Picture by Ihor from Pintrest
I hate labels. And I hate the modern obsession with identities. I remember when I was diagnosed as “asexual” by a friend of mine in tenth grade. And I had just stared open mouthed at her. I was asexual? What was that? I went home and researched and decided to adopt the label. But then when I went to highschool and actually spent time in co-ed settings I realized that being asexual wasnt cool like being bisexual was. It just made you look like a sad,ugly virgin. And then I read about other labels-demi sexual, pan sexual etc etc. And it got even more mind boggling.
It was then that it was already dawning on me how meaningless these identities felt to me. What the fuck is an identity anyway? I am not just asexual. I am also a kind person with the cutest handwritten notes. I am also an empathetic person. I am also a woman and a muhajir and a Qureshi and etc etc etc. Why does my entire being has to be encapsulated in my sexuality which then has to be catapulted in an English word.
And so I rejected affiliating asexuality with myself. Especially when I am not sure whether I am asexual or not. And then I was diagnosed with OCD, something I have suspected since long. And then I wondered if my asexuality had something to do with OCD. This label upon label upon label was annoying me to the fucking core.
And as if this was not enough, I am suspecting I am autistic now. Ever since I started working, socializing with new people is unavoidable. And that is when I started truly realizing how challenging social situations are for me. When first thrown into a meeting with a potential donor, I persevered. Gave my top notch presentation and sat in the corner pleased with my public speaking skills. But then we ended up having dinner with them??? How was I supposed to have dinner with these people. I remember sitting there and trying to figure them out. Was this girl awami? She was after all having desi food in a village in Pakistan (albeit at a posh restaurant) and that was brave considering the diarrhea cases many Pakistani immigrants develop. But then she screamed “Village food” when the platters arrived. And in my prejudiced mind she was no longer awami!
What to talk to her about? I kept thinking and thinking. I couldnt think much. They talked about Bangladesh and the perils of being a Pakistani there. The father and daughter duo joked about her settling in Pakistan. I mimicked laughter with everyone else even though it didn’t feel funny for me. She finally asked me my plans for the future. I was confused. What and how to respond? I mumbled film school. And plastered a smile on my face. She was fucking gorgeous. Her tragus was pierced, she was wearing thick eyeliner on her big eyes and her petite body made her look 10 times younger than me (Even though she was apparently in her 30s). Apart from my social awkwardness; my double chin, my bare face and my ugly georgette dupatta made me feel even more inept at having an impressive conversation with her. I had left in a hurry and in a severe bout of anxiety. Before this in the 1.5 hr car ride, I had already flustered myself with forced conversation with one of the Board directors.
On the way back, I retained my social awkwardness but I had some sense of the man sitting next to me and driving (The board member). He loved food and liked talking about practical things like the weather in Karachi or the roads. He liked speaking and giving his opinion on things. He liked to guide people using his business experience. After 1 hr, I finally was ready to converse with him. It took me 3 hrs almost but I had managed to crack the ice.
On the way back I reflected on how I blew up my meeting with the producer because of my inability to communicate. I reflected over my inability to talk to the donor. And for the first time, I considered the possibility of being autistic. After weeks of research and some discussion with my therapist, I decided to take some professional tests online and guess what I score autistic on all of them. Cant gauge how accurate/reliable it is. But now theres another label on my armour for me to wear. And possibly reclaim. Just the thought of it is exhausting me. Much like the thought of socializing exhausts me.
If I am autistic-a lot of things will start making sense. They have already. But I am still in a bit of shock. And trying to remember my childhood. I do remember having only one friend. Of always being the friendless child until much later. I remember being hurt at the slightest of things. I withdraw from people when I am hurt and say awful things to them or at least want to. I want to cut them off completely because no other action makes sense. I have been listening to the same songs since 10th grade and I stuck to them throughout A levels. I never tried to converse with anyone but just jammed my handsfree in my ears and sang loudly and that was perfectly alright. I never felt the need to socialize. My vivid imagination was enough for me. I get anxious by groups. I hate group friendships. Even conversing with two different friends together becomes anxiety inducing for me. I hate sleepovers because I hate changing my sleeping schedule. I hate spontaneous plans. I need the correct ritual and the correct frame of mind for everything. I am the most clumsiest person I know. My body does not feel mine when I try to dance. I cannot cycle or do any sports without making an ass of myself.
I dont understand social conventions. Apparently people think I am quite rude on text. I didnt say,”Hello! Hope you are doing well!” until recently. I learnt it. Not adding fullstops to my sentences on whatsapp gives me anxiety. I do tap my feet and leg unconsciously but doesn’t everyone?I can never place my legs on the ground, I need to sit with my legs crossed and I often shake them. I hate being hugged except by my niece or kittens. I hate when people expect me to hug them or forcefully hug me at social gatherings. I can only shake hands. I hate small talk. I dont fucking understand the point of it. I am not interested in your life, why should I pretend to? Its like a rehearsal for me now. I have learnt the appropriate gestures and words.
So am I really autistic? I just thought I was channeling Aqua energy or something when I was being phobic to social interactions. But apparently not. I feel liberated and confined at the same time. Label upon label upon label upon label……………….what am i?