As a neurodivergent, I run into all sorts of social shit that I just don’t understand. Like the phrase, “How are you doing today?” . If you ask me this question, you’re likely to get an in-depth answer that goes into graphic detail about all the shit that’s been going wrong. It could be just for that day or over the course of my whole life. With our tendency to info dump, NDs are the masters of TMI. Apparently, though, that’s not what you’re supposed to do. An allistic person just seems to know it’s a greeting, not an actual question. And, that the proper response with something mundane like, “Fine” or “I’m doing well” Which takes the inscrutability of allistic culture to levels I just can’t wrap my head around.
I Didn’t Really Miss You
One place this mysteriousness comes up is when neurotypical people see me after some absence. They’ll usually say something like, “It’s good to see you again. I really missed you.” It’s taken some time, but I’ve learned the correct response to this is “I missed you, too.” But here’s the thing: I didn’t miss them. At least, I didn’t miss them while I was away from them. Because to miss them, I’d have to remember they exist, something my issues with object constancy makes a little, let’s say, challenging. But, you can’t say that. Not out loud, anyway (saying this kind of shit in my head is kind of a coping skill, though). On the plus side, I do miss them once I remember they’re an actual person.
The problem here is that I, and a fuck ton of other NDs, are very literal thinkers. We tend to struggle with idioms because of this. So, if you ask how we’re doing, we’re going to tell you–possibly in excruciating detail–because the idea of “How are you doing today?” being just another greeting like “Hi” or “Hello” is utterly foreign to us. And, while this is one of the more benign things I deall with in allistic culture, it’s not without it’s issues. There’s a cost to navigating a system I never quite seem to understand. Since I never completely get it, I’m constantly spending energy and using bandwidth that could be used for something else. Not to mention that it tires me out, both mentally and/or physically.
Allistic Culture Doesn’t Make Any Fucking Sense
The thing is, neurotypical culture is filled with shit that makes no sense to me. Take shaking hands for example. Why in the name of everything that’s fucking holy is touching someone’s grody-ass hand–that’s been God-fucking-knows where–the default way of greeting/congratulating/showing agreement? It’s not like we need to demonstrate we’re unarmed anymore and there are plenty of other ways to do the things we use it for now, none of which require me to touch people I don’t know (not that I’m okay with touching people I do know, but that’s a whole other post). Also, how do they make every-fucking-thing a social event? You get two NTs–who have never seen each other before–in a room together and, within a few seconds, those chatty-ass fuckers are yakking it up like long-lost friends. I do not get it, How the fuck do you start a conversation with someone you’ve never even seen before? And, don’t get me started on crowds. I fucking hate them but NTs apparently have little to no issue with them. Hell, I’ve heard some say they love being in a crowd, What the actual fuck???
How Am I The Weird One?
As you can probably tell, none of this makes any sense to me. I see NTs doing this shit and wonder if they understand why they’re doing this shit? Is it learned or is it just innate? If it’s learned, when–and where–do they teach this shit? Because I must have fucking absent that day. Or in the wrong goddamn place (which is entirely goddamn possible since I suck at reading instructions). If it’s innate, it seems kind of shitty to build an entire culture around it and then declare it the goddamn default way of doing things. I say that because it should be obvious, even to the most clueless fuckwit in the neurotypical world, that not everyone holds this knowledge. But no, they just assume that you know this shit because they know this shit. Look, not only do I not “know this shit”, a lot of the time, I don’t even know that I don’t “know this shit”. And, when I realize I don’t know it, I feel like something’s wrong with me because I don’t know it. Which is a special kind of fucked up. You know?
A Gordian Knot of Neurotypical Fuckery
So, I’ve titled this piece, “The Inscrutability of Allistic Culture” mostly because “The Inscrutability of Neurotypical Culture” doesn’t really sing. The second one may be more accurate, but it sounds clinical and clunky and, well, wrong. But, “wrong” in a way I can’t really describe. Which is actually a good way to end this post since it describes so much of my experience of allistic culture. As in, I know something’s wrong but I can’t figure out why. Or even what it is that’s wrong. And, the shit I need to do that is all unwritten. All this shit comes together in a Gordian knot of neurotypical fuckery that is practically impossible to unravel and leaves me wondering how we’re the ones who are socially fucking awkward. The bottom line here is that, as far as I’m concerned, allistic/neurotypical culture is a is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma. But if, as Churchill said, there’s a key, I have no goddamn idea where or what it is. And to be perfectly honest, I’m not expecting to find it.
1 thought on “The Inscrutability of Allistic Culture”
Great analysis. Your description of ND people really resonates with me, since it explains so much about my own life and lifelong challenges.