Boring is a Great Privilege

If I were a drink, I’d be tap water served eerie still, unshaken and not stirred. As a cereal, I could ‘outbran’ bran. And as ice cream, I’m the kind you get when “Plain Vanilla” just seems a little too adventurous.

I’m a boring guy.

I eat dinner earlier at a time where even senior citizens would make fun of me. I prefer muted colors. The hardest thing I’ve had to drink was Mike’s Hard Water® from my shower. I haven’t had a birthday party since age 8. The last time I went out after dark was to check the mail.

I’m boring autistic.

So not only am I boring, I’m an autistic boring. Even among autistic advocates: I’m not “hip,” I don’t have cool multicolored hair, and I still think “vibe” is a noun and not a verb.

I’m old, I’m a homeowner, I’m a dad, and I have a job and career I’ve held for over a decade. And I’m autistic. That doesn’t really connect with a lot of the autistic audience who is younger, still finding their way around themselves, their lives, their present and future. Of course you “vibe” with someone more like you, only cooler. Not “less like you” and “way uncooler.”

But that’s not every autistic audience. That’s not every autistic advocate and ally.

Some groups, companies, organizations: they’re boring too. They’ll nod inside when you bring up autism advocacy, but they’ll recoil as soon as they see a visible face piercing. They’ll say they embrace and support autistic initiatives, but whoo boy hold on, not if it means, you know, “having weird colored hair.”

It’s not bad to be boring. It can be bad to want boring.

Boring is my privilege.

For all the uphill traction that genuine, authentic, “weird,” hip, and otherwise non-boring autistic advocates would face in the boring bastions — I don’t face that. I love that many passionate autism allies are authentically themselves, acerbic, and colorful, and dedicated their voices to bettering neurodivergent lives.

It’s a shame that many more boring places and spaces aren’t ready to embrace you.

But they embrace me. They see my straight laces, my straight edges. They think, “Well, he looks like a put together young man with a well-tended rolodex. THIS is the kind of autistic advocacy we can tolerate.”

Boring privilege is my weapon.

Because guess what they hear as soon as they make the mistake of letting me in the lobby? Of thinking that my plainer-than-vanilla, more-boring-than-bran veneer would somehow let them off the hook? Of assuming that I’ll have “more institutionally friendly” autism guidance fit for people who wear collared shirts?

EVERYTHING YOU WONDERFUL, WILD, ANTI-MILD AUTISM ADVOCATES AND ALLIES WOULD TELL THEM.

To learn more about autism from an autistic person’s perspective, follow & subscribe to The Life Autistic here and on YouTube — or follow the more whimsical, spontaneous, and amusing content on Instagram.

Oh, latest episode! Enjoy.

A Strong Back: Lessons in Autistic Resilience

I guess this is what passes for self-care.

When I need to “be in the thick of it,” but also catch a break, I’ll find some space and lie down in the prone position and rest. And then comes my scamp tot Zo, who insists I “stay right there.” I brace myself.

She then begins to walk up my calves (which, ouch), then tiptoes delicately from my lower back, spine, with her stout little feet planting square betwtixt my shoulders. She stops, pauses, kneels. I wince. She then springs into a jump from atop my shoulders clear over my head.

Whew. Glad that’s ov—

“Again, again!” she pleads. And on I lie for another calf-back-shoulder-jump walk. I like to think it’s some sort of walking massage, but with a tiny person who occasionally jumps on your head when it’s done.

After a spell of injuring my lower back and being laid up multiple times, I’ve since built back my back, forging weakness into strength, soft dough into cast iron. As a kinda-tall dude and a dad of three, I’ve had to shape up and ensure I can withstand backbreaking activities. Like whatever this thing is that Zo does.

I’ve had to build a stronger ‘back’ in my autistic experience as well.

Thanksgiving week is always tough, but this round taxed both my literal back (with perpetual kid-handling, toting, baby-propping, etc) and my figurative back.

What do I mean by that?

Autistic resilience is withstanding things. With some major back-to-back episodes in my home life, I ended up doing a lot less but bearing more: late-breaking changes to plan, unexpected purchases, a wild Thanksgiving day, and then some. I only wished to be called to action to focus and fix things, but instead, I had to endure a lot of uncontrollable variables with a smile. In autism, active calamity feels more purposeful; passive calamity is painful.

Autistic resilience is isometric. If you’re into fitness, words, or both: you know what I’m talking about. In both exercise and autism, I prefer plyometrics: where I can jump or otherwise create momentum. But isometric workouts, like wall sits, planks, or (my grudging new favorite) hollow body holds, require a painful amount of positional endurance. It looks easy, but it isn’t. This has a distinct autistic parallel, to where things like “sitting and small talking without being able to escape” are the psychological equivalents of a 2 minute wall sit. Ouch.

Autistic resilience is a hidden strength. When it comes to “prominent muscle” – one’s back isn’t the first thing to pop out of a shirt or in one’s physique. It’s not something you can often show off ahead of time. The metal is there, but you only see it in the effort spent. I feel that way a lot, where going through events and holidays with a smile, shreds of congeniality, and maybe a pinch of small talk — that can be extraordinarily taxing. It may not look like I have the “guns” for such, but I’ve had to work up the back for it — it’s there when it counts.

Maybe someday I’ll write about the autistic equivalent of deadlifting! To learn more about autism from an autistic person’s perspective, follow & subscribe to The Life Autistic here and on YouTube — or follow the more whimsical, spontaneous, and amusing content on Twitter / Instagram.

Oh, if you’re still here, would you consider subscribing to my YouTube channel? I write because it’s my one talent, but apparently The Life Autistic videos are pretty entertaining as well, and I think you’ll enjoy them. Thanks so much!

Escape Rooms in Autism

My friends visited here in Denver about two years back. For fun, we tried out an ‘Escape Room’ downtown.

In we went. Two indolent teens were already in there, so I felt the need to assert command, precision, direction — y’know, all those extroverted hyperfocused mission-oriented skills that we autistic people have. I coordinated comms, got everyone thinking out loud, delegated explorers, logically ruling out possibilities, navigating clue by clue.

We did not escape.

I had to leave, but my friends went back afterward to try the rest of the rooms. They escaped from each one and set records along the way.

The lessons for me:

  • I am a part of success when I am apart from it.
  • I’m the rare friend whose absence is appreciated more than my presence.

It is the life autistic. And that is what I am.

Anyway. That’s the snarky angle, a little more scathing than true.

Aside from that, ‘escape rooms’ are essential for us.

I appreciate this fast-closing baby phase with Jo, my youngest. As a veritable scamp, I often whisk her away from the action, as it doubles as an excuse for us to just “find quiet space.”

And I need that.

No, not to escape forever. To pause. To ruminate. To unplug.

I can endure manifold stressors, torrential downpours of noise pestilence, and cavalcades of chaos — as long as there’s an “escape room” to escape to. It resets and benefits, lets the distress seep out, and balances back the unbalanced quiet. It’s why I’ll sooner agree to host than to be a guest or selectively opt into segmented loud and awkward places, as long as I can find a way to tunnel away.

It’ll be nice when we build more “sensory friendly” corners and spaces by design — I don’t think people realize that we need places to pause without it being seen retreating.

We’re normalizing this, turning riot into quiet, making space to rest overspaced minds — and this is good. This is beyond an autism thing, but I’m glad we can lead the way on the why and the where.

For now, I’m at least glad I can take a fussy baby out and find that solace.

With the renewed focus on mindfulness, mental peace, what’s to say that “sensory friendly” can’t be the new “friendly?” Maybe we should be leading the way here? To learn more about autism from an autistic person’s perspective, follow & subscribe to The Life Autistic here and on YouTube — or follow the more whimsical, spontaneous, and amusing content on Twitter / Instagram.

Hey, if you’re still here, would you consider subscribing to my YouTube channel? It’s quickly becoming one of my more impactful vehicles for autism advocacy. It’s unique, fun, and it’s going a little way to help people better understand the ‘different normal’ of autism. Thanks so much!