I got back home exactly a week ago, and I’ve had some time since then to settle back in to normal life and its normal rhythm. (I use the word “normal” fairly loosely, as my life isn’t exactly normal.) 🙂
So…how did that first Christmas since learning that I’m autistic/an Aspie turn out? (Content Warning/Advisory: references to alcohol, for those struggling with this issue or in recovery.)
Well, it was…
I had been a less-significant outsider up until this point; that is to say that I don’t feel like an integral part of The Family at large, which is OK. I’ve never been able to relate well to them; I’ve never understood them. And in turn, I’m sure that they’ve never really understood me. It’s nobody’s fault, per se, and I’m not even sure it’s necessarily a bad thing. It’s not even as bitter as it might sound.
This year, nobody breathed a word, except the newcomer to the family, a longtime older girlfriend of a cousin, neither of whom anybody pays much attention to, either. The girlfriend is nice enough and we get along OK, maybe because we’re both “live and let live”-type people and the rest of the family seems to shy away from us. Maybe we each sense that on a particular level. So, we’re fairly chummy, except that she’s more of the clingy sort and I’m not. People have cautioned me about her, though, claiming that she says things that don’t add up. Those same people have also judged me harshly and inaccurately, though, so I take everything with grains (or bulk bins) of salt.
Everybody pretty much went on as usual. Loud, boisterous voices between people with genetic hearing losses, going on about every subject except politics because family members are sharply divided on that subject, and we wouldn’t want to have an incident involving the turkey carving knife, now, would we?
Everybody headed for the alcohol (including myself, toward the wine, which, besides the blue eyes and maiden name, are where the similarities between myself and the rest of my family come to a screeching halt). Wine somehow makes them more bearable. It helps that I hardly drink as a general practice, so it doesn’t take much (by way of quantity or time) for the blanket to settle over me. Not that I recommend this in general as a coping skill. Hopefully, someday soon, I wouldn’t need coping skills in the first place.
Everybody broke up into their little groups and schmoozed. Not having a signature group to belong to, I circulated about the split-level house (which was entirely too warm) under the guise of my Social Butterfly “app”, which would have worked better in old Microsoft DOS as opposed to my sleek Mac-tinged Aspie/Autistic OS. I drifted aimlessly and without anchor from group to group, wandering off after politely mumbling something when I got bored (refilling the wine glass comes in handy here, as does helping myself to more finger-foods).
The usual survival strategies applied. Beware being seen for too long with the one who’s accused of making stuff up, and don’t believe everything they say (if I’m to believe the people who advised me this). Beware of the two-faced aunt who is nice to you in person but then cuts you down later behind your back to other people. Beware the cousin with the angry eyes, because they could snap at any moment (his expression is similar to the mug shot of a serial killer, even though my cousin themselves is not one). The cousin going into med school is smart and cool, but someone must’ve gotten to them because they talked to me a couple years ago but won’t talk to me much now. Let the little one do your hair because they’re all about appearances and they want to make you look like a princess or queen. Yeah, OK, that’s fine; I’ll humor them.
Then it’s game-playing time, during which everybody gathers in a large living room and pulls cups that contain little candy bars, and trinkets. I think I got a little black plastic spider. I’m pretty sure I gave it away or conveniently left it somewhere.
And then it’s Guy Gift and Girl Gift time. All you need is a plate (paper plates work fine) and two dice, and one cisgender-appropriate gift. Put your gift in the middle with the others, and sit in a circle (everybody of one gender at a time; the females went first, and then the males). The plate holds the dice and gets passed around the circle. Each person rolls the dice and if you roll 7, 11, or doubles, you choose a gift from the pile (don’t unwrap it) in the middle of the circle (if you don’t roll 7, 11, or doubles, you simply pass the plate). Once you already have a gift, you pass the plate without rolling. Once everybody has a gift, then the plate makes two more rounds around the circle, giving the dice-roller a chance to steal another’s gift (by trading), if they roll the 7, 11, or doubles. Once that’s finished, you’re done, and you unwrap your gifts. Of course, you can exchange gifts consensually with someone after that, or you can even choose to give your gift to someone if you don’t want it and you don’t want theirs.
The game is cool in that it’s financially easier – you bring a single gift, with a $25-USD limit. You go home with a single gift (if you haven’t given it away after unwrapping, which most people don’t–they keep them).
The game is annoying in that it gathers a big crowd together at once, all eyes are on you when it’s your turn to roll the dice, and it’s divvied up by gender, which I think is a bit arbitrary and ridiculous, but that’s just me. Nobody else in my family seems to bat an eye.
I had additional restrictions on what type of gift I could bring – it had to be flat, light, and TSA-acceptable (I was traveling by air with limited luggage space and a baggage weight limit, hence the “flat” and “light” criteria, and our Transportation Security Agency (or whatever the hell they’re calling themselves this week) is pretty persnickety about what types of items you can pack in your suitcase; I’ve had butterknives, toothpaste, and mechanic tools all confiscated!).
Additionally, I run this little operating system called Asperger’s/autism and I’m either the only one in my family who does, or perhaps I’m one of two (and she doesn’t have a clue that she might be). Thus, I have no earthly clue what another female might like. To complicate matters more, the age range of the female participants ranges from a very immature 20 (a second cousin) to 93 (my gramma). So, not only does it have to be “suitable for girls”, but it also has to be something that would be palatable for an age-span of 73 years. Yeah…
And then there was a little more schmoozing, during which the Queen Anne’s chocolate cherries (in sweet syrup) had the audacity to go down the wrong way, which burned like hell and for a while, I was having a very difficult (and loud/noisy) time breathing. Ugh – apparently, God(dess), hadn’t gotten my memo where I had specifically said that I didn’t want to draw attention to myself! Even though we had a conversation about this well in advance.
And then, just like that, it was over. Only about four hours this year. That’s probably the shortest Christmas celebration we’ve ever had in our family. (Three cheers for celebrating it on a weekday after the actual holiday, when everyone’s expected to be back at work!) There was no dinner to have to work around (I have food reactivity issues – diagnosed Celiac), just finger-foods, of which there was a decent variety. There were no long, drawn-out conversations that lingered well into the wee hours of the night. There was no loud-arse football (American NFL football, which I can’t stand) to have to endure; I didn’t have to wince involuntarily every time someone fumbled or made a touchdown. It was actually somewhat lovely, considering.
It’s actually OK to be on the periphery of the family sometimes. 🙂