Note - I just found this post from two years ago on a Wordpress acount I made but never used more than once. I originally titled it "The Girl in the Prom Dress" but I like this title better. Two years ago.... This was a prescient post. I like it. I don't think it's on this blog so I am posting it here.
I was flipping idly through some pictures that had been posted to my Facebook account. I stopped short when I saw my prom picture. What a different world, I thought. Never again will you ever see me in a dress. Much less a sleeveless one, with long hair, a necklace an even, of all things, a handbag. Although I have to admit, the dark blue color sure did look good on me.
My friends all wore long, flowing dresses, but I stood barefoot in a simple, short, dark blue dress loaned to me by a friend only a few hours before, when I had made a last minute decision to go to the prom. Dances are not my thing, but despite my objections I decided to give it a try. My hair was long, blonde and curly, one of the few times I have had hair longer than an inch in the last ten years.
Then I flipped to a picture I had just added recently of me on a hiking trip with some friends. The picture was far from glamorous. I had on a grungy grey sweatshirt, white cotton pants and very short to almost non-existent hair. This, or some variation, is my usual outfit. The picture was less than flattering, but I didn’t care, because after all, it was me. My smile was joyous, and to me that meant everything. I had captured the joy of the day with that picture.
Many times, over the years, I have been told by well-meaning people that I should change my appearance. People would like you better, they say. You’d get along better in the world, they say. People judge by first appearances, they say. Why don’t you grow your hair out? Why don’t you wear nicer clothes? Is that really the nicest clothes you have?
What they, or at least the world at large, often don’t understand is that I don’t have the luxury of looking nice. Severe sensory issues prevent me from wearing almost any piece of clothing known to man. I need soft, loose, cotton clothing to be comfortable. And even in that category, well, very few things work. I have spent several hours in large clothing stores before and came out with nothing. My dad once took me to Bloomingdale’s on a New York City trip, and all I came out with was a Tamagotchi t-shirt. And that was good for me! Everything is too tight, the textures are uncomfortable, the seams are sewn in the wrong place, it sits on my body wrong, it’s got buttons, and so on and so forth. And that was before I developed chemical sensitivity issues, which complicates the issue even more.
Because of this, a good clothes day for me is when I can actually wear them. Anything, that is. I’ll take anything that doesn’t make me want to start screaming when I put it on.
As for my hair, I can’t stand the feeling of hair on my head. It just feels heavy, and when it gets too long, it is literally the only thing I can think of until I get it cut.
I’m a firm believer that people should be functional in their clothing. I don’t understand why people torture themselves to wear high heels that make their feet hurt all night, or squeeze themselves into an outfit that makes them feel like they can’t breathe just because they think it looks good. As far as I’m concerned, if I’m not comfortable in something, I’m going to be grouchy and irritable all day or night because of it. This will
affect my interactions with others, and give them a bad impression of me. It will affect my experience of them negatively as well. The effects of these uncomfortable, intolerable clothes will send my stress levels through the roof, and make my coping abilities nil. Now, why would I choose to have clothes or hair that looked good over being able to function in the world and having a smile on my face when I interact with others?
When I looked at the prom picture of me, with my curly blonde hair and my perfect dress, for a moment I felt a stab of envy. This is the kind of girl I could be. I could look like other people my age if I wanted to. It’s possible. I could look, well, more “normal.” But then I remind myself how foolish this is. What did I really want when I looked at that picture? I wanted what went along with my perceived notions of what that girl’s life would be like. I wanted the life of a typical 20-something. I wanted people to like me; I wanted lots of friends; I wanted a life of social ease and happiness. It’s an illusion, of course. Because that isn’t me. And you don’t get friends, social ease and happiness by being something you’re not. My warm smile, my enthusiasm, my care and concern for others? Those will, in time, get me friends who mean something to me, and they’ll do it whether or not I’m wearing a Tiffany dress or a Marshall’s grey sweatshirt. Mascara, tight clothes and expensive haircuts do not a make a person into who they are. Integrity, kindness and being true to oneself do. So when I look at that prom dress now, I am glad to have it as a memory of a time when I tried something new and succeeded. But I am even happier that the real me was still waiting for me, unchanged, when I got home that night.
If you like this, please be sure to visit my other website, Accepting Asperger's. A lot of my older writing is stored here, including an editorial I once wrote for the Baltimore Sun. Click here to see it: Accepting Asperger's.
What's it really like to be a 20 something with Asperger's? On this blog, I hope to explore that question. But this blog is not just limited to an audience of people in their 20s - this is for anyone who ever wanted to know anything about autism. I plan to delve into the nature and experience of autism, and examine it from as many angles as possible. I would like to start a conversation between people with Asperger's or autism, parents of kids with autism spectrum disorders, and anyone who just wants to know more. Let's explore what autism means, together.
My goal is to start a discussion on and build a community of people affected by autism - parents and adults with ASD - so feel free to leave your two cents in the comments section of any post. If you're too shy for that, however, or want to speak to me personally, you may feel free to email me at KGoldfie@gmail.com.
Asperger's Book for Sale
Common Scents: Adventures with Autism and Chemical Sensitivity" is the story of a young woman's search for physical and emotional safety as she journeys through the mountains of the Cascades, small coastal towns on the Oregon coast, and out-of the-way towns in upstate New York. Along the way, she experiences things she would never have dreamed possible had she stayed in her Maine hometown, and begins to learn the power of human connection.
Common Scents is the story of the last three years of my life. It gives a gripping view of what it is like to experience the world as someone on the autistic spectrum, and some would say, is an entertaining travel story as well. Because of chemical sensitivities, I engaged on a three year journey for a place I could call home.
Comments from readers:
"The Asperger's element is remarkable. I feel that I understand my son better, so much better. I laughed at this part.... because I've stared at my son in the same way for the same thing." - mother of an Asperger's kid
"Your writing style is SO engaging and interesting. It brings me right into the subject and I always experience a little emotional punch towards the end. In other words, this is the third time I've teared-up reading your work. Kate, you've highlighted ALL the problems with how social skills are usually taught." - mother of ASD kid
"I stayed up entirely too late reading the first 14 pages. I can relate to so much of what you write. I really think you are expressing the true experience with MCS and autism in words that convey the experience." person with chemical sensitivity (MCS)
"Absolutely interesting, insightful and witty. You've blended together your three themes beautifully (Asperger's, MCS and travelling). It seems seamless."