I admit to finding this one hard to write. As an aside, I think that may be internalized ableism of the you-don’t-have-anything-wrong-that-self-discipline-won’t-cure variety. I am uncomfortable claiming this label for myself, even though it fits everything. I feel as if I am appropriating something that isn’t mine… even though many have assured me it is.
However, I will push past that discomfort, and leave the cause behind it for another day. It is not today’s issue.
Today is about confusion.
Growing up undiagnosed, I was confused. All the time.
I was confused about why we use white lies if honesty is the best policy. I was confused about why it’s okay to eat immediately at home, but at a friend of the family’s, I had to wait for them to pray. I was confused about why it was wrong for me to call someone an asshole but okay for them to call me a retard. I was confused about how it could be alwasy wrong to hit, but if I did hit, my parents would hit me and they would insist they were right to do so.
I was confused about the many things in our culture that don’t make sense. Why is pink a girls’ color? Why can’t I like Star wars? “Because it is” and “Because it’s for boys” aren’t answers. And why is it wrong for me to point that out?
I was confused about why, though my parents said people liked to talk about weather, people told me to shut up when I responded to a greeting by talking about the cloud formations I could see. “Hello. Fascinating weather today, isn’t it? That mammatus formation means we might be in for severe weather later!”
I was confused about why people got angry with me when I corrected them. Don’t they want to know the right answer? I always want to know the right answer. Right answers make sense, and they order the world a little bit. Who would want to be wrong when they could be right?
Likewise, I wondered why my teacher thought my talk of biology was “inappropriate,” when anyone should be able to see that story about storks was ridiculous (I was five – and, a note to parents of kindergarden aged kids who are socially oblivious- if you talk about the birds and the bees, you might want to tell your kid ahead of time that some parents prefer to wait until their children are a bit older, so if a kid relays a fairy tale about where their younger sibling came from, their parent might get angry if you correct them. Just saying.). Plus, I didn’t see how biology was wrong to talk about. Should I be careful about talking about the differences between mammals and birds, now? Perhaps I should confine myself to weather, as it seems less contentious than biology.
I was confused about how I could talk “like a book” when books don’t talk, or why the librarians said they should water me when I wasn’t a plant, or how I could be considered “retarded” when I got the best tests grades in the class. And I didn’t get why my parents became enraged with me for repeating that word the other kids had called me – why was it wrong for me to say what the other kids said with impunity?
I was confused about why adults said I could tell them anything but then punished me for “tattling” when I did. I was confused about why adults said to tell an adult if I was being bullied, but then told me I needed to toughen up and be less sensitive when I took them at their word. Why was I wrong for being upset about getting beat up? Why weren’t they wrong for beating me? And why the fuck should I “fight back” if hitting is wrong and, allegedly, two wrongs don’t make a right?!
Why did adults tell me I needed to be more organized but then categorically refuse to teach me how? What is organization, anyway? How does one be organized? And why do they expect me to keep track of everything when they and I both know I can’t do it, and we know I can’t do it because I am currently unable to maintain an acceptable level of “organization,” whatever the fuck that is? Why did adults get angry with me for cursing when I was upset, and then curse when they stubbed their toes?
Why was using lines said in movies and books when they said well what I wanted to get across wrong? And why was it only wrong if I chose recognizable lines, but more obscure ones were okay? “You’re such a boy.” “But I like being a girl!” is okay, but “Why are you squinting like that?” “The light, it burns!” is not? Why?
Why are adults allowed to be angry, but not me? Why is my sister allowed to brush off chores but not me?
Why is Mom allowed to find the light too bright, but if I do, I’m lying? Why do you assume dishonesty if my perception differs from yours? Can’t you accept that I find it too loud here, just like I accept that you actually enjoy going to the mall?
Confusion is disorienting. And it’s scary. And it’s frustrating, especially when you see everyone around you get it as easily as breathing. It’s as if when they were handing out the operating manuals to our culture, someone gave me the Cliff’s notes instead of the full version. You say to refer to page 235, but my manual doesn’t even go up that far! And then you blame me for being too lazy to look up something I can’t look up!
What I would say to the allistics in my life is this: However baffled and confused and annoyed you are by me, I guarantee you, I feel that tenfold concerning you. Because for you, it’s just me. Odds are pretty good that I’m one of a handful of autistics you know. But people like you are everywhere, and I have to deal with them all the time. And they make as little sense to me as I do to you. But unlike me, they haven’t grown up with the knowledge pounded into them that they make no sense and are just being foolish, so they think I’m bullshitting when I tell them I’m confused, rather than trying to clarify as I will with you.
Consider that, next time you think of telling me that I make no sense and am annoying you.