Autistics Speaking Day 2013: Confusion

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.



10 thoughts on “Autistics Speaking Day 2013: Confusion

  1. autisticook says:

    Oh man, that last paragraph really sunk its claws into me. “However baffled and confused and annoyed you are by me, […] for you, it’s just me.” Yes yes yes yes yes. We’re constantly surrounding by puzzling people who don’t make any sense. But if we respond in the same way to them as they respond to us, we’re wrong.

    • ischemgeek says:

      Yeah. Plus, if we respond to them in the way that’s natural to us, we’re doubly wrong. How dare we make them realize that we find them every bit as discomfiting as they find us? 😛

      • autisticook says:

        Hahaha! Nobody likes being told they’re a weirdo, apparently. 😛

      • ischemgeek says:

        Nobody likes having someone plug their ears around them, either. 😛

        (note: If you’re the sort of person to raise your voice when excited, stay away from me first thing in the morning if you’re excited… or let me plug my ears to lessen the intensity of your voice a bit)

      • autisticook says:

        Oh my oh my oh my, you just reminded me of my ex (who still doesn’t accept my diagnosis by the way). I did the most awesomest thing by teaching him not to shout when he was trying to convince other people. Because I said to him, raising your voice won’t make other people listen harder, this is just your insecurity about other people not paying attention. It worked! And I didn’t have to deal with him being shouty. Which was a plus. Even though I didn’t know I was autistic back then.

      • ischemgeek says:

        I’ll have to keep that in mind when my parents get shouty next. Harder for people who lose mental volume filters when enthused about something, though. I don’t want to make them sad by interrupting their happysquee time, but at the same time, they are quite loud for first thing in the morning (which I define as anything within about three hours of me first waking up)

  2. bjforshaw says:

    That tangled and contradictory mess of rules: oh yes, how well I recall my struggles to comprehend them without twisting my mind. And pointing out the contradictions was never well received: “But you said X” never elicited a rational explanation.

    • ischemgeek says:

      Ahaha. Yeah. “But you said X!” usually got me threatened with a grounding.

      Also, pointing out unfairness is never received well, either. “[Sibling] does [misbehavior] all the time and doesn’t get [consequence] for it!” wasn’t ever received well. Neither was pointing out parental sexism, or double-standards, all of which usually got me grounded and usually called a bunch of names from my parents.

      The favoritism my parents extended to my sister, I never even tried to point out. I still won’t. I’m kind of afraid of what they’ll say if I do – to have them try to deny what’s even obvious to me (and what’s blatantly obvious to anyone who’s been around my family for more than about a half hour) and try to convince me that I’m just imagining things would be bad, but them just outright admitting it might be worse. It’s lose-lose, so I don’t see the point.

      • autisticook says:

        I somehow intuit that even at your current age, you probably get the “But she did things to deserve being treated nicer than you” thing, a sort of throwback to the reward/punishment style of parenting. Favouritism. Everyone does it, nobody admits to it. I can handle not being top priority to someone, as long as they’re fucking honest about it.

      • ischemgeek says:

        No, that’s the funny thing: they’ll fully admit that she was worse-behaved than I was in our teen years (and I fully admit to being worse-behaved than her in our elementary school years). But they have an excuse for every occasion. Hard to explain, but they try to twist it around so being unreasonably harsh on me and generally ignoring me if I wasn’t misbehaving was some sort of compliment. Bit of a mind-fuck.

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