When I was a child I used to laugh much more.

Then my mother pointed out that much of the time my laugh sounded incredibly fake and was actually cringey (well it was the 80s so those weren’t her exact words as cringey wasn’t an expression people used much, but you get my meaning).

So I stopped laughing and I stopped smiling.

Unless I couldn’t help it.

I only laughed voiced laughter and stopped trying to do unvoiced laughter as I couldn’t pull it off anyway. The cool thing is, though, when I laugh (naturally) now it’s adorable – as my husband will attest.

I’ve spent 45 years trying my hardest to be neurotypical (as if rewiring my brain in that way was even possible), but it’s never worked, not really, not for any length of time. I can fake it, but I’ll never make it. And people don’t like being lied to. They prefer authenticity. So when the mask slips and people glimpse the autism beneath they don’t know what to make of it. Is a meltdown because I work for a company with an open-plan office and flickering fluorescent strip-lighting that expects 100-hour weeks and cancelled holidays actually caused by my being an entitled spoiled brat with anger-management issues? Is my inability to understand other people’s point of view narcissism? Are my decades of self-harming huge red flags because I’m an attention-seeker or, God-forbid, a ‘borderline’? (Borderline personality disorder is caused by years of childhood abuse and trauma, such people deserve your compassion by the way.) Is my honesty a sign of rudeness? Is my difficulty with changes to my routine a sign of being a drama queen? Am I lazy? Am I unlikeable? Am I unloveable?

Whether to disclose is a personal decision. But people are going to be able tell that something is ‘off’ anyway and they might distance themselves and avoid me and reject me. I just figure that they might as well reject me for the right reason – being ableist p****s rather than the wrong reason(s), which was caused by assuming that I’m neurotypical just like them. So now I’ll happily tell anyone and everyone that I’m seeking an autism diagnosis, because the alternative is twisting myself into a pretzel in an attempt to be acceptable to them only to be eventually rejected when my autism becomes obvious. Some people only want want perfect friends (and if you disbelieve me you need to spend more time reading internet listicles about axing ‘toxic’ people from your life), such people end up alone. For a reason.*

There are people who accept auties unconditionally (ongoing anecdata from my own life suggest such people are neurodivergent themselves), everyone else just wants to know they’re not being duped.

* This is seriously off-topic, but I’ve seen how this plays out in my own family. My mother thinks her own mother displayed autistic traits. For my maternal grandmother’s funeral the church was packed. My father was adopted (which if I was telling any other story might be deemed irrelevant, but turns out to be a relief in this case). My adoptive grandmother displayed an awful lot of narcissistic traits. By the time of her funeral she had no friends left and had succeeded in alienating most of her family.

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