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What do you expect of your aspie at Christmas?

I've said it before, I love Christmas. The Spirit of Christmas Present would not have needed to sneak in my spare room with his cornucopia of goodies. In fact, if he did, he would probably have to move my own cornucopia first. I'd have no issue with the theory of goodwill to your fellow man (you notice I keep to the theory, practice is a little bit harder sometimes) and in general I would welcome Christmas into my heart, every day.

So, having sorted that out, yes, I am going to have a moan about Christmas. That is, about other people and their idea of it and how we should all fit in.

Let me be upfront: I do not expect others to be a rabid advocate of Christmas. I don't expect them to rush out with their lights, sticking them on spiky trees in the pouring rain or trying to figure out how to keep battery-operated lights on the dog while making sure he doesn't chew them off. I don't think everyone should deck the halls or have to lop the top off the tree just to fit it in the living room. I don't expect them to listen to Christmas music and have a little cry when Judy Garland sings (yes, I go insane this time of year).

What gets my goat after all this 'not expecting' I do (and I think I do far too much), is that other people then expect me to fit in with their view of Christmas. At this time of year more than any other, the old issues come out of the woodwork.

For the rest of the year, people in your circle can usually behave themselves and remember, as much as possible, that you have limitations and need some careful treatment, depending on the situation. In other words, the rest of the year they have much less trouble remembering you are an aspie.

Come Christmas, and all the Musts and Shoulds and the nasty, sneaky little Could You?s come out of the woodwork. It's as if, in honour of the time of year, you will leave your aspieness in a cupboard, possibly in the same box that used to hold the fairy lights, and do everything others think is acceptable, without a glimmer of awkwardness.

That waspish biddy you happen to be related to, who no one expects you to visit any other time of year, suddenly becomes a big spot on the To Do list. Yes, I know, goodwill to all men, and I guess this includes waspish old aunties too. But does the visiting make anything better? Does she become any less waspish? Is she likely to be pleased you came? Or is it an hour of chill-inducing stares and long, painful consuming of elderly mince pies?

The relatives and friends who suddenly must visit. Previously, on Life With an Aspie, it was deemed acceptable to see them away from the safe place, somewhere close to a bolt-hole or where you could see your car, waiting in the car park.

Now, they must come to your house or you must go to theirs. And you all must have a Good Time and be jolly and friendly and, oh, I'm sorry, I do sometimes have to include bad words here...sociable.

(I do hate the word jolly. I have a feeling it is the only thing I wouldn't like about the Spirit of Christmas Present. All that laughing and belly jiggling. The only person who is allowed to be jolly anywhere near me is Santa and he knows to keep the volume down).

The only thing that saves me on my Christmas visits is if people have children. Now you're talking! We can talk about Santa, watch cartoons, do some colouring and work out how the sleigh works, whether the reindeer will land on the roof or in the garden and just get so excited that it's best for all of us if we have some time out by the end of the visit.

Children are not the same as adults, you see. They don't expect you to be suddenly jolly at this time of year, when you haven't been jolly before. They know when you are happy on the inside, they see the twinkle in your eye or the subtle reaction you have that means you love their new storybook. They know, for certain, if you are really watching the cartoon with them or simply pretending and waiting for an adult to come and 'rescue' you.

Kids know the inner person and they don't expect false gaiety and the release of inner elves into the outer world, just because it's Christmas.

So, from now until the time when I get the burning oil stationed above the front door, I will be on my best sociable behaviour, for the sake of people who ought to know better. I will go out (cringe), be pleasant (I'll try), be nice to sticklers (I have limits) and promise not to vanish into the garden with the kids as soon as I've come through the door (I'm crossing my fingers).

I will be whatever I can be on the day, readers. If it means looking grumpy at Christmas-time, then so be it. The trick to not having me grump is simple enough, though each year this trick gets tossed to one side and replaced with brussel sprouts.

I will not soften if I am boiled enough, nor will I stop giving you wind. And I do not promise that everyone will like me. But, if you treat me right and don't have unrealistic expectations, then I can be very good for you and be a delightful part of the Christmas season.

Now readers, I am off to see how many lights still work and whether the dog can fit into his Santa suit. Be brave, 'tis only once a year!


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