Dressing the aspie
I was a very good aspie today. I had lunch with my mother and step-sister and was mostly polite, remembered to listen to other people talking and only once got carried away with a story of my own. At least, I think it was only the once.
I was slightly peeved that they both thought my shoes were funny. They grew up all the way, you see, whereas I only made it so far and still think that turquoise blue shoes look great with a brown skirt - they do, actually. I wonder how they'd have felt if I'd given in to the impulse to wear matching turquoise tights?
It reminded me very much of the feeling you get, especially growing up, when you're surrounded by people who are very familiar to you, yet you feel left out. These people can be just as eccentric as you are yourself, but you still don't have that sense of being all the way in the middle of the clique.
Paranoia may also be at work, I do admit, but as we walked to the table I noticed how my mother and step-sister were both dressed very age appropriately (don't you admire my tactful phrasing, readers?). Growing up, I was often jealous of my step-sister's clothes, as much because she was taller and slimmer than me as by the fact she understood fashion.
If I saw something on TV, then I was more inclined to wear it and enjoy wearing it. Unfortunately, as an adolescent/young teenager, I tended to watch old shows like The Avengers or sci-fi like Blakes 7 and Doctor Who. So, my fashion sense, unable to go forward to match the sci-fi, did tend to bend backwards towards the sixties.
I thought that if Emma Peel looked good in something then it was always worth a try. I stopped short of the cat-suit, but did have some interesting fashion choices.
Needless to say, I didn't blend with the crowd. I wasn't always dressed in sixties inspired paraphernalia but it was enough in evidence that walking down the street drew stares. I didn't care: or at least, I did care, I didn't enjoy the nasty comments or looks, but I was determined it shouldn't matter. Do you see the difference?
I wanted to be wholly myself, not to have to shoehorn my dumpy little body into fashionable clothes that were never going to suit me, in colour or fit, just so I could be the same as everyone else. I was reckless enough to go out in public in an outfit made by my mother that was a replica of The Monkees red and grey costumes from the old TV show.
I had a wide-brimmed velvet hat, in pink-purple, with a ribbon around it that really suited me. It was very much like one worn by Tara King and I loved the way I felt when I put it on. This one was scuppered by my step-sister who asked, in a tone, if I was really going out wearing that? I'm ashamed to say, I never wore the hat again as I felt I had gone too far, without understanding exactly how.
One of the reasons behind me leaving sixth form at school was because I couldn't wear what I wanted. We were meant to be able to wear our normal clothes, you see, except that my normal clothes were less normal than everyone else's.
I vividly remember being spoken to, in a sharp, loud tone of voice, in the middle of a packed sixth form common room, by the head of year. She reprimanded me, very publicly, on my choice of 'unrestrained trousers'. I felt so humiliated that she demeaned me in this way, though I remember my first thought being, 'You think these are restrained? You should see the ones I have at home.'
I wouldn't say such negative reactions make it harder to be yourself and wear what makes you happy, but I would say you become more wary over time. Your choices over how to present yourself to the wider world are often led by how you feel, be the feeling that you want to show the real you or that you want to appear acceptable to other people.
In my case, these two things are not usually in harmony, often because I have to dress for jobs which don't exactly match my personality; the working life can take up so much time and energy when it comes to choosing clothes, hairstyles and a general impression.
As far as friends and family are concerned, it still surprises me that our nearest and dearest feel you need an extra opinion on your clothes choice. Not just in words, of course, but in facial expression or a simple look at the offending item.
This kind of problem may not be true of all aspies, though a variant is probably relevant to most. My son, RT teen, likes to wear certain things to the exclusion of others. He went through a phase of only wearing a very particular kind of trouser and top, meaning he often looked the same, from one day to the next, even when he changed his clothes.
Now he varies more but there is still a definite type of style and clothes in evidence. He doesn't shock anyone with his attire, it's his hair where he draws attention. He has it long, very long, stemming from the time when he became home educated and didn't have to keep it short for school.
His hair is beautiful, readers. Naturally wavy and curly, it flows down his back and wafts out to the sides when the wind catches it or he runs. What I would give for that hair. Mine just does what it likes, whenever it feels like it. My hair is indifferent to what I or anyone else wants. RT teen's hair belongs in an elvish romance.
I guess what I'm trying to say here is that our view of ourselves and our own personality so often shows through in our outward appearance, whether or not we plan it that way. Looking back, I can see more objectively how my choice of bright colours and TV-inspired style was a way of declaring this is what I liked, this is where I was at that time.
I wanted to identify myself with things I enjoyed and appreciated for their own sake. I knew no one else watched The Avengers, but did that make Emma Peel any less beautiful or elegant? Did it make her any worse a role model?
I recognised that other people didn't appreciate the same things I did and I understood it was all to do with appreciation: it's an important choice of word. They dismissed such things as old TV shows because they weren't new and modern so how could they be worthwhile?
Now, with the internet ruling our lives, I think a lot more people of all ages appreciate retro classics and have access to them. There is a broader scope of what it is acceptable to like and enjoy. I think a large part of this appreciation can be attributed to the number of aspies involved in the internet from the very beginning: if they liked it, it found its way online.
It is very good indeed for us to like different things. If we were all the same, as they say, the world would be a very boring place. I'm quite happy for people to like Twilight if they must, so long as they don't feel I have to like it or have to feel that Buffy is any less the authority on human/vampire relations.
What I don't like is the small-mindedness that can still make even the most stalwart aspie quake a little, when faced with open disapproval or ridicule, simply because we often like things that are outside the normal scope.
In my view, if I have to put up with hearing all the latest celeb news or the storyline from the soaps, then I should be able to devour each new episode of The Walking Dead without a dismissive shudder of the shoulders. After all, I may feel like shuddering every time you mention your favourite dire, cliche-infested soap opera, but you don't see me acting like I have a centipede down my back, do you?
In the end, we should all be able to wear turquoise shoes if we like, and the matching tights too (adjust this image for whatever is appropriate to your situation). And, if I still had it, I would get out that funky purple hat and wear it too and smile every time I thought of a young Linda Thorson, as Tara King, sashaying across the screen in glorious technicolour.
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