Autism fascinated me as a child. I would read books with autistic characters and wonder what their interior life was like, where they went when they withdrew into themselves; I imagined it to be a fascinating place. Sometimes it felt like a place that I had been to. I found myself thinking from time to time that if there were a mild form of autism, I had it, but of course such a thing didn’t exist.
I have Newsweek to thank for finding out that it did.
Just before I started university, my mother happened to pick up a copy of Newsweek in the waiting room of the orthodontist’s office and found an article about a man with Asperger’s Syndrome. And it hit her-this man sounded just like me.
This was back in the days before Wikipedia, just before Asperger’s washed over the cultural landscape, so the first thing I did was head over to the local library to look for the latest issue of Newsweek. My life finally made sense. And yet from that point on I would become acutely self-aware in ways I wasn’t before; until I found out about AS, I didn’t realize that I didn’t make eye contact with anyone while speaking, nor that this was a problem.
Predictably, AS became my newest obsession, and over the next few years I was out and proud. I eschewed anything that didn’t make sense to me, be it fashion or small talk; I stimmed without apology; I didn’t force myself to make eye contact. I met a smart, funny aspie man who shared many of the same quirks I did.
And then I got married and moved to another city. And I was thrown headfirst into the overwhelming world of adulthood, Sh*t got real, in other words. It’s one thing to be socially awkward in college, when you can immerse yourself in your studies and dream of being one of those delightfully quirky professors whose life’s passion is 15th century erotic court poetry; it’s another thing entirely when you’re a married woman. Suddenly I wanted nothing more than a little house with a pie cooling on the windowsill and an unspecified number of adorable children who looked like little clones of my (rather good-looking) husband tugging at my dress. Seriously. And my awkwardness was an immense stumbling block. So I downplayed it as much as I could. I thought that if I just looked a bit more like everyone else, ordered my life the way they did, I would finally fit in. I thought that if I walked over to the playground with a baby in tow I would finally be seen as normal, maybe even make some new friends.
But being a wife and mother didn’t suddenly make me into the regular person I wanted to be. Instead I was a socially awkward person with a husband and kids. As the saying goes, wherever you go, there you are. It hit me rather hard.
So now I’m taking a new approach. I am trying to own that weirdness, even that awkwardness, while simultaneously working on my coping skills and my ability to adapt. It’s a tough place to be, and I greatly admire and respect all the other moms on the spectrum who have managed to do it. Someday, I hope to be like them.