The Life Autistic: Why We Can’t Just ‘Unmask’

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Sometimes I wish I could live more of my life as more of myself. Many of us feel the same.

“So, uh, live life like yourself then, duh,” some neurotypicals may say.

Yeah, if only.

Many of us mask because we have to.

Here’s why I can’t just rip off the mask and ‘be myself.’

1: Feelings can’t be switched off

“Hunter hurt my feelings with his comment, but I know he wasn’t trying to be insensitive, so I’ll try to be understanding and let that slide,” said no one, ever.

It’s not fair of me to expect everyone to “get me” and adjust their reactions appropriately. It’s also not license for me to be a jerk, either. I don’t want to be reviled and shunned any further, so my mask is one that helps me to talk less, listen more, and say even less so that I don’t come across as abrasive.

2: Quirky oddball loners add tension (and I hate tension)

It’s cringing and awkward when that one dude in your group just isn’t talking, not making eye contact, and isn’t emanating a cool enough vibe to be alluring. I’m usually that one dude. But I can’t stand feeling like that person, so I keep my mask on to glide past it.

It’s a well-crafted, precisely-rehearsed social navigation facade, replete with banter, some medium-grade jokes, and enough chatter to cut the tension, the kind of tension that would be taut enough to cut if I were unmasked and in my element.

3: I’ve succeeded too well with the mask (and not at all without it)

As I look back on the highlights of my life, work, career, and more, they’ve more fallen in the ‘Batman’ category more so than ‘Bruce Wayne.’

I’m not fond of the superhero comparison, but H2 is the caped crusader, the vivacious raconteur, the ebullient knight, better at events, the guy with the hair, almost popular at work, tolerable in life. And Hunter Hansen just . . . isn’t.

I can’t be my version of Batman without the mask. Not yet, and I don’t know if ever.

 

 

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