I’ve spent a long time writing this. It will probably end up being months. It’s the first real post I started writing on here. It’s difficult to say. Not really emotionally or whatnot, but it is just hard to find the right words. It actually has been months and I think I am just going to publish it with the words maybe not just perfect, because I can always make a revised version if I come up with a clearer way to say this. And there is probably some sort of trigger on here, but I’m really not exactly sure what it is.
Also, this is a really long extended metaphor.
Sometimes I see people complain about fitting in
or about neurotypical rules
and the world.
(although they are people too so we really should respect them too)
and I just remember the rules about checking boxes
I’ve been very thoroughly trained on appropriate public behavior. Perhaps unintentionally more than my parents meant to (they didn’t realize how literal and rules-particular I was, I think.
And because I’m me, and bad at general social cues, I am not always certain what is actually non-acceptable, and what is just things I over extrapolated (see here
It is why I always wear real clothes in public when there are so so so many more comfortable clothes sometimes aka yoga pants the best thing ever created. Because real people wear real clothes in public and I am a real person.*
My mother always told us that most things in life are about checking boxes and opening doors.(She would often tell us this when we were complaining about silly rules that teachers made us do. In school, that’s what a syllabus is. They give you boxes that need to be checked. All you need to do is check them to get the good grade.
In life, there are things that you have to check the boxes, too, in order for things to happen.
And there are checking boxes to social activities too. To get people to do what you want them to do, you have to get them to like you. To do that you check boxes.
I took things more literally than my sisters (they call me Literal Girl), although not completely literally (I read enough that I have a pretty decent grasp on common metaphors if I am paying attention). So I made lists of things. Not always physical ones.
But I still sometimes think that if I do everything I am supposed to do, and check all the boxes I am supposed to, then things should happen. (And sometimes I think I probably do not know what all the boxes I need to check are. Because there isn’t really a syllabus or a rubric for life.)
And appropriate public behavior and public appearance is very important to that.
You need other people
Some things are opening doors.
For instance, college opens doors to getting a nice job. You still have to go through the door, maybe walk through a hallway (and who knows, it may be an Indiana-Jones hallway with booby traps and other dangerous, deathly things) and maybe go through some more doors. And it might not be the only door. There might be other ways in. Other doors, emergency exits, windows, fire escapes. Alternate routes.
The thing about doors is that there are other doors.
It’s the same with behavior and communication, I think.
Not ridiculous things like looking people in the eyes or staying still while you talk to them. (But actually probably things like that, too.) But talking and talking and talking. And face-to-face normal communication.
At this point, if I remember (and for important things like interviews, I remember), I can look people in the eyes. I can generally talk. (And most of my interviews were chats about my research or their research, so once that managed to happen, it was wonderful. It took a while to get to that point, and sometimes it just didn’t).
You have to check the boxes to open the doors, to be given a chance. And if you can’t check the right boxes, you’re going to have to go around a long way.
So I wonder if there is a way to change the boxes. Or to have different boxes for different people. Or maybe different doors. Because people shouldn’t have to climb through the windows. Because that is surely much more difficult than just checking the boxes and walking through a door. But sometimes, boxes can’t be checked.
And appropriate public behavior was important therefore because people judge you in public and you never know who is watching you.
Although come to think of this, this never applied in grocery stores and such
More like places where we had to be on our best behavior
Like events where we met our grandparents clients
Because it didn’t matter what strangers thought.
(To a point. Safety matters.)
It mattered, though, what people you know and interact with think. What people who you need for things think. Because you need them to get your work done or finish school or do a project or get a job or keep a job. You need them to be there for networking.
(Gah, I hate networking. It’s the worst. Asking people to do things for you).
And in those cases, you do have to modulate your behavior. You need them to think of you what you want them to think of you.
(I think we were manipulative)
(my mother is the sneakiest person I know, in a good way. She can get almost anything she wants when she puts her mind to it, from almost anyone. She very rarely does, but when she does, it is amazing.)
You need them to check boxes for you and to open doors.
So then…. WHY and WHY I SHOULD FIT IN AND WHY STIMMING IN PUBLIC IS BAD AND STUFF
So even with this, I still think that stimming in public and all is not bad (although I have been trained out of it in some situations, probably, but I think that is more me being Literal Girl and my parents having several children so having to pay attention to the ones who are running away in the grocery store because they can is more important in that instant that realizing another child is trying too hard to behave appropriately.
Example: When I get excited, I jump up and down. I live in an apartment. If I get excited early in the morning or late at night, I try not to jump up and down for an extended period of time. Because there is someone living beneath me. And I would not like it if someone kept jumping up and down on my ceiling when I am trying to sleep. So I limit my stimming (or redirect it to a quieter one) (or go into the living room because then I’m not above their bedroom).
Another example: I can be loud in class, sometimes. Tapping my feet, clicking my pens. Hummng sometimes. When people point it out to me, I stop. Why? Because noise reduces my ability to concentrate. And other people have just as much right to have a need for quiet as I do. So I will switch to something quieter.
Admittedly, I can redirect these things usually. So it’s ok, for me. And I can usually redirect it to something that I enjoy almost as much or that works almost as much. And some people probably can’t redirect it, and that’s ok for them.
And I don’t see anything wrong (mostly) with sometimes flapping or fidgeting or bouncing or rocking in public. Or general stimming in life, pretty much whenever. Because if I am able to do something that lets me concentrate while also letting everyone around me concentrate, that is much better than doing something that lets me concentrate while
Because if we want people to be considerate of our needs and our requirements for learning, we shouldn’t be distracting to theirs.
Some things I’ve read by other people that have contributed to these ideas:
Mother tongues: orangutans and autistic education by Kitt at AutisticChick
Socially Inappropriate by Musings of an Aspie
*regarding this and other rules, these are rules for me. Not for other people. If you want to wear yoga pants in public, which I wouldn’t blame you for because they are the most comfortable things in the world, go for it.