Making Sense Of What Doesn’t Make Sense

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Yesterday I went to get my hair cut at Supercuts. I go on a weekday morning to be around less people. Less people means less talking and cell phone noise.

I had never met the woman who called me to her chair. She said she was the manager. I could feel something strange in the air. I can always usually feel the frisson in the air. But I am not able to make sense of it.

She asked me about cutting my hair, what I wanted. She was brusque. Well, I always go there and I never have to go into much detail. I just say cut it short.

But she was insistent, kept rattling off all these options. Which was way more options than I could take in.

She became angry. She said: “Why are you being so difficult?”

Then I just froze. I stared at her as if she’d grown two horns on her head. She kept up with her questions but I don’t think I heard much beyond that.

 Jasmin: “I genuinely thought I was an alien.”

This is when I feel like I’m living in a world I don’t belong in. That there’s something I’ve missed and I have no idea what it is.

The girl who typically cuts my hair was staring at us. By that time two more men had walked in and I think everyone was staring at us.

I was taken aback. I felt like I did when I was a child and things happened that were both confusing and uncomfortable. Back then I just wanted to be alone with my books where things made sense.

Thinking back now, it would have been okay if I’d just turned around and walked out. But when I’m in the midst of something like this, these reasonable actions don’t often speak to me.

I sat down. I was thinking: She has scissors so don’t piss her off any more if possible.

I was thinking: What did I do? What did I miss?

Maura: “When my autism was identified, it felt like taking off a corset I didn’t know I’d been wearing.”

As she was cutting my hair, I finally allowed my anger, which was finally catching up to my confusion, move me to say something. I asked her if she was having a bad day.

She said no. I said: “When you tell someone they’re being difficult then you’re having a bad day.”

I was actually a little proud of myself. I didn’t run away. I didn’t lose my temper. I didn’t allow her to ruin my mood.

Then I explained to her that I have autism and possibly didn’t understand all her questions at once.

And do you know what she said?

“Oh, so does my adult son. He follows a rigid schedule. It’s raining today and I tell him some days are going to be different because it rains and you have to adjust.”

And then she looked like she was a bit embarrassed and started back peddling. After I left, I wondered if she was thinking about her son in a similar situation and hoping the other person didn’t lose it with him.

But the way she was talking about him, I figured the person who would lose it with him was probably going to be her.

I still left her a $5 tip. The prices are pretty cheap so that’s what I always tip. I considered not giving her a tip, but I wanted to show her that she had not upset my day, that I was going about my life normally.

“Women and girls often have a natural drive to fit in socially, and so the symptoms they present with aren’t stereo-typically ‘autistic’.”

It was only after I was home and had processed what happened that I realized that she was being a bully and it would have been okay for me to say so.

Enter a reader named Erin who emailed me the article I’m linking to below. As though she somehow knew it was something I needed to read. Thanks, Erin!

I read what she sent me about adult women being diagnosed with autism and I cried  through every woman’s story I read. I knew their story. I have lived their story.

And it is just not true that autism means you don’t have empathy. I have empathy. I just don’t always know how to use it. How to articulate it.

Amanda: “I started to accept myself as I am – because I hadn’t done that up to that point.”

The statistics are based on women in the UK, but I imagine it’s pretty close to stats in the US.

Maybe you will find yourself, or someone you care about, in between the lines.

Late Diagnosis For Women With Autism

33 Comments

  1. I don’t know why, but I have always had issues with stylists that were rude.
    The last salon haircut I got, the guy jerked my head around, yanked my hair combing it, used a razor on my hair when I specifically told him not to. He screeched at me that I don’t tell him how to cut hair and then he burned my scalp with the blow dryer.afterwards the girl at the register told me it was $55 and I foolishly left a $10 tip. He cut me hair too short and I cried in my car. It was over eight months later on the second date with a new guy, now my husband that I mentioned my dread of salons and my bad experience and I would rather just grow my hair to my ankles than go to the salon again. Well he told me he could cut my hair for me if I wanted him to. I said sure and Saturday morning I was at his house and announced I was there for my hair appointment when he answered the door. He smiled and told me to have a seat and he got out his tools. He was very gentle combed and sectioned my hair and then meticulously trimmed my hair. It was very relaxing, but nervous as well that I was letting my new boyfriend cut my hair. He finished and I made a dash to the bathroom to check his work in the mirror. He did a great job, I was so happy. I told him he was now my regular stylist. At work later that day, I told my friend that noticed my hair that I had my new guy give me a haircut and she said it looked great. I told her I am going to marry this guy and I did four years later. He cuts my hair for me every other month and I do not miss going to the salon at all.

  2. My mouth fell open when I read what the woman said to you! I don’t have autism, but I’m introverted and highly sensitive, so it would’ve taken me awhile to process something like that, too. It took a lot of courage and strength for you not to fly off the handle or bolt out of there. I honestly don’t know what my immediate reaction would have been, because sometimes we’re so surprised by other’s actions or words, that our immediate response might not necessarily be the one we’d choose when we thought about it later. I hope you can report this lady to Corporate or something. You should not have been treated like that.

  3. Sorry to hear she gave you a hard time but proud of the way you handled it. I went to a husband and wife shop in Sylva,N.C. – been going there for years. Was supposed to be just a trim, my hair was past my waist, thick and a natural blue black. Well she gave it one big snip and it was up to my ears , I didn’t handle it like you did. She got her butt kicked. I found out a couple weeks later that they were getting a divorce and I wasn’t the first one she did that to. I stay away from salons like they are the plague. I think if you are having a bad day you shouldn’t be around anyone , if i’m having one I let people know. Hope your next visit is a better one and I Love your pictures!

  4. I’m so glad you spoke up to her Brenda and that bullying type behavior should not be tolerated by anyone and I’m glad you didn’t let that incident ruin the rest of your day. You never know how strong you are until faced with uncomfortable situations, so bravo to you!

  5. Wow !! Oh I would have been caught so off guard I wouldn’t have known what to do . I am just not good at all handling conflicts . . Never have been . I do think you took the high road… it’s not always black and white to know what to do or how best to respond in a situation that happens so suddenly . Generally speaking , I do think it is best to follow your gut.

    Sorry you had to go through that . Just so uncalled for. Hope you have a great rest of the week .

  6. Due to how I was raised I would have not spoken up to her or somebody like her. I was raised to believe everybody else ‘s rights were more important than mine. It’s very hard for me to speak up, if at all. Altho am in my 70’s now I still have hard time with people like that.
    So sorry people feel it’s ok to treat others badly.
    My own family likes to “kid” with me, but it’s very hurtful, then if I say anything about their behavior they act like I’m the ,bad guy. They think it’s ok to rudely comment on whatever they please. Not every body likes to be teased about personal health problems like my lack of hearing, if person tells them then not to isn’t it polite and kind to desist in rude “kidding”?
    I too hope you address the authority for that salon, nobody should treat anybody the way you were treated at any time. Hope you feel better about you, you dealt with it in nice way.
    Hope rest of your week is much better.

  7. My hairdresser a couple weeks ago said to me after she had cut and permed my hair, “I earned every dollar of this fee today”. All I asked was if she would cut my hair shorter in the area I pointed out! lol I don’t think I’m going back to her for several reasons.

  8. There seems to be a couple of ways to handle a situation such as you had to go through…confrontation…or kindness. It appears you were torn between the two…therefore not knowing which you froze…but ended up with kindness; therefore taking the higher, but harder road.

    I am truly sorry you had to be subjected to her bad behavior, but don’t be angry with yourself. It must be very hard to be her. Count your blessings that you are who you are. As my Great Aunt Mary always used to say. “Cream always rises to the top”

  9. Her attitude was inexcusable. I am so sorry she made you uncomfortable. Most likely everyone there was uncomfortable. She may have crawfished afterwards, but her bullying
    was not right. It cost nothing to be kind.

  10. Hi Brenda,
    I’m sorry you had this experience. I understand how quickly things happen and how long it takes to process what is going on and to react appropriately. I think you tried to take the high road with this bully, yet instead of feeling better about what you experienced you now realize that you were unable to satisfactorily choose the right response, for you, at the time this was occurring. I certainly applaud you for trying to turn the experience around and to stand your ground. I agree with those here who feel it’s time for this manager to answer for her behavior. She answers to somebody, somewhere and I’m certain they will want to know about your experience. This may give them a clue as to why the employees at that shop quit on a dime. Think of those who can’t afford to quit and work under her, likely being treated worse than you were. She is a bully and she needs to be found out. Anyone who witnessed this enteraction is a potential caller, so be a concerned third part if you are uncomfortable speaking as the bulled customer. You could possibly write a letter if that helps you feel less anxious. It’s important to not give up our power to fear, or anxiety of sharing an unpleasant experience. You need not go to great lengths as to how you were feeling if you prefer not to. The simple description of the interaction as you shared here says it all so very well.

    As for communicating how you would like you hair to be styled, it might help to take a photo of your hair, front and back, showing a style and length you prefer. Save it for the next time you need a fresh cut. This is what I’ve done. It helps soothe the haircut jitters, and every now and then, I get a good haircut.

    1. She actually, at the end, did something good. She said she was writing down by my name how I want my hair cut. I had forgotten that. I think she finally calmed down and realized I was not the person she was angry with. I do feel sorry for the girl who normally cuts my hair there. She’s alone with a four year boy with big problems and she can’t afford to quit.

  11. Brenda, I recently had a similar experience at the Lancome Counter at Macy;s. I had the most condescending salesperson wait on me. She treated me like a child, and even scolded me. I purchased an eye brow pencil, but I will NEVER visit that Makeup counter again. I have been so tempted to contract the store and complain, but so far have not done so.

    Why do we allow others to treat us so shamefully? I think that because I am a non confrontational person, I let others get away with being rude.

    1. Makes you feel so foolish. And it’s them that seems to have a problem! We need to do better taking up for ourselves. I know I just freeze.

  12. It sounds like you handled it well. The bully always benefits from the element of surprise. But you came back with a good retort.
    I also got my haircut yesterday. I did the front and my kid did the back. I got compliments all day. If only they knew. I recently read Sharon Stone cut her own hair, so why not! The price was right and no explaining was needed.

    1. Oh, how I wish I didn’t have to go get my hair cut with strangers! But I’m horrid with hair and scissors.

  13. I’m sorry, I have a pretty strong personality and do not have autism and I still think I’d be flustered in that situation, or at least taken aback. I can only image that for you it must have been so much worse. It was unexpected behavior in a place where you are generally comfortable and met with kindness. You have a routine that was unnecessarily disrupted and you were rudely served. Walking away is not an easy thing to do for most people. I am sorry that you had to deal with that…

    1. I knew from the minute she opened her mouth to ask my name that something was off with her. It was in her voice. Guess I walked right into the fire.

  14. She bothers to share her son has the same yet there does not appear to be any apology nor any sign of contrition. Shameful!
    Evening news last night was about major software companies actively recruiting those w/in the spectrum, how they train and work with them for the obvious benefits they receive in return from a very special segment of people. Excellent, insightful and uplifting news reporting for a change!
    And then you have this woman who should know better. Yes, my friend, your wordsmith skills will do you just fine in registering a very necessary and educational complaint.
    We are women, we should always do our best to set the standard and when necessary, gently or otherwise, remind and correct.

    1. Wow, that’s great about the software companies! I feel like I’m not all that well-rounded when it comes to life. But oftentimes people with autism are really good at one thing they focus on.

  15. Maybe because you don’t like talking to people you left her a bad impression. It sounds like she was just trying to carry on a conversation with you. You were used to a different person who knows you better.

    1. Maybe so. I think I just wasn’t answering her questions as quickly as she wanted. But she was rude before she ever asked me a question. I knew something was wrong. Should have followed my gut and left.

  16. Even without Autism I would have been angry and upset with the way that woman was communicating, if that was me! I would have walked out and that would be the last time I would ever step foot in that shop!

  17. As a parent to 2 boys on the autism spectrum ages 16 and 21, I kind of get it. My boys need time to process and if questions are fired at them, it just gets them upset. With my 21 year old, if there are lots of people, forget it, he won’t go. It’s been that way since he was little. We expect those living with autism to adjust to our world. We need to adjust to their world as well.

    Aside from contacting coporate, maybe in the future you can specifically request the person who normally cuts your hair. I have done that at other places like Supercuts and never have had a problem. You can find out her name and her schedule and go in when it is less busy. You might have to wait a little bit longer, but you will get someone who knows you and how you like your hair done.

    1. I plan to do that. I was off guard with her attitude and ruffled me quite a bit. I don’t like to be the center of attention in any situation, and I know people were staring at the debacle. It was just so unexpected.

      1. I feel so bad for you. What a horrible experience. I think if someone talked to me that way, I probably would have gotten tears in my eyes. Guess I am a big baby, but that would have put me off guard also. You handled that well. Be proud of yourself!!!!!!

  18. I would contact the corporate office and tell them what happen. To you not a third person. Sounds like to me she was treating you like her son being impatient waiting on answers. You were better than I would have been, I’d left or asked for someone else.
    Is there another haircut place you could go to. I would but not til I complained.
    So sorry.

  19. I know you may not want to do this, thinking it may get the bully lady in trouble, but perhaps you should complain as a “third party” who witnessed this event and remain anonymous — how you saw the stylist bullying a customer and describe her behavior. There may be a franchise owner or a corporate owner, that you can send a letter to (not an email). Just a suggestion. I know it’s often very difficult to respond immediately when you are “attacked” suddenly and unexpectedly like this by a stranger! I’m sure it wasn’t anything you did, Brenda. Maybe she was having a bad day, but she is in a service industry and you NEVER take your bad humors out on a client or a customer, period!

    1. I thought about that. Still may do it. She was the manager for heaven’s sake! Then she went on about how the woman who cut my hair last time quit without giving notice and said she didn’t understand the lack of work ethic!

  20. I am so sorry that you had such an unpleasant experience. I do not have autism but if I had been spoken to in the way she spoke to you I would have been livid and probably uttered a few choice words before walking out. You were in no way deserving of such bad treatment. I realize that it took you awhile to catch up with your emotions and so handled it differently than I would have but I wanted you to know that her behavior was unacceptable no matter who was in the chair.

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