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.