty good grasp of social etiquette and convention, I still stumble at times. Sometimes I stumble so hard that I land with my foot in my mouth. It's easier to forgive myself when I remember that it's not exactly my fault. I just need a discreet shush or a gentle nudge to be honest to a halt.
Since I like my routine and familiar places, I'm a regular at quite a few eating spots around town. One manager starts cooking my meal the second I walk through the doors because he knows exactly what I'll order. Another place knows me by name. Another restaurant owner knows my whole life story. I was even offered a job because of my loyalty and punctuality! I would think that many regulars must be somewhere on the spectrum.
I do a lot of things alone, like eating out. Some people have insecurities about going on solo dates. It feels completely natural to me. When I eat I tend to narrow-focus on my food which may leave a companion left out. That's not to say I don't enjoy company, I just can't give a conversation the attention it deserves while munching.
When I was 15 I worked at McDonald's and used to think that regulars had nothing better to do with their time than come everyday at the same time, sit at the same seat, and order the same thing. I've become that customer. Worse even. I'm peculiarly pickier. Life has a funny way of putting people in their place, their designated regular place. Or as Sheldon Cooper would say it, 'my spot'.
In December I attended an event downtown. The girl working coat check asked me 'Are you Margo?'. I figured she must be someone I went to school with or who recognized me from my hefty online/ modelling presence. 'Yes, I am actually!', I responded. Here I am thinking 'I'm famous now. I don't need to live like this anymore'. My moment of delusion that I had 'made it' was quickly shot down when she follows up with 'You go to Nando's right?'. 'Yes. Yes I do', I answered humbly. Even though being a frequent flyer somewhere can feel like being a celebrity (VIP discounts, free desserts, being recognized, etc...), I'm still just a regular despite not being ordinary.
Most people who never really get to know me think I'm quiet. I've been called shy more times than I can remember. The truth is, I'm not shy at all. I'm thankful that I'm not as loud as my mind. I think so loudly at times that I have to tune myself out. Then I wonder if I said whatever I was thinking out loud! I haven't always been quiet. I've been mostly quiet, but when I wasn't, people wish I were. The thing is, I'm quiet for a reason; you're less likely to offend someone if you keep your mouth shut.
"I can't believe she said that."
"What a b****."
I don't care so much about offending people as much anymore because people get offended by just about anything nowadays, but I do care about hurting people's feelings. That's one of the things I hate about having Asperger's: being unknowingly rude. In the past, I didn't realize I said anything wrong until after I saw the other person's reaction. Here's a not so funny example. Growing up, I didn't view death as a serious topic. My parents always told me that there was an afterlife so talking about death didn't feel taboo to me. When I was 14, my grandfather's Alzheimer's had progressed significantly and he couldn't remember me. He thought I was my brothers wife and kept asking when I'll get pregnant. I couldn't stand seeing my dad in pain from watching his father mentally fade away, so I walked away. There was only one lucid person on that floor, so I befriended her. She gave me a stuffed bear and always offered me cookies. One day when my dad brought me for a visit I came in eagerly to see her. Her name was removed from the label and her things were removed. She was gone. I was so angry. I was in the elevator with my dad thinking about whether my grandfather was aware of his deteriorating awareness. He was in perfect physical health otherwise. "When is grand-papa going to die?", I asked in an impatient tone. My dad's face turned as white as a ghost. I felt terrible. That statement probably made it seem like I couldn't wait for his dad to pass away, but my thought was that Heaven had to be better than what he was living here on Earth and that his peaceful transition might alleviate my dad's emotional pain. Horrible question. Bad timing. Just an all-around "Yeah, that wasn't cool" moment. *cringes*
The thing with quiet people is that some of us would rather not say anything at all than say the wrong thing. Quiet people aren't boring, anti-social, or rude. Sometimes it's a coping mechanism to stay out of trouble. The quiet ones observe, analyze, and adapt. We're often ignored and notice details others miss. When we do speak, we might just surprise you with what we know. They say it's the quiet ones you have to look out for because you're not exactly sure what to expect from them. If you were ever to observe one in its natural habitat, you may just learn that it's not as quiet as it sounds.
[title credit from Heather McElroy's tagline]