19 January 2008

A Lesson on Embarrassment

When I was young, say 8 or 9 or so, I was in the waiting room of a doctor's office. I don't remember whose appointment it was, or why, but it doesn't really matter, I guess.

It was a long waiting time, and they always have those awful fluorescent bulbs. They use to bother me more when I was a kid, giving me headaches and making it hard to focus and process information and whatnot. The effect is the same now, but to a lesser degree.

There were other kids around. They played by the corner, where the kids' toys were. I wanted to go join them, but my mom said I was too old.

I love that thing where there are the beads, and there are the thin, plastic tracks they can follow in curvy paths to the bottom. I liked to envision it as an advanced public transportation system. Please board the Green Bead Line on its way to Chicago. Now boarding. Please have your ticket ready.

But I was too old, and certainly my sisters, one 2.5 years older than me, approximately, and one almost exactly 5 years and 4 days older than me, were too old, though they didn't express interest in these toys. When I was 13 visiting a neurologist for my seizures, there was a picture book about a Brain Cell. Or something like that. I should write fanfic for him.

The lights continued to glare, and people's names would be called, people picking up and flipping through magazines, babies crying. It was all so much. So, I made a dive for it, and I burrowed myself under the chair I had been sitting in and pretended I was in a Bomb Shelter, hiding from horrible and yet unknown threats from above.

My mom tried to get me out from under there, and tried to recruit my sisters for help. But no, they must be only clones of my family, trying to get me out of there so that I wouldn't be safe from the attack!

My sisters ended up joining in my play. Or at least, I thought so. Turns out they were just making excuses to be rowdy, but I didn't know, and I thought of them as the intruding army. I covered my ears so they wouldn't use their brainwashing propaganda tactics to turn me into a vampiric zombie. As presumably they would.

So I got out of the shelter and started pacing about in circles, humming to keep their threatening broadcasts from reaching my ears.

My mom whispers loudly, in that frantic-type voice, "Melody, you're embarrassing me!"

Without pausing in my circuit, I say, matter-of-factly, the wisest thing I believe came out of my mouth during my youth: "I can't embarrass you. You can only embarrass yourself."

Of course, what I meant was: The fact that I'm doing something doesn't embarrass you. It's that the thing I'm doing is something you don't look at as socially acceptable, because of what others might think, and so because of your attitudes, you are becoming embarrassed.

I thought of this as I took my written exam for taekwondo, and there was a question about attitude, and how it's important how you react to stuff.

"Life is 10% what happens to me, and 90% how I react to it."

I knew how I would react to it. My mom now knows how she will react to it. How will you react to it?


Betty Jo said...

I found you through aspies for freedom because I am mom of a 12-year-old boy with autism. You struck a nerve with me on this. Yesterday, we were out walking the dog and my son made a usual noise that he makes, but it was extra-loud and startled me. I scolded him and said he shouldn't be so loud - I did tell him that I was startled. He got so angry with me and today I feel guilty. Was I embarrassed too? No one was around, we were crossing through an empty parking lot. Lately, I've been allowing him to jump or flap or make his noises anywhere we are because I am finally (!) letting him be who he is in public and anyone who doesn't like it can just go away. He's a great kid and I have to apologize to him when he comes home from his 'community integration' outing.

Wow...I feel like I just made a confession to a priest!

geosaru said...

The incident you describe doesn't sound like embarrassment to me...at least not by my definition. And I don't think it's something to feel guilty about. I don't hold a grudge against my mother because she used to try to make me "act appropriately" when it was unnecessary, and when what I was doing weren't harmful.

It sounds good that you are letting him be himself. And really, no matter how hard you try, no matter how much you love and accept him, that doesn't mean you'll do things perfect. We all make mistakes in relating to other people, even when we're both of the similar neurotype.

So please don't feel guilty. You're letting him be himself, and this will probably reduce stress a lot in the long-term.

Why do you feel like you have to apologize when he gets home from the community outing? Is there something about it you feel is making him feel stressed, or inadequate, or trying to make him ashamed of himself? If you think this is a negative thing for him, why is he there? Are there good things about it as well, that you feel outweigh the bad things? I don't think I've heard of what this thing is, so I'm not sure.

Betty Jo said...

I was going to apologize for scolding him on our walk. But, then I thought that bringing it up again might not be a good idea, so I didn't.

The Community Integration thing is where a person (not a therapist, but someone with training to do this sort of thing) takes him out for a few hours. They take him out to the groceries, book store, library, the bus, etc...to help him with his social skills - like asking for help if he can't find a book, placing an order at a restaurant - paying the bill and waiting for change. It's a good program that I hope helps him to be more independent as he gets older.

Thank you for your response. I guess I'll always wonder if I'm doing the right thing.

Take care...I enjoy your blog. :-)