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Viewed through a different lens

I was struck last night with how differently we are perceived, from person to person. This is true of everyone we meet, of course. One person will always have a different view of you than another. In an aspie sense, though, the eccentric or out-of-place demeanor of your average aspie means different things to different people.

At lunch-time yesterday, I met my mother for coffee and had to run the gauntlet of the whole cafe. As usual, my outfit of choice seemed to attract the eye, though that wasn't my intention when I left the house. In honour of the sun coming out, I was dressed for Summer. This is the usual mistake I make in early Spring, but at that stage in the day, with sun pouring through the windows, my outfit still seemed like a good idea.

I wasn't operating on all cylinders at that stage, so I ignored the looks and drank my coffee. I did see my mother's eye travelling down to my shoes, but she's well-practiced enough to drag her eye back up again, quick-smart, before she thinks I've noticed.

That evening, I had to go to work and decided to keep the same outfit as the weather has cheered up and I expected other people to be wearing sunny clothes too.

In the first lesson, my student was an 8 year old girl who is not given to unnecessary compliments. She looked across the table, pulled down her top lip in a considering gesture and said, 'I like your thingy, what you're wearing today. It looks very pretty.'

'Outfit,' I answered, 'Thank you very much!'

The offending/pleasing outfit consisted of a bright top with red and yellow flowers, a crochet cardigan, the previously-mentioned crop jeans and, as I was doing a sensible job of work, no rainbow socks today. I had black tights with my little witch shoes instead. I also have a new, over-sized bag, which looks like I bought it so I could bring a dog to work with me.

Buoyed up by the genuine compliment, I then went about my work, finally ending up at the supermarket at the end of the night. At this point, it was almost dark, a strong, Cumbrian wind had sprung up and my coat was warm at home.

I scurried across the car park, dodging into the shop with the clipper-clatter of my witch shoes, trying not to fall over other people's trolleys (they will walk right into me, readers).

I was aware of getting a few looks as I went, but assumed it was because I had no coat. Then I saw someone with an amused mouth suddenly look away when I saw them. Yes, I was providing entertainment again, surrounded as I was by sensibly-dressed shoppers in coats and winter colours.

I must admit to feeling a bit ticked off then. I thought about my little student's compliment and how we had both seen my outfit in the same way. Now it was wrong, you see, out of place and too colourful. And I guess the clip-clopping didn't help.

It occurred to me then that I possibly have the fashion sense of an 8 year old, which is no bad thing in this drab and dreary world. There are worse people to emulate than girls at the age when they still feel like princesses and always have more than one best friend.

It also occurred to me that my student had seen me in an overly-positive way because she identified with what I was wearing, whereas the people in the supermarket all viewed me as a bright intrusion into their ordinary world. In one situation I had been quite at home, in the other I was definitely out in the cold (and literally, of course).

I hurried to do my shopping, eager to be home and warm again. By the time I finished, I had my basket full and swinging as I clip-clopped to the self-service tills. I was no longer worried about what people thought as I had decided, by then, that if it suited me to wear these colours and breezy clothes, then it was nobody's business but my own. As I have no intention of going up to a passer-by and demanding to know why their whole outfit is based on grey rayon, I don't see why I should take any notice of their bemused expressions when I flurry past.

I froze my way across the car park, the sky darkened by now and the wind set in as a reminder that Winter stayed longer this year and wasn't quite ready to give up on us. My crochet cardigan flapped about me as I trotted along and my over-sized bag caught the wind and banged through the air, determined to help me stand out in the dark twilight.

In the car, I thought to myself, 'This is where I am and who I'm supposed to be.' Yes, it came to me, just like that, as if it wasn't me speaking but someone sitting just next to me, waiting to give me that extra little nudge towards feeling all right again.

This is how it is, readers. We do our best and clip-clop through life, often getting it wrong in terms of what other people want. You see, you can get it wrong just as easily by trying to please other people as you can when you please yourself.

At least, when you please yourself, you are being who you really are: the person who wants to wear this, or do that, think this way or behave differently, because that's how it's meant to be.

The most perfect person in the world would still have their negative-ninnies, creeping along behind, ready to point and laugh and belittle. As none of us is perfect, why worry and why try to please others? Please yourself and you gain compliments and admiration from the most unlikely quarters.

It is far better to earn a genuine, kind remark than struggle through your day just to try for passing indifference. And if in doubt as to which way is your true path, well, that can take some practice but if it makes you happy and then others give you the shaggy eyebrow, have a closer look at them before you look down on yourself.


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