#TAKETHEMASKOFF is a 6-week campaign encouraging Autistic humans to take their masks off – stop camouflaging their autism.
Masking is unconscious for me when I'm around most people and makes it hard for me to know what it is I am doing that is hiding my autism. I’m at an activity centre with my child. There’s a guy here that I know that more than likely will come over for a chat.
I’ll observe what I do if they do come over for a chat.
My eyes have gunk in them which is driving me crazy. I’ll probably obsess about that while talking and not concentrate on what they say. I don’t feel like writing about this right now. So I’ll stop here and write about something else .... 5 minutes later Frank walked up to me.
Oh shit, I forgot to observe myself! LOL
I still have gunk in my eyes, and I couldn’t see them properly. So annoying! I started our conversation with a joke. That’s how I usually go with these interactions. It wasn’t long before my child joined us and told me that “I don’t get a good vibe about him”.
That’s confronting and not ‘normal’ right!
But something in me decided to go along with what my child was saying instead of shutting them up, terrified my child has offended the adult by being "rude". It is rare that my child says anything expected and that gives me anxiety when we socialise. I wonder if I keep my mask on when I try to make my child, and I conform to what others (neurotypicals) consider acceptable behaviour.
But what was my child saying that was not acceptable?
Billie: “I haven’t seen this person before have I?”
Me: “No you haven’t. I’ve known this person for a long time. I’m not even sure how we first met?”
Frank: “I’d put you on TV a few times”.
Me: “Oh, was that for the news?”
Frank: “Yeah” and he said “blah blah blah” because I couldn’t see my child or Frank properly because of the gunk in my eyes and my scarf was agitating me and where the hell was this conversation going to go? What was my child going to say next???
Billie: “Don’t you get any funny ideas about being with my Mum!” Yep there it is. I sound like I’m a desperado! Desperate for a partner!
Me: “Billie, I can understand why you’d be worrying about that. However, there’s nothing to worry about”.
Frank: “Yeah mate, I’m married.”
Me: “At least Billie thought you might be a candidate”.
Frank looked at me strangely, and I realised I that my joke might have crossed a line of inappropriateness. I wasn’t sure, and I wasn’t going to find out. I returned my attention to my child to distract Frank from what I said. It became awkward, and the chat ended a few moments later and thanked God for that! [But I'm not religious].
My child continued to give Frank the evil eye, and I just laughed.
If my child doesn’t trust someone, then they don't trust them. My child has an intuition, a ‘gut’ reaction to people, things and situations, and I feel it’s important I support my child to trust it, right or wrong. My child’s intuition is a powerful tool to keep them safe. Something I’m still learning myself. I don’t feel good when I try to control or change my child to make others feel okay.
I’m tired of that myself.
I think I did pretty good at being me, but it’s hard to know because when I socialise, I put my 'all' into interactions and I wonder, is that being me or not me? Was I controlling my stims? I don’t know? Did I try and ‘fit’ in with the other person, so they won’t know I’m autistic? I don’t know? I think because I engaged in a conversation with my child to understand them more rather than shut them down out of fear of them being 'rude' is perhaps taking my mask off. I allowed my child to BE.
I wonder if I then, in turn, allow myself to be when I do that?
I was aware Frank could be thinking my child was “rude” and a failure as a parent, not having boundaries, as I didn’t make my child apologise. But instead, I allowed Frank to think whatever they wanted to. That must be about taking my mask off – right? I allowed Frank to see us as we usually are – free thinkers with free thought and opinions. Free to misunderstand or be fearful of what’s going on and be open about it. I supported my child instead of the adult, and that’s a change for me.
Off comes the masks!