Sunday, March 7, 2010

How I survived bridal shower weekend

I hate parties. Hate them. They're loud, there are a lot of people, and I'm expected to socialize, even with people I don't really know. If you ask me, that's plenty of reasons to hate parties.

But, it was my sister's bridal shower, and I had to go. It's my sister. She wanted me to be there, and I would never let her down, if I could help it.

It wouldn't have been so bad if I could have relaxed before and afterward, but we had quite a few people staying with us. My sister and her fiance were here, in addition to the fiance's parents. My mom mentioned months ago that the mother-in-law, Vera, is very intense.... loud, almost in your face sometimes, but very loving. I was nervous to the point that I was falling apart. I usually can't stand people like that. I understand that they're just trying to love me, but they overwhelm me. I need space, and I need to be able to come to them.

I never did figure out if my mom told Vera that I don't like loud noises or lots of people, or specifically that I have autism. I guess whether she described the symptoms or the condition itself doesn't really matter, but Vera had some forewarning that I might struggle. And I did. She came over to show me how she spoke firmly without yelling at her fifth-graders all the years that she taught, and she sort of forced me to make eye contact. I felt my stomach lurch. Eye contact is still really hard for me. She was close enough that I think it would have been obvious if I looked at her but not at her eyes. So, I looked and looked away, doing the best I could without throwing up then and there. She also touched me a lot, because that's the way she is. I guess she didn't hear me constantly going, "Don't touch me! Quit touching me!" to my mom. Oh well. I winced and survived.

I did okay for the time that it was just Vera and I. I can be a participating member of a one-on-one conversation (she even told me, "Good conversing, Lydia!" which I appreciated). It's when other people get involved that I withdraw. I can't follow, so I can't participate. When we have people over, I typically sit with them for about 20 minutes and hold the cat, then take the cat and go off into the other room to be by myself (with Elsie). If one person comes in and talks to me, I'm perfectly fine and don't mind it, I just can't handle all those people at once. So, all weekend, that's what I did.

Before the shower, I took a long nap with my door shut and with Elsie laying in the sunshine on the floor. We had to hurry to get ready, and we were late, both of which can kind of set me off, but I texted Leigh a little and felt okay. My sister didn't want to walk into the party by herself, so I went in with her, and I hated it when everyone clapped and cheered. It was loud and uncomfortable. But it's my sister, so I did it, even though I probably wasn't smiling.

So I sat next to my cousin and near my mom and my aunt and... sat. I didn't really talk at the party because it was so loud. I found out that my sister's college roommate loves cats too, though, so I did yell across the table to her for a few minutes. After the food (which, I must add, the place was really rude about my gluten free stuff. They "couldn't" make me anything, so we brought my own. My mom asked them to heat it up for me and they brough it back and shouted, "EXCUSE ME!" to the entire party. "Who has this other food? We can't heat it up because of health codes!" I was so embarrassed and annoyed! Just ask quietly, come on!), we did presents and then went to my sister's friends house to start off the bachelorette party. More sitting and eating and talking (I tried to make friends with her scaredy cat), and finally it was time to go home.

So, it was an okay weekend, considering it was a party and people staying with us. Everyone was really nice. Vera told me she's "very proud" of how much work I'm doing and how far I'm coming and how well I talked, which made me feel good. Even if she is a little overwhelming, I know she means what she says. And now my house is back to normal and I'm back in my regular bedroom. Thank goodness!

Elsie and I catch a moment in the chaos

My sister and I right after the party


  1. Lydia,

    Sounds like you did an excellent job of getting through the weekend. Congratulations! You should be proud of your accomplishment.

    How rude of them to make such a scene about your food! I don't undersand why people have to have such negative attitudes about stuff like this. We had a similar experience when we asked a certain restaurant if we could have a sub without the bread (my son Noah is allergic to casein and the bread contained it). They acted as if they had never heard of such a thing and told us they couldn't do that. What's the big deal? It's not that hard.

    Love reading your posts! Keep up the good work!

  2. I'm glad Vera does mean what she says. At least someone appreciates you!

    (in the first chapter or so of Emergence, Grandin wrote about an overflowing aunt which she had, who had perfume and everything).

    She understands the way you are, which makes it easier to understand the way she is.

    There is a big hospitality ethics industry out there these days.

    (I wonder if Vera ever had any students on the spectrum or if that would break their confidentiality. It's highly likely, given the years in which she taught, especially if she did it post 1990 when it was a separate category).

    There are lots of gluten-free websites which have advice on that sort of thing. The Savvy Celiac is one.

  3. Good job, Lydia!! So great that you could be there for your sister. Love the photo of the two you, you both look happy!

  4. I don't know if you've ever done one, but I'd love to read a post about eye contact. That's REALLY hard for Hallie, too. (As are big loud parties, even though she is generally a sensory seeker; it's just that she can't make a whole lot of sense of tons of things that are unstructured going on around her all at once). Anyway, I am trying to get this eye contact thing---I know how hard it is for her and I don't want to make her do something that feels so uncomfortable, but it's such a huge part of body language in our culture.

    Anyway, I am so glad you survived the shower. For what it's worth, as a non-autie, I would have hated it too. Small talk sucks, plain and simple. And once more you were very brave.

  5. I didn't see the photos when I posted my comment earlier.

    Hope your sister and her man have a nice holiday!