I have an allergic reaction to invitations that involve socializing. They make me CRINGE! Fortunately, my social circle is size “small” and so I don’t get many invites to cringe over.
A cringing moment came not long ago when I was with a relative and an acquaintance. I was their driver to a small house party of approximately 4-5 guests. The friend invited me to stay and join them. He said, “After all, small is your magic number.” I immediately knew he was referring to things he’s heard me say about living with my Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
I immediately put on my “actress” hat and pretended to be cool, calm, and collected. I didn’t show a hint of my inner reaction of lava spewing out of a lit-up volcano. I kept my mouth shut. I just smiled and kept driving. Fortunately, my relative who didn’t have a clue changed the subject.
He may have thought my ASD was no excuse since their group, most of whom were people I also knew, would not give me any discomfort. That is, that’s how he interpreted what I have said. Well, I don’t communicate too well in person and so I may not have been clear as mud to him. Writing is what comes naturally to me. Here’s what I would say to him and anyone who wonders why I am a loner and likes it that way.
My magic number for living on the Spectrum, with all its traits and quirks, is ONE. I prefer to work, play, eat, worship, and just about everything else with ONE – that being me!
An okay number is two. If I am engaging in conversation with another person on a topic I can give input on, I’m an eager-beaver! It’ll be a race as to which one of us dishes out more conversation than takes in.
Any number above two is above my comfort level. I can be full steam ahead in conversation with another, but if just one person chimes in, I go mute. It isn’t a decision by me to clam up. It’s just how I’m wired. Three or more people will usually prompt me to put on my “actress” hat and play the part of an engaged listener.
It’s hard, if even possible, to explain why I seemingly have a mute button attached to me when in a crowd of three or more. A person not on the spectrum might say, “Well, just speak up!” I’d say, “Please take my word for it. I don’t have it in me.”
ASD is a neurological condition. It’s not my imagination or my choice to be an observer more than a participant. In the midst of three or more, I turn restless. I may bite my nails, chew gum, play with my hair, or fiddle with my fidget cube I keep in my pocket for such emergencies. If you can imagine being in a straight jacket and struggling to get out of it, then that’s how I feel inside in a social setting of 3, 4, 5, etc.
If your magic number for socializing is a number above two, good for you. I can only imagine what it is to be that way. If your magic number is the same as mine, rest assured you are not the only ONE!