Tirade Redux

The first part of this is copied from an older post (which you can find here).

Sorry, but I’m going to have to use figurative language in this one (which is sort of important to a point I’m trying to make)… 

This is how it’s supposed to work: 

You believe something such as All cats hate water. Then you see a video of a cat jumping into a bath tub to play, and you think, Hmmm, maybe some cats like water a lot; this one sure seems to, and you no longer believe that all cats, all the time, hate water almost as much as all cats hate dogs. (I hope you see what I did there…)

However, this seems to be how it works instead:

You believe something such as All cats hate water. Then you see a video of a cat jumping into a bath tub to play, and you think, I don’t care if that cat jumped into the water to play. Everyone knows all cats hate water, so that cat hates water. In fact, that cat is a bad cat for doing things that are contrary to what everyone knows is true about cats. Who does that cat think it is? What is it trying to prove? Why can’t it just be the way I know all cats are?

Well, let me tell you what that cat is trying to prove…

That cat is sick and tired of hearing that all cats hate water. He worries that he’s not catting “the right way,” because he likes water, especially warm water in which a rubber ducky is floating, and he’s quite good at swimming, and it upsets him a lot when people who don’t even know cats very well say cats must hate water, Because Felinity. Am I not a cat at all? he wonders. If I am a cat, why don’t I count? Why can’t these people who see me playing in the bath tub accept that, since I am a cat and I do like water, obviously some cats like water?

For those of you who need a translation (’cause, for some reason, there are a hell of a lot of non-autistic people who don’t quite grasp figurative language — the cast-iron pot calling the copper kettle black): Apparently it’s not just “the experts” who believe that autistic people cannot use, understand, or even recognize figurative language; it’s not just “the experts” who believe autism means being incompetent when it comes to communicating in any way. I know this because I’ve gotten a few comments here on my blog along the lines of ‘You seem really smart for someone with autism’ and ‘It’s so inspiring, how you’ve overcome your natural difficulty with using words to even learn a little bit about grammar. Which books did you memorize?’

This part is new:

I’m autistic.

I’m also damn good at communication, especially but not limited to written communication. (Several of my university professors seemed to think that I’m exceptionally good at public speaking, etc., which proves one need not enjoy something in order to be highly skilled at it.) However, it seems as if the more I try to convince people that, since I am autistic and am able to communicate quite well, it must mean at least some autistic people can communicate — even with allistics — quite well… they just double down on their insistence that autism means inability to use words/communicate at all, and then they usually add that obviously I also lack empathy, because otherwise I’d agree with them when they call me retard and say I don’t know anything about grammar.

Yeah. Obviously

I earn a living through my skills with written communication. What do you think a copyeditor does all day, anyway? Do you really think that merely “memorizing Chicago” will make anyone able to fix sentences that are not technically incorrect but are nevertheless very, very awkward? (Fun fact: Until 2016, I never even saw the inside of a copy of The Chicago Manual of Style. I bought the current edition so I could have a reference for explaining to other people why a punctuation mark needs to be used a certain way, etc. I already knew this stuff, but because I don’t have to think about it, I occasionally don’t know how to explain it to someone who doesn’t know it. Other than having a vague recollection of which section contains all the stuff about commas, I haven’t “memorized” any of it.) 

Ever since I “outed” myself as autistic, though, I’ve seen a… great reluctance, shall we say, in writers who previously would have been more than happy to hire me to copyedit their manuscripts. I understand this on an emotional level (notice that I did not say I agree with it, merely that I get where it comes from), but on a rational level, it’s one of the stupidest things I’ve encountered. Why would anyone looking for a copyeditor care whether or not that copyeditor is outgoing and cool (I am cool, children — I’m frakkin’ awesome — but not in a way that would appeal to someone aggressively “mundane”: it takes a sci-fi/fantasy geek with many intellectual and creative interests to fully appreciate me) and hyper-active with the selfie-posting on All Teh Social Medias…? You don’t need me to make eye contact while I’m fixing innumerable comma splices and laughably erroneous verbs, do you? (I could do that, but you wouldn’t like it: I’m a “broadcast empath” — I sometimes, usually unintentionally, cause other people to feel whatever I’m feeling — and if forced to make eye contact for no good reason when I don’t want to, I’d either share my discomfort or “shield-bash” you. Hell, I did that to Blue once or twice, and he prided himself on his extra-strong mental shields. I, of course, remain unimpressed: This is the best that program could produce? *rolls eyes, waves to guys in surveillance van, drinks coffee, hopes blog readers understand this is a joke*)

I think it likely that even the writers I’ve worked with in the past don’t want me to edit their fiction anymore. After all, they’ve found out that I’m “broken.” My brain doesn’t work “right,” meaning I might notice things real humans other people reading the manuscript don’t notice. Isn’t that what any writer hires any editor for, though? Don’t you want someone with an eye for fine nuance and detail to seek out any possible problems so they can be fixed, rather than shrugging and saying, ‘Well, the average reader doesn’t have a degree in English and won’t notice the incorrect punctuation, so leave it alone’? And that’s another thing that annoys the hell out of me: the assumption that only someone with a degree in English can possibly know anything about grammar, so ‘readers dont care, all they care is do they like the story,’ and when I say that I don’t have a degree in English — I never saw the point — and yet I, as a reader, do care about how a story is written as well as what it’s about, all of a sudden how I’m perceived goes from ‘grammer nazi nerdbeast’ to ‘incompetent idiot who had to major in art because he wasn’t smart enough for anything else.’ (Not that people who see me that way are anywhere near creative enough to invent a term like nerdbeast. I, of course, Because Autism, am utterly incapable of inventing words or even using words that aren’t in the dictionary, because autism means having to be rigidly literal all the time and also never, ever using sarcasm when angry…) I’m autistic, and everyone knows that autism = low intelligence, and that, sure, some autistic people seem kinda smart, but we’re not; we’re just good at fooling normal/real people into thinking we’re smart because we know a lot about just one topic, called a “special interest” or “splinter skill” because of course this knowledge cannot ever be applied to real life in any meaningful way. If my “special interest” in written English were a real skill instead of a “splinter skill,” I’d be able to do something real with it and maybe someday even be able to earn a little bit of money with it…

Oh, wait.

All that stuff I’ve mentioned occasionally about ‘supporting myself and even helping put my clone-sibling through college with money I earned as a freelance copyeditor’? True story, but it apparently doesn’t count, Because Autism.

You’re very lucky, you stubborn individuals who have kept reading thus far, that you’re only reading my words instead of hearing them spoken. When speaking, I usually express emotion to some degree or another, which is totally against the Autistic Person Code of Behavior, as created by non-autistic people because actually autistic people can’t be trusted to be themselves without a real allistic person telling them who those selves are. Making eye contact is Against the Rules (and not making eye contact is proof that we’re defective). Showing empathy at all is Against the Rules (and showing empathy differently from how allistics do it is proof that we’re defective). Having many, many interests is Against the Rules (and having only a few interests is proof that we’re defective). Being physically coordinated/not clumsy is Against the Rules (and any difficulty with physical motion is proof that we’re defective). Not caring about math/computers is Against the Rules (and being interested in math or computers is proof that we’re defective). Dressing the same as allistics is Against the Rules (and making our own choices about what garments to put on our own bodies, with little or no regard for what’s trendy that week, is proof that we’re defective). If you were hearing me speak, rather than just reading my words on a screen, you would hear the anger, the frustration, and the confusion in my voice. You might even be tricked into thinking that I can hear such things in the voices of normal people, when normal people are expressing those emotions through speech. Of course, even caring what anyone else thinks/feels is Against the Rules (and not putting everyone else’s thoughts/feelings before our own at all times is proof that we’re defective), so knowing what another person feels is Not Allowed for someone like me.

‘Course, neither is over-the-top sarcasm, yet here we are.

(Ginormous string of tangents: Word count for this blog post alone just passed 1730: it hit exactly 1701 with the word all, a few lines up, which amuses me slightly, but I can’t say that, because associating a number with a work of fiction I like is pattern recognition, and any amount of pattern recognition is proof that I’m defective… Anyway, word count is now more than one thousand, seven hundred ninety, or 1790 for those who “don’t have the time” to read words instead of numerals, which kinda ought to be some evidence that I don’t need “peer pressure” from people who aren’t my peers — aren’t allistics supposed to be offended at the very idea that someone like me could possibly be considered their equal? — to bully and badger me into writing one thousand, six hundred sixty-seven words in a day. And guess what, friends… If you know what work of fiction I associate the numeral 1701 with, you might be defective, too. At the least, it implies that you like screen sci-fi, and I’ve been told more than once that liking science fiction is morally wrong Because It’s Weird. Pseudo-mom even said that science fiction is “misusing science,” not because some sci-fi gets the science wrong/inaccurate, but because it’s making things up, and some of those things are about people who aren’t human, and people living on planets that aren’t Earth… So okay, maybe some of the themes in my fiction aren’t so hard to trace to their point of origin, after all. All it takes is one time having to listen to an authority figure rant for hours about how “satanic” Star Trek is because, y’know, there’s Spock… Good thing she didn’t know he’s of mixed-species ancestry, yeah? So maybe I latched on to Cavanaugh’s character in that other television series as the representation of certain views I find abhorrent because otherwise I’d have to give Bea’s face to the things I fear. Maybe I will anyway. Maybe I’ll “snap” and follow the conversation I once had with her at her place of work to its logical conclusion…)

I’m well aware that there’s a strong anti-intellectualism movement in this country lately, and although I would like to believe that none of the people who read my blog are anti-intellectuals, it’s not impossible that a few are. At any rate, if you are incapable of changing your view when presented with facts that show it to have been incorrect/inaccurate, you probably don’t belong here. My university degree is in art, my “day job” now is all about written English… but never think that means I don’t believe in the scientific method, even applied to real life (as opposed to “lab life,” I guess): When the observations don’t support the assumption, there’s a good chance the assumption is wrong. This handful of people who believed I was really, really good with the copyediting stuff until they found out I’m autistic and then decided that I must have been incompetent all along, Because Autism… No. No one has the right to “retcon” reality to suit their own prejudices. I was competent before, I am still competent, and what you now know about me has changed nothing except what you now know about me. If your opinion of me changed, based on your prejudices, that is not my fault.

(Photo: Enormous dandelion, just because I thought this post needed a picture of some sort… and because it’s a metaphor, but whatever.)

About Thomas Weaver

For several years, I’ve been putting my uncanny knack for grammar and punctuation, along with an eclectic mental collection of facts, to good use as a Wielder of the Red Pen of Doom (editor). I'm physically disabled, and I currently live with my smugly good-looking twin Paul, who writes military science fiction and refuses to talk about his military service because he can’t. Sometimes Paul and I collaborate on stories, and sometimes I just edit whatever he writes. It's worked out rather well so far. My list of non-writing-related jobs from the past includes librarian, art model, high school teacher, science lab gofer… Although I have no spouse or offspring to tell you about, I do have eight cats. I currently spend my time blogging, reading, editing, and fending off cats who like my desk better than my twin’s.
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3 Responses to Tirade Redux

  1. Love the post, all ’bout the big lies that we live by, and how one establishes one fact for one individual or subset and then concludes that it’s true for all of that set, like all blacks like fried chicken and watermelon, and have incredible jumping skills, etc, stereotyping. They — and I like employing that omniscient, omnipotent, anonymous ‘they’ in this context — used to say that cats aren’t smart and they don’t have personalities and feelings, but, gosh, they’ve opened themselves up the possibility that they are wrong about cats.

    To quote another, “What a world, what a world.” Cheers

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I am so sorry people are idiots. I am so sorry they have driven you to this frustration. I have this conversation regularly with my partner, about what Autism is or isn’t. I tell him I worked with a guy who was Autistic in a coffee roasting warehouse, and my partner argues that it would have been too lou, this he couldn’t have been autistic. Same with the three staff I work with now in the restaurant. But at the end of the day, from my understanding of it, Autism is just a different way the brain works, and thus, it can take on many different forms, if that makes sense. So why try to box people in? I am so sorry you’re losing clients who have worked with you and have yet to work with you. I literally do not understand why that would make theme think less of you–especially when they’ve worked with you before!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. What Nicola said. People are idiots.

    We live in a box these days, and we don’t seem to let anyone in unless they agree with us.

    Intelligent discourse dies.

    And people wonder why Rome fell.

    Liked by 1 person

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