I’m Reclaiming Weird for my Autistic Self
Most unidentified autistic people feel weird their whole lives. They sense they are different from the people around them. This kind of weird feels alienating and othering. It’s the kind of weird that implies, “Something is wrong with you.”
I recently attended an outdoor gathering. I was moving my feet and arms around so the mosquitoes wouldn’t get me. An individual offered me some bug spray. I said, “No thanks, I hate the smell on my skin.”
He responded, “You can take a shower when you get home.”
I paused and offered a moment of transparency and vulnerability, “I don’t really like showers, so I don’t want to take another today.”
His face crinkled in slight repulse and he said, “That’s weird” and walked away.
That experience was the kind of weird that implies, “There’s something wrong with you.”
He didn’t know I don’t like showers due to my enhanced sensory perception. I don’t like how the water feels hitting my skin and strongly prefer baths. This is my normal. I understand it is different than the neurotypical norm.
His use of “weird” was a perfect example of how others often perceive my normal as not a good thing.
I’m tired of this use of weird. I am reclaiming weird for myself.
I think weird can be good. I think weird is fun, delight, and amusing. I think weird is about both embracing who we are AND enhancing who we are. I prefer baths. AND I make my baths epic with bubbles and candles and movies and snacks galore. It is wonderfully weird.
Weird means we can honor our unique interests and ways of being. Not just honor them - but ENJOY them.
I love when I encounter other people who think and behave in different ways. I find it endlessly fascinating. Like in the show “Everything is Gonna Be Ok,” the characters are always doing something weird and different - AND I LOVE IT.
My mother, who wasn’t autistic, got very weird toward the end of her life. She had terminal cancer and suddenly started doing many weird things (due to her chemo brain). She decorated the house in peacock feathers. She wore bright, clashing patterns. She covered our front yard in pumpkins and wrote something she was grateful for on each pumpkin. She gathered the most outrageous collection of magnets. She became a delightfully weird lady. I loved it. It was always fun to go home and see what she was up to next.
I want more weirdness like that in my life. I also want to grow into my weird self more and more.
Weird doesn’t always flow naturally though. Sometimes I hesitate and worry, “What will others think?” I think this is common for everyone. Most humans I know have some fear of being their full selves and being judged by others.
I would like to set aside my fear more and more. I would like to not evaluate what is “ok” based on culture or neurotypical standards. That process takes work. But it is work I want to do.
I want to be a person and a place where weirdness is welcomed.
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