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Why Are You Staring At Me?

“Why are you staring at me? Didn’t your parents ever teach you it’s not polite to stare at people?”

You ask this question with attitude, glaring at me until I blush and lower my gaze, unable to articulate everything going on in my mind. You mutter beneath your breath something impolite and offensive about me before walking off as if someone staring at you was the worse thing to happen to you on a daily basis.

But if I could get the words past my lips, I would tell you this:

I’m watching you because I’m learning how to act.

I’m watching you because I’m admiring the way your hair shines in the light.

I’m watching you because I think you have a nice smile and wish I could smile like that without feeling foolish.

I’m watching you because I admire your style and wish to imprint it in my memory for later use.

I’m seeing how you interact with others – how you stand, what facial expressions you use, what is appropriate and what is not when conversing with someone else.

I’m looking at you because I’m trying to understand human emotions.

I’m wishing I had friends like those currently surrounding you, laughing and joking with you, and wondering why it seems so easy for you when it’s impossible for me.

I’m wondering if you’re as insecure as me yet better at hiding it.

I want to know if your hair is as soft as it looks.

I’m curious if you would hug me like that if I were crying.

I puzzle over the way you’re all sitting at the table on your phones and not talking to each other.

I want to know if you know how lucky you are, or if you’re unlucky like me and once again, just better at hiding it.

Or maybe I didn’t realize I was staring at you. Sometimes I daydream and wasn’t looking at anything in particular.

But now?

I know how not to act thanks to you.

I hide my curiosity because it’s better than being called names.

I’m learning that no matter how shiny your hair, or pretty your clothes, or beautiful your smile…it doesn’t mean you’re a good or nice person.

I realize instead of being curious about my looking at you, and thinking I’m admiring you, you see something sinister in my childish inquisitiveness…and I acknowledge it’s because I’m actually an adult.

You see a woman sitting at a table, covered from neck to toes even though it’s 80 degrees outside, and while I’ve no idea what you think…I know it’s not good because I probably have that expression on my face people refer to as “resting bitch face” and you think it’s aimed at you.

You don’t know I cover most of my exposed skin because I am super sensitive to touch and the merest brush of something will cause me to smack myself out of pure reaction to the stimuli.

You don’t know I have autism, and my expression hardly ever conveys how I truly feel on the inside, nor how much I’m so tired of people finding me unapproachable all because my face isn’t open and inviting as it should be.

You don’t know I’m not rude, and that I didn’t answer you because I couldn’t force the words past where they were stuck in my throat.

I’ll tell you now:

I apologize for making you uncomfortable.

I didn’t mean to stare, I wasn’t even aware.

But you’ll never know.

authors with autism, living with autism

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