November 2019

This has been one of those days where it feels like someone has turned up the earth’s gravity to eleven. I didn’t leave bed until 10:30am, only then to return at 2:00pm. It wasn’t due to fatigue, but a sort of cerebral malaise (to quote Cradle Will Rock); less that I needed to be asleep than that there were no reasons to remain awake. Now it’s evening and I haven’t eaten since breakfast and I’m not entirely sure why I can’t just go right back to bed.

I’ll admit it: it rankles me that there will be daily prompts a few days beyond November, and so I’ll end with my first, true “meta” post and mention that I will not integrate the extension into my own series. Today is the final day, all the rest is but Fauxvember.

I’ve officially decided that I’m going to deliberately spoil myself on The Rise of Skywalker because it seems like my best bet for sanely surviving the online shipping shitstorm that’s inevitable no matter what happens or doesn’t. Do I even really care about the movie anymore?

Besieged by anxiety dreams all night, punctuated by being awake for an hour at two-in-the-morning with nausea that made me afraid to move. It’s discoloring my view of the morning, and of myself, and of the very idea of facing anything, or getting up, or eating.

While I’ve never found anything to be “superb”, I have deemed things to be “fantastic”. An episode of television here, maybe a photograph I’ve taken there. Mostly, though, it’s irony. Real example: “Nonstop anxiety dreams all night. So today looks to be fantastic.”

“We are reaching out to you about your treatment request,” emailed a mental health practice in response to my inquiry, in which as usual I detailed my troubles finding someone versed in—or comfortable with applying themselves to—adult autism who is covered by my insurance. “One of our clinicians would like to offer you an appointment.” So I guess I need to spend the weekend girding myself for making a telephone call.

Matt Baer pens an ode to the checkout line, and while the connection he feels to how “this tiny little comment from a real-live person … would yank me out of my head” is a valid and very human thing, and while he’s right about how the increasing shift toward self-checkout turns us into “a worker, a cashier, a bag boy, an Instacart-er and Uber Food driver”, it’s important to remember the other human perspective of those who often need that machine and need not to “look into another person’s eyes” or “strike up a small conversation”. To be fair, Baer doesn’t come out and argue for the elimination of self-checkout but he does urge us to “use technology to augment our humanity, rather than replace it”. That only raises the issue of whose humanity? (Side note: once upon a time you couldn’t even shop for yourself.) Baer is wrong to label what he feels about checkout lines as “romanticism”; it’s surely more of a humanism. A fully-formed humanism would do two things when it comes to checkout lines: respect workers and the right to work, and respect all customers—those who need the personal touch and those who need to do it themselves.

Here’s a hilarious bit of nonsense, though: I get more depressed watching people talk up autistic exceptionalism than I do watching people talk up alleged or desired so-called “cures”. Cure talk doesn’t make me hate my autism; superpower talk does.

Monika Bauerlein is right that journalism needs to pick a side “between those who stand for democracy … and those who abet authoritarianism and minority rule” but wrong that it’s misconstrued politics as left vs. right only over “the past four years”.

Of all the personal taglines I’ve used online over the past twenty-six years, the current I think basically sums it up: “Mediocre white guy.” I feel compelled, then, to share a bit from Michael Harriot’s write-up of a phone call with Pete Buttigieg.

“A mediocre white kid with mediocre intelligence and mediocre parents can easily make it in America,” I explained, blackly. “A smart black kid with smart parents and a supportive community still has to fight every day to hope to reach the levels of what a mediocre white man accomplishes. And, odds are, they still might not make it.”

When I actively refer to myself as a mediocre white guy, I don’t mean it to suggest an ignorance of the above; the world is full of mediocre white guys lavishing upon themselves successful lives, if not also inflicting the downsides of that success upon the people around them.

It’s true that generally I consider myself a failure and a fuckup, up to and including as an actually-autistic person who feels more or less constantly barraged by the existence of successful autistic people. It’s also true that there are many backgrounds from which I could have come that would not have afforded me to fail and fuckup so regularly at life, across four decades, and yet still be housed, fed, and yet nonetheless remain, for now, essentially comfortable.

All of which I’d wanted to sit down and mention for the past few days anyway, but today felt like the day to do it because I got so (autistically?) rankled over a Twitter thread about criticism of a book by an autistic teen in which the reviewer focuses on questions of privilege.

(This included pushback against the reviewer calling out Greta Thunberg’s privilege and while they definitely pushed the line here they also aren’t wrong. Does anyone think a black African teenager skipping school or sailing across the ocean would generate the same sorts of coverage as Thunberg? That doesn’t take away from Thunberg’s passion and commitment, but denying her privilege seems weird to me. The author is right that privilege is relative—it’s certainly different to be a white man versus a white woman—but that doesn’t mean it’s not there. To suggest “privilege” is a “dangerous” term, though, is very problematic and convenient; “privilege” does not mean “never had any problems”.)

Much of the support given to the author seems to suggest that the review says more about the reviewer than it does about the author, but that seems to me almost exactly the very point the reviewer was making: the book effectively is about the author but presented as universally applicable.

It’s not, after all, The White Spectrum Girl’s Survival Guide: How to Grow Up Awesome and Autistic or even just One Spectrum Girl’s Survival Guide: How I Grew Up Awesome and Autistic but The Spectrum Girl’s Survival Guide: How to Grow Up Awesome and Autistic.

No one appears to have suggested that book not be written at all, per se, including the reviewer’s wish that the book had addressed “our patriarchal, racist, sexist, capitalist society”, but the author’s response that “these topics would have involved writing a very different book aimed at a very different audience” and that she “wasn’t qualified to write about racism” very much reads as a white-as-default perspective.

That’s what “these topics would have involved writing a very different book aimed at a very different audience” means, in the end, regardless of intention or self-awareness. The author wrote a book about her own of-course-valid experiences but the book is presented as for the “spectrum girl”.

I’ve talked before about how exhausting I find autism Twitter, which is why I unfollowed most of it, and while the Twitter thread isn’t necessarily representative, I only learned of it because a prominent actually-autistic account retweeted the author’s original post. This is a community that sometimes talks up intersectionality, and yet doesn’t seem to see the fail here.

Who and what is the “the” in “The Spectrum Girl”, if not the author representing what’s viewed as the default experience, with considerations of things like race being for “a very different audience”?

Being white and privileged doesn’t mean you never get to speak, but in 2019 it does mean you’ve a responsibility to be more self-aware about the position from which you get to do that speaking. You don’t get a pass because you’re white, privileged, and autistic. Or young.

Is there a The Black Spectrum Girl’s Survival Guide? Not according to this Amazon search. Even publishing a book is a position of privilege, and it shouldn’t be controversial to suggest that should be acknowledged by those who get to do it.

“Facebook and Twitter and Instagram and on and on are social media. They won that title,” argues Matt Baer. “Any new entrant to the space that calls themselves that loses by default.” Is he right? Then what “space” would new entrants be entering, exactly?

Andy McIlwain quotes Greg Sterling saying that “most online research results in an offline purchase”. Not for me. In fact, once upon a time, I’d literally visit Powell’s in person to browse new releases and find things for my Kindle wishlist.

Eight months after moving to Portland (and 19 years before my diagnosis), I did what this autistic guy did (well, I bought an existing coffeeshop). I drove off my business partner within a year and ran the business into the ground a year later.

One useful thing about the property on which I live is that residing in the mother-in-law apartment out back means the profane screams which mitigate my autistic brain’s true desire to throw something across the room when I am overloaded can’t bother anyone.

Meru is thankful for the winter southern exposure created after a neighbor cut down all the trees at the fenceline. Willow also is thankful for the winter southern exposure and also for having a separate window from Meru.

Close-up three-quarter profile of a grey and white housecat.
Close-up three-quarter profile of a diluted calico housecat.