Friday, June 14, 2019

Asperger's & Fashion: Let the Tears Begin

Oh, boy. Where do I start? Well, let's keep it simple.

We like being comfortable. Actually, that's about the whole of it. We like being COMFORTABLE!!

The main reason for this, is because we're hyper-sensitive when it comes to textures. A tag on a shirt can drive us insane, and something that is even slightly tight or makes us slightly self-conscious, which might just be an irritant for neurotypicals, is a nightmare for us!

Now, back to the concept of comfort: Is it really too much to ask? In the world of women's fashion, it is. Everything today is fitted, tight, and made out of material that we think is better suited for backpacks and purses. But, on the other hand, we also need some security. Like, for me, jeans need to be high-waisted and secure. I can't constantly be pulling up on my hip-huggers or be bothered to wear a belt all the time, so I need the high-waisted ones. And when it comes to shirts, the looser the better!

How do I dress?  Well, when I don't have to be around people, then I go where the mood takes me! Some days I feel modern, others vintage, and on the rare occasion, grunge. I also like to show what I like with what I wear and be comfortable while doing it, so I have a nice collection of Doctor Who, Supernatural, Sherlock, and Firefly t-shirts, along with some Harry Potter and a few other things thrown in for good measure. And Goodwill is the best place for buying men's button ups...I particularly like plaid. (wink wink)

However, when I have to go to work or to church, or I'm just going to go hang out with friends, then things get...interesting. I have plenty of other things in my wardrobe, but I don't see them as clothes; they're my costumes. If I'm going to church, I wear dresses and skirts, if I'm going to work, then plain shirts and jeans. I have to admit, work is pretty easy to dress for and it's nice.

But then you have hanging out with friends. Easy, right? Just throw something on and it's all good.


It's not.

It. Is. Paralyzing.

I have to think about everything that might happen, everything that might come up over even just a couple of hours. Will they want to do something sporty? Will we end up at someone's else house? Will someone want to go out to eat? Will we be outside or inside most of the time? What if it goes longer than planned?  It's a very complicated matter and it takes a long time for me to put things together so that I feel comfortable.

I create a costume each time I go out, even just to run errands.

I carefully put together colors, textures, jewelry and makeup so that I have a character that suits the situation.  As a girl with Asperger's, I learned from a young age how to hide myself in a crowd. How to be a chameleon, not only with my personality, but with my wardrobe. The few people who have seen my jewelry collection...well, I have seen the widened eyes. I have a *lot* of jewelry. A lot of it...see?

And all of it, for me (even the nice stuff), I consider to be costume jewelry. I have it to create my different costumes (everyday outfits), so I have no singular style that stands out; it's the same when you look at my clothes. A little bit of everything.

It goes back to what I talked about in an earlier post; that we are actors on a daily basis, and home is the place where we don't have to act, and simply get the chance to be ourselves, so don't be surprised if our collection looks like something that belongs behind the scenes of a television show or movie set: a little bit of everything. And, no, I'm really not kidding about that!

So, when we're at home, not expecting company, we are our truest selves, all the way down to our fashion.

I like sweats.

I like high-waisted jeans.

I love vintage t-shirts and men's button ups.

But...believe it or not...I LOVE DRESSING UP!!!

After all of this, you're probably going, What? But she just said that being comfortable is the most important thing to her, this doesn't make any sense!

Actually, I never said dressing up is uncomfortable. In fact, I own about six or seven formal dresses. Most of them I have never had the chance to wear and have never been outside of my closet except for when I first bought them, but I love wearing them! When I find a formal dress that not only looks great on me, but is comfortable, too, I buy it!

Dressing up is wonderful and makes me feel pretty and gorgeous and is the time where I can best hide among all you neurotypicals. I love it!

I may be a total tomboy at home, but whenever I get the chance to dress up, I take full advantage of the oppurtunity! I love feeling like a glamorous girl for a few hours in a pretty dress and heels and makeup. It's an experience that sticks with me long after it's done.

So, just because girls with Asperger's are always playing a part in public, that doesn't mean we always hate it. Sometimes, it's fun...but only sometimes.

To sum it up in simple terms:

We don't follow fasion...though we're more fashion aware than you might realize.

We like to be comfortable.

We are going to wear what we want at home and there's nothin' you can do about it!

...and boys...we hate shopping.  If you end up dating or marrying a girl with Asperger's, then you have hit the jackpot, because we will not drag you from store to store and make us carry all of our bags.  We will, however, steal your shirts on a regular basis, that I can pretty much guarantee. So, because of that, you will be shopping for shirts more than us because we will co-opt your clothes for our own purposes.

So, that's what it's like for girls with Asperger' least, from my point of view.

Monday, October 5, 2015

On Personal Space: It's Different For Us

Personal space.  Two small words.  Not a big deal, right?


For a Neurotypical (like you), those two words roughly translate to the comfort-distance ratio of: Acquaintances, 5-6 Ft.; Friends/Family, 0-3 Ft.; Significant Other, 0-3 Ft.

For someone with Asperger's, boys and girls alike, there is an entirely different translation of comfort-distance ratio.  It breaks down to roughly this:
Acquaintances, 10-X Ft.; Friends/Family, 5-X Ft.; Significant Other... you're joking, right?

(please note, all numbers are from the brain of Elise Quackenbush, and do not have any scientific basis whatsoever)

People with Asperger's have a lot of problems with personal space because we have a lot of sensory issues that flare up when people are too close to us. An interesting aspect of Asperger's is that we have a tendency to be easily overwhelmed by outside stimuli, which includes everything from sounds, to smell, taste, touch, and sight. I am a perfect example of this.

Whenever I am around people in a crowded environment, you will find me lingering on the edge of the room...or not in the room at all.  When I have to go to someone's house and it's insanely crowded inside, I will be outside, communing with nature with a snack in one hand and a drink in the other. If it's crowded outside, you will find me inside, spending time on the host's piano and/or with their pets.

 I can tolerate a few people at a time, but I will leave the room when I feel my bubble about to be breached. Neurotypicals have an amazing ability that people with Asperger's envy...the ability to gauge how much physical contact is or isn't appropriate for how well you know the person. I can know someone really well for over three years and still feel incredibly uncomfortable when they go in for a hug. It's not that I don't like them, I do! It's just...a big no for me.

This is how I used to act when someone would give me an unexpected hug...

As a girl with Asperger's, however, I have had to hide my discomfort and learn to deal with it over the years. And when I say "deal with it", I don't mean it in a bad way. I mean, I don't want to offend people by saying, "Please don't hug me, it makes me uncomfortable," so I learned how to respond appropriately.  Now, because I have friends now who are girls and since I'm not particularly adept at saying how much I care for them, I go for the hug. Heck, I'll initiate it, even! I've actually managed to get over it pretty well and haven't had any problems with it going on for several years, now.

This is how I now do hugs!

Now, if you think on what I've told you so far, you might be thinking, "Wait a second. What about significant others?"  Oh, boy.  Well, this is where we veer away from the academia of thought and end up in Elise-ville.

For me, physical expression is something that affects me more strongly than anything else. (Think overload on sensory stimuli!) If a guy hugs me, it's a Big Deal. Capital letters. Over the years, I've learned how to read guys a bit better and I know how to tell which of them are Huggers (they hug everyone), and which of them aren't. That helps me gauge where I stand in my relationship status with a guy; on how often he invades my personal space in relation to how often he invades other people's personal space.

If I like someone, as in, I'm interested enough that I want to possibly date them, I will initiate small touches. It's usually a gentle shove to move them so I can get to something, or a hug to say hello that I wouldn't normally do with other people.

Sometimes, I even go so far as to press fingertips to their hip to move them out of the way. Notice, I only touch when I have to, but I try to communicate with that touch. It's hard for me to gauge, however, if someone has picked up on it. It's very hard. I have had to learn how to flirt using personal space and it's very difficult for someone who doesn't know how to read it very well, such as girls with Asperger's.

In the end, be patient with us.

We may seem cold and aloof, but we're not. We're just very cautious about who we let into our personal space.

You can love us from afar, and we'll still feel it.

We Promise.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Dating: An Aspie Girl's Minefield

You have no idea how emotionally exhausted we can become, and how hard it can be to connect with people, especially when it comes to dating.

I am 26 years old and have never been in a long-term romantic relationship.

Here’s why…

Whenever I meet a guy I like, there is a process that goes through my brain.  In order to understand the differences, let’s first look at a Neuro-Typical’s brain, someone without Asperger’s.

The situation?  A girl sees a guy she likes across a room. (Reminder: This is my own personal perspective. It is not a blueprint for every girl with Aspergers!)

Here’s a Neurotypical’s (NT) reaction: 

So, the girl sees the guy.  He’s cute.  And funny.  And seems to like some of the same things as her.  Great! So, she sits next to him and his friends, and then maybe brings up a topic they have in common.  He makes a joke, she laughs.  He smiles.  Her brain goes, good job! and she can somehow understand that he might like her, too, because look!  He’s leaning a little in her direction, he’s making eye contact, and, hey! How about that, he brings up another topic of conversation! That means he wants to continue talking to her! Yes!  The guy reads her eye contact and he knows she’s interested, making him confident to move the conversation along.  They talk for a few minutes and when they’re done, she thinks, Yes! I just met someone awesome and his name is Joe!

Here’s that same situation, but with an Asperger’s girl:  

She sees the guy.  He’s cute.  And funny.  And seems to like the same things as her.  Great! That means it’s too good to be true.  So…she looks at him from a corner of the room, and tries to stay hidden until she can be certain that he’s not there with someone else.  But even if there’s no one there, there’s no way that he’d be interested.  Maybe she plucks up the courage to sit next to him.  But then stays silent.  He’s with his friends, and she can’t see an opening to say a word in edgewise.  Finally, after a long while of just awkwardly sitting there, she says something.  He gives her a look and replies.  She notices none of the body language, even as they laugh over a small joke, and quickly averts her eyes when he looks at her because ‘...who stares directly at another person? isn’t that just weird and uncomfortable?’  The guy notices how she shifts and averts her eyes when he looks at her, and so the conversation ends awkwardly.  

She stands up and says something like nice to meet you and then walks away, thinking, Crap, I think he liked me, but now I’m not so sure, and I can’t even remember his name, Crap!

See the difference?

There is an inherent anxiety when it comes to socializing for young women with Asperger’s because all of it requires subtext or reading between the lines, and that means understanding body language and other meanings to simple, innocuous phrases that seem to be straight forward, but mean something entirely different!

We feel like this most of the time, and so we learn how to stay quiet and absorb as much information as possible before speaking...which is dangerous when it's someone we like, because we'll want to gather as much data as possible to ensure our chances of success.

Which means reading through their entire past on Facebook in order to figure out just who they are because we're fairly certain that we'll never get far enough to actually ask them about their life, so we want to be prepared, you know, just in case.

And we promise that we're not stalking you.


We're just trying to be socially prepared.

Because of our disadvantage of being unable to read body language and pick up on non-verbal cues, it is much harder for us to flirt and to date. If you can't tell if someone likes you more than just 'likes' you, then how can you date?

Yeah, so it's hard for us.

Really, really hard.

So, if you're a boyfriend or husband of a woman with Asperger's, you are pure gold! Believe it or not, we love you so much and we will always know how lucky we are and we will never take you for granted because it probably took us a long time to find someone like you.

My key point in all of this?

Not sure.

I lost my train of thought.

I'm pretty sure that it's patience, though. So, take us with a grain of salt and be patient. And hey, to all you guys who like a girl that you think has Asperger's...don't try dropping hints. It won't work. Just TALK to us and tell us how you feel.

Patience and honesty. It works best for us.

So, despite all of the mines in our minefield, the men in our life can make it a bit easier by talking to us honestly and openly. We'll appreciate it, trust me.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Eye Contact...Let's Say No

Aspergers girls and eye contact go as well together as oil and water.


I'm not joking.

I bet you're thinking, 'Come on, it's just eye contact, it won't kill you,' while we're looking at our feet and silently plotting a way to get out of the horrendously horrible awkward position that we've put ourselves in.  We don't do eye contact.

You know how people on the lower-functioning end of autism scale have problems with eye contact because it makes them uncomfortable? Well, just because Aspergers is on the higher-functioning end of that scale, that doesn't mean it's any easier for us! In fact, it's really hard, and because it's so hard for us, it's even harder to show guys that we like them because we feel so uncomfortable with it.

It was a nightmare when we were kids and we were told by our parents and our teachers to look at them while they were talking to us. I know that I've learned the hard way what is considered rude staring and what is considered proper eye contact because of those moments.  Long periods of maintaining eye contact is horribly awkward and weird and every other single synonym that you can think of!

What's most terrifying about it is the question that every Aspergers girl wants to know the answer to... How long is too long?  We. Don't. Know.

One of the things that you learn as you grow up is how often you should make eye contact during a conversation, but for us, we never seem to learn it or get the hang of it. We usually avoid it altogether to save ourselves the trouble.  The interesting thing, however, is that when we do have conversations where we make eye contact, whenever we're recounting an event or part of a movie or story, we have to look away in order to remember because we have what is called a "filmographic memory". I only just came across this term recently, but it explained so much about why I can recall details that other people can't.

Whenever I read a book, it doesn't matter what kind it is, I see it as a film in my head. That's one of the reasons why I like to see the movies first and then read the books, because it's very easy for me to trans-position the actors into the story as I read it, and it makes it come to life even more.  My brain works like a film editor's studio and puts everything together in one piece. After seeing something just once, all I need is the audio to enjoy it all over again! I can see it in vivid detail in my mind and enjoy it just as if I was watching it! This kind of memory proves to me that eye contact is overrated. It also made me realized that I'm pretty darn lucky that I have a brain that works this way!

My brain works like Sherlock's mind palace! Give me a keyword and I'll find it! And what's even more unique, is that my mind palace isn't a's a CinemaPlex!! How many people can say that? Everything I've ever read is recorded in movies in my head and that is freakin' awesome!

So, back to the subject at hand.  Eye contact.  I don't like it.  Other Aspergers girls don't like it.  We do it when necessary, but do not be offended if we don't! It's HARD for us! (please note the all capitals) We love you, even if you can't see it in our eyes, and we try to show it many other ways.

Eye contact...let's say...maybe?

We'll let you know.

Who Am I This Time?

Friends matter to me, because I have very few, and they are absolutely essential for me when I'm in new social situations.  Whenever I show up to an event, of any kind, I search out for the people I know in order to figure out what I need to know in order to survive the next few hours.

It usually looks like this...

Talking to people I don't know has become easier over the years, but there is still a challenge involved.  Because I have Asperger's, I have to actively pay attention to what people are doing while they're talking, in order to understand them better.

My friends usually stick next to me for a while, and once they see I'm comfortable, they back away and let me take the reins.  Over the years, I have learned how to take the reins more quickly and adeptly, but I'll never be completely confident about it.

However, you'd never know it to look at me!

Remember, being a girl with Asperger's means that I've learned how to become a world-class actress.  Give me the costume I need for the situation, and I'll put my brain into character mode.  Think of it like picking a Sim's qualities, in the Sims game.

You have Sloppy/Neat, Shy/Outgoing, Lazy/Active, Sensitive/Playful, and Grouchy/Nice.  You then have those tiny bars where you adjust to figure out how much you want in each.  Before I go out, I adjust those little bars.  If I'm going to church, I up the Neat, Shy, Sensitive, Nice, and set it in the middle for Lazy/Active.  If I'm going out with friends, I increase the Outgoing, Active, Playful, and play it in the middle for Grouchy/Nice and Sloppy/Neat.

When I come home, everything hits dead center. Depending on who comes home, my meter will go in different directions to adjust for the changes in my environments.  I mainly live in a Neutral Zone (capital N, capital Z).  When I'm out on a completely impromptu excursion, however, I feel like this most of the time...

...I'm the one with the upside down badge.  Dean represents my friends.  They adjust me in situations when it needs to be done.  I get mentally stuck in my NZ when not mentally prepared for socialization, and sometimes come across as being cold or aloof.  I'm not, trust me!  I'm just internally frozen and completely unsure of what to do.

Whenever I go out, I put on a new character.  Quite a few of them have become very familiar and comforting.  Like Church!Elise.  I like Church!Elise, a lot.  She's sweet, always volunteering to help, and makes quick friends with all of the older women. Along with a touch of worldly maturity, she's close enough to parts of my personality that I actually enjoy becoming her a couple of times a week.

Then you have GoingOut!Elise.  She's a real trip.  I use sugar to help fortify her, along with a lot of deodorant and a long time with the bathroom mirror.  She's funny, vivacious, very flirty, and is a bit...loud.  Yeah, so parts of her are definitely me (loud), but most of her is a very regulated version of Normal!Elise.  She's a blast to have fun with, that's for sure!

...but she's almost the most exhausting.

The different versions of me require effort to maintain.  It's sort of like being a conman on a regular day to day basis, and your con is that you're convincing everyone that you're just like them.  But you're not.

And that's okay.

That's why it's nice to have friends that see straight through you and only want the real you.  Even if it happens to look like you're being a jerk, they know that you don't mean it and you love them for it!  They put up with you so well and call you out when you're really being a jerk!

It's kind of like when a really famous actor has friends who knew them before they were acting, and keeps them around to keep them from going too crazy with power.  It may be exhausting, pretending to be other people all the time, but it's also sometimes pretty cool!  Especially when it comes to strangers!  I have to resist the urge sometimes to bust out my flawless accents just for the heck of it because I know it will only come back to bite me on the butt if I do.

If you're bolder than I am, try doing some theater to channel that creative spirit!  I've never quite gotten the courage to do so, even though I love the idea.

Having Asperger's can be positive, remember that!

Yes, you may have to put on a few faces, but I like to think of it as battle armor.  If you were always being honest with every single person around you, well...

...We'd end up like Sherlock Holmes, living at home wearing a sheet, with a flatmate who was determined to change us, who knew that it would never really happen.  Don't be Sherlock.  Please.  He's a wonderful character in literary fiction, but because we are people we need to remember to be nice to people.  When we're nice to people, when we tell them about who we really are, they are more willing to try and understand it than to simply ignore it and think that we're just being mean.

Our personas, characters, masks, whatever you want to call them, protect us from being emotionally beaten up on a daily basis.  They are a buffer for us to deal with the outside world.

Mind you, if we don't get enough downtime away from people and the stress of acting, it can lead to depression, mood disorders, and even sleep and eating disorders.  If you have any of these, seek professional help; there are people out there who really do want to help, and they will if you'll let them.

So, to sum up, women with Asperger's have a lot of stress being other people in their daily lives.  When they're at home, let them be themselves.  Please! We need to be who we are in order to survive.  Can you imagine being an actor 24/7? Imagine going to set after set, with no trailer with your name on it in sight! Terrifying, isn't it?  Yes, it is.

Let us be Asperger's at home, and we'll take care of the rest.

And the next time we go out, don't be surprised if we ask you, "Who am I this time?"

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

So... What's It Like?

Well, let's start from the beginning, shall we?

Hello.  My name is Elise and I have Asperger’s.

Whenever I tell someone about this, I always get the same look and reaction.  “What’s that mean?”

…along with the look that seems to silently say, ‘…and why is this my problem?’  I never quite know how to respond, but I eventually explain, usually in too many words, that it has to deal with how I interact with people.

I only ever tell people about my Asperger’s when I have come to know them well-enough that they are not just an acquaintance.

It is hard to explain because I have been hiding it all of my life without even realizing that that was what I was doing.  I grew up thinking that everyone did what I did.  I had several different personas.  The one at school (the quiet teacher’s pet), the one at church (the silent but dutiful student), the one with my “friends” (funny and sarcastic and short term), and the one at home. The person I am at home is the one that talks too loud, interrupts, and rambles on and on about all of my favorite, geeky, fandom obsessions.  And the one that always hits the punchline wrong.  But it’s the closest thing to the real me that you’ll ever come across.

When I found out that not everyone did this, that was the moment that I realized that I was different.  I was diagnosed several years ago with mild Asperger’s, but I know that I actually have full blown Asperger’s and that I cover it by playing pretend.  As a girl, you learn how to play pretend when you’re a kid…but when you’re an Asperger’s girl, you never stop.

Two words explain it all: it’s exhausting.

 You have no idea how emotionally exhausted we can become, and how hard it can be to connect with people, especially when it comes to dating.

...But I'll leave that for another post.

Socializing is hard enough, but romantic socializing? A minefield of disasters just waiting to happen!  This is why I have started explaining my Asperger's to people that I know that I’m going to be hanging around on a regular basis.  They need to know that I am going to miss a lot of things unless they simply tell me straight out.  

The guys that I know usually take this really well, and seem to find it refreshing to be around a girl who speaks her mind, but sometimes I take it for granted that I can and become a bit too…blunt.  To me, it’s just being able to say what’s on my mind and be honest, but apparently there is still an unspoken barrier that exists that isn’t supposed to be broken...

This makes my personal life practically non-existent, but not extinct.  My healthiest relationships are usually with the people that I meet online.  Online, my filter doesn’t have to exist and it’s a huge relief! …But it also means I lower my options for friends and romantic relationships. But you know what?  It's actually very reassuring!

This way, I know that the people who do stick around, think I'm pretty cool and actually like me for me! That's always a wonderful thing to know.

So, thanks for sticking around long enough to read this post, and I hope you liked my little fandom that I snuck in here.  I'll be doing that a lot, just so you know.

Remember, don't be ashamed of who you are and make sure that the people who you really care about are aware of your filter and it's limits! (of which there usually are none)  This is a perk, whether you or the people around you realize it or not.  You won't lie to them. Honesty is one of the most cherished and rare qualities out there, and Aspie girls have it in spades! Use it as an advantage and strength, not a weakness.

And don't forget...

You're awesome and impressive!

On Socializing, In General


As a girl with Asperger's, I can tell you that that word terrifies me.  Not kidding. It's like this word that when I hear it, I go, "What? Where? Whowhywhenhow?" ...and then go and hide behind my laptop, under the pretense that I'm checking Facebook for the location of the event and then Google Maps for how far it is, so I'll know when to go.

Conveniently, it'll be just a bit too far away for me to justify going.

"Oh, look at that! It'll cost me..."  (pulls out calculator)  "At least fifteen dollars in gas, and I can't afford that!  Looks like I'll have to stay home.  Bummer."

Pretend to mope for a bit and then pull up Netflix, YouTube, Facebook, Tumblr, Fan Fiction, DeviantArt and Pinterest all in separate tabs on my laptop and start cackling like a mad scientist inside my mind.  Because, you love having the excuse to stay in and see what your online family is up to!  For an Aspie girl, these groups are wonderful!

For me, this is how it breaks down:

Netflix = The friend who will binge watch anything with you, no matter what.
YouTube = The friend who's mind is just as scattered as yours, taking you from talking about kittens to satirical rants to Superwholock videos without batting an eye or judging you.
Facebook = The friend who knows everything about all of your other friends.
Tumblr = The friend who knows your darkest secrets and obsessions.
Fan Fiction  = The friend that you bounce all of your ideas off of, and they think they're all great! (even the insanely stupid ones)
Deviant Art = All of your friends that are the misunderstood artists that you totally envy for their amazing drawing skills...even though you know you're just as good, but you don't have the time or the money to spend on all the art supplies that you'd need.
Pinterest = All of your knitting, sewing, cooking, and srapbooking friends.

So, you see where I'm going with all of this?  Life becomes...sectioned out.  You have the real world, which is a jumbled mess of knots and connections, which you deal with when you have to.  And then you have your safe havens online, which help to keep you from going insane from all of the socializing that you have to do out in the RW. (Real World, in case you're having trouble keeping up)

When you do socialize, in conversations people are talking about things and you're just sort of...

...Feeling awkward.  Unlike at home, where you just interrupt, you don't know how to join into a conversation without ruining the social persona that you're wearing, so you just sort of say nothing and just watch and listen in on a lot of conversations, so you know what's going on more so than other people most of the time.  But, since you're not a gossip, no one knows that you know.

Just because you're brutally honest doesn't mean you don't know how to keep a secret.

You'll stick around for events, but then you end up feeling drained.  Again.

So, you go home and then set about recharging.  Not with food or sleep.  But with your online friends who know you better than anyone.  The ones that you talk to through comment logs and by liking each others posts and favoriting each others stories.

It's probably not the healthiest way to socialize, but works for you.

So, despite how girls on the Asperger's spectrum can seem to be social butterflies, we're more like social cheetahs.  Good for high energy on short bursts, with a lot of down time afterwards.  We're not being rude, we're just being ourselves, so don't take offense if we need to be alone after we've been with everyone else.

We still love you.

We just can't be around you, right now.

*sending smiles from a distance*