I’m in the middle of watching The Accountant, where the main man, Ben Affleck, is a highly trained autistic batman, or something like it. This most assuredly follows under the autistic = superhero genre, but I’ve never really been against that practice.
It’s not that I want people to think that mathematicians are the only autistics worth keeping. And the trauma that the main character is put through to handle his difference is cynical and a little grotesque.
It’s also not wrong. Well- the high body count is definitely wrong but the father says a line that I find incredibly true. “They don’t hate you or like you, they’re scared of you because you are different. Sooner or later, different scares people.”
Which is of course ironic because different routines, environments, and such, scare us the most. I am always afraid. On some level. Always afraid, even when I am happy and doing well.
This isn’t a comment on my life to say that. I have a wonderful life. But my survival instinct has always been on high. And my awareness of my own difference, even when I didn’t have a name for it, scared me.
Sooner or later, different scares people.
There is another line that Ben Affleck said that I like better though. He said, I have trouble with social situations and talking to people… but I want to. I want to talk to people.
I’m paraphrasing a bit there. He did it better. He is Ben Affleck after all. But I so understand that. I wrote a monologue in my most recent show about the idea of Beth from Little Women being Autistic. I’ll leave it here for you to see what I mean…
You read that, I’m gonna see what happens to Ben.
Beth Is Autistic, And So Am I
You know how everyone has to wear masks now— to protect themselves from the pandemic. Well— uh— I have had to wear a mask for much longer.
That’s what my psychiatrist calls it. Masking.
I watch what other people do and I do the same. So no one sees what I really am.
My mom calls it being shy.
My dad calls it anxiety.
I’m making it sound so mysterious and dramatic but it shouldn’t be.
It’s just another type of person.
Beth is one too. Beth is like me.
Because I watch people so closely I saw all the clues with Beth, and asked Miss Pratt about it. She agreed.
See, they call Beth’s “shyness” an infirmity or disorder. Turning her fears and timid behavior into a sickness. They still do that.
Call me retarded— when the only thing slow about me is my understanding of why people are so mean.
Beth says about her birthday,
(she has this part memorized)
“I used to be so frightened when it was my turn to sit in the chair with the crown on, and see you all come marching round to give the presents, with a kiss. I liked the things and the kisses, but it was dreadful to have you sit there looking at me while I opened the bundles.”
That is because she doesn’t know what to do or say. So being the center of attention can be a nightmare. The things that come natural to others, we have to learn how to do. These weird rules that all you neurotypical people decided without even talking to each other.
You have to make eye contact.
You have to stop playing with dolls after twelve.
You have to talk to people that you don’t know.
You have to be polite.
You have to look a certain way.
You have to be a certain way.
People like Beth and I just don’t get the rules that you all have. So we watch, and we mask our real selves,
so that you won’t see us.
So you won’t make us uncomfortable.
So we don’t make you uncomfortable.
The fear of loud noises was a sign too.
The way she runs from things that are too loud— She probably doesn’t like things that are too bright, either. She gets headaches. I read that and all I thought was, I put on dark glasses when I get my headaches.
They should get her dark glasses.
People like Beth and I have very sensitive reactions to light and sound because we see and hear things so differently.
We’re not less, just different.
Oh, and the piano— the piano was a give away. We all have these obsessions.
Things that make us forget our masks.
That way we can be ourselves.
The piano makes Beth look, and act,
like anyone else.
And so they see her for who she really is—
Not just a shy girl who lives in her own little world.
You know the Māori word for it means, “in their own time and place.”
Which sounds lovely— and I guess it is because we can see, and hear, and sense things that others don’t. But the truth is we want to be in your world. We want to be included and have friends just like anyone else.
You think being in quarantine is lonely— you should try being Autistic.
Yeah, Beth is Autistic.
And so am I.