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?"