10 December, 2009

Manners

I just finished my Latin exam. Having done the math, I think it's pretty likely that I just scraped by. Literally, like I got one point above failing. Does this matter? Not at all.

It's time for another edition of Kartheiser is Magic, but in this case, it's a segue into an actual disability-related topic! Hooray!

[In response to the statement that he seems younger in real life than he does on the show] "I actually have been through a lot more in my life than Pete has. I think Pete is less of a man than me. The difference in the visual is that Pete had a finishing-school upbringing. I'm an actor, so part of my job is looking like a bum. So I think manners and age are being confused here."

YES VINCENT KARTHEISER! THANKS FOR BEING SO FUCKING COOL ALL THE TIME! Manners are not age. And the fact that people think they are smacks me in the face about a million times a day.

I sometimes have very Pollyanna-ish reactions to things. This is both because of ordinary ASD sensitivity to details, and because of the nature of my scripting. As I think I've previously said, it used to be very hard for me to do things like buy candy bars, ask for directions, or, well, anything. I felt overwhelmed by the task because I knew that as well as the stated task there were lots of other secret implied tasks about my tone of voice and the way my face should be looking. (If you think this isn't true, you're just stupid. Go to a sandwich shop and use nonstandard tone and body language and have trouble processing and making decisions while you are ordering your sandwich. The people at the sandwich stop will be super happy to point out, verbally or with body language, everything that's wrong with what you're doing. Or, if you have a very serious, tense expression on your face because you're trying to make decisions fast to not inconvenience them, they'll ask if you're okay.)

Anyway, everything was such a big challenge that it was hard to do anything, so I figured out the solution of acting really excited and optimistic and young and innocent. This is a very simple persona that lends itself to easy scripting. When you are buying a candy bar you just think to yourself how excited you are about the candy bar and focus on expressing that. When you are asking for directions you try to be cute and make a joke out of how young you are. Suddenly, in the space of like a year, the amount of things I was able to do increased a huge amount.

Previously, I had found it very hard to talk in class or ask teachers for help because I didn't know how to talk or look. Now, I approached teachers with a persona of being young and adorably baffled--a persona that was partly sincere, but could also be used to humorous effect if the teacher was the joking kind. I had an easier time talking in class because if I had trouble understanding something, or if I was expressing a lot of ideas and my script broke or wasn't properly set up, I could giggle and make a joke out of it. Once I started scripting, my grades, and my comfort with my teachers and classmates, improved enormously.

I am a bit more academically impaired at Oberlin than I was in high school. Even though Oberlin is a very small and laid-back school, it is not comparable to my high school which had 50 kids in a grade and had a high population of students with learning disabilities. Besides, there's just the fact that for most of the time I was in high school, I was legally a child, and even after my eighteenth birthday I might as well have been. It seemed more natural for my teachers to have a motherly or fatherly relationship to me. In college, I am expected to some extent to behave like an adult, and if I come to a professor's office hours acting ditzy and young, they might think I am annoying, unmotivated, or manipulative. So at Oberlin, I have to be doing pretty badly to go see a professor, unless they have a very casual, accepting attitude (like most of the classics professors). The only professor I am actually close to in an admissions brochure sort of way, like I've been to her house, used to forget to come to class sometimes--so she's someone I can feel completely safe with. All in all, I still do a lot better than was expected of me.

Sometimes people say that I am immature or use words like "crazy," "insane," "annoying," and "obnoxious" to describe the way I am. Also, when they notice that I am apologizing a lot or putting a lot of concentration into figuring out how to do something right, they tell me not to be so nervous, to have more confidence, or not to be so insecure. All these words imply that I am an unfinished person. Either I am unpleasant or annoying, and I should improve myself so I won't bother people, or I am incomplete on a deeper level--inappropriately anxious and self-hating. If I stop being a person who can be described with all these words, then I will be an adult.

While I have been in the UK, I have not made very much use of the Pollyanna persona. I feel that I don't know the culture well enough to know if it will be appropriate or if it will be annoying. When I am buying things, I mostly make use of something I taught myself to do at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, where people are always staring at my hair:



If there is any downtime while I'm waiting for my sandwich to be made or my groceries to be rung up, I simply mentally remove myself from the situation and try to stim out on some band posters or ceiling lights. That way no one thinks about me at all. The only problem is when the other person tries to be friendly. Niyatee was trying to explain to me that when the lady at the burrito store guesses what kind of burrito I'm going to order, she isn't trying to a)mess up my script and b)make me feel guilty about my repetitive eating habits. I still feel scared about going to the burrito store, though.

I don't ask my professors for help because it might be annoying and as a result I got very behind in two of my classes and will be very close to failing them if I don't fail completely.

I haven't struck anyone as crazy, obnoxious, immature, adorable, otherworldly, or any of the other things I am called, because I barely talk to people at all and when I do I am nervous and blank. I say what I'm required to say and then feel it wasn't good enough.

It is hard for me to go anywhere or do anything because I don't feel I have a system for how.

When I go home, when I pick up a lot of jangly exclamations and interrupt myself in the middle of my sentences, when I raise my hand and preface my question with, "I know this is really stupid, and maybe I shouldn't even be in this class if I don't know this, but," when I stick out my hand towards people to say hello to them, when I skid around and call everyone "kids" and act incredibly delighted about yogurt-covered pretzels at the student cafe, when I eat snow and lie down on the floor because I have kyphosis and accidentally start stimmily running across campus because I feel hopeful and happy coming out of my ExCo on a cold starry night, I will be a person who is accomplished and capable in a lot of ways. I will be more of an adult when I am a quirkfest than I am now that I am paralyzed by a desire to be unseen. To be inoffensive. I feel calcified here, but with worse manners I can really make something of myself.

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