They don’t even know they’re sexist…

gis-surveyHere’s the sad truth about any systemic discrimination:  it’s systemic.  That means that it’s embedded on a cultural level to such a degree that you cannot escape from it, your attitudes are shaped by it, and you are complicit in it unless you are completely aware of yourself and your surroundings.  It’s a tall order, yes, but it’s the vital understanding that will take it down.

I’m going to share a conversation I had on Facebook recently.  It got a little heated, but I think it’s important to see the full scope.  (Warning, it’s a little long.)

It started with this article about how the UN sent a team of investigators to find out how bad American women had it.  They found out that we’ve got it pretty fuckin’ bad.  And then every single male who read that article turned around and said that we, the women, were being too sensitive and that it wasn’t that bad.

I’m completely not kidding.  (Names are redacted, initials remain.  First letter is the gender of the respondent.)

MMC: Completely selective. First of all I’m sure that there are plenty of countries around the world that treat women like absolute shit that will never get mentioned in an article like this because it doesn’t fit the agenda. Secondly, there are millions of men in this country that will stomp a mud hole in someone’s ass for disrespecting women, mistreating them, assaulting them… I believe the assholes are outnumbered. I won’t say that women are treated 100% equally in all areas, but I certainly don’t think women are treated poorly in this country either.

FAW: I wish I could agree with you…  But as far as developed nations go we rank incredibly low. It’s not selective either…  Here in Washington a law was just voted into effect that allows guns to be temporarily removed from people convicted of domestic assault, the severely mentally ill, and it still doesn’t cover everything that ought to be. But it’s a step forward…  In my time in Texas alone I can tell you from experience that women are treated like second class citizens especially when it comes to reproductive rights.  I cannot think of a single woman I know, that hasn’t been assaulted sexually or molested in some way. Most of those assaults go unreported because of fear of personal attack, fear of loss of reputation etc. Even when someone steps forward and accuses their rapist the victims entire life is dissected and she doesn’t receive the support she needs.

And as far as women receiving maternity leave? Please tell me out of developed free nations where do we rank for paid time off for having a child? Tell me do I have to go into a restroom to feed my baby? If not do I experience public criticism or ridicule for feeding my child naturally? These are things that most women experience… Daily.  And here in the states? People still feel comfortable writing articles stating that women’s lives were destroyed by the invention of the washing machine.

Ask your wife if she felt she got enough paid time off to spend with your little girl when she was first born. Ask her about her experiences in her daily life and if she feels like she’s got the same exact rights or if she feels that childcare isn’t ridiculously expensive. I know I was incredibly fortunate to have family, my mother, look after my son when I had to go back to work after he was born. I know I couldn’t have afforded childcare at all and I have friends in that situation.  Ask other women and get a more in depth look at how they are treated by society and by their states as a whole. I think it might surprise you.  While I have no doubt at all that you and many others I know would go after anyone who treated a woman badly, that does not mean those men don’t exist. It also doesn’t mean that there aren’t an abundance of them either. It means that your experience is a blinder for what others experience…

It’s kind of like coming up to Washington from Texas. I was shocked at portion sizes here and the quality of the food. I was shocked at the air quality and water quality as well. And I’m so grateful I moved…  While I lived there I had blinders on to other perspectives because I was living in it and it was what I knew and experienced. Once I left and especially now that I’ve been here for a little while my health in general has improved so dramatically and it’s been environmental and social changes that have shocked me the most.  As an example…  When I started talking to people here they had never heard of an ozone alert day… or fracking. Or that tap water can be so contaminated that it can be set on fire. That simply is so foreign here that it doesn’t happen. It shocked people I spoke with to hear that these things were happening in Texas and in other parts of the country.  That’s basically living with blinders because it’s not part of your experience… but it doesn’t mean it isn’t happening. They just weren’t aware of it until they received the information about it.

As a woman my experience growing up was vastly different from men. The majority of women I know had similar if not exactly the same experiences I did as well. And the men in their lives were simply unaware of what they dealt with unless they were told or heard about some off experience and asked. I’m simply asking you to ask the women around you about their experiences and see if your perspective is accurate or if you haven’t had that information to form your opinion.

(FAW goes on to cite sources: Victims of Sexual Violence statistics, Domestic Violence and Firearms, Pew Research)

Now, I’m going to jump around a little because this is a BIG conversation, but bear with me.

FDS: MMC, there is a huge difference between your type of treating women with respect and the overarching systemic denial of rights, services, opportunity, equality, and safety that the article refers to. I think every American woman has experienced this type of fundamental prejudice, and for some, it’s so pervasive that they don’t even realize how much is wrong with it.  I do appreciate that you believe the “good men” outnumber the “assholes”, but good men with bad cultural training can still act like assholes – and do, constantly, everyday. Because it’s so normalized, they don’t even realize how much damage it can do. FAW gave some excellent examples, but don’t think for a moment that the article suffers from sample size error or bias. That shit is real, and it’s going to get worse.

MMC: For every guy out there that mistreats a woman (from verbal abuse all the way up to physical) there are hundreds, perhaps thousands, around that person who don’t. I understand that for women who have been victims that it’s a horrible thing and should never happen, but I feel like there isn’t enough credit given to the progress that we have made. There are many ways that we lag behind other countries, education, race relations, the list.could go on. Things are different by region here too, it’s not all bad all over. In general this is the best country to live in for anyone. It’s not perfect, but no place is.

FDS: But that’s not what that article is about. It’s addressing systemic inequality- lack of pay, no equal treatment, no equal opportunity, lack of access to decent care… individuals may speak to their own behavior, but if you know your daughter or sister or wife is never going to be treated with the same dignity and respect as you from the system that they live in, and your excuse to not speak out against it is that YOU think you treat women well, or you think the majority of men treat women well, you are complicit.

MMC:  I don’t believe that. I believe that my wife and daughter can get equal care and treated with dignity. I think this article is over generalizing things based on a few bad experiences.

FDS: I’m so sorry, but I can tell you from not only many years of personal experience but also from observing peers locally and in many states, your observation is not accurate. This is not a generalization and this is not a limited problem. Here’s an example: I applied for a job several years ago as a web developer. At the time, I’d worked hard, studied hard, and had a great resume. I was given the interview because of some internal policy, but the lady conducting it told me that I likely wouldn’t get the job because the department was a “boys’ club” and even if I did, I’d be looking at about $27K a year. Do a math and you’ll realize that that’s just not sufficient for a single mom with two kids. Fast forward maybe three, four months, and I suggest that same OPEN position to a male friend – same experience, same training – and he walks in at $42K.

This isn’t isolated, and this isn’t extreme. It’s called everything EXCEPT gender discrimination so that people don’t say “hey, that’s discrimination!”, but it’s still there. This is the very definition of privilege, Matthew, that you cannot see a problem exists just because it hasn’t happened to you. That’s not a dig or meant to be mean, but it does mean that you have an opportunity to see a bigger picture.

Your daughter and your wife most likely will NOT get equal care as males would throughout their lives, and I promise that being treated with dignity is also a crapshoot.

And then someone said that global warming was more important and us women were just being a bunch of fuckin’ whiners, and I may have called him a penis-waving meatbag because I decided to drop the pretense and treat him with the same respect with which he was treating me, but without the double-talk.  Here’s the other part:

MST: I just read the first half of this article and I get the impression that these three women were intending to have a negative opinion anyway. First of all, American women have come a long way in getting their rights in this country. Yeah, they had to fight tooth and nail to get all of their rights but how many other countries allow their women to join the military and fight along side men on the battlefield? How many countries other than America, Russia, Australia, and Israel allow women be astronauts and go into space, serve in government positions, or be police officers?? I know women get underpaid in some jobs but America has made tremendous strides in letting women do many things. I think these three women had a bias going in.

FDS: … oh my god, read the rest of the comments here. And, okay, we have the right to vote, but good luck having a vagina and not having to work at least twice as hard as your male counterparts to get almost as far. Unless you have a child, in which case you are forced to make the most impossible choice between family and career, and you’re fucked either way because the man that doesn’t live like household chores might shrink his penis is a rare and precious beast (one might even say mythical).  If you, a male, think these ladies are “being biased”, but we, the females, are suggesting that maybe their report didn’t go far enough because we recognize that level of fuckedness all too well, which of us do you think is going to be the actual authority on that problem?

MMC: Rare and precious beast – mythical even? Plenty of men support their wives, marriage is a partnership after all. I cook, I do dishes, I changed diapers until recently when our little lady stopped wearing them. I mow the lawn, I fix broken stuff, feed animals, and I work two jobs. Maybe you can admit that at least part of the gender equality thing is perception.

FDS: It’s fucking not. Your privileged position might make YOU think so, but the fact that you – a guy – are trying to tell me – a gal – that I’m essentially overreacting to being treated like a second class citizen just because YOU don’t actively treat women like crap is the very foundation of the problem.  Again, the vast majority of women are looking at this report and saying, “finally someone notices we’re getting fucked”, and all the men are like, “eh, it’s not that bad, what’s the big deal.” Does THAT at least tell you something?

MMC: It doesn’t tell me anything. I am not priveleged and take exception to you saying it. Just like “white privelege”, my fucking ass. I worked hard to get where I am today and continue working to stay there. I’ve seen women get promoted in favor of me, many times, and I’ve seen plenty of others have the same opportunity to make the same or better money than their male counterparts and absolutely kill it. Are we perfect as a society? No, but don’t act like women are absolutely beaten down and spat upon in every corner of this country because it’s horse shit.

FDS: Wow, you really REALLY do not understand what privilege is, especially if you’re getting bent about it.

So, once again for the people in the back: Privilege is not having to suffer through a hardship because of your race, color, gender, or creed. It is not an affront against you to notice that you have privilege, but it’s also not a guarantee that you will be successful – you just have a much better probability of it.

Let me put it a different way, and maybe you’ll understand. The chances of you getting beaten and raped by someone you rejected romantically are pretty small. Not impossible, but really fucking small. The chances that your daughter or some other woman you know is going to be sexually and/or physically assaulted by someone they reject is pretty fucking high. You’ll be hard pressed to find any women who haven’t been harassed or raped, and even if it was one guy out of ten that they had to deal with, the damage is there. It’s done. It doesn’t go away.

But it gets better, because the chances of getting any kind of justice for that are slim. If YOU are mugged and raped in an alley, let’s say, and you actually come forward and report this to the police, they’re going to be out there beating the pavement looking for this “sicko”. Us? We get run through a fucking wringer of emotional hell after already being violated, and the chances of a conviction are LESS THAN TEN PERCENT IN MOST CASES. But YOU’RE not getting raped, so it’s not really a big deal, right?  THAT is privilege.

MMC: Okay now you’ve pissed me off. I know exactly what privilege is. Just because I’m a white male does not mean that I don’t have to endure hardships like everybody else. Sure I’m probably not ever going to get raped, or have to make hard decisions about a pregnancy, but my life isn’t all sunshine and fucking rainbows. Fuck you for implying that I’m stupid, or that I don’t give a shit that women get abused.

FDS: But that’s exactly what you said, that because you don’t do it, it can’t be as big a deal as we’re making it. Go back and read it for yourself.  Now, in fairness, I don’t believe you’re a bad man, MMC, but your words DID specifically state that you DON’T understand your privilege. Also, you’re not the only person following this conversation.

Discussions like this are meant to nudge feelings and opinions so that we might stand a chance of making the world a better place. It gets heated, it gets uncomfortable, and that’s good. You are never going to convince me that I’m not discriminated against because I deal with it all the time in so many ways and on so many levels – and that experience is echoed by every woman here.

And going back to privilege for just a moment, again, it’s not a dig at you to point out that you have it. Clearly, you’re not comfortable with it, but that doesn’t mean it’s not there or that you can in any way divorce yourself from it. You can, however, use it to level the playing field for your wife, your daughter, your friends in small and crucial ways. Our voices are not heard, especially in the political arena. Yours is. Use it responsibly by helping us be heard instead of using it to tell us that our abuses “aren’t that bad”.

FAW: MMC, the problem here is that you literally are trying to say that women don’t have this issue, and we as women are trying to tell you that yes it’s sadly accurate and it seems that you are denying or dismissing what we’ve been through. You sadly cannot actually know what we go through daily because you are male, and your experience in life will be distinctly different from our own. Do we go through what women in several other countries go through? Not to the extent that they have, obviously, but it also doesn’t mean that the way we are treated here in the United States is ok by any means.

I know you aren’t sexist, I know you aren’t a mysoginist, but regardless of if you aren’t a lot of others are. The fact that you don’t see it doesn’t mean you personally are an asshole or that all men are. You know I don’t feel that way and neither do I surround myself with people who are. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist because you don’t experience it or see it. Just as I will never understand the pressures of being male in our society you cannot understand fully what it is to be female either.  That is genetic…  However, what I’m asking is for you to talk to women around you to understand and to see what their experiences have been. I suspect you will find it is more harsh than you expected.

The Breakdown

Here’s why I wanted to share this:  I truly do not believe that MMC is an actively sexist jackhole.  In fact, I believe that he probably treats his wife and kid pretty well and that he works hard to provide for them.  The fact that he noticed that he “got passed over” for promotions by women and other non-status-quo individuals is telling:  He believed on some level that he should have gotten that promotion and, for whatever reason, didn’t.  He didn’t say, “I got passed over by a more qualified candidate” or “She had five years of seniority” or even “I just wasn’t in a good place right then to take a boost”.  He said he got passed over by a chick.

The nature of a systemic discrimination is that we are passively taught from a young age how to treat women, POCs, LGBTQIs, and anyone not Status Quo. The key word is “passively” because, most of the time, you don’t have a father saying, “Now, son, women are generally whiny bitches who don’t know how good they’ve got it, so make sure to shove them out of the way if they’re interfering with your progress.”  (I say “generally” because, you know, probabilities.)

MMC is a great example of this.

What could he do to advocate for women?  Get on the same type of trains they’re on.  Sign petitions, march in protests, call out his friends when they exhibit shitty behavior… is he going to get shit for it?  Yeah, probably, but every time you piss someone off, you shake up their world. If you do it right and you keep the conversation going instead of bowing out at the first sign of distress, you have a chance to make a difference, make an impression.  Sometimes it starts out really, really small and then snowballs, sometimes it’s an epiphany like a lightning bolt.  Sometimes it’s nothing at all.

But there’s no chance ever of that change happening if we remain complacent.  Signing off on men because they’re collectively a clench of assholes is actually not unreasonable (lots of experiences support that conclusion), but that doesn’t advance the cause.  It doesn’t get us anywhere.

Oh, yeah, and climate destabilization…

If we can’t wrap our brains around something like systemic sexism and start that change, we have even less chance of beating climate destabilization and the raping of the planet.  It’s the same privilege that says, “Why’s this so bad? It wasn’t that hot this year,” and there’s catastrophic flooding everywhere and hurricanes and himmicanes and wild fires and tornadoes… just not in YOUR backyard.

It’s all related, boys and girls.  The same sickness that gave us this systemic discrimination of non-Status Quos also gave us climate destabilization and a wide plethora of other social ills.  It’s all connected.  We can’t sit on our laurels and wring our hands about which of these tangled threads to pull.  We have to grab one and start unraveling it, or else it’ll be time to break out the scissors.

Writers write, waiters wait

One of the more “exciting” things about getting an autism identifier later in life is that you spent an enormous amount of time for the first several years trying to assess which of your behaviors are “you” and which are autistic tendencies.  It doesn’t help that there are often legitimate overlaps between those two things.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve had problems with a very mild form of dyspraxia.  That’s where you have problems with language, especially the speaking parts.  When I get stressed out, for instance, I tend to get a nasty stutter.  I have a really, really hard time finding the right word, even if I use it all the time.  There are a few words that have gotten “coded” into my brain wrong (caterpillar always comes out as “callipitar” and I have a really really hard time saying “cinnamon”), but overall, with a moment to collect myself, I can get the right words out in vaguely the right order.

However, I’ve also noticed of late that stress and writing are not fast friends, either.  I can be struck with a massive inspiration of OMG RITE AL TEH WOORDS!!, but those “woords” will utterly suck – and I won’t realize it until I’m way past it.  I’ve started going back and reading things that I thought were more pure stream-of-consciousness, and I can’t even figure out what the hell I was going on about.  (In a small fairness, I rarely if ever try to write stories while stressed out, so most of it’s pretty personal stuff.)

And then, enter in Goddamned November of Goddamned 2016.

Y’all know that’s writer-speak for National Novel Writing Month, and here’s this AMAZING sequel I need to get knocked out because look at all the fantastic support that “Middle of Nowhere” is getting.  So, I started writing “Shooting Blanks” as a November challenge, and also agreed to host a group at the Roanoke Library to get a community vibe going and garner and give support…

And then… Goddamned 2016, on a personal level.

My dear friend Jack lost his battle with kidney failure.  He wasn’t even close to 30 years old.

My husband spun out on a miscommunication and misunderstanding that went way the hell and gone too far on both sides.

The OAG decided that I didn’t actually need my money to take care of the kids that I have full-time custody of.

My “new” car developed multiple small but intensely irritating issues.

Oh, yeah, and how about hosting Thanksgiving for the whole family, which is not actually a big deal, unless you’re dealing with a surly husband who is actively NOT helping with anything AND also nursing a gaping hole of grief…

I utterly and completely failed at my attempt to NaNoWriMo this year.

I mean, I got some words out, but then I discovered that stress-induced dyspraxia can bleed over into writing for me; it’s not just verbal.  I spent probably ten minutes staring at a screen, trying to remember the word that kind of meant “is going to be getting here later today”.  (I ended up rewriting the entire paragraph to avoid that concept altogether because “imminent” was just not happening.)

And then, when I got past that hurdle, I banged out all the words like I normally do – head tilted back, movie playing in my head, words falling out through my fingertips…

… and it was a jumbled up plot-tangle of wtf.

Okay, yeah, it’s important that these characters talk about this other event because the new characters don’t know about it, and this information strongly affects the decisions that come immediately afterwards, but so much happened to the first characters that the new characters need to know, how to you prioritize that information in a natural conversation without looking like a data dump?

… fuck it.  Let’s try that again.

So, to my lovely readers who are the lifeblood of my anti-depression, anti-horrific-writers-self-esteem, anti-why-the-hell-did-I-think-I-could-do-this-I’m-a-terrible-writer-and-a-total-hack-and-I-will-die-doing-nothing-of-value-probably-working-retail type feelings…

Thank you.  You keep me going.  I fear letting you down, but I know that you wouldn’t have faith in me if you didn’t see something awesome, so we’re going to focus on that right now and get through this.

And maybe, if the holidays don’t completely kick 100% of my ass, I’ll have a sequel for you by the … let’s say, end of January.

 

The real problem with Political Correctness

facepalmAre you shocked at this “sudden” support of a racist, misogynistic, opportunist, anti-science, anti-human-rights candidate?  Are you truly and for-real stunned that so many people are flocking to his side?  I have some bad, terrible news: political correctness might be a little bit to blame.

See, we as a society don’t always think things through.  I know!  I know!  Crazy to state such a thing, but hear me out.  When we started this whole “political correctness” thing, we only got as far as “don’t say that”.  We put the focus on the action, not the source.

In all fairness, absolutely no one should be surprised by this.  We only treat the symptoms of our illness.  We pour billions of tons of pollutants into the air every day.  We jump on the latest fads without seeing how they shake down long-term.  So, really, ZERO surprise, but…

Yes, I know that the Political Correctness movement was supposed to get people to think about the words that flopped out of their mouths.  The key words there are “supposed to”.  That worked about as well as trickle-down economics – which is to say, not at all.  People didn’t learn how to be more compassionate or sensitive to each other: assholes just learned how to hide their assholery better.

Now we have a great big steaming pile of trouble in the form of possibly a vocal majority of our nation supporting an administration that is the very opposite of compassionate.  This isn’t just about business acumen or shady foreign ties: this is about a self-avowed idiot and thief relying on the votes of people whose very way of life is based on denying other people their rights.

I’m going to be watching the Vice Presidential debates tonight because I want to know just how badly we’re screwed.  Remember that as bloody awful as Trump is, in the case of assassination, the Veep steps into office – and in the case of Pence, that is actually, physically worse.  I say that as a queer, as a woman, and in general as a human who likes things like clear air, drinkable water, and a job.

The sad truth is that Trump’s popularity has given these people permission to come out of hiding.  I’m not a fan of forcing them back into hiding, though, because this gives us a real understanding of the scope of the problem.  We’ve got some seriously intense work cut out for us in terms of designing a society that doesn’t rely on the Blame Game.

I could go on about this topic indefinitely, but I had kind of a list of things to do today.  I will say this, though.  The weirdest thing about that demographic is that they treat rights as though they were in limited supply, but they treat money as though it’s infinite.  The truth is exactly the opposite, and I’m deeply confounded on how they got that mixed up.

Deconstructing Me: Adult Autism

autistic-kids-rockWhen I found out a few years ago that I was on the autistic spectrum, it was a huge relief.  It made so much of my life suddenly make sense.  My shoddy school behavior and difficulty with monotonous jobs was all attributed to ADD!  The social awkwardness that I could never get over?  Totally autism!  Still, for the most part, the discovery was a novelty.  I figured that I’d just go along with my life like I always had, and maybe being aware of my quirks and weirdnesses from a different angle would give me more power over them.

Well, I was a little right, but not quite enough.  Actually, nowhere near enough.  I mean, I was able to identify my quirks as relating to my neuro-atypical-ness, but it’s taken even more to figure out the difference between what made me “me” and what was an affectation that I’d developed for getting on in the world.

See, when you don’t know that you’re an autie and you feel separated and different from other people, you try to hide it, compensate for it.  After all, why can’t you stay interested in regular subjects or sports?  Why don’t you like the things everyone else likes?  Why can’t you pay attention?  What can’t you just suck it up and be like everyone else?  What the hell is wrong with you?!

You try to act like other people do, you try to blend in with their weird little social rituals.  You try to understand why they do what they do from their perspective, ideally, but you can’t necessarily relate to why they do what they do.  You do your best to mimic them and go through the motions, and you can pass as them for a little while, but it’s hard.  Like, really hard.

Hard maybe isn’t the most accurate word, though.  Maybe that’s part of it, but more accurately, it’s exhausting.

Birds and Fish

Imagine being a bird in a world of fishes.  You’re on the shore, and you’re supposed to go to school (heh) with them, and you’re supposed to get on with them, but you’re still a bird.  But, it’s what you’re supposed to do.  So, you dive in, hold your breath, do your best to make friends.  After a while, you can’t hold your breath anymore.  You have to come up for air, to get back to your own element.  Your fish friends and lovers sometimes get pissed off because you leave them suddenly.  Some understand, or at least accept, that you literally cannot help it.  You have to breathe, for fucks’ sake.

Some auties learn to get through this by holding their breath for a really, really long time – unnaturally long, even – and then when they have to come up for air, it’s a huge explosion of flailing and gasping and sometimes people get hurt (fish and birds alike).  Others work out ways to only spend a little time hanging out with the fishes and then hiding on the shore so that no one realizes they’re not in the water all the time.  Still others use drugs or other tricks.

Me, I kinda want some SCUBA gear, I think that would work best, but I also want to have permission to not be in the water all the time.  SCUBA gear would make it so that I could be comfortable hanging out with my fish friends.  I wouldn’t have to think about how the fuck to breathe when I’m around them after more than a few minutes.

Another big problem is that the world is made for fishes, so a lot of the mapping and processes that we’re taught in school and for work only apply to fishes and to the life underwater.  When you’re a bird, you can’t use the aquatic navigation methods to get around the sky.  And because no one teaches bird-type things as a regular course of life, most of us are on our own trying to sort it out.

And that means that when we do finally find each other, we’re often just as confused as everyone else as to what it takes to get on in the world.  And then it’s even more complicated because there’s more variation in birds than in fish, it seems, so what works for a sparrow isn’t going to work for an ostrich or a hawk.  We have to take bigger and bigger perspectives of the world in order to make any kinds of real general statements about our condition.

So, that’s how it feels when we’re trying to get on in the world.  It sucks a lot. We’re all in unmapped territories, trying to find our way.  It’s difficult living with fish-things, but in general, we like fish.  We like hanging out with them and making friends with them and sometimes even being lovers and getting married and having biish or fiirds or whatever they end up being (usually birds, fucking thanks, genetics).  We want to try to get along with them.

We just can’t be the only ones making an effort.

The Glass Wall

There are lots of different types of birds/auties, and it really seems that no two are the same.  There are general “symptoms”, of course, that get mixed and matched together into every one, but sometimes that’s just presentation.  What works to help control the less desirable behaviors in one might not work in another.  This makes ideas like “treatment” really touchy, especially when words like “treatment” come out as synonymous with “because there’s something wrong with you”.  Our greatest commonality is that we are fully human, and we want to be treated as such.

For all that any general statement is hard to make about auties, there are some commonalities that I’ve observed.  I’m not saying this is true for every last person on the spectrum, but it does seem to be holding up a great deal to scrutiny.  (Your input, gentle reader, is encouraged.)

Specifically, we auties are behind the Glass Wall.  For some of us like my non-verbal son, that wall is super-thick and full of occlusions.  He can’t communicate effectively or regularly from his inside world, and he can only sometimes make out what’s being told to him from the outside.  He does have a brilliant and vivid world going on in there, clearly, but good luck finding out what it is past the wall.

A lot of us “higher functioning” types have thinner walls, but we still have occlusions.  That glass acts as a fun-house-mirror type lens.  We tend to take things super-literally, for instance, because we can’t always “see” body language to indicate a joke or sarcasm.  We miss critical cues that tell us whether or not someone is a threat.  If we tend to underplay threats, one bad experience makes us doubt all future experiences that might look kind of like that one bad time.  We have a hard time discerning the factors and variables of interactions because the world is written in fish-language, which will never be our native tongue, no matter how much we study it.

Some parts of the wall become telescopic lenses, and these are our fixations.  OCD behaviors, for instance, are when we notice this One Thing.  It’s the Most Important Thing.  It could be how the towels are folded (one of my big ones) or how the pencils are aligned or putting all the little cars in a row or only eating the vowels out of the Alphabits cereal.  (I’m not kidding, I’ve seen this happen.)  It could be texture issues, touch issues, certain types of sounds, control of our bodies… any of these things become so much bigger than neurotypical people experience.  We’re not being “overly sensitive”, we’re seriously experiencing this Thing more than they are.

Just to make things a little more “fun”, the thicknesses of the walls change with many factors.  Food sensitivities, hormonal cycles, extended forced social interaction, money problems, relationship issues, and pretty much any kind of stress you can imagine will thicken that wall.  “Go-to occlusions” – usually false ideas that we fixate on in anxious states – start to color the world.  Everything is a threat, everything is bad, everything is dangerous.  Our fixations are bigger than anything else, so much that we don’t know they’re false in that moment.  Any other time, sure, we’re logical people, but when we’re stressed out and melting down?  Nah.

It’s the “high-functioning” adult version of sensory overstimulation.  Some of us have meltdowns and literally table-flip.  Some of us shut down into deep depressions.  Some of us run away, some of us lock up behind an impenetrable wall of blank, but almost always, there’s a neurotypical person looking at us in confusion, trying to figure out what the big deal is.

What to do, what to do

It would be super if we could start building a world that was equally suitable for fish and birds.  Some of the things that birds really need to feel comfortable would make the world a better place in general, and fish definitely seem to benefit.

For instance, most of us have food sensitivities, but those reactions are to things that most people shouldn’t eat anyway, like Red Dye 40 and enriched bleached flour.  (Some of us can’t eat wheat at all, and we are very sad bagel-less people.)  Because we are so literal minded, we also have an intense sense of fairness and rightness.  If we are taught that the Rule is This, but then people start behaving like That, and no one gets called out about it, this creates enormous anxiety.  What’s even worse is when we are taught the Rule is This, and we act according to This to the best of our ability, but then we’re reprimanded for it.

Justice and fairness are big deals.

We like true things, we like things we can trust.  We like transparency and for topics to be fully explored and explained.  We like knowing all there is on a subject, digging in deep to something we love and finding out everything we can about it, and we like sharing that knowledge with others.

We have needs, just like neurotypical people, but what confounds us “high-functioning” folk a lot is how often neurotypical people don’t seem to pay attention to their own needs.  Our perspective makes our needs loud and impossible to ignore, but that doesn’t make them less than yours.  Your alarms are quieter, I think.

Maybe if you fish could make room for us birds in the world, we birds could teach you fish how to take better care of yourselves.  And given our love for you in general, we’d probably help take care of you, too.

It’s only fair.

 

I’ve been up to no good

1573214063-funny-cat-repair-car-engine1Sometimes I feel like the absolute worst project person ever.  So many things need to get done, things that I’ve committed to, and yet, shit happens.  And it happens a lot.

For instance, right now I’m doing a contract for a real estate guy.  This is a square-one type of arrangement where I’m building his entire brand from scratch.  I’m plugging away at it, learning new things, refreshing my memory on old things.  I make serious progress on a daily basis, and then…

The Car Repair Demon ate my entire yesterday. I did a Seafoam tune up Tuesday night.  We drove out near Rendon so that we’d have plenty of time to blow the carbon out of the engine on the way back.  Then I took the negative contact off the battery to reset the computer and drove for a few blocks.  The Check Engine light came back on, and I popped out to the AutoZone to talk to Pretend Kevin about the problem.  (He’s called “Pretend Kevin” because I have no idea what his name actually is, but he just looks like a Kevin, you know?)  Everything was working great, no problems, just had that damn light on.

Wednesday morning.  My husband gets me up abruptly, telling me that I have to take him to work because the car won’t start. This is a big deal, as I’m pretty sure he’d rather have his toenails pulled out with red-hot pliers than ride in my car.  The CV axles need to be replaced, which happens this weekend.  There’s no AC, that might happen eventually.  Also, and I may or may not have run the front driver bumper into a pylon gently… about four years ago.

(She looks like hell, but she runs, and she gets great gas mileage.)

So, I take Darling Beloved to work (am I the only one that doesn’t use that phrase ironically?), and immediately head straight to the internet.  Noise description checks out, consistent with a bad battery, but the all the lights come on just fine… eh.  Upon reflecting on it, the negative contact did look like hell…  The contacts got the soda pop treatment to get rid of the hefty corrosion and then I give Hubby’s car a jump.  It fires right up.  I turn it off, wait for a half a minute, and try again – nope, back to that sickly machine gun sound, and this time, there’s a little puff of steam.

Huh.

I dragged Miles out to rev the car for me to see where the steam came from, and it’s the negative contact.  Of course it is.

I ran up to AutoZone again and take the battery.  Hmmm… 89% charge, so not too bad.  We talk about the battery cable replacement, pick out what we think is the right one, and the guy (not Pretend Kevin) checks the battery again.

The battery now has an 84% charge. It’s been about a minute.

Okay, cool, time for a new battery, and no charge because it’s still under warranty.  Perfect!

I get home and disassemble the battery cable.  Now, that’s a little weird… The one I bought has only one main cable and then one teeeeeny tiny little ground wire.  There’s no way I could splice it (the gauge is way too big on the cables I’ve got).  I go back up to the AutoZone, now miffed that the Not-Pretend-Kevin didn’t even ask me which car needed the cable.  The manager helped me that time.  We figured out how to attach a smaller normal battery cable to the contact bolt.

I got the cables replaced, the battery back in, and she started perfectly.  The goddamned check engine light is still on.

For the record, we’ve consistently gotten the P0037 code, for the Bank 1, Sensor 2 heated oxygen sensor.  I have replaced it twice now – once with a universal, once with an OEM.  I’ve also replaced all the spark plugs, done the tune up, and changed the oil.  And, no, I’m not taking her to another goddamned mechanic unless they can tell me a better idea up front.  My previous favorite people decided to start charging way too much for simple repairs.

And that’s why I didn’t finish doing the MailChimp automation yesterday.

It’s similar things to this that also explain why I’m behind on “Lost Ground”, “Long As There Are Violets”, and “the Kind Invasion”.  I swear to you, though, I have no forgotten.  I think when the kids start school next week, getting caught up will finally be a thing.