Feminist Aspie

Autistics Speaking Day 2013: You Gotta Fight For Your Right To Party

on November 1, 2013

For those of you who aren’t aware, 1st November is Autistics Speaking Day; it’s really worth heading over to that blog over the next few days for a wide range of social media posts to raise awareness and acceptance of autism, advocating the inclusion of autistic people in the ongoing conversation about us. So I thought I’d blog about something I’ve been thinking about for some time now; maybe I just notice this more because I’m at uni, but the entire culture of “proper” social occasions at the moment seems to be built around what’s actually a fairly narrow group of people.

Again, this might be more pronounced in a university environment, but “party” seems to basically mean “vaguely meet up at some point in some noisy overcrowded room, get drunk, and overwhelm all but the most extroverted/popular almost out of the group entirely”. Now there’s absolutely nothing wrong at all with that sort of thing in and of itself, I’m sure some autistic people really enjoy it, and to be honest I can find sometimes find some of it quite fun, on the right day, even if it’s basically just watching, but it seems like that’s all that there is. It just doesn’t occur to people that some of us can’t handle that much input, can’t filter out all that background noise and follow the conversation, can’t just magically know when and where to go like everyone else seems to be able to (hint: it’s not when and where the club ticket says it will be), and all sorts of other stuff I haven’t worked out how to articulate yet. Or, as I keep telling everyone, “I can’t people“. (People-ing is a verb in my vocabulary now, sorry about that.) It’s also worth noting that, at least to a certain extent, this isn’t necessarily a problem specific to those of us on the spectrum; I have several allistic/neurotypical friends who also seem to “get it” and, for various reasons, also “can’t people” even if they do manage to hide it better than I can, and in my case not liking alcohol probably plays a massive part in it too. Like I said, the whole thing is inadvertently excluding all bar a fairly narrow group of people.

Except, well, I actually can people, I’m just not very good with that one situation that’s usually the only option for people-ing. Last week, having gone to law drinks to catch up with everyone and meet the new freshers, only to spend the entire time focusing on just barely coping and intermittently screaming and despairing at the inevitability of it all, a friend and I ended up leaving after an hour, but on returning home we inadvertently ended up sitting on the stairs (she lives on the floor above me) and talking for hours. (And I don’t just mean infodumping about Doctor Who, either!!) It really made me think. This is far from a new occurrence. That post I wrote the other week in which I mentioned a party that night? As it turned out, I didn’t actually even make it there, because everyone had already gone for pre-drinks somewhere, but not where I guessed they would be, and nobody could hear their phones, and usually I keep being told to arrive later than the stated time because people logic but then pre-drinks are also a thing and they’re earlier and it’s all massively confusing, and I felt horrible about it afterwards because it genuinely seems like everyone else has telepathic communication, but then I thought – would it really kill you to just be a bit more clear about what’s going on beforehand? That issue is probably more autism-specific that the first one (literal-minded and all that), but there’s just so much that isn’t accessible to a lot of people. And when that’s all that there is, taking the sensible route and just not going leaves you feeling massively lonely.

So yeah, I’ve been thinking a lot about all this (and, I admit it, part of me just really wanted to use that blog title…) and I’d love to hear your thoughts on this, particularly if you’re autistic (that’s kinda the point of Autistics Speaking Day, after all!) but it seems to be an issue with a really wide scope and different perspectives would be great. What would make people-ing more accessible to you?

(Post reproduced on the Autistics Speaking Day blog. It’s also really worth reading Coffee Zombie’s response to this post, which I can hugely identify with.)


13 responses to “Autistics Speaking Day 2013: You Gotta Fight For Your Right To Party

  1. autisticook says:

    A big YES on the clearness! I mean. Seriously. I won’t mind if you’re late. BUT TELL ME WHAT TIME YOU ARE AIMING TO BE THERE. And then you can be late all you want. I don’t mind. I always have a book with me. Because I know other people are somehow utterly incapable of planning how long it will take them to get ready, leave the house, and get to a place. Even though they can apparently manage that with job interviews just fine. But I get it. You don’t want to commit. I won’t punish you. Just tell me what time you are aiming for. And don’t turn “sevenish” into half past 9. Because that’s just rude.

    The where would also nice to have some consensus on. If there is a change of plans, LET PEOPLE KNOW. Don’t assume that someone else will let them know. Or maybe they’ll just magically taste it in the air or something. Seriously, there’s phones, whatsapp, twitter, facebook, whatever. GET IN TOUCH WITH EVERYONE. You can even. GASP SHOCK HORROR. Leave a message for that person at the place you initially agreed on. They might not get it, but at least you’ve tried. But please don’t assume that if I arrive at a place to meet with you, and you’re not there, I will happily go off and have fun with other people or complete strangers or whatever. I’m meeting YOU. If you’re not there, I’ll cry and then go home. The end.

  2. suburp says:

    Huh. I am not autistic myself, but I really feel you with ‘I can’t people’ 🙂
    I think you will find that the more interesting part of the party often happens on the balkony, in the kitchen or later, on the stairs…I used to like the loud and crowdy bits but I can’t stand it anymore. At least it makes it easier for me to just accept when my aspie son opts out (junior disco, Halloween, we just didn’t go and its OK)
    Nothing worse than people expecting or forcing you to have fun in an environment that you find confusing, hostile or scary…

    • Absolutely 😦 I think I’ve been fairly lucky at uni in that people are generally okay with me not liking all that stuff very much, actually. It’s just that *I* sometimes feel like I have to go, even looking forward to it, because it’s great to catch up with people and all that. It just never works out that way 😛

      • suburp says:

        I am in the same conflicted situation for social situations with my son. And so is he already. I had a costume ready for him to opt in w Halloween even in the last minute..maybe next year..:)

  3. David Howell says:

    For a while, this was my university experience. Being teetotal amplified this no end, being asexual made absolutely sure I was excluded from most of the archetypal male skewing in crowds. (Not all, though… sport is a secondary special interest for me, so most of my conversation with that crowd was about sport. Got respect from a few people for my “unaffiliated to every team, bound by an ethical code regarding ownership” approach to sporting analysis. The latter part has become remarkably significant in the last decade.)

    Karaoke was my escape. The pub that served as the usual venue had no flashing lights, enough of a stage that I could stim around it to not look straight into the static ones in front of it and have it look like part of the act, and – crucially – because it was built into a larger union building, there was quite a substantial corridor area (the toilets, in fact, were downstairs from that). This gave me the chance for downtime there now and again. At other times, I’d chat to friends from the backstage group (who knew my sensory issues very well, because they had to let me know which shows I couldn’t work on), and stim gleefully around the pub. I also wore musician’s earplugs, which were a wonderful investment. Singing became my outlet, and it was wonderful.

    Societies were the other foundation of university life for me – the aforementioned backstage group, the student radio station (on which I came to dominate weekend afternoons, using my sport special interest as a way of getting a slot that prevented family visits!), and a small choir that only had piano accompaniment, meaning I could sing with them if I stood at the back and could leave easily (as someone who switched between tenor and bass, I could easily go behind everyone else and just focus on people to one side or another to pitch off as required).

    I’ve never had such an outlet again, although the fantasy American football league at work is close (the rules require being actively involved every week – picking a team, trading with others, and acquiring players nobody else has who have come into form – so it’s engrossing), and I miss it terribly.

  4. […] etc. It’s a day to make our voices heard. Inspired by the posts written by autisticook, Feminist Aspie, and at Musings of an Aspie to mark the occasion (and believe you me, they are excellent posts), […]

  5. I find that I can people to an extent too. I just don’t consider an event where people are supposed to get drunk until they vomit on their friends a ‘party’. Don’t they know how to do anything else? Isn’t a party supposed to be fun? I’ve had childhood birthday parties that were more fun! You you don’t need to get drunk on fairy bread!

  6. lioor says:

    Fairy bread? Could you please explain what it means?

  7. Hi, I don’t know if you’re into the Awards thing, but I’ve nominated you for the Most Influential Blogger Award, a bit of blogging fun. Go to my blog to find out more: http://wp.me/s3YDNK-880

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