Autism: The Pretender

I’ve always known I am different, but for most of my life I haven’t known why.

I’ve had to suppress the real me and try to be like everyone else in order to try and fit in.

Masking. Mimicking. Copying. Pretending. Camouflaging. Whatever you call it – it all amounts to the same thing: Survival.

The cost of trying to fit in is high as many autistic people succumb to physical and mental exhaustion at some point in their lives. Like me. I burned out at 46 years of age.

The moment we leave the security of our homes we become somebody else in order to survive.

We are performers.

So much for autistic people not being able to act, eh?

As well as mimicking my peers, I took inspiration from characters in books and TV. Sometimes it was hard to know where the characters ended and I began. I remember asking my mirror reflection, ‘Who are you?’

Forty years later, I was diagnosed autistic.

Finally. I knew who I was.

Make-up has always been a tool in my ‘how to survive life’ box. Like clowns who hide their true identity behind over-sized clothes and painted on smiles, I tried to hide my ‘weirdness’ behind eye-liner and a layer of foundation thick enough to plaster walls. I’d seen how make-up changed my mother’s face so I experimented on my own and suddenly I didn’t look like me anymore, and if I didn’t look like me, then surely it would be easier to pass off being like all the other girls and, just maybe, they’d like me?

Er, no.

I wore eye-liner at first, but Dad went paternal on me and made me sponge it off. He didn’t understand my reasons for wearing it. How could he? He was a ‘man’s man’ and he just wanted me to stay a little girl as long as possible. It’s understandable, I guess.

Girls my age were wearing make-up – the difference with me was that make-up put a barrier between me and them – at the same time allowing me to blend in a little better. It was psychological because in reality I was still different. I just looked more feminine..

“My dad used to say makeup was a shallow girl’s sport, but it’s not. It’s armor.”~ Courtney Summers – All The Rage

For me, make-up wasn’t about beauty or fashion. It was about protection. Just as a riot cop would never go into an affray without their helmet on, I would never go out without my ‘mask’ on because I would feel vulnerable and exposed.

It was about pretence.

“Costumes and makeup play an important role in the drama, character creation.”

I have reinvented myself more times than Madonna, only with less success. And money.

Is it any wonder I burned out?

Since my diagnosis there have been changes. I feel different. Lighter. Less tolerant of people’s crap. I’ve found that the word, ‘no’ comes a lot easier these days.

I’m a long way from being make-up free as some habits are hard to break. Plus, I look bloody horrifying without it, but the mask is slowly falling and hopefully one day I will wear make-up simply because I want to – not because I need to.

So, what’s changed?

I accept myself for who I am. Also, I’m knackered from decades of trying to hide who I am in order to fit in and for what?

I GOT BULLIED ANYWAY.

Bullied. Ostracized . Whatever. It’s basically human beings exploiting vulnerability instead of offering protection and support.

I’d hazard a guess that most autistic people have encountered bullies at some point in their lives?

Bullies are cowards. Bullies are not stupid enough to abuse people bigger or stronger than themselves. They dominate those who are different in order to boost their own self-esteem and there lies the problem: Bullies actually have low self-esteem.

While I am new to knowing I’m autistic – I have always been autistic and I’ve been feeling resentful towards the people who have let me down over my life. However, resentment will only harm me, not them. That said, I feel more in control of my life than I have ever been. This is why the mask is starting to fall because I no longer need to hide. For what’s left of my life, I will embrace being autistic because it’s who I am. Some people say their autism will never define them but I don’t feel that way. If I wasn’t autistic, I wouldn’t be me.

Being autistic explains everything. Every moment of my life. People think I struggle because I’m autistic, but that’s not true. I struggle with an overwhelming (and confusing) world and I struggle with people.

People are a major problem.

I’ve floundered about from one self-help book to another trying to ‘find’ myself and only when I had my third child did I finally get my answer because he was diagnosed autistic. I have so much to thank him for because without him I would still be struggling with my identity. I’m not sorry that I’ve passed my autistic genes onto him because he’s the happiest little boy I know. He does NOT suffer. He’s NOT a burden. He requires NO CURE. However, I’m am sorry that the world still has a long way to go when it comes to understanding him.

Not so long ago, the school asked him to name things he liked about himself and do you know what my beautiful autistic son said?

“I LIKE BEING ME.”

Will I ever be able to say that about myself?

Lets just say that I’m working on it. Yesterday, I left off the eye-liner AND eye-shadow and I went out into the world. Maybe to most women, that isn’t a big deal, but to me it’s HUMONGOUS because it means that the mask is slowly coming off.

I’m also growing my hair-dye out. This is a challenging process as I need things to be visually ‘right’ and the mad badger look isn’t exactly flattering. However, I choose to think of it as a transformation from my old (and confused self) to who I am now and with each inch of silver hair, I can see the real me emerging. Like a butterfly, no?

Sounds wanky, but it stops me from reaching for the box of hair dye that’s in the cupboard..

For most of my life, I have been a pretender – always trying to be someone else because I thought that I wasn’t good enough.

I AM good enough.

I always have been.

Wanting to be someone else is a waste of who you are ~ Kurt Cobain

Image Via Pixabay

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Viva La Menopause: Hair and Make-Up

There comes a day in your life when you’re standing in a mirrored-changing room and you look at yourself and think, ‘Effing hell! I look like an ageing glam-rocker!’

It’s a defining moment in your history.

We can’t stop ourselves from ageing but wearing the wrong make-up (or too much of it) can make us look older than our years. Teenage girls literally wear their own body weight in make-up to look older, right? So it’s logical that when we get older – the opposite applies. We need LESS make-up to look younger.

Here are my tips for looking magnificent after the menopause.

Hair

After the menopause most women suffer some level of hair loss. Why? Because Mother Nature is a cow.

Technically it’s to do with lack of oestrogen. You’ll find yourself de-clogging the plug-hole everytime you wash your hair. However, there are things you can do like limiting the use of hair straighteners etc and using hair-thickening shampoos. This is where ‘back-combing’ becomes a necessity rather than a fad. Do you know why little old ladies have their hair back-combed? It’s to make what little hair they have left go further. Of course, you could always do a Dolly Parton and slap a wig on?

When it comes to colouring hair- darker colours can be ageing and accentuate thinning hair. You also have to disciplined when it comes to touching your roots up or you end up looking like a badger. I’m currently a rather fetching Dot Cotton shade of red. Like Autumn, it’s my final fling with colour before I succumb to the monochrome. Once I hit 50, I intend to strip my hair of dye and have it cut short and a bit spiky. If it’s a really crap shade of grey, I will have it highlighted. Either way, I aim to be flippin’ funky at fifty!

Make-Up

There is a specific order to putting on make-up. However, I am a lot like the Morecambe and Wise sketch where Eric is playing ‘all the right notes, just not necessarily in the right order’. As long as I manage to get my foundation on first, I consider myself to be WINNING!

So, once we’ve faffed about with cleansers and anti-ageing creams, we can begin. *cracks fingers*

Foundation

Use the BEST foundation you can afford. You want one that STAYS on. I use Estee Lauder’s Double Wear which retails at around £30. It’s expensive and I have to flog a bodily organ every four months to afford it but it makes me look semi-alive and it stays on until I jet-blast it off the next morning last thing at night. This is the Chuck Norris of foundations.

Concealer

Bags under your eyes? You’ll need concealer. I use Touche Éclat by YSL which retails for around £25. It isn’t the cheapest but it is the only concealer that works on my dark circles. I have dark circles because insomnia goes hand in hand with the menopause and this little treasure gives the illusion of me having my full quota of kip. If you can’t bag a night’s sleep, blag a nights sleep.

Blusher

Once the hormones go feral it’s best to opt for cream blusher and BLEND that sucker in well or you’ll look a proper div, yeah?

Eyebrows

If you’re anything like me – thirty odd years of plucking the living shit out of your eyebrows has left them sparser than a Christmas tree in January. You can go and get some tattooed on if you like but be warned that it could leave you looking a 42 caret plonker if it goes wrong. Just add a few ‘hairs’ with an eyebrow pencil or eye-shadow. No, not Azure Blue! I mean one that matches your eyebrow hair – what’s left of it.

Eye-Shadow

Glitter is fabulous but glittery eye-shadow should ONLY be worn by teenage girls under the influence of Lambrusco. Glittery or frosted eye-shadow accentuates every crease. After a few hours, your eye-shadow settles into your eye-crevices and it looks nasty. You might as well have a neon sign over your head which says, ‘WELL PAST IT’. Opt for matt or cream shadows and leave the neon shades to the kids, eh?

I should mention brow bones here. You know? The area where you used to put your highlighter? Basically there is this ‘landslide’ thingy that happens with the skin on the brow bones as we age. That once defined line between brow-bone and eyelid becomes confined to the photograph album. I think there are exercises you can do to tone things up but I say SOD THAT for a game of conkers!

Eye-Liner

It’s the 1980s on the phone for you, dear. IT WANTS IT’S EYELINER BACK!

Confession time. I wore Electric Blue eyeliner until I was in my 40s. I have GREEN eyes!!! Awks!!

Mascara

Mascara is my number one favourite item of make-up. I would stab ANYBODY who tries to come between me and my magic wand. Thing is, I know my eyes are my best feature. Like me, they’re odd. One is green and the other is a mixture of green and brown. It’s very me. Mascara brings them to life and even if I was in the throes of a massive heart attack, I would still attempt to get a few strokes in..

No. YOU have a filthy mind!

My tip is to buy a decent mascara and use three coats. Then once a week, use a shit brand while you are doing the housework. Those three coats will weigh an absolute TON – the advantage being that it gives your ageing eyelids a much needed workout. Just as if your eyelids are pumping weights, innit?!

Lipstick

As we age, our lips become thinner. They can become wrinkled and lines may develop around our mouths. The boundary between lips and skin are less defined so lipstick ‘bleeds’ and if you’re a fan of red lippy you can end up looking like Robert Smith from The Cure if you’re not careful. However, there are things you can do though such as avoiding glossy or creamy lipsticks. Or how about ditching the lippy altogether and settling for a nice lip-balm? If you want to be really cheap – slap on some of that Vaseline that’s been festering in the back of your bathroom cabinet since 1988.

That’s it for this time, folks. VIVA LA MENOPAUSE!

Good morning, madam. May I interest you in our skin-care range? We do sell this astringent – I don’t know if it’s strong enough for what you need, but it brought my chip pan up lovely. ~ Victoria Wood ~ As Seen On TV.

Robert Smith Image Via Creative Commons