People on the Asperger’s/autism spectrum often find ourselves under scrutiny we didn’t ask for and don’t necessarily want. Some of us respond to this (understandably) by digging in our heels and giving ourselves permission to be ourselves in the public eye, no matter who’s watching. However, for a variety of reasons, others of us (also understandably) find ourselves unable or unwilling to do that. Perhaps to set ourselves completely free while out in the open isn’t feasible or comfortable.
Personally, I would love nothing more than to exist in a more-evolved world that doesn’t judge my book based on my cover and doesn’t fixate on my surface attributes. Although things are slowly (or rapidly?) changing, the world is not quite there yet. So for now, short of an enlightened world, I might be content (for now) with the ability to be invisible, whether this ability is a supernatural fantasy or an attainable reality. I’ll explain… 🙂
There was a time in my life during which I battled with myself. (Surprising? I think not.) On one hand, I wanted to be noticed–but not in a way in which I stuck out; rather, in a way in which I stood out. (There’s a difference between sticking and standing.) Standing out implies an air of acceptance, of admiration. I hardly ever got to do that. Instead, I stuck out, the stereotypical wallflower, the butt of the joke, the cheese who always ended up alone.
I wanted, for once, just once, to be recognized for whatever it was I was trying to offer to the world at the time. Unlike the stereotypical Asperger’s/autism diagnostic criteria, I was (and still am) interested in attempting to show my elders my accomplishments, whether it was an expansive Lego town, a score of music, a fictional short story, a colorful educational handout, or a blog post or ten. Having been made fun of so often, I was starving for attention in a positive form–the warm fuzzy kind. Simple dismissive nods and “that’s nice” or a “mmm-hmm” didn’t satisfy the hunger, either.
As I grew up, I drew inward, slightly. I learned, through painful experience, that as much as I yearned for some type of healthy interaction, some sort of recognition of my efforts, some type of positive reinforcement, that maybe what Other People seemed to receive so effortlessly was simply going to be a limited commodity for me. And I also learned that since most of my interaction with practically anyone in “real life” was going to be more likely to be neutral-to-negative, the safest strategy for me would be to withdraw and spiral inward, existing mostly inside myself.
I saw the first Harry Potter movie, once or twice, neither time in its entirety. But I did catch the parts in which the invisible cloak was revealed. Instantly, I wished it had actually existed, and I wanted one.
An invisible cloak would come in quite handy. If you’re wearing one, you could walk into a room where people are talking about you, and you could be privy to the whole story, for better or worse. It might hurt, but you’d know in no uncertain terms where you stood. If you’re wearing one, you could slip in and out anywhere, eavesdropping on meetings taking place behind closed doors, privileging yourself to top-secret information. An entire world of unabashed information would be open to you.
But alas, such a cloak does not exist. It might be a while before it does, and it will take longer to become realistically accessible, if it ever does. But that’s OK; for now, I’ve found my own ways to compensate for the lack of such an invention in my life by taking care not to stand out memorably, using strategies such as wearing semi-drab clothing colors, plainly stowing my hair into a low and unimpressive ponytail, driving an average older truck that does not attract any attention, and saying little. If I can’t have an invisible cloak, then I might as well attempt to emulate its effects as best I can.
Being invisible might have felt lonely and defeatist to me as a child, as though I were giving up and giving in far too easily and prematurely. But as an adult, I realize that there are serious benefits to failing to be noticed, to remaining a well-kept secret, despite sometimes having to venture into the world’s plain view. In fact, it can be immensely liberating.
If I’m invisible, then the following is possible, even likely:
No one notices me.
No one judges me, with cold prickly eyes; no one points at me, with cold prickly fingers.
No one makes fun of me. No one criticizes me. No one ostracizes me. No one calls attention to me.
No one sees that I’m different. When you’re invisible, no one knows the difference.
I can do my own thing, without interruption, without judgment.
I can be myself. I don’t have to assess every aspect of myself and check it against the list of attributes that I imagine/anticipate the world will find “passable”. I don’t have to try to conjure up a persona that projects to the world a Likeable Me.
I don’t have to think on my feet. I can shy away from snap decisions and take my time instead. My thoughts can assume a life of their own and they can swirl, drift, ebb, and flow at their leisure.
I don’t have to explain my thoughts or “translate” them to “NT”. I can think in my own language, and my thought process can take on its own form. I don’t have to justify myself or figure out how to explain a backstory in terms that other people might (or might not) have a prayer of comprehending.
I don’t have to mask. I don’t have to act.
I can think straight, without becoming distracted by other peoples’ intrusion.
I can stim. I can play with my hair, without anyone staring at me, asking me “why do you do that?” or making comments along the lines of “when you’re sitting there, playing with your hair…”
I can mumble to myself, without anyone questioning my sanity or thinking I’m strange.
I can play my mental jukebox, without anyone interrupting the track as it plays in my head.
I can ponder the mysteries of the universe, without anyone derailing the long train of thought.
I can brainstorm solutions to the world’s problems–again, without derailment.
The list of benefits of being invisible goes on and on, unlocking a chain here, snapping free a chain there, liberating the individual from an internal (and/or internalized?) psychological slavery of sorts. I realized that the desire to stand out and be noticed is actually a mainstream society value, a social construct, established by the masses as an “ideal” “standard” that the world at large “should” ascribe to “live up to”. And since I realized long ago that the mainstream world is generally full of shizz, I called their arbitrary social constructs into question, too.
And what I realized is that their framework of social constructs is actually more like a house of cards, a straw man. And one little breeze in its direction will expose it for what it is: a crock, for the most part. Posturing and contesting never really appealed to me, but that’s what attention-seeking (d)evolves to be. I imagine that those who yearned for attention as children but never received it, and failed to recognize the absurdity of the societal constructs, might have been the ones who aged into drama-stirring partners, pot-stirring family members, two-faced friends, and back-stabbing coworkers. As people on the Asperger’s/autism spectrum, I surmise that the chances of our becoming such adults are probably much lower. (That’s not a statement along an “us vs them” “pride” or superiority vibe; it’s just a neutral, matter-of-fact observation of the phenomenon as I perceive it.)
The world might be a different (and potentially, a better) place if people realized somewhere along the way that it’s OK to be invisible, that it can be healthy and freeing, that it can be permissive and pressure-free. Stress levels have a “mysterious” way of dropping, as does my muscle tension. My fuse lengthens, my resilience strengthens, and my soul sings. Maybe not all the time, but much more often than I think it otherwise might have. 🙂