“Mildness”, Farts, and Mirror Masks
“Your autism must be very mild.” Oh boy, if I had a dollar for every time I heard that one, I’d be sleeping on a pile of gold like Smaug, and living in an air conditioned chocolate palace with a swimming pool full of coffee.
I’m not offended by these comments, mind you. It’s not meant maliciously, so I don’t take it as such. After all, it’s true that a lot of people on the spectrum face significantly more challenges than I do.
On the other hand though, I feel I should point out that my “mildness” is, at least partially, an act. When I’m out in public, I wear a mirror mask, which reflects the social norms of those around me. If you saw me in the privacy of my own home, “mild” might not be the phrase that comes to mind; I flap my hands, I make funny noises, I do a lot of the things more typically associated with the word “autism”.
If I appear “mild”, it’s because I’m expending a tremendous amount of effort to appear as such. My autistic characteristics may not be apparent, but that’s not because I don’t have them; rather, I’m holding them in for the time being, kind of like when you’re on a date and you really need to let out a nice fart, but you know it’ll spoil the mood.
I’m not ashamed of my autism. I mean, I’m not ashamed of the fact that I fart either. They’re both natural parts of who I am, and restraining myself from indulging them in public doesn’t change that.