Exiting “Quarantine”

I have been incredibly fortunate throughout this pandemic. I have had a job that was more than willing to let me work from home, the transition to working from home was pretty simple – I had already been working remotely two days a week prior to Covid. And, on top of that, I have been incredibly fortunate that my company continued to have business success during the pandemic, this wasn’t true for all workers who were able to shift to remote.

But, now, a year and a half later, with vaccines rolling out and the reduced spread, it is becoming quite apparent that we are now going to be expected to “return to normal”. Whatever that is.

Outside of traffic hours, I live 25 minutes from my office. During traffic hours.. I live between an hour to an hour and a half away (and have had times where that commute took 2 hours thanks to accidents). I find it odd that people would even remotely be willing to put up with these kinds of commutes again as we return to “normalcy”.

Personally, I have thrived with working from home. Even when I am struggling to exist because I’m getting burnouts (commonish for me, unfortunately, I’m someone that is kind of a workaholic and really good at not listening to my own self telling me that I’ve pushed myself too far) I can still do some work at home. In the office I’d also have to deal with those social shenanigans and I would typically just call in sick for my own sanity.

I’m dealing with a pretty pervasively awful burnout at the moment, it comes from doing honestly insane amounts of work with no time off since October (other than company holidays, and again, my own choices there). I know that if I take time off I’m just offloading my work onto my small team and/or I’ll have a ton of work when I come back, so it usually seems far less stressful to just overwork myself than to try and take time off.

And now, I’m trying to imagine a world in which I go back into an office.

There are benefits, for sure. It’s nice to be able to overhear conversations and learn thing that I wouldn’t otherwise learn just by hearing people talk about interesting problems or predicaments. It’s nice to occasionally get invited out for a drink after work, you know, the typical things that happen.

But generally I’m just thinking about how I don’t get to wear my comfy clothes, I put up with horrific traffic, have to deal with the constant buzz of conversation and keyboards as people get their work done, fluorescent lights, random noises, people bringing in their “emotional support” animals, and just so many conflicting sensory activities and I already don’t want to deal with it.

I enjoy being able to shut my door to my home office and just focus on the work I need to get done until it’s done. Not getting people making dumb jokes about how I was lost to the world because I didn’t hear them call my name because I was in my work. Not having people make fun of one of my most common self-stimming behaviors (running my hair across my lips) because let me tell you about how funny the joke/question/statement of “are you eating your hair?!” is after the 300th time.

After a year and a half of not dealing with a surplus of stimuli, it seems overwhelming to even think about going back. This whole rush to return to “the before times” seems like some people are caught up in a nostalgia trip instead of realizing what we gained from the pandemic. And, a quick rush to go back to ableism and exclusionary behaviors.

Manic Pixie Dream Girl Trope

We all know this trope, right? And can agree that it’s tired, hopefully.

If you’ve been living under a lovely rock for the last couple of decades, the Manic Pixie Dream Girl is a girl who basically exists to help make sure that the male main character can continue to develop his character in better ways.

She’s different and quirky. She is somewhat naïve and youthful, while also being deep and thoughtful. She is blissfully in her own world and above all of the tragic makings of standard youthful life. Sound familiar? Yeah, it does, because a whole lot of autistic women also fall into this kind of category.

Sweet! Right? Positive association with autistic women and all? Nah, not really. The problem is that this character is a half-assed character that never actually exists as anything except to make the dude better. She’s a fantasy as much as pretty much any other trope commonly seen in the media is a fantasy.

On top of that, she is completely unrealistic, since, you know, she isn’t a full person and pretty much only exists to act as a counterpart to the male lead.

While this trope is, thankfully, mostly dead, the damage has still been done to autistic women everywhere. So many of our peers saw these films with these dream girls and as a result, so many of our male peers began to see these traits as desirable in partners. Doesn’t sound too bad, overall, until you remember that the dream girl isn’t real. She has all of the fun-loving “quirks” of an autistic woman with none of the reality of an autistic woman.

It put so much of a responsibility on the autistic woman to be the magic key that fixes everything that was wrong with the jaded boy without paying any attention at all to the fact that the Manic Pixie has her own issues, and her own troubles and she can’t really afford to be some dude’s everything that pieces him back together.

Hell, I fit this mold so well in my younger life that even I embraced it, despite how much harm it was doing for me. I helped inspire and be the muse for past lovers, pushing them to better themselves and embrace their dreams, all while I was doing drudging crap like working at a Starbucks (which, no shade, I honestly enjoyed) instead of following my own dreams.

It was what I was supposed to do, right? Help my lovers grow into better people?

The problem is that at the end of the day, after helping change view points or follow their dreams, there was hardly any energy left for me. And that’s typically why so many of those relationships were so short lived.. Just like this trope is portrayed on screen. She flits in to make things better and then peaces out when the man can handle things on his own — just the ideal way to make her something worth missing.

Perhaps, it’s why that one line from Rent came to mean something to me:

Life’s too short, babe, time is flying. I’m looking for baggage that goes with mine

I spent so long being “forced” by my lovers into a role that was impossible to play, that I struggled so hard to play, that I had forgotten to take care of my own shit.

Eventually I learned to put up some boundaries, to remember that it’s not possible to be the Manic Pixie because she’s not real. And that my role in life is not to stand quietly (albeit in my own quirky way) behind a man empowering him, but to empower myself and find a love that will be empowered through my own power.

Big Name is on the Spectrum

So, this week, we had some “shocking” news about how Elon Musk has Asperger’s. I mean, basically the entire internet assumed as much already, but the context in and of itself was pretty tragic.

“Sorry that I’ve been a right ass, y’all, but it’s because I’m autistic”. Which, honestly, just seems like a fake apology.

I won’t really get into the love him or hate him (I suppose its obvious from the above how I feel about him, but that’s really beside the point). I keep reading about how we should be thrilled because some generally well-regarded famous billionaire is autistic and it might change people’s perspectives on autism.

Alright. So, Anthony Hopkins wasn’t good enough? Hannah Gadsby? There are plenty of famous autistic folks out there. And this particular form of autism is neither shocking nor really that great a vision of autism.

I think most autistic people can handle someone else knowing more about them about things well outside of their areas of expertise without calling them a pedophile repeatedly, afterall.

But, really, yet another socially inept, white, tech-driven, arrogant, asshole. Is that really a “positive” association with autism? Yeah, socially inept is definitely a trait of autism, and it shouldn’t be frowned upon as hard as it is, but you can be socially inept without your ineptitude mostly coming from a place of arrogance.

Perhaps I’m just being a total negative nancy, and what people will really see is that autism can lead to a strong desire to expand our space-faring abilities and work in some fashion to improve the global conditions (making electric cars cool and some bad-ass solar panels). Maybe they’ll focus on how, in spite of his practically nonexistent social skills his ability to focus on his special interests led to him becoming top of the line in his field?

But, I think I fear that people will mostly focus on his twitter snapbacks and general attitude and take it as the end-all and be-all of autism, and that those of us on the spectrum who display it in a very different way will now receive even more disbelief.

“But you don’t act like Elon Musk!”

All I really know is that I’m hoping we can get some much more varied figureheads for the autistic community. Hopefully not one that wants to create an implantable chip to cure us as if we are malignant to the world.