Feminist Aspie

The S Word, Tip Of The Iceberg

Yesterday afternoon, someone complimented me on my necklace. “Sorry!” I blurted out. After a few moments on the receiving end of her confused look, I amended my response to “Um, thanks!” I spent the rest of the day wondering why the heck I’d done that.

– – – – –

I walk mainly on my toes. I’m pretty sure I spent the first, say, ten years of my life blissfully unaware of this fact. At some point during the Asperger’s diagnosis, it was pointed out to me, or at least I read it somewhere, and then I probably went back to whichever Pokemon game was out at the time. It wasn’t until secondary school that it became a big deal. Somebody must have noticed, and somebody must have decided that it was worth obsessing over and making fun of. Having realised this, well-meaning family and friends thought the best way to resolve the problem was to magically make my tiptoes go away; however, without any actual magic powers, this could only be done through shouting “Feet!” at me every so often, and even then only for a few seconds. It didn’t occur to anyone that my problems weren’t caused by toes that hadn’t ever bothered me before, but by the people giving me hell for it. Or by other things, the loneliness, the meltdowns that then still occurred frequently, the sensory issues I didn’t know were even a thing because autism is still largely defined only from the perspective of a neurotypical outsider. All that, and everyone was interested in my foot position.

– – – – – 

Twice yesterday, I ran into the same person at the same part of the hallway where I live. On both occasions, the dialogue was the same. I saw her, jumped a little, said “Sorry!”, held the door open, and she said “Thank you”.

– – – – – 

I still walk mainly on my toes. Nothing’s changed, except now, the people I meet couldn’t care less. Apparently nobody even notices until I mention it myself. Its only impact on my life, other than never having to wear heels, was to teach me that people tend to only care about the tip of the iceberg. The bits they can see. They’d like to not see it because it’s weird and makes them uncomfortable. The rest, they already can’t see, and that’s fine by them.

– – – – – 

In between lectures this morning, I passed someone I know. He said “Hi [name redacted]!” or something along those lines. I replied with “Oh, um, sorry! Hi! Sorry!” I thought back to yesterday, in the hallway, and realised that the word I was looking for was “Hello”.

– – – – –

I’m sure I didn’t apologise too much before uni. At least, I’d never noticed it, until other people started pointing it out. Even then, I was just apologising for things that weren’t my fault, sliding “sorry to be a pain” into requests, things like that. Usually, people were laughing with me rather than at me. On its own, this didn’t bother me. What bothered me was that the growth of the S word, or at least the growth of the pointing out of the S word, coincided with a growing fear. I couldn’t put my finger on it then and I still can’t now, but I’m hurtling towards adulthood with absolutely no idea what I’m doing with my life and most of my friends graduating before me and executive function all over the place and generally not being able to take another second by the end of term, and it was scary to think about. At some point, I conflated the two things.

– – – – –

I was waiting for the microwave to finish this evening when someone else came into the kitchen, got some salt from the shelf, then left. The one thing I said to her was “sorry”. I wasn’t in the way. She’d just arrived.

– – – – –

Things have… developed since first year. The summer wasn’t great, for various external reasons I don’t need to go into. Last term obviously had its highlights, but generally was all kinds of horrible, and again, I can’t quite articulate why. On the plus side, this term’s going much better so far, although it’s far too early to tell if this will last. Meanwhile, resurfacing to the tip of the iceberg, the S word is now my general response to anything that happens. I’m not actually sorry at all, it’s just the noise I make. Like the tiptoe thing, it’s inspired many well-meaning people to “help” by shouting “STOP APOLOGISING!” and wrongly believing that actually makes a difference. Unlike the tiptoe thing, I think it would be inaccurate to call this a stim; it’s more of a practically involuntary back-up sound effect for when there’s too much going on to make actual words with meaning happen “properly” which, apparently, is most of the time these days. Also unlike the tiptoe thing, I’d also like to make it go away.

NOT because it’s weird and wrong and embarrassing and everyone’s going to laugh at you if you keep doing that, but because it’s getting in the way of my ability to string a sentence together. There’s a huge difference. Oh, and that it’s only the tip of the iceberg.

– – – – –

Tonight I was at a discussion-based meeting. Fitting enough chairs in a circle around the room was, well, interesting. I curled up a little. “Sorry.” “It’s… fine…” “…Yeah, sorry.”

– – – – –

I think it’s probably, for want of a better word, a symptom of whatever-the-heck-my-head-is-doing, the best explanation for which so far seems to be “demand > current coping mechanisms” which apparently isn’t uncommon amongst people on the spectrum. So it’s not a case of “have you tried speech therapy?” or “there’s no point feeling bad about it” or, my personal favourite, “STOP IT!”. It’s about sorting out the underlying stuff, and I don’t even know where to start with all that. Anything else is just a tiny inadequate sticking plaster.

– – – – –

Fitting the chairs *back* into a circle was basically impossible. Thirty seconds of freaking out later, it was sorted, I sat down, I rocked a little, I started waving my feet in front of me, like swimming, I guess. Not sure what it with me and stimming and feet, but there you go. “I like your shoes!”, someone said. Inevitably, “Sorry!!!” followed. But not before I instinctively hid away my legs back under the chair, back upright, apologising for that weird embarrassing not-normal thing.

Immediately I wondered why. I mean, he’s not exactly going to be horrible about my stimming; he’s autistic too.

I’d already chosen to blog about this tonight, but that was when everything clicked into place.

I’ve gotten too used to hiding as much as possible for as long as possible, to the point that I do so even when people don’t require it from me. Because the tip of the iceberg is weird and silly and pointless enough as it is.

And now, even if someone were to ask about what’s beneath the surface, I couldn’t talk about it. Even when I blog about it, I can’t find the right words and I settle for “close enough”. People want to see me as a person, so I shouldn’t talk about these things.

Only what they can see.

So now all I’ve got to describe it is “Well, I keep apologising for no reason.” And that doesn’t cover it at all.


Echolalia, stimming and… erm… Daleks?

I’m back at uni, so I’m starting to try and think of short post ideas so, well, I can stop just abandoning the blog for weeks on end. This is one such post, so it’s really just a list of links, and hopefully I’ll keep posting around once a week.

Echolalia, explained in more detail here by Musings of an Aspie, is basically the repetition of words, either immediately or from remembered language such as movie lines. Such repetition is common in autistic people, both as a form of communication and as a stim; today I’m going to focus on the latter. Here’s a brilliant demonstration by Yes, That Too; “ladle” is a great word, isn’t it?

Personally, one of my stims is echolalia, and one of my special interests (not a big fan of that term myself, but I haven’t thought of anything better…) is Doctor Who. This leads to some really fun times on YouTube:

Exterminate! – Every time a Dalek says “Exterminate!” in both classic and modern Who (until the end of Series 5).

Fantastic! – Every time Nine/Christopher Eccleston says “Fantastic!”; this one includes more of each scene rather than just the word itself, so there’s less instant repetition, but here it is anyway.

Well… – A compilation of Ten/David Tennant saying “Well…” (with surprise John Barrowman at the end for some reason).

Tenth Doctor Says “Sorry” 120 Times – Does what it says on the tin. Also an accurate portrayal of what would happen if David Tennant were to star in a film about my life.

The Title Of The Episode, In The Episode – Every title drop in modern Who (until the end of Series 7). Stimming-wise, I think I’ve saved the best until last. There’s an episode in the first series called “Dalek”. You can imagine how many times that gets said. DALEK DALEK DALEK DALEK DALEK DALEK DALEK DALEK DALEK… I was shown this one and, much hand-flapping later, made a cup of tea whilst sort of bobbing around repeating the word “Dalek”. Possibly more fun for me than it is for most people… 😛

I did look for a “bow ties are cool” montage, but I couldn’t find one. Instead, here’s a completely irrelevant but nonetheless amazing video demonstrating why Haddaway’s “What Is Love?” is incredibly well-suited to 50th anniversary “The Day of the Doctor” puns.



(Content warning: Rape culture, harassment)

I spent all morning thinking about how to write this post in a way that didn’t feel uncomfortably personal and detailed. Instead, I’ll say this.

Life isn’t actually a romantic movie. Repeatedly pursuing someone is scary and intimidating and generally not okay.

No means no. Obviously. Also, consent isn’t like one of those puzzle games where you have to move blocks to free some sort of trapped item. “No” does not mean “ask me why”, especially if you’re going to decide that whatever they answered isn’t really a problem anyway. “That’s fine, it’s fine, come on, I love you, come onnnn.” Incidentally, “no” also does not mean “how about now? how about now? how about now?”

Oh, and “no” isn’t just about sex. Consent can be given, or not given, for all sorts of things. Boundaries need to be respected.

Yes, sometimes we pesky mysterious women have these weird things called “feelings” and “opinions” which – shock horror – can cause us to not absolutely comply with what you want. This doesn’t automatically mean it’s all going to blow over and I’m going to change my mind. It also doesn’t mean I’m on my period, but even if I am, that still doesn’t mean it’s all going to blow over and I’m going to change my mind.

Silence is not a “yes”. Freezing up out of fear is not a “yes”. Physically pushing you away is not ambiguous at all.

Break-ups are difficult enough. Trying to leave someone who won’t take “no” for an answer is terrifying. Having someone break their own rules about not contacting you during the “break” they’ve insisted on first is, well, disconcerting.

Insisting you’ll change and you’re a different person isn’t going to work. Repeated incessant attempts to “re-obtain” the, erm, actual human being is probably going to push them away further. Because, well, they’re an actual human being.

This should really go without saying, but repeated Facebook messages, letters, and unexpected visits to someone who’s expressly asked for space is really creepy.

If someone’s blocked you on Facebook after all of this, that’s a pretty obvious way of saying “DON’T. CONTACT. ME.” This doesn’t mean “message me via Mum’s Facebook instead”. This doesn’t mean “show up as our first-foot on New Year’s Day so it’s too awkward to not let you in”. This doesn’t mean “set up a Twitter account and follow me there instead.” (N.B. Thankfully this was my personal Twitter, although I’m now massively scared that FeministAspie is next)

It’s little things, just little things, tiny little things that do nothing but remind me of why I had to get out.

No means no means no means no means no.


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