“Jalisco never loses” is a phrase that alludes to a person who never admits to having lost.
Editor’s note: Originally published in Spanish at Mi Cerebro Atípico, a collective of autistic voices published in Spanish. Republished with permission from the author, Barbara Herrán. Translation and editing by The Aspergian.
What’s the hardest thing about being autistic?
You can be 41 years old and be “well-adapted,” and even have the hateful* title of “You Don’t Look Autistic,” and you’ll still be terrified of loneliness and isolation every day of your life.
Yesterday, I cried again in fear of loneliness, but this time I was able to stop and reflect on what had triggered it:
Jalisco never loses.
Yesterday, my husband and I talked for more than three hours about the radical positions in feminist activism, a hot topic on which we did not end up agreeing. We moved from one issue to another and ended up talking about our way of communicating.
The conversation, which this post is about, went more or less like this:
Him: “But you don’t have to talk to me like you’re walking on eggshells.”
Me: That’s not true, even when I’m talking to you, I have to be careful not to step on my own eggshells. For at least the first two hours, I was careful not to use any of the examples available to me from my contact with the world of autistic activism because I know that the subject of autism exhausts you and the conversation would be over very soon if I introduced it.”
Him: “That offends me,” he said with a tone of voice, that while he was not aggressive, he was strident and distant to emphasize his being offended.
Me: “How can it offend you to be told that I like talking to you so much that I’m careful not to wear you out so we don’t stop talking?” I asked him as I felt a huge knot growing in my throat. Tears threatened to flood my eyes, and my brain was spinning at a thousand revolutions per second intensely looking for the exact spot where I HAD BEEN EQUIVOCATED, and I practiced a billion ways of explaining to him that I had not intended to offend him and all the thousands of possible textual combinations to say it CORRECTLY.
My fear was increasing, I was waiting for the classic discussion in which the other person defended himself (attacking of course), where I would try to explain over and over again how that was not what I wanted to say, and I tried with each of the possible combinations of words that had occurred to me. I’d do all of this in despair, trying to be understood. That unfailingly always ended with a direct accusation that I changed what I had said to make excuses, that I did not know how to lose, and that I was not taking responsibility for my words.
Another person who would not want to talk to me again. Another person who would believe that I was Jalisco, and that my conversation and presence did not enrich his life.
Once again the loneliness, the loneliness after enjoying intensely and briefly the joy of having met someone who perhaps would love me.
I had tried so hard for that person to enjoy their conversation with me, so much, but so much… and I fucked up anyway.
No matter how hard I try, I’m always going to screw up. And I’m always going to be alone.
Cue the shutdown.
It happens to me every day of my life, with every person in my life. People in my life are like comets: they approach me like a promise of warmth, they know me and bother me, and burn me, and then they move away loudly and decisively, leaving me even more aware of my immanent solitude.
I began to think that it was wrong to be wrong, that I had to be perfect in everything else, that it was the only way to make up for it. I had to do more, try harder, have more, study more, work more. I had to prove that I was worthy– if not affectionate, at least to be considered a valid human being: “You don’t love me, but at least I’m convenient for some things.”
People with social disabilities are obliged to show that we are useful for something, because not even affection redeems us.
It doesn’t redeem us because every day they tell you that you are something that is wrong, that you are offensive or harmful, that you are hurtful, and so it is not possible to convince yourself that someone is going to love you, not even your parents.
Do not try to change your stripes, because you learn that no matter how many hours a day you strive to speak their language and understand their customs, sooner or later you’re going to screw up– and they will not believe you when you tell them that you were trying so hard, because for them, it is easy.
You learn to be sad and to stay away from people. You learn to be afraid of them and to distrust everyone and everything. You learn to be quiet, isolating yourself even more.
Up to that point, the conversation had taken place just as all my conversations with other people have taken place. Fortunately for me, my husband is an incredible man.
With my husband the conversation ended like this:
Him: What do you mean when you tell me that, “You do have to talk like you’re walking on eggshells when you talk to me”?
Me: That I have to do the conscious and constant exercise of thinking about the way I say things and moderating the intensity of my interests when I talk to you so that you don’t get tired and we can talk longer.
Him: For others, having to talk to someone “like you’re walking on eggshells” means you have to speak carefully because the other person has an aggressive attitude toward you and could easily be triggered be explosively angry. And you know the autism thing is wearing me out because it’s something I need to LEARN, and it’s tiring to learn, right? It’s not that I’m not interested.
Me: “I know,” I replied, and for the umpteenth time I asked him to never, ever, stop being a part of my life.
I wish every autistic had someone like my husband, someone who has the active willingness to listen and hear them:
- Someone who makes a conscious effort to remember that we speak different languages, especially when it comes to metalanguage** in its social form.
- Someone who makes a conscious effort to remember that we love them and that we are trying as hard to accommodate them as they are trying to accommodate us, and that nothing is further from our intentions than to hurt them, even when they are deeply sensitive to whatever we have said.
- Someone who makes a conscious effort to listen to what we have to say instead of automatically becoming offended, to give us the opportunity to rethink our discourse to one that does not lead to misunderstandings.
- Someone who strives as hard as every autistic I know strives.
When every autistic in the world has at least one person who listens actively… I will stop thinking that the word INCLUSION is a rude and cruel joke.
*Yes, “you don’t look autistic” is a hateful title, it is because it denies you support and understanding.
**Metalanguage is the communication transmitted by the intonation of the voice and other vocal components of speech that do not depend on the words pronounced.