When I was a kid, there was a TV show called “Kids Incorporated”. I used to catch it on Saturday morning, right after the cartoons were over. Then it moved to the Disney Channel. It was about a group of kids who had their own rock band, and whose life was like a musical – as in they’d have something going on in their life and they’d break into song about it. The show had a few breakout stars you’ve probably heard of – Stacie Ferguson (Fergie from the Black Eyed Peas), Mario Lopez, Jennifer Love Hewitt and Martika (singer of “Toy Soldiers” in the late 80s/early 90s). I loved this show. I wanted to live this show. I tried to live this show.
I wanted to be a singer. I wanted my life to be a musical. I used to sit on the playground singing to myself. My classmates would tell me I had a pretty voice and ask me to sing for them. I would. Then they would go make fun of me. I tried to make an after-school rock band with these same kids. Couldn’t seem to get it through my head that any time any of them went along with me, it was just to make fun of me later.
I have obsessions. If I like something, I have to find out everything I can about it. I immerse myself in it. One of my biggest obsessions is Star Wars. My parents joke that they took me to see it at the drive-in as a 6-month old baby, and it’s been over ever since. While my passion waned during the prequel years (which I refuse to acknowledge), I am throwing myself a birthday party this year and inviting all my friends to go see The Force Awakens for my birthday, since the movie is opening on my birthday weekend. I’m planning a special Star Wars outfit.
In school, I wrote a series of papers in 3rd grade about Star Wars, just substituting the word “Star” for whatever we were supposed to be writing about. One I definitely remember is “Lion Wars” – a rehashing of the Star Wars plot, set in the Serengeti. I was Princess Leia for Halloween for two years in a row. My parents wouldn’t let me be her for a third. As a matter of fact, I tried to find a picture of the plastic costume and mask I wore, and ended up buying a duplicate on eBay. Because I want to have it. I used to play softball in the summers. I would imagine that my team was the Rebellion and the opposing team was the Empire. The fate of the galaxy was on the line at every game.
I started going to sci-fi conventions a few years ago, but I’ve stopped now. I’ve discovered that in order to enjoy them, I need to go with a group of friends. If I go by myself, my social anxiety takes over and I end up sitting in a corner the whole time. Or leaving altogether. I need someone there to work as my “fun ambassador”. I can’t approach new people or new situations on my own, but with friends there, they can break the ice, I can get comfortable and then be able to enjoy myself. The last few times I’ve gone to the local convention I used to enjoy, I end up hiding in corners or leaving altogether, unable to deal with the people around me, or to approach the groups I might enjoy.
My ex-husband worked for a company that put on a lavish holiday party for employees and spouses every year. There was a joke that it was “prom” for grown-ups. We’d all get dressed up, go to a hotel ballroom, eat a good dinner and drink and dance the night away. Except he would abandon me to talk to work friends as soon as we walked in the door. My introvert tendencies would take over and I’d go sit by myself until dinner, unable to mingle with people because I didn’t know them. When dinner ended, he would ditch me again. And I’d usually approach him within the hour, in tears, begging to just leave. I get so frustrated with myself when I can see everyone having fun around me, and I don’t know how to insert myself into the group to have fun too.
I took one of those online “this is not a diagnosis, but if you score high, maybe you should talk to your doctor” tests on the internet. And yes, I take it with a whole salt shaker. But according to the test, I would score on the autism spectrum. The diagnosis wouldn’t surprise me – my suspicions along those lines are what made me take the test to begin with. But the results actually gave me a little peace. Like, maybe I’m not completely broken. Just different.