It takes one to know one.
Being on and in The Life Autistic, I can pin down others on this similar spectrum. We know the quirks, the masking, the characteristics, the tells. You can fool others, but you can’t fool us.
But can you fool yourself?
I study and observe quite a lot, actively and passively. Since I can’t always muster the energy to interact, I just turn on the radar, watch, observe, make inference, and learn.
One day in a class on Sunday, I noticed another attendee who’s definitely like me. Much bigger heart. Tries a lot harder to socialize.
But he’s like me. It’s a little awkward.
There’s one key difference.
I know I’m different.
And it may be a Plato’s cave thing or some other such pre-enlightenment state, but not everyone on the autism spectrum knows they’re different.
It’s not a good or bad thing. It’s just difference.
And when it comes to autism: knowing is half the battle.
As I “pick my spots” a lot more strategically during this class, I do a lot more watching. So I noticed this fellow; he came up to another lady in class, empathizing and apologizing for her loss. She’d miscarried a long while ago, and he’d just learned of it.
I knew too, but I could see him put the pieces together without really giving it much of a thought.
That’s bold, I thought. I’ve calculated every scenario in which I could express some kind of heartfelt sympathy, condolences, and there were no optimal outcomes that wouldn’t come across awkward. It was too distant. It wasn’t naturally in the convo.
This is one of those processes I’ve learned over time, and it’s why I don’t say half of what I’m thinking. There’s just no good way about it.
He then hugged her.
Ok, I thought. That’s really sweet. Again, not something I could pull off, but I know me.
And then his next comment:
“Oh, you just showered.”
Yep, that observation was 100% accurate, I noted. And this is why I don’t talk to anyone, ever, about anything.
Clenching my jaw to keep my smile confined only to the corners of my mouth, I realized that I’ve avoided a myriad of odd pitfalls with one crucial bit of knowledge.
I am different.
I notice an insane amount of detail. My recall about people and the things they do, demonstrate, say, or don’t do and say is unnerving (to them.) I know these things.
But I know I’m different. So I know to do less with them.
That said, this fella — he might not know he’s different, even if I can spot it a mile away, and others maybe a few yards away.
But he’s kind, congenial, and everyone knows so.
Knowing is half the battle with autism. I’m still working on that other half.