The Life Autistic: Be Cool, and Talk Like a Normal Person

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“That’s really cool,” said Mo, describing one of her cool toddler things.

“Mo,  try to find a better word than ‘cool’,” Mom (ever the teacher) suggested.

“Yeah, like . . . fascinating.” I up-sold from a 5¢ word to a $2.50 descriptor, something that would befit a typical 3-year-old.

She tried it out. “That’s really . . . fa-sci-na-ting.”

While my wife and I grinned about that, I backpedaled on the thought.

“Actually, Mo,” I realized. “Just go ahead and say cool.” 

*******

Just the other day, someone shared a compliment on my readout on a conference call: “Hunter – eloquent as always with many nice compound words and phrases.”

Some of my coworkers jibe me on how they “can tell I have an English degree” and “feel like they need one themselves to follow me.”

And in chats, I’ve more than once delighted folks when they mention that they didn’t have to Google a word I used.

*sigh*

For those of us on the hyperverbal, overlexical side of The Life Autistic, the journey is fraught with more dictional peril.

So, funny enough, I’ve made strides. Over time, I’ve taken a few mots justes (here, don’t Google it) from the bottom shelf.

Fam. Y’all. Blooda. Thx. Yo. Dude. LOL. IKR? Like. Roll with that. 

And to my surprise, people don’t think I’m dumb when I use words like that.

Sometimes they think I’m normal.

Maybe even cool. 😉

The Life Autistic: Why my ‘Space’ is a Fortress

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I’ve been on a business trip all this week, doing what I’d imagine many of my fellow autists and Aspies may dread: working with a lot of real-live people all day.

For a dude who works remotely 95% of the time, this is a big deal. I travel once a quarter, mainly because it takes me that long to recharge in between trips to see and work with my awesome co-workers and extended peers in person.

It’s fun, but it is exhausting. 

But I did have an interesting self-revelation last night. As one of my friends left with me, he graced many folks with parting hug. I had to suppress a small smirk as I prepped to leave as well.

I joked about having a “hugs quota” that I’d exceeded for the day.

Someone asked: “Ah, so you have kind of a space bubble?”

I had to think both thoughtfully and fast, neither of which I do well on their own.

“Well, it’s more like a fortress.”

That right there is a fair assessment of how I feel about space. Here’s why:

A fortress is a defensive bulwark.

While I sometimes wish I were more forward, you’ll find that I’m never intrusive, not even by accident. Steadiness and steadfastness are great byproducts.

A fortress doesn’t pop. 

Bubbles don’t have the kind of permanence that I carry; it’s a stronger force, a lot more obvious – sometimes disinviting, but never surprising.

A fortress has an entry.

I’m most at peace with this one. I’m not closed. I’ve got a few arches, edifices, some cool design features – but despite the walls both high and wide, I can still control the gate. 

 

 

The Life Autistic: How Could You Forget How to Ride a Bike?

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You know that phrase, “It’s like riding a bike – you never forget how?” I’m here to tell you that’s bogus. Bunk.

have forgotten how to ride a bike.

I may be exaggerating, but that there’s not a lot of membership in the Autistic Athletics Association. The spectrum life is about dealing with physical gracelessness and disinclination toward the social aspects of formal sports, athletics, etc.

Exceptional coordination and athleticism is uncommon, but even common coordination can be a challenge for us autists.

I learned to ride a compact, green Huffy bike through the neighborhood of Burke, Virginia. While I was six of seven, I can’t say I was embarrassed about that late start. I was an official biker.

Fast forward to Iceland, that winter, where my parents bought me a new Roadmaster for the “summer” rides we’d take. And by the time that season rolled around, I’d lost it.

I’d literally — in the space of a season — forgotten how to ride a bike. 

I was almost a decade away from discovering just how different I was, but this was embarrassing. Who out there just up and loses their ability to ride a bike?

People like me.

People who fight for every fiber of muscle memory. People who put in work to get to only passable levels of coordination. People who aren’t naturals at this.

I was a whopping eight years old. Young. Stupid. Stubborn. 

Stubborn enough to get back on the bike and try again. And fall. And sputter. And pedal just a bit more. And fall again.

My dad cheered me on; I reflect on it with regrets, disappointment. He shouldn’t have had to teach me twice. He should have watched me take off like any other normal eight-year-old who’d learned to ride before. But after a few hours, it came back. I wasn’t about to revert to my non-riding self.

Since it’s been over a 15 years since I last rode, some people joke about me forgetting again.

I forgot how to ride a bike once, but I learned it twice. 

And dammit, if I have to learn it alongside my daughter this time, I’ll learn it once more.