One of the things that's hard for me as an autistic person...and specifically an introverted autistic person (there ARE extroverted autistic people, btw) is attending social gatherings...especially if it involves a large group and/or people I don't, or hardly, know.
(By large group: I mean over 5 people).
I don't hate these social gatherings. I would be sad if they disappeared all together. But I'd be more content if they were maybe three or four times a year....or at most once a month rather than multiple ones in a month or sometimes even multiple ones in two weeks.
When you live in the same metroplex as fourteen other family members, these social events happen quite often.
There are birthday parties, graduations, performances, holidays, out-of-town relative-gatherings dinners-just-because, etc.
I would be much more okay with all of this if there weren't obligations, requirements, or pressure to attend. BUT there is.
Every so often, we get a friendly no-obligation or no pressure. That's appreciated! It really is. Though depending on who gives the message, I'm often skeptical...knowing that in the history of our family, missing an event has brought about bad-mouthing, grudges, some variation of a silent treatment, etc.
The thing is, we don't often get to see the reaction towards OUR misdeeds, but we get to see the reaction towards others who have committed similar sins.
So...I can be pretty certain that any missing of any event by any person is going to bring a lot of behind-the-back wrath.
It's not always behind-the-back, though. Sometimes it comes in the form of responding to a declined invitation with a curt "okay". Maybe other people would interpret that okay with, No worries! I totally understand! Maybe next time" Or: I understand that you are autistic and have ADHD, and these multiple gatherings are hard for you. I'm totally okay with you having different needs, etc. And if you are able to come to gatherings in the future, and there are ways for us to make things easier on you, please let us know!
But I interpret the "okay" as: I am about to blow my top, and I would like to write you a long email about how you are the most selfish person in this family, and you tend to ruin things. You are sick. You are ungrateful! I'm going to restrain myself, though and just write this one little word. I hope you are feeling my anger, though. Cause otherwise this gesture of mine is wasted, and I should have just written you that very angry email.
By the way, if they were kind enough to ask about my accommodations, one thing I might say is that I appreciate them understanding that though it's the-more-the-merrier for them, that's not always the case for me. Now of course I wouldn't demand to have control of the guest list for another family's birthday party or another family's special event. I wouldn't actually demand control of any guest list for any get-together. But for more mutual gatherings, I would appreciate at least an (expressed) understanding that having strangers, or people I hardly know, make things more stressful for me. EVEN if these guests are "nice"*
The other thing is....
I feel there really should be more balance.
My family rarely reads my writing. And this has been the case for Teen-Dina, Young Adult Dina, New-Mom Dina, Obsessed-with-Australia Dina, Neurology-Issues-Dina, and Getting-diagnosed-with-Autism Dina.
They have rarely read my novels, my blog, my Livejournal (yes, at one point it was shared with them...multiple times), my screenplays, etc.
They're too busy.
Some of them don't like reading.
Others love to read, but they just don't like reading the stuff that I write.
It would be nice if the universe balanced. So while I am expected to go to social events when I'm not into social events, they would be expected to read some of the stuff I've written....even if they're not really into reading or reading something their sister or daughter wrote.
How about for each hour I give up for a social event...including drive time, they have to read around 1000 words. I imagine that would be fair. (More than fair actually, because Googled and supposedly it would take a slow reader 2 minutes to read 250 words. So to make it truly equitable, it would be 7500 words)
Okay. But let's say they really can't stomach my writing?
How about as an alternative, they take the time to watch a video or article I've sent...for example, if I sent them a video about autism, because that's important to me, and I'd like them to be more understanding. Maybe they could take the 5-15 minutes to watch a video or read an article or editorial?
To be fair, some family members DO at least do that...they watch the video or read the article I've sent. I appreciate that. The one who doesn't? I think this person also happens to be the most demanding about us attending various events.
I don't think there's any way to get me to totally love going to multiple social events within a limited amount of time. But I do feel I'd be more eager to go if I was going to an event among people where I felt more celebrated and supported....where people knew what my recent screenplays were about. And they knew my various thoughts about our recent Disney trip. They knew which novels I have posted online. They knew most of my various thoughts about my autism-diagnosis-story. And they knew and understood the full nightmare of what I went through with the neurologist.
I think there's an unsaid (or maybe even said) message in my family of, you should do this for us, because we would definitely do it for you. Even though, you don't invite us to many events....if you did, we would definitely come.
It's kind of an easy out for them.
It would be like me demanding that they read everything I've written while they write next to nothing...and then having the attitude of: You should read my writing, because if you wrote something, I'd definitely read what you've written.
If I was in that situation, hopefully I'd stop and think...well, they're doing this for me. And since they're not into writing, what other ways could I show support? Ah! Maybe, even though, I'm not into social gatherings....I'll sacrifice some time and attend this crowded birthday party.
Basically...you know what....I could have written this post in one sentence: If you ask someone else to often go beyond their comfort zone, be kind and go beyond your comfort zone for them.
*Wanted to note that telling me a person is "nice" doesn't make me feel reassured in any way. Because I've learned in my family that "nice" equals "normal". If my family wanted me to feel comfortable about a guest, they'd be better off saying "He's pretty weird and super obsessed with...."
That being said....my family's friends are often quite weird in some way. I'd just be more won over if, when promoting these guests, the quirky aspects of them were emphasized rather than "nice".
What does "nice" even mean???
I think too often it just means neurotypical friendliness.
Don't get me wrong. I appreciate neurotypical friendliness if it's not over-the-top charming gregariousness.
But more important than nice-to-meet-you-moment social skills, I think are things like being a good listener; being anti-racist; being not-sexist; being not-homophobic; being not-transphobic, believing in the importance of democracy; feeling that children are more precious than guns, etc.