Invitations are funny things aren’t they? Whether you’ve received it in the mail or online as an evite, they’re so exciting. So much promise in a little paper rectangle or an animated, online explosion of color! Is it a birthday party? A wedding? An anniversary? What is it? What? What?!!
Who cares, it’s a celebration, right?!
Who doesn’t love to be invited places? To know that someone thinks enough of them to include them in their special day? It truly is something, isn’t it?!
How Could You Say Such A Thing?!!
Ok, I have to admit that being invited to participate is special. And knowing that someone cares about me is a really big deal. Unfortunately, the specialness of the invitation rarely overrides the feelings I have at being invited in the first place:
- Slightly pissed
This doesn’t make the slightest bit of sense, does it? How could that little harbinger of joy make me feel so uncomfortable? So irritated? So ready to contact the sender and ask them how they could do this to me?!!
What Exactly Is All This Nonsense About?
Several days ago, an invitation came in the mail. I knew it was coming as I had been forewarned, however, that did not minimize the sick feeling I had when I saw the party-sized rectangle sitting on the counter. It sat unopened for 2 days mocking me, daring me to open it.
(i hate you invitation)
Parties are difficult things for me, as you probably gathered by reading the list of unsettling emotions I experience upon receiving invitations. How could something so special, so fun, induce such awful feelings? I mean parties are an excuse to dress up a bit, visit with a group of friends and maybe make new acquaintances! And hey, maybe there’s a favorite dish you’d like to share! Festive music! Lots of conversation! Possibly you’ve been alerted ahead of time that there are several new folks “you’ve just gotta’ meet!” Who wouldn’t be champing at the bit for a night like this?!
Let Me Break It Down For You
- Dressing up? I’m not big on it because my sensory issues can make clothing very uncomfortable – especially the dress-up kind.
- Favorite dish? I’m a domestic disaster: Grade A, Number 1 horrible cook. And that’s being kind.
- Conversation? One-to-one conversations can be difficult. Add a room full of other folks, or a circle of people all sharing, and my ability to attend is out the window.
- Background Music? I hate to break it to you, but due to auditory processing issues – filtering issues in my case – my foreground and background can sound the same making it difficult to distinguish between the two.
- New People? It’s hard enough going to a party where I know everyone, now throw in some strangers “I just gotta’ meet!”
It’s like I’m done for before I ever even get there! All of these things are issues for me on the daily, so when you wrap them up in a neat little bow and call it a party, the stress is quadrupled! Not to mention the event itself is a crimp in my orderly, routined little world,
but let’s not go there - that’s another post
No, It’s Not All In My Head
That use to be one of my Mom’s favorite sayings. She wasn’t being mean, she just didn’t know her kid was autistic. I would tell her of something that I was worried about, or I would relate my fears and she would assure me that it was… all in my head and that everything would be just fine. Ironically, being autistic, I suppose she was right. My neurology - the way my brain is wired - is most certainly all in my head.
So why do I feel this way? Why can’t I feel the joy and excitement others do? I believe it boils down to the way I perceive things and how I experience the world around me. It’s quite different. Let’s quirky dot it so it will be fun to look at:
- A party is unpredictable. I don’t know what’s going to happen when I get there. I don’t know who will be there so I can’t pre-plan possible conversations.
- I’m to bring a dish. I’m off to the store to buy the least store-bought looking thing I can find. It’s embarrassing really because once I get to the party, I get to display my pre-packaged treat amidst all the home-cooked ones. Sometimes I’ll put my contribution in one of my dishes, but will not play it off as home-cooked. That would be dishonest. And someone invariably asks what it is, so I would have to admit that it’s store-bought anyway!
- Small talk is a nightmare. I always feel I have nothing of interest to say. I do have an endless flow of sarcastic retorts running through my head as others speak, which can sometimes lead to the giggles, but I’ve learned over the years that while it might catch people off guard and make one or two laugh, those types of comments are not welcome. Aside from the ongoing comedy routine in my head, I rarely find anything in common with people.
- And the Kiss of Death… I don’t know who I’m suppose to be when I get there. People are always saying: “Be yourself” but if I were being myself I would not be dressed up, sharing food, conversing with strangers in someone else’s home outside my comfort zone! I would be in a t-shirt and jeans listening to music by myself.
Party Mix… But Not Really
You see, parties are on NT/non-Autistic terms. I’ve never been invited to an Autistic party… Bet that would be something!! And I love NTs, don’t get me wrong, but we still don’t experience things the same way. I’ve never been to a party that didn’t seem overly busy to me. I find the whole thing overstimulating and that’s something that doesn’t speak to me personally. I feel people are really working hard to make me feel included - their thoughtfulness is appreciated - but it makes me feel like a burden. Or like I’m being felt sorry for and they need to provide extra-special attention just for me. Now that idea could very possibly be all in my head, but I can’t help the way I feel.
So a party on the horizon leaves me with feelings of worry and impending embarrassment. Like I can’t contribute in any small way. And then the worst… All eyes on me in askance: What will she say? What will she do? Why is she biting her nails? Did you see the dish she brought? Why is she cleaning up after everyone? Why isn’t she talking? Shouldn’t someone talk to her? Why is she standing in the corner not looking at anyone? Why does she keep touching the wallpaper? Why? Why? Why?!!
P R E S S U R E
So, Are You Going Or Not?
Am I going? I don’t understand what you mean? Ohhhh… you want to know if I’m going to the party or not! Well, the invitation wasn’t actually for me,
it was for my daughter