Going incognito

I was raised on weird Czech fairytales. One of them – which is also prominent in Russia – goes something like this:

A king sent his three sons on a mission to obtain the beautiful Firebird. The youngest son befriended a magic fox, who led him to the castle at which the Firebird was kept. The king of that castle told the prince that he would exchange the Firebird for a golden-maned horse, and the king of the castle where the horse was kept said that he would exchange the horse for the Golden Princess. Through a series of trials and with the help of the fox, the prince was able to trick the princess’s mother into letting him take her away with him, supposedly to marry her.

However, when the prince got to the castle where the golden-maned horse was kept, he (rightly) thought better of actually giving away the princess. Luckily, the fox was a master of disguise and transformed herself into the likeness of the princess. As the prince was making his getaway, though, someone in the castle noted that the princess seemed to have fox eyes, at which point the spell was broken and the fox darted out of the castle.

Similarly, when it was time to exchange the golden-maned horse for the Firebird, the fox transformed herself into the likeness of the horse and was able to fool the king just long enough for the prince to get away, at which point one of the nobles in the castle noted that the horse had a fox’s tail. The fox instantly transformed back into herself and ran out.

This is basically what it’s felt like to try to pass as a “normal” person throughout much of my life. I’m able to do a pretty good impression, but it’s never perfect, and whenever someone comments on a lapse in my disguise I get this overpowering sense that the “gig is up” and it’s time to cut and run, never to be seen by those people again.

This is, of course, not the best approach when you’re trying to build lasting relationships, either socially and professionally. The trick is to keep in mind that even after someone notices something is “off” about me, this does not mean that they don’t like or respect me anymore, or that I don’t do good work. So what if I’m not a princess or a horse? I’m a magical talking, shapeshifting fox. That’s not so bad after all!

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Going incognito

  1. tielserrath

    This is why I’ve held over twenty jobs in twenty years, and moved house sixteen times.
    I’m trying to stay in one place and one job – I’ve been here nearly four years, the longest I’ve stayed anywhere since I was sixteen. It’s incredibly hard to try and negotiate other people’s discovery of my weirdnesses. And while before I could put my lack of friends down to my constant moving, now I can’t hide from the fact that it’s because of the autism.
    But like they say, I’m too high-functioning to be autistic, right? How could an autistic be a doctor (or a lawyer)?

  2. Twitchy Woman

    I’ve had much the same experience, having moved six times in the seven years since college (five of those moves were inter-city). This was partly because of career factors outside of my control, but it’s still difficult. It takes me at least a year to make even a few casual friends in a new city, and even then I tend to prefer spending time with really old friends who are also neuroatypical. It’s very difficult to get to the point where you’re secure enough in yourself that you are no longer scared of rejection from people once they discover that you’re different.

    But yes, tell a clinician this and they’ll frequently say that you’re clearly very high-functioning because you’re able to have a conversation with them, in a clinical situation where most of the normal rules of social interaction don’t even apply, for an hour. And because you’re able to communicate with people in a professional setting to accomplish specific objectives. And because you’ve had friends before at some point in your life (including friends you met on the internet and friends who are also Autistic).

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