This is a true story, and one that I still find really funny!
This is when I was in Grade 8 (12 -13 years old) and all of the students had been preparing for a presentation oral and the purpose was to come up with some kind of ‘ad’.
I chose to do my ad on skincare for women, particularly mothers.
Backstory to this story, is that when I was about 8-9 years old, I had taught myself how to read by reading Garfield comic books (thank you Jim Davis!) Before I came across Garfield, I couldn’t read, most likely because I didn’t find the books all that interesting. But after a family friend gave me a copy of Garfield, I sat in my room looking at the pictures, working out the words and laughing hysterically. The fat, naughty cat was hilarious. It wasn’t long before I had requested my mother to buy more Garfield books that I had become a proficient reader, including knowing words like ‘anvil’ (referring to when Garfield said “release the anvil!”)
Back to the present story in Grade 8, I developed what I thought was a hilarious and catchy ad for skin care. The teacher had warned me multiple times that my opening line was NOT funny and might be offensive, but I insisted on reading it out to everyone…because it had its origins from one of the Garfield comic book stories and I thought it was hilarious!
I read the opening line and was expecting the class to roar with laughter but this is what happened…
Me to class: “Does your mother look like she’s been dragged through a mulberry bush backwards?!“
Funnily enough, the class didn’t find it funny. A few of the kids looked shocked. I just assumed that none of them had senses of humour.
Back then, I had no idea that I was autistic. But now I do. I can kind of appreciate why the teacher had tried to warn me against reading out the opening line, but, I still think it’s bloody funny! Even though no one laughed, I’m glad I went ahead with it.
Since my diagnosis of Autistic Spectrum Disorder at the ripe old age of 34, things are starting to ad up with respect to my past. This is a slow process and requires a kind of interpersonal ‘migration’ – the missing pieces coming together over time of so many events that I could not understand back then.
The fact that I wanted to play games with other girls, but have them all follow MY rules, because to me, my imaginary play story was so much better than theirs. Needless to say they didn’t like it very much and I didn’t have many friends.
The fact that I would observe other girls social interactions, thinking that they had some kind of social ‘secret code’ that I had to find a way to unlock or discover. Trying to mimic them did not help me one bit, as it just seemed to be obvious and I could sense that they knew I was some sort of social impostor and a bit odd.
The fact that even now, I find it difficult staying focused on others stories that don’t interest me, without trying to change the subject. This includes me telling a story and the other person talking about my story for too long…I quickly move on to another topic of interest, like a lightning bolt! Thankfully most of my friends are quirky or neurodiverse and their stories and lives interest me and they also are wonderful people who are a little similar.
The fact that when I was a teenager, I felt really stressed having one of my school friend’s over, because it meant that I would have to entertain them or speak with them. I just remember these girls thinking I was weird. I much preferred when I had two of them over, so that they could entertain themselves.
The fact that on my bedroom wall, was an enormous amount of individual philosophy quotes (like the whole wall was covered) with quotes from Socrates to Zeno the Paradox man (that’s what I call him, but his real name is Zeno of Elea). I was interested in philosophy, ancient Egypt, my family history, the Titanic, the French Resistance and WWII.
The fact that when I was in high school, I would excuse myself from my friendship group and go to the library to “study”. Everyone thought that I was really smart, because I went to the library every day during lunch break. I remember choosing a book that I wasn’t really going to read and pretend to read, so as to be left alone. I needed a break from the overwhelm of all the people, noise and lunch-time goings on. This is how I survived high school.
The fact that I LOVE being alone. Like really alone. There is nothing more peaceful and energising than being completely alone (like not alone in a room, but having the whole house to yourself kind of alone).
I also remember at school only loving rainy days as it would always seem like the day would go so much quicker and be over in a flash. I hated sunny days, because they felt like they went on and on. I also thought that sunny days looked too “chalky”. My mother would ask me all the time what that meant…I still can’t describe it, but sunny days still look a little too “chalky”. My favourite days are still rainy days and always will be. I hate wind! Subtle breezes are okay, but windy days are cause for irritation.
I remember picking up on strange ‘people patterns’. From the age of 8 I could tell whether my mother was in a happy mood and going to have a good day or whether she was in a bad mood, based of the types of the clothes she wore. Whenever she would wear ‘sporty’ clothes, she would be happy. Anything else, and it was anyone’s guess. I remember demanding Mum to change into her ‘sporty’ clothes to ensure that the day went well! Mum would just laugh but thankfully she would comply when I requested it.
I remember weird sensory issues as well. Like when I was about 5-6 years old I could not understand how or why people would wear their underwear over their bums. To me it was the most uncomfortable sensation. I would walk around with my undies on, but just under my bum cheeks (never pulled up). My mother thought it was hilarious and would always try to pull them up, but they would be straight back down just under my bum cheeks again. I can’t remember the day this changed, but I certainly remember the uncomfortable feeling of undies. I hated socks too! Socks were the enemy.
I remember taking ages to get dressed and get shoes on. One Saturday morning my mother promised that we would be going to a theme park, however, I apparently took 3 hours to put my shoes on. I remember that day too. The shoes were next to me, however, I got lost in my imagination and the amazing stories that I dreamed up. Apparently I came out 3 hours later to see my Mum as I was ready to go, but was told because I took that long, the trip was off.
I remember being VERY sensitive to colour and combinations of colour as a kid, particularly in clothes. I only wanted to wear pretty dresses that had soft pink and soft purple/lilac in them. They were my favourite colours. But my clothing range, unfortunately included browns, reds and yellows – these were all loud colours and I hated them. Anytime I wore them I had a bad day and felt miserable. I sometimes have this aversion to colour now, however, I am also affected by the shape of clothing. If I wear anything that fits me well, but it’s just the wrong shape or is awkward to wear and not comfortable, then my whole day will feel wrong.
I remember my family offering me Milo when I was little. I would get so upset with them for calling it Milo, because to me they were saying “My Lo” and therefore the correct name of the drink was “Your Lo”. Eventually it became “Ugg Lo” but I don’t remember the rationale behind that….I’m pretty sure there was a logical reason for it though lol.
These are some of the ‘aha’ moments over a very long time. I’ll no doubt think of more as time goes on, however, I do now wonder whether my life would have gone differently had I known back then what I know now.
I believe autistic people have amazing senses of humour and perspectives and insights, which are rich with a different kind of information, because we think and process the world differently.
And the world needs different.