I was really pleased to find that my post on living in Fairyland had resonated with so many people, so this is sort of a follow-up on the real-world consequences of my Fairyland hypothesis. Social naïvety is often referenced as a common trait among autistic people, but as someone who frequently comes across as naïve in social interactions, it’s not actually that I’m innately innocent or trusting. It’s that in order to appear ‘high functioning’ in interactions with most people, I have to take it on faith that they’re acting with both our best intentions at heart; that while the “fairies” I live alongside might seem incomprehensible or even cruel, they aren’t intentionally malicious. Which is a positive trait in that I try to be understanding and see the best in people, but it means that I have to take a lot more on faith than most people.
This can end up being pretty funny. Recently, I asked a friend if she wanted to get tickets to a concert, and she insisted that we had a prior engagement that I’d forgotten because she’d already bought them as my Christmas present. When the truth was revealed, she asked why I hadn’t probed her obvious lie, and I realised I’d just assumed she had a really good reason for lying, because she’s one of my best friends and wouldn’t lie to me for no reason. Which was clearly the right assumption, in this case, because she’s amazing and gave me a wonderful surprise.
But it can also be harmful, or potentially dangerous. It’s very difficult to set reasonable boundaries when your perceptions of “too loud” or “too touchy-feely” or “too intimate” are frequently viewed as unacceptable or abnormal by the rest of the world, and when you do draw a line and someone crosses it, it’s hard to tell thoughtlessness or a lapse in empathy from intentional unkindness. I tend to err on the side of assuming thoughtlessness, which means I tend to appear pretty forgiving when other people read these boundary transgressions as unacceptable.
My last relationship is testament to this: I tolerated a lot of boundary crossing and unkindness that to many of my friends seemed utterly unacceptable given that I’m not a stupid girl. But I didn’t argue when he picked me up when he knew I hated it or physically moved me out of peoples’ way or shouted at me over trivial issues, because he said he loved me and someone who loved me wouldn’t intentionally hurt me, right? So he’d apologise, and I’d accept it over and over again because tolerating the incomprehensible whims of people I care about is practically engraved into my bones at this point.
I’m not actually that forgiving. I just have a very poor sense of what is an acceptable way for people to treat me, and I would rather be seen to underreact than overreact. It adds another layer to the now-infamous ‘Cool Girl‘ speech from Gone Girl: I’m the ‘cool Aspie’. I don’t have public meltdowns. I don’t complain when things are too loud or too crowded or too invasive. I don’t cry when people act in ways that don’t make sense to me. I don’t shout or scream or demand any kind of accommodations, and the most embarrassing things I do when overwhelmed in public are reading, knitting, or leaving.
If I tend to ignore what I want or need in favour of what the people who surround me will think is normal, it’s because that’s what the world has taught me to value. If I’m inclined to being overly trusting it’s because I don’t know how to be anything else and still be able to interact with an intensely confusing world. I’m not naïve. I just have to hope everyone else is trying as hard to be tolerant as I am.