My mom always said, “never assume. Look at the way it’s spelled. To assume makes an ‘ass’ out of ‘u’ and ‘me’.”
Cliche, I know. But my mom was completely right.
(And besides, hearing your mom say “ass” when you’re six years old is pretty cool.)
It’s amazing how much the neurotypical (“NT”, aka non-autistic) world assumes about a person based on their (perceived) gender. (I wrote “perceived” in quotes, because looks can be deceiving, especially when one doesn’t look beyond the surface.)
Since I was little, I railed against stereotypical socially-constructed “gender roles” (god, I even despise the term!). I would think to myself (around the age of kindergarten, mind you), “what–just because I’m a girl, I have to wear a dress to Grandma’s??” Even the word “dress” tasted bad in my mouth. Yuck.
And what’s this Barbie doll crap? I wanted to play with Legos.
“Well, that’s nothing,” some might be saying. “That doesn’t make you Aspergian/autistic; lots of non-spectrum girls play with Legos, too.” (And I agree. You’d have a point there.)
And I also wanted to play with Matchbox cars. And I even subscribed to Motor Trend when I was 14.
And I played video games, lots of. Mostly involving racing and role-playing.
And I prefer “Armageddon” to “Deep Impact” (different movies, same storyline; apparently the former was considered the “version for guys”, and the latter was considered the “version for women”…or something).
And I wanted to play with the guys instead of the girls. Girls had too much drama, too much baggage for my tastes. I wanted to run around and act rambunctious for a while. I (really) resented being told to “act like a lady”. What the fudge? I wasn’t a lady yet; I was still a kid.
I have a lot more to say about my own Gender Identity Journey, but I’ll save that for another time.
For today’s purposes, let’s consider my little tirade above to be an “intro” of sorts for a numbered list! (I love making lists.)
Today, without further adieu, I’m going to count off ten words/phrases/concepts/questions that made me cringe, starting at a surprisingly young age.
(From here, this post has a PG or PG-13 rating, because, well, it’s about assumptions society makes based on the anatomically female, and I’m in (very much) a “tell it like it is” mood .)
1 – Talking about (my) “eventual marriage” like it’s a “given” (when I was a kid and younger adult). Yes, I got legally married. Yep, I’m happy. But when I was a kid, people would make inferences about my “future husband”. I know, I know – practically every adult does that, and practically everyone has experienced that. But for some reason, it rubbed me the wrong way. I sort of bucked up against the assumption. I thought to myself, “how do you even know I’m going to get married?”
2 – Even worse, automatically assuming I’m going to have kids. A lot of people on the spectrum do have children, and they make damn fine parents. Their kids often turn out a damn sight better than many of the other kids out there. But just as prominently, a lot of us don’t have children. For many, it’s a conscious and deliberate choice not to.
For some, it’s because we may feel uneasy, anxious, or overwhelmed around kids. Others just know that raising children isn’t “in the cards” for them. The phrase “when you have kids of your own…” sounded very discordant to me throughout my life, like fingernails on a chalkboard. Then it became, “so…are you planning to have any kids?” Cue the fumbling for the right words to walk the perfect tightrope between really wanting to give them a piece of my mind for being so intrusive, and yet trying not to come off as a rude, irate child-hater (which I’m not, but if I give any other answer than a specific timeframe, I might sound like one to them). Eventually, a medical condition stepped in and had its way, resulting in an operation that now stops those conversations fairly short, and gives me an “acceptable” excuse to boot.
3 & 4 – Assuming I’m obsessed with 3) clothing and 4) – shopping. What I know about clothing: it’s warm, and it covers my body, giving me comfort, modesty, and a material barrier between my body and the world. I know that shirts go over the top, and pants come up from the bottom. They wash themselves in this tumbly-machine thingy when I push a button. They get dry, warm, and toasty in another tumbly-machine thingy when I push another button, and when I put them on right afterward, it feels really good in the winter. Oh, and clothes should match, at least somewhat. They also need to fit comfortably. And for the love of god, remove those irritating tags! That’s what I know.
Beyond that, I don’t think about clothing; after all, good clothing doesn’t require me to have to think much about it. I don’t think much about shopping, and I don’t think much of it, either, other than it seems like a “religion” in Western civilization, because the rest of the world seems to do way too much of it, and way too often. The resultant crowds aren’t much of a blast for me; if I knew clothing would fit me perfectly, I’d buy more of it online.
5 – Giving me advice about makeup, or suggesting that I should wear it. Just who was it that decided that (almost exclusively) females should paint their faces with this oily-powdery-slimy-dusty stuff every day? Do we have to spend that much time, money, and effort on this pointless activity just to “earn” the right to venture out of our homes? Are we no better than chopped liver if we don’t? I never understood the point. I do have a big book by a big-shot makeup artist who has done some neat conceptual cosmetic photography, but other than that slight academic interest, I don’t give makeup a second thought. NT society, hear this: I’m not wearing makeup, and I’m not “weird” for refusing to do so. Turning the tables a little, I think that the world at large is actually somewhat “weird” for making half (and only half) the population apply “war paint” just to go face the outside world.
6 – Expecting me to be “into” hair and nails. My one luxury is my hair; it’s long and nature gave me the exact opposite of what I wanted (way to go, nature!), which dictates that I have my hair professionally…dealt with. But I don’t do mud masks, body wraps, oil treatments, manicures, or pedicures (seriously, the latter would tickle and bother me way too much! I’d never make it through a treatment). I have friends that get their nails done every few weeks, for 60 US dollars or more. Seriously? That’s hundreds per year (at least I think so; I’m too lazy to crank out the actual math at the moment). I can think of a lot more suitable (for me) ways to spend that cash.
7 – Assuming that I idolize (or should idolize) and keep up with all of the female “celebrities” like Kim Kartrashian and everybody else. Why?? What are they doing that is so impressive? Are they changing the world? Curing cancer? Inventing a ram scoop engine? Developing free energy? Publishing a study? Helping the needy? Starting a social movement? Seeing God? Somebody please tell me, because the cultural obsession with these icons is completely lost on me. And–what, just because we might share some (for me, useless) anatomy, I’m now supposed to hold them up high as some role model? Yikes….no.
8 – Expecting me to be more nurturing, as opposed to that expected of a male. I encountered this a lot as a licensed massage therapist (LMT). I was completely oblivious to this before becoming licensed. I was surprised when it dawned on me that some massage therapy clients choose female LMTs because they have this perception that somehow we (anatomically female therapists) are more gentle and nurturing, like we’re automatically going to hold their hand or something, just because we both have boobs. They were kind of taken aback that my brain worked a bit more on the “logical” side than the average NT woman expected. I liked all my clients a lot, but I especially clicked with the guys, on a very platonic and professional level.
9 – Expecting me to be more “emotional” and “touchy-feely”. Don’t get me wrong; I am actually pretty “huggy”, especially for an Aspie. Hell, I don’t always need permission to be hugged (I meant that in a literal, genuine and respectful way). I do love physical touch, especially from the right people. My family was always very affectionate with each other (even my Dad and me, when we weren’t arguing lol), and I’ve carried that into my adult life.
And as I’ve mentioned (probably a few times or more) before, I do have deep emotions (as I figure most of us in the Asperger’s/autism community do). But I don’t get “all emotional” about everything quite the way that NT females do. I feel really “flat” (as in, “flat affect”) around them, as our differences become more obvious and the invisible canyon yawns wider. Next to them, sometimes I feel like I’m “missing” something. But then I turn the tables again, and decide that I’m not missing anything anymore than they’re invisibly smothered in something extra. It’s probably a little of both.
10 – Assuming we know how to cook. I know that there are plenty of Aspie/autistic people who are dynamite in the kitchen, foodies galore. I kind of envy them, for I’m a Tasmanian Devil. If there’s something to spill, knock over, or drop, then my arm, hip, or foot will find it. It’s like a magnetic attraction or something.
This gets very dicey in the kitchen, where Big Heat comes out of the Big Box (stove) and refrigerator doors are still made of metal (ouch!). I must’ve known about this disharmony instinctively, because I never even asked my mom to teach me how to make anything for myself. The extent of my culinary prowess was to melt some shredded cheese over restaurant-style tortilla chips in a microwave (23 seconds, if you’re interested). One day I got really ballsy and made myself some quesadillas (a Mexican-style appetizer dish that folds a circular tortilla onto itself, grilled in an electric skillet or fry pan (no oil), with cheese and whatever meat or veggies you want in between the layers; pic below); as you might expect, mine were the “cheese-only” kind. I wasn’t going to get “all fancy” with vegetables or meat; I was going out on a long enough limb already just by turning on the electric skillet.
Yep, the far-reaching set of assumptions people make about somebody just because they have fleshy out-pouchings in specific places…will probably make me scratch my head for the rest of my life.
Party on. 🙂