Tis the season to be aspie

The usual Christmas things apply at this time of year and one of those is the time-honoured penance known as Christmas Shopping. Personally, I buy online and any shops I visit are because I want to savour the atmosphere, or get some nice decorations. And then I go as close to closing time as possible.

Last week I found myself the designated driver for a Christmas day out with my mother, IT Teen and IT's new girlfriend (hereby known as IT Girl). We were all going in my car to a big shopping centre on the other side of the country. What fun!

After a full journey of trying to be sociable and not grunt when someone talked to me, we arrived at the shopping centre. Only then did I remember something fairly important: I don't actually like shopping!

IT and IT Girl dumped us in favour of a romantic day without me and my mother pretending not to watch them. I spent the next four hours wandering behind my mother, walking through massed crowds of eagle-eyed shoppers all piling unnecessary STUFF into their baskets.

It was like a strange, alternate reality where I was faced with behaviour not familiar enough for me to copy. I felt completely alienated.

At one point, in the glory that is Primark, I took a look around me and just couldn't do it. Off out the shop I went to the walkway outside. Still too many people but room to breathe. For a moment in there it was as if every face was lit with an uncanny and manic light, full of strange emotions I would never feel and none of them quite human.

I waited outside until the demonic visualisation had died down and tried again. Weaving my way through the crowds I found my mother clutching a bag full of shopping and looking at me along the edge of her nose - you know the look, when people understand you're going to have a meltdown and are trying to work out if they have enough time to take you somewhere less populated.

I coped with the rest of the day, mainly by zoning out as much as possible. Unfortunately this meant I wasn't really present or a full part of our day out. It's a shame when you have to choose between not coping at all or disconnecting as a way of struggling through.

Next time I might take a book and schedule myself some time alone in the car. Or I'll bag a table in a nice, quiet cafe and growl at anyone who tries to join me. However much I don't like shopping, I'm likely to be the driver again next Christmas, so I might as well plan my strategy now. Maybe by then I'll have learned to love shopping. Loving crowds, though? It's never going to happen.


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