Hunter, you can’t really be autistic.
You moved out.
You have a decent job.
You actually got married — and you married up!
People laugh at your jokes. Ok, some of them.
You actually do alright in social situations.
You seem to hold your own in conversations.
There’s those big words you use, but that’s, well, you just like books.
You talk. A lot.
You at least have an idea of empathizing.
You’re, I guess you could say ‘almost’ normal?
Folks, I’ve had close to 20 years since I found out I was autistic. And I’ve known I was different long before that.
Time. Experience. Practice. Mistakes. Correction.
There are aspects of who I am, who we are, that won’t change.
I’ve not gotten less autistic.
I’ve just had time to work long and hard on adapting, adjusting, keeping up appearances, functioning.
For those of us on the high-functioning side, we’re sometimes accused of faking our autism.
But more often than not, we’re having to fake being “normal.”
That’s where ‘masking’ comes in.
Masking is where autistic people drastically adjust their behaviors to mask their symptoms. Some of us do it more than others.
Things like finding a spot on someone’s face to stare at to approximate eye-contact. A painstakingly-rehearsed repertoire of small-talk to give off the appearance of social comfort. Mimicking normal behaviors. Finding places to sit or otherwise be occupied so we’re not caught pacing, flapping, or otherwise repetitively twitching while we talk. Reaching out to others out of the blue. Doing research on people we’ll be meeting so we can find ways to get them talking so we don’t have to.
Why? To pass as normal. To retreat from awkwardness. To fit in. To be accepted.
It’s exhausting. I don’t know how you neurotypical people do it.
But I know how I do it. I’ve needed a mask, something that goes beyond Hunter.
My mask is practically Batman (or Daredevil, as befits the image). It’s become its own thing nowadays.
You may have seen it.
It’s why some people think I’m a great raconteur, an entertainer, and (at work anyway) a well-connected, gregarious individual who can light up a room and spin the conversational wheel of fortune around the table.
But that is itself a mask, an emblem, a symbol.
My mask has a name: H2.
. . . to be continued