100 Followers? Thank you, guys! I couldn’t have done it without you.
Now, all in all, it was a good day. Unfortunately, it was only my mother and me around the table, but we had all our favorite things for Thanksgiving. It is usually a large spread, and this year is no different.
We had a few setbacks, of course. My mother had the bright idea to put the bird in the oven at six a.m., and though the turkey turned out perfect, it was a bit cold when we ate. (Not too cold, though.) I got a very minor cut on my wrist from a can of water chestnuts, which we put in our dressing, but all in all there was no major setback. We had stupid fluffy rolls, which we like, perfect stuffing, great foods, and a good Thanksgiving altogether. I cooked, we ate, and then we napped. I got a designation of being a great cook. So, it was a great Thanksgiving. How did your Thanksgiving go?
Here comes Thanksgiving. Strangely enough, it’s going to be an easier time than in years past. Funny thing, I actually do the cooking. That alone puts me on a stress level that may be higher than many autistic people – and I said maybe, mind you. The thing is, a person who has done the main Thanksgiving cooking for, say, eight times in their life might be able to recall how it is done. It’s not that bad, considering we’re having a quiet Thanksgiving Day. However, I’ve been through bustling, huge Thanksgiving Days, too. I’ve got a few last-minute tips to give for the day.
- Setup, setup, setup. This kind of runs into the next tip, but involving some sort of planning and maybe practice is necessary. I am currently sitting next to an empty dish arrangement I made for the dinner setup. I’m in charge of Thanksgiving, but setup and practice may be necessary.
- Have the person get involved, when appropriate. I may have been delayed in some things when it came to social interaction and executive function, but I was fine in other things, like getting the finger veggies out (we always have pickles and olives at our table). Can they handle setting a table for the occasion? Go ahead and let them help out. Someday, you may have someone who can take over more major duties, or even the whole thing altogether. Give it time and patience.
- Have an Chill Out Space. This is not a traditional Safe Space, as marginalized groups prescribe. A Chill Out Space is actually a space away from the festivities the person can escape to, when, say, things get too loud, or, someone decides to discuss politics. It can be as simple as the child’s room. It is simply a place where the person can rest their senses and their interactions.
- The Girl Scouts Are Right. I learned early on that it was customary to give hugs to greet people in my family. I adjusted sooner than many like me. However, I don’t recommend a suffocating hug for someone who is, say, a little more delicate in the touch arena. Don’t push it if the person is not up for it.
- Have a Quiet Moment Immediately Before the Meal. In praying families, this seems to be built into the meal through prayer. A quiet moment helps center not just the autistic person, but most everybody.
- You Know Your Autistic Person….If You Listen and Accept Them. You know how much your child can take of Thanksgiving. If they need to eat in their Chill Out Space, go ahead and let them. It does not matter what your fickle relatives say; have they actually gotten to know the person?
Helping out an autistic person during Thanksgiving requires actually getting to know them, beyond perceived stereotypes, beyond disappointments, and all the way in acceptance. Unfortunately, many autistic persons’ caretakers are often unwilling to get there. This may or may not be the case with you, but acceptance of current reality is required for all these tips to actually work.
I live in the US, where the predominant feeling surrounding the autism spectrum is fear. Parents decline to vaccinate their children because because they’re afraid they’ll wind up autistic. Parents, I hear you, on a certain level. Some children really do react badly to vaccines. I’ve heard too many stories, even from people I know–reasonable […]
Now, I’ve had time to process the fact that “The Good Doctor” has taken a step forward: in the hiring of an actually autistic actor. To be blunt, he played the patient of the day. It’s really good, guys. I am happy you’ve hired somebody who has true insight into autism. The reason is this: a lot of people outside the autism spectrum get major tenets of autism wrong. For example, we’re still fighting the “No Empathy” stereotype even today and probably tomorrow. But I digress. Bravo, Good Doctor.
What I am now waiting for is a series recurring or regular autistic actor, a la “Speechless.” Speechless has the Good Doctor beat in the series regular Micah Fowler, who of course plays J.J. DiMeo. Sure, he has trouble delivering his lines, but the character has built-in supports and more than enough nonverbal expression to carry himself around the obstacles the actor and character face. It is sensitive, funny and even has a filled-out set of characters for the siblings, parents and aides. The reason I wax about “Speechless” in a post about The Good Doctor? I know The Good Doctor can make the same jump in some way or another. Perhaps in a consultant or recurring patient? It is quite doable.
Why do we say “Masculinity So Fragile?” Well, for starters, it is extremely rigid, like the oak.
You can only wear certain colors, or you’ll be feminine.
You can only show anger or lust, or you’ll be feminine.
You can only be emotional for certain things (like sports), if at all, or you’ll be feminine.
You can only like certain activities, or you’ll be feminine.
It seems to me that masculinity follows an extremely rigid set of rules. It is so rigid, that it is like a tiny island of dry land, surrounded by the oceanic waters of dreaded femininity. It is also reminiscent of an Aesop’s fable, The Oak and the Reeds. Masculinity is the rigid oak, while femininity is the seemingly weak reeds. Sure, you can be proud, rigid and inflexible, but a sad fact is, men die sooner. Life expectancies for men are shorter than those for women around the world. It is an inescapable fact. How do you argue your way out of that one? How does being the rigid, proud oak help you in a great hurricane, when the mighty winds finally topple you? The reeds of femininity bend to the winds of the hurricane, and they are not hurt. They live longer. As a matter of fact, I am currently caring for my mother, who has outlived my father for a good ten years. I am not ashamed of this. I am not here to put down masculinity; I am here to expand it. I am here to expand its flexibility and its ability to bend like a reed in order to survive the hurricanes of life.
It’s not a thing I take for granted. For the longest time, the above statement was not true. It has taken me almost forty years to realize that being Free to Be Me was a privilege denied me for years. I had to change and conceal my true self with almost everyone. I mean, you’ve seen the wreckage. I’m still trying to figure out who I am. I mean, I’ve answered most of the fundamentals, like who I’m attracted to. I’m not going to digress into that. There are more answers I still do not know. I’ve just barely learned how to be free; now it’s time to learn how to be me.
In these hours it is when I realize how truly lucky and grateful I am for a parent who accepts me as I am. This has helped me free myself more than I have ever been. Many people I know do not have that, in relation to autism. I also know many more people do not have that in other ways. There is no real platitude or words of wisdom to give in those cases. Sometimes, you just have to amputate people from your life. You also need to reach out, and be vulnerable. Considering my history, this is very shocking for me to write. I have learned who my real friends are. And I’m not giving my trust out to just anybody. I know making friends while being autistic is hard, but you do need your support. You may find your support in surprising places. I know they’re out there. They’re going to help you be free. Don’t you think you deserve that to look forward to?