Blog

Higher-Functioning Autism: On Thriving in Quarantine

Imagine that your phone only reaches 33% charge. You could keep it plugged in for a whole week, but the battery will never be more than a third full. The rest of the world, however, has normal phones. Thus, you can never quite keep up. You have to be judicious, only opening a few apps at a time, always conscious of how quickly your battery is draining. You have to prioritize, opting out of certain email lists and group chats and servers, maybe forgoing some platforms altogether. Even with the best of planning, there are still unexpected frustrations. Your phone dies mid-conversation, leaving the other person confused and annoyed by your sudden radio silence. You try to open too many apps at once, and your phone heats up like it’s about to explode.

Why Isn’t Handmaid’s Tale Woker?

If you think that living under a brutal totalitarian regime is bad, then you’ve clearly never heard of white feminism, aka the most destructive force in Gilead. As Melanie McFarland notes, “Sometimes white feminism is so emphatic in its insistence that the world reckons with it that it obliterates all else in its path…never does June fully interrogate the racist structuring of Gilead or any kind of ethnic-based hierarchy.” She spends so much time trying to find her daughter and make it out alive that she forgets to acknowledge her white privilege.

Anxiety/I Am Not Glittering

I want anxiety the way a five-year-old wants rainbow sprinkles. Bright, obscenely sweet. Unnecessary. Luxurious. An extra 50 cents, but they’re worth it. Catching in your teeth, but only for a moment. Wanted, swallowed, forgotten.

#ActuallyAutistic Isn’t Actually About Autistics

Last week, I wrote an article that appeared in the online magazine spiked arguing that Australian pop singer Sia is free to cast whomever she wants in Music, her film about an autistic protagonist. This controversy erupted almost two weeks ago when Sia released a trailer for the movie. The #ActuallyAutistic crew on Twitter had a lot of complaints…

Stopwatches, OCD, and Juliet’s Life Coach

Mission: Leave my biology classroom, walk across one hall and three flights of stairs to the cafeteria, grab a plate of food, refill my coffee cup, then climb two flights of stairs and walk a quarter of the way across the building to an empty classroom, where I would be able to eat with one hand and copy French verb conjugations with the other.

Time allotted: Five minutes.

The Endless Catching of Butterflies

Katya* loves catching butterflies with other people’s hands. I know this because I met her father, Kolya*, on a language exchange site earlier this summer, as I anxiously searched for someone who might help me brush up on my Russian. I must have exchanged messages with at least seven or eight people, both French and Russian, but my partnership with Kolya was the only one that lasted. These websites are like a geekier version of social media: people post profile pictures and DM one another, and some of the users are more interested in flirting than learning. (Fortunately, I had a friend who looked at screenshots of messages people sent me and helped me figure out if they were hitting on me…this is the kind of thing I have trouble figuring out on my own.) Unfortunately, these connections tend to be fleeting. I would go back and forth with someone for a few days before they or I lost interest, and soon enough, I had started more conversations than I could possibly continue. Still, I was determined to figure something out because my Russian was growing rusty, and the last thing I wanted to do was to forget everything I’d learned during the school year.

Language Learning for the Socially Awkward

I became fluent in Spanish for a ridiculous reason: my friend got a better score on a quiz than I did, and I was determined never to let that happen again. That wasn’t my only source of motivation – I grew enamored of Gabriel García Márquez and Octavio Paz, I loved speaking Spanish with the kids at the preschool where I volunteered, and I adored the sheer challenge of mastering the subjunctive – but competition was undoubtedly a part of it. When mastered, obsession can be a powerful force, and it constitutes the main ingredient in my efforts to learn French and Russian. The full recipes look something like this…

Celestial Navigation

As a kid, I loved the movie Peter Pan. Wendy was my favorite, of course, with the pastel blue nightgown and butter-yellow curls, and the eerie clock ticking in the crocodile’s stomach and Tiger Lily tied to a chair and left to drown…it’s a little dark, now that I think about it. But when I was eight I didn’t care, and I was thoroughly convinced that if I flapped my wings hard enough, I would fly. Actually, I thought that if I drank soda, I would fly, because my parents never let me have soda. The only possible explanation for this was that they didn’t want me to know how to fly. A diabolical scheme, indeed.