Letter from the Void

“Hurry up Ava, we’re going to be late!” my father yelled. There was a soft ringing in my ears, my father could tell I wasn’t fully there by looking at my wistful face. There we were right outside the kitchen, his body fixated on the front door. With his hands on his hips he said, “I can’t fucking believe you.” I didn’t know what to say, my head had left the room. “What’s wrong, Dad?” I asked with a frown. “If we don’t leave now, we’ll miss the plane!” I remembered that my dad likes to leave early in the morning, hours before the flight, so early that on our trips to LaGuardia Airport we would see the sun rise over the parts of New York that hadn’t been molested by concrete. I wondered if it was early morning. I looked outside the window and saw the brightest light I’d ever seen, nothing like the warm light of the sun. My eyes weren’t burning, they were just blinded. “Dad, where are we gonna go?” He shook his head, and he sighed at me, a sigh that echoed more deeply than any yell. 

“We’re going to see Grandpa,” he said, disappointed that I had forgotten. “We are?” I looked and his suitcases were packed, but I didn’t see mine. “I don’t remember saying yes to this,” I said to Dad, his face now bright red. “What is there to say yes to?” “Well, Dad, I’m just not ready…” “We’ve been planning this trip forever, you’re so fucking irresponsible…” His loud anger became a cold disappointment, I could hear it in the timbre of his voice when he said, “I don’t even want to fucking look at you right now.” His body was stiff, his eyes were shadowed by an unusually prominent brow bone. 

“Don’t you love your grandpa, Ava?” He asked with urgency, and a hint of sadness. “Of course I do, Dad… it’s just…” He waited for an answer to escape my lips, an answer that would surely disappoint him. “Grandpa is dead,” I said. The ringing in my body ceased for a minute.

“Ha, ha,” he said, looking down at his feet, arms crossed. “Don’t you think I know that?” I thought of the graveyard we always passed on the highway, the one on the  way to the airport. My father opened the front door. “Dad, Dad he’s dead! He’s dead, Dad!” My dad’s sad, sardonic expression became sombre. “It doesn’t matter, where we’re going…” 

I looked into the hallway of my apartment building. Where I expected murky lamps and shag carpet, there was only light. The same light that bled through the windows. It was then I knew that it wasn’t some miraculous changing of the seasons that made the light outside. I was looking at the final season, the one that never appears on the calendar, the one without happy holidays taught to children. It was no storm, it was still, as unwavering as the stars in the sky. You can never see the stars from Manhattan. 

Suddenly, I was confronted by my body, my soul seemed to be kicking my heart. I was crying. Sobbing like a little girl. “Dad, I’m not ready to go.” My chin was quivering, I could feel the snot and tears run down my cherry coloured face. “You’re ready, Ava.” He came up to me and grabbed my arm. He held me like I was no heavier than a ragdoll. “No!” I cried, my body went limp, and as his hand escaped me I ran back to the fridge. “Ava, you’re not a child any more.” I cried harder. I fell to the ground, grabbing onto the floor as if it would grab me back. “Don’t you love your grandpa?” he exclaimed, “Don’t you love me, Ava?” “Of course I do! How can you even ask that?” His eyes were grey. “What’s wrong with you, Daddy?” 

He looked at me, and without opening his mouth, confirmed that there was no way of winning. He turned around, he grabbed the clutch of his suitcase. “Daddy, no!” I leaped up and grabbed him. He tossed me to the ground like he was removing a tick from his flesh. “Dad, please, no, don’t go!” Finally, he turned back around. His face bore the trail of a lone tear.  Turning, again, he marched into the darkness of the light, the light which enveloped his body.

When I was a little girl, and I would cry inconsolably, my father would hold me and say, “Now no matter what you do, don’t blow your nose on my shirt…” I would look up at him and then blow my nose with all my might. He’d pretend to be disgusted. It didn’t matter where we were. I would giggle, and say, “Tears of joy, Dada. Tears of joy.” 

He was gone. He had left me. There I was, rocking myself, my body a crib for my little heart. I sat, looking into the void, the void looked back. Suddenly, I heard a familiar voice. “Don’t go back to sleep, Ava,” said the voice. I looked up at the white of the ceiling, “Don’t go into the dream—”

Alone, in bed, I parted the curtains of my window. Pink sky greeted my eyes. Unpaintable gradients of yellow and purple adorned the atmosphere. There I was, awake. No more vibrations in my body, only the calming rattling of the air conditioner. I wondered if that would be the last time I’d hear my grandfather’s voice. And as that dreadful worry caressed my mind, something worse came. There would be a day my father would leave the front door for the last time. Out there in the light with his father, his brother, and his mother whom I never met. 

This dream was my wish. My wish that when I cried, my father would always be there to console me, to make light of the saddest of things my little heart could feel. My dream was that when he left, I would leave with him. My nightmare: even in dreams, this could never be true. 

Less than a week ago, I went on a date with someone I will probably never see again. Someone who was rather intimate over text, a person who seemed to have read all the little letters I’d written to myself over the past 18 years. When we had dinner, we talked about family, more specifically, my family. “It’s good that you’re so close with them,” they said. “I just love them a lot.” I looked off into the distance, and thought of my uncle. “You would’ve loved my uncle,” I said. “Oh yeah?” “He was a great musician…” I said. My mind lingered. “He always believed in me, I think maybe he still does…” I could see on their face not sympathy, but maybe intellectual disagreement. I felt I had something to prove, that maybe if I opened up my heart a little more they would understand. Understand the way they had seemed to understand so deeply over their text and phone calls. “Would you like me to read his last words to me?” I asked. “Sure,” they said. Suddenly I was reading aloud my last letter from my uncle Pete. My last interaction with him. I was almost ready to cry. 

I can’t remember what they said to me, sometimes I black out after I say or do something vulnerable. All I remember was asking, “was that too much?” And then receiving some kindly response that I can’t quote verbatim. It’s not because I wasn’t listening, I was, but my heart wasn’t in that spacious Upper East Side diner, it was now far away. A place that I don’t fully understand, a place that I am scared to go. After a few minutes, they decided to leave, and exited the restaurant before I had gotten up from the booth. The waiter came up to me. “They’re gone,” he said. “Thanks, I know.” 

They came back of course, but I knew it was probably done. I didn’t know the person I’d shared my sorrow with, and I now knew that they didn’t want to know me. Hours later, when I got home, I listened to the playlist I’d made for them, and thought of the words my mom had said to me after looking at my dating profile: “‘Do you want my heart now or later?’” she’d said, in a brilliant impersonation of me, so good that so much was said in one sentence. There I was, talking to someone who knew me, who loved me with all my flaws, someone who worried about my little heart. More than someone, my mother, my first home, the one who gave me life and decided to stick around despite all my mistakes and misgivings. If this conversation hadn’t been over the phone, I would’ve hugged her. 

My uncle Pete was the person who talked to my grandfather every day in the last years of the old man’s life. The one who let my grandpa talk his ear off about how the nurses were scheming against him, and how he killed Hitler in WWII—all while my uncle suffered chemo and copious surgeries from a less than decent hospital. We had no idea that those would be Pete’s last years as well… at least, I didn’t.

My uncle Pete was the one who dealt with all the details of my grandfather’s cremation. He died before we could have a proper burial for grandpa Murray. The plan had been to hold a ceremony after my uncle finished his cancer treatments. My dad and I don’t know if Cheryl, his wife, knows the details of which mortuary holds my grandfather’s ashes. Somewhere, they lie in wait. We haven’t asked. It doesn’t seem like the right thing to ask a woman who just buried her husband. My uncle’s ashes are in England with his wife, I don’t know what she did with them, either, but I know that it was whatever Pete wanted—through all this tragedy, he was able to spend the last portion of his life with the love of his life, a woman who proves that family is more than the people you’re born to. 

My grandpa’s ashes are somewhere in Pennsylvania. We never had a funeral for him because we wanted to wait for Pete and Cheryl to be able to bury Grandpa in person. Every day I think about his ashes, how even if we did find them, Grandpa left no note on what he would want done with them. Grandpa was not one to stare into the void, he was one to leave the world kicking and screaming, with a million stories, paintings, and inventions in place of his small and mighty body.

“I think you’re an optimist,” my date said to me last Thursday. Maybe they really did see me. Maybe that’s how the people I love live on—through my need to live and make art like they did. 

That and the chronic sinus infections. 

My Love Letter to Pee-Wee Herman

The other day, while feeling particularly imperturbable yet precariously lonely, I looked down at my phone, waiting for something to talk about. And there I found it, a quotidian sausage party in the comments of a video wherein a man jokes about his intense need for a fleshlight. On one thread of comments, @edgey_mcedgerson_420 said “But it’s [the fleshlight] 88 dollars!” To which another young man, @shadowthehedgehogfan69 replied, “I mean, it’s a good deal, if you don’t know how to talk to women.” 

I stared down at my phone for about thirty seconds, snarled, then wrote out, “I disagree. I think everyone should have access to masturbation tools if they need it. Relationships aren’t about a sexual transaction, and to think about women that way is a little pathetic. If a quick fuck is all you want, you should be able to stimulate yourself instead of manipulating or begging someone else. Nothing is less sexy than desperation — except for, of course, misogyny.” For a moment, I felt proud of myself. I had just won a virtual battle with a stranger who would probably never even read what I’d said. Then I realised that there are probably millions of people just like @shadowthehedgehogfan69, most of whom were not accounted for in this post-ironic echo chamber under a tik tok of a man joking about wanting to fuck a pocket pussy. And what scared me more was realising that it wasn’t just edgy virgin teens who have this attitude toward sex, but perhaps much of the population, many of my friends, and even people who I could have coitus with in the future. This thought shook me from my toes, to my taint, to my clavicle. 

I put my phone down, at last, and left the room. I thought to myself, “What’s so wrong with owning a fleshlight?” Then I remembered how a year prior, a friend of mine had bought one as a gag and then ended up using it, and was ashamed to tell anyone (except for me, for some reason). And as I started running water for my bath, I thought back to when my friends asked me if I was still jerking off after entering a long term relationship, saying that “When you’re happy with someone, the pleasure of sex should already be accounted for.” And as I stepped into the tub, letting the soap bubbles envelope my body, I thought, “Why is it when people talk about  masturbation, they treat it as some kind of unpleasant necessity, akin to taking a shit? Where is the intimacy? The idiosyncrasy? The sensuality? Am I the only person in the world who likes to masturbate just to masturbate?” 

I’m not writing this paper because I want the entire world to know the details of my sex life (my very personal, very alone sex life). This isn’t exhibtionism. I am superbly upset about the reputation that masturbation has, and as a masturbator (like most humans on earth), I figure if I’m not advocating for masturbation, I can’t count on anyone else to do so, either. Though, please don’t believe that I am a masturbatory supremicist, or that I’m not aware of asexuality. All I want is for everyone’s choice to masturbate or not masturbate to be completely their own, void of politics, or religious rhetoric, or shame. Masturbation, in essence, is between you and yourself. 

So, without further adieu, here is why I think you should fuck yourself. 

Sometimes I wish I had a doppelgänger, or just someone who looked like me, who thought like me — someone who knew exactly which points to hit, which parts of my body to tickle or to tease. I don’t think I am alone in that fantasy, to have a mirror, a person who dances with you and matches your tempo, who knows your next move before you do. Déjà-vu in the best way. When I feel this wistfulness, the part of my brain that wants to feel good whispers to me “look at your hands, touch yourself,” and, if I am happy enough, that voice is beautiful, so seductive and in control. I begin to harmonise with my first best friend: myself. I remember that I am the first and last person I will ever meet, and that I have so much time to get to know me. 

There is a somewhat niche community of people who identify as autosexual. Which in short, means to be attracted to yourself as you would be someone else, or in place of someone else. In my opinion, everyone who I know to have a healthy sex life could fall somewhere on this spectrum. There are many people who have a knee jerk reaction to autosexuality, who see autosexuality as a form of narcissism, but I think those people are afraid of love — love of one’s self, or love for absolutely anyone. 

Autosexuality is the opposite of self abuse — the opposite of target behaviours (assuming there’s no solo B.D.S.M., which as you probably know is a form of pleasure, not abuse). If you’ve ever become aroused at the idea of being worshipped, why not start by worshipping yourself? Buy underwear that makes you feel hot, listen to some Barry White or Echo and The Bunnymen (or you know, whatever works for you), draw a bath, and take care of yourself. To me, masturbation is like skincare: the more I do it, the better I feel, and the more confident I am the day after. But this is for you, you know what you like, you know what gets you off — and if you don’t know, have some fun finding out! Maybe you get off on kink like foot massage, peeing, hitting yourself, dry humping, edging, C.B.T. (the therapy or the genital torture), turning your whole body into elaborate origami art, eating sushi off your genitals, rubbing your thighs together until you cum, fisting: different folks for different strokes. I guess that’s the semantics of what is and isn’t masturbation, the point is: have fun. What’s more is that if you seduce yourself, play with controlling and not controlling what you do — you may realise that cumming isn’t always the end goal of sex, and that it isn’t a race to the finish. 

Thinking back to what my friend said about how having a partner should eliminate my other sexual needs — how could that even be the case if I don’t masturbate? The more I masturbate and spend time with myself, the easier it is for my partner to know what I like, for me to guide them, or to switch it up with spontaneity. Why should I expect my partner to find my clitoris when I don’t even know where it is? How am I supposed to have well lubricated intercourse when I don’t know the things that trigger my wetness? As fun as the mystery of sex is, there is no fun to be had if you are a stranger to your own body. With this being said, sex doesn’t need a personalised rubric, it should not lack spontaneity; even if you have a cyborg fetish. It just needs to be clearly stated that you know your own definite boundaries before letting someone else in. It’s your circuitry!

The adventure of meeting someone’s body is fun and essential, but getting into a sexual rut after creating a routine is the fastest boner-killer in the world, that and being presumptuous about what someone wants if you haven’t asked, first. Sex is not owed to you, nor do you owe anyone sex: ever. It doesn’t matter if you’ve never held hands with someone or been to thousands of orgies across the Milkyway — this rule will always be true… always. What’s hotter than enthusiastic consent? Not even Willem DaFoe! I hope that one day, when @shadowthehedgehogfan69 and others like him lose their virginities, they’ll all know this. 

And @shadowthehedgehogfan69, I would also like to remind you that there are medical benefits to masturbation, many of which are easier and safer to attain through masturbation than intercourse with another person. Sex is not a guarantee, safe sex is even less of a guarantee, but masturbation is always safe — and you can count on the fact that the person jerking you off has all the same S.T.D.s that you do! 

 Something I’ve learned over the course of lockdown and after getting Covid twice is that there sure are medical benefits to jerking it, and that when I can’t leave the house — fucking myself is probably the best way to get exercise. Sometimes when I go to the gym (which I definitely often do), I wish I could work out without the company of strangers, or the judgments of onlookers. Then I remember that I probably use more muscles rubbing one out than slowly walking on the treadmill. If you can do both, do both (of course), but I know that I’m more likely masturbating than deadlifting.

I like being alone, most of the time. Sex is hard, socialisation is hard. As an autistic person, I think I’ve learned to enjoy being alone. Not everyone has the luxury of autism, but, luckily for the world — I like sharing my ramblings almost as much as talking to myself. I often think about how I will leave this world just as I was born — ripped from a fleshy vessel just after getting comfortable, all while screaming and alone. So often I cry, but I’ve learned that the most impactful crying I get done is tears of joy during and after masturbation. 

When I think about all the people who have hurt me sexually, all the times I’ve been abused — I am comforted by the fact that I am capable of making myself cum, and making others cum, as well. I remember I am not broken, and neither are my genitals.  That, even though I’ve been alone with others, when I’m with myself I’m not all that alone, after all. Maybe I’ve never really been all that alone, so long as there’s a mirror around. What’s that thing our divine leader RuPaul says? “If you can’t fuck yourself how in the hell you gonna fuck somebody else?” Well all I can say to that is “Would you fuck me? I’d fuck me, I’d fuck me hard.” If I can fuck myself, you sure can too. If I can love myself, even with all the shit about me I’ve learned to hate, I know you certainly can. And when you don’t love you, your body will — it’s not going anywhere.

The Clown, The Muser

“You’re such a character, Ava!” Over the course of my lifetime, I have easily heard that sentence hundreds of times. Sometimes it’s out of condescension, sometimes endearment, but I do not want to be endeared, I want to be understood. Understanding is the basis of all respect, and without that basic understanding, I cannot truly be respected, even if I am still cared for. People call me a character because of how I speak, because of how easily I cry, because of the way I sit and stare into the wall. I possess self awareness, at least to a decent degree, even if it doesn’t come across as such. I’m a complicated person (as all people are, even if they don’t know it), I do not pride myself on being complicated, but I do pride myself on being aggressively neurodivergent and surviving this world, because let’s face it, that is an achievement — even though it shouldn’t have to be. 

Characters are literary constructs, created by one person — maybe eventually the characters are developed by other writers, made into something new, something potentially greater than their origins, but characters are not people. When someone comes up with a character, they’re using all of their life experiences, all of their biases, prejudice, idealisms, everything they are into fueling their imagination. I am not imaginary (realistically, we can go Dada another day), nor was I created by one person, I was made by two people, then moulded by the society I was forced into since the 28th of September just over seventeen years ago. 

Whether someone is a great writer, a poor one, someone with major life experiences or someone who has never left their room — one cannot create the depth of another human being.

I have never really understood why people call me a character, because I am far from a simple person, and in literature, characters are made to mostly represent one theme; I represent many, many things. I know that people call me a character because I behave unusually, and am not average to any degree — calling me a character dehumanises me, even though I know that is not the intention of the person I’m speaking to. Not only does it confuse me to be called that, but it makes me feel isolated from whomever I’m speaking with. 

Just because I am unusual, doesn’t mean that I’m not human — in fact, the very state of the human condition is one of major complications, to be human is to not really make sense to society. 

I know that because of my various conditions; mental, emotional, physical — I am unusual. In writing, typically, one doesn’t create a character who has P.T.S.D. and is autistic. This isn’t because people who have both conditions are unheard of (in fact, they’re very heard of), but when writing, people tend to not overcomplicate the pathos of the character — instead, giving them one main condition that affects their personally philosophy, so it is easy for the reader to understand. In my life, there is no reader, my desire is not to be easy to consume, it is to be seen exactly as I am. 

Because in literature, often when a character has a condition like P.T.S.D. or autism, that represents most of their conflicts in the story. People who don’t have those conditions and who do not grow up around people who do get most of their information about those conditions from the media — from fiction. 

It’s never the people who have the same conditions as I, or people who grew up around my conditions who say “You’re such a character, Ava,” it’s the people who have let their expectations be guided by fiction — even, and especially when they don’t know that is the case. 

When I make friends with someone, and they find out some of my conditions, often, they think I am a hypochondriac, but in truth, I have been diagnosed with most of these for the majority of my life — and I’m an Ashkenazi Jew, it’s only natural I have various neuroses. 

When the friend accepts all that, they then may try to figure out why I am the way that I am, connecting point A to point B, “Oh, it makes sense why you freak out in crowds, you’re autistic,” but in reality, it’s not so simple. One cannot really know if my fear of crowds is autism, or P.T.S.D. — or whether it is from my genes or from my upbringing. 

Autism is from my genes — I come from a long line of autistic people, both sides of my family. The P.T.S.D., that’s trauma, I wasn’t born traumatised, nobody is. When I was brought into this world, I already had an Autistic, A.D.D., A.D.H.D., dyslexic, O.C.D. brain — that’s just my neurology. Life experience is what gave me my P.T.S.D., and other illnesses that I do not feel comfortable telling the world just yet. Calling my behaviour just autism is to ignore the P.T.S.D., when I do something out of anxiety, and vice versa. To do so is an oversimplification.

Furthermore, to say something is because of my autism is like saying to someone, “That’s because of your enormous breasts.” As an autistic person with big perky jewtits, someone commenting on my body in such a manner is the same level of respect as commenting on my autism in the same way. Sexual harrasment is no longer acceptable, and the same should be true of abelism. That manner of speaking is always disrespectful, and for someone to care about liberation and social equality, and making me, Ava, feel safe, one needs to care as deeply about my autism as they do my big, round jewtits — speaking about both in a consistent manner. Disrespect is disrespect, even if that isn’t the intention. 

I like to view my brain as it is today as a chemical reaction, not a physical one. In a physical reaction, it’s easy to trace back the steps of the process, in a chemical reaction, results cannot be undone — I cannot be undone, nor does my brain split up my different conditions across my behaviours. I wouldn’t want to be undone, even if it means I cannot be understood, even if it means I’m a character. As Popeye says, “I am what I am, and that’s all what I am,” and who doesn’t love Popeye? Now that’s a character!

Maybe I’m an idealist, but one day I dream of being understood by lots of people. Not out of a need for popularity (maybe a little out of a want for that, not a need), but because I know that most people like me, most autistic people, most traumatised people, feel they need to hide — but they should never, ever have to. For people like me, it’s usually a choice between fading into obscurity, socially, or becoming an object of humour, or worse, a lolcow. But I don’t want to be obscured, nor do I want to be laughed at (usually) — I’m no character, I am flesh and blood, pumping heart, and big beautiful jewtits, a balance of sincerity and irony, truthful in my heart, but able to laugh, and keep laughing. 

At first, I couldn’t make sense of being a character, because as far as I know, the reality I live in is the real one, not a stage play, comic, or novel. It’s easy to dismiss odd people as characters, to ignore our depth, our struggles, our humour while humouring us. I never want to be humoured, I’m no child, no character, Ava Zeldman, that’s what I am, all that I am, all that I could want to be. 

The Shame: A Personal Essay About Autism

“Ava, you need to understand that there’s something wrong with you, actually, quite a few things.” I listened closely, sitting in the large orange chair, making stick figures with my nails on the fabric. “You have this disease that’s very common with people your age who’ve gone through some of the things you have… it’s called autism, and together we can cure it with time.”

At age six, I knew what autism was, or at least I had a vague idea based on the movies I’d seen, and the bullying I’d observed given to my fellow child-outcasts. I didn’t really understand what the big deal about it was; I mean, my grandpas were both autistic and they were fine… kind of, along with my uncle, and some cousins—I didn’t see where Doctor A. was going with this speech.

“Ava, I have spoken to some of my colleagues, and we are going to give you the diagnosis of ‘unspecified mood disorder.’ No one can know that you’re autistic… there’s still hope for you.” 

I panted, she continued: 

“A lot of the kids out there in the waiting rooms outside aren’t gonna be able to overcome this, and I believe that you can. With the right treatment we can cure you of your autism… but you can’t tell anyone that you have it—not your mommy, or your daddy, or your friends!” 

“Why?” I asked, feeling a ball of shame start to build at the bottom of my stomach. 

“Because Ava, if they know, they’ll see you as different, and it will be harder for you to overcome, I promise there is hope for you Ava. There might not be hope for your dyslexia, or A.D.H.D., but I believe that if you stay with me, we will get you through this together.”

Ever since pre-k, I’d known I was different, but for a good couple of years, I didn’t have the shame. 

Looking back now, I think it’s pretty obvious that I was not a neurotypical kid: at age four, I refused to leave the house without rubber gloves on my feet because I liked the smoothness on my soles. At age six, I couldn’t talk to kids my own age about anything besides the Wizard of Oz books, explaining my theories about their cultural symbolism, and how L. Frank Baum was an innovator and genius, not just because of his vivid imagination, but because he proclaimed trans rights (for the time), and pretty much invented the blueprint for the home landline—my teachers were not pleased. 

What really brings light to my Asperger’s, though, is that my first crush, at age nine, was on Steve Buscemi’s character in Ghost World—I had never related more to a character (except for the protagonist of the same film, played by Jewish goddess, Thora Birch), and I liked seeing someone like me who only talked about his hyperfixations, and found it hard to talk to people. Sure, Terry Zwigoff didn’t mean to portray his character in a romantic light, but even to this day, I find Seymour and Steve Buscemi to be the epitome of male sex appeal.

I first started seeing Doctor A. when my parents separated, after I left a handprint of excrement on the walls of both of my apartments (thankfully, I have no recollection of creating that art). I had a hard time making friends or abiding by social norms, and when there were tiles on the floor, I would count every one of them. When I first moved into my (then) new apartment, I counted each log strip on the ground, and cried when the total wasn’t an even number, or perfectly aligned across the floor. 

Doctor A. refused to give me medication for these issues, or for the depression and anxiety that I had at that early age, saying “It would impede [my] progress for these curable diseases.”

I am now sixteen years old, and I know autism isn’t a disease, it’s a neurological condition that people have from birth. I remind myself of that every day, but sometimes, facts can’t curb the shame. 

When I started public school I was bullied very badly because I didn’t talk like a normal kid. I would only speak about things that I was interested in, couldn’t make regular eye contact (an issue I still have), and didn’t abide by any of the child-edikitthat most kids learn by copying their peers. Kids beat me up in kindergarten because I was so “weird,” and my teachers chalked up my inability to pay attention in class and my unique behavior to my parents’ separation, which is honestly one of the least traumatic traumas of my childhood. 

My parents eventually transferred me to another public school because I wasn’t accepted into my neighborhood school’s I.C.T. program, and my bullying was pretty unbearable.

When I transferred, for the first time in my life I was popular, but as my peers got to know me better, I quickly became isolated again. I eventually repeated the second grade because I hadn’t been able to learn anything in my previous school due to well… all that dogshit, of course; and being left back didn’t help me adjust socially at all. On top of the Asperger’s and being the new kid, I was now not simply the weird girl, I was also the dumb girl. Kids bullied me, calling me a ret*rd, and telling me to kill myself. This period of having no friends (apart from fourth grade when I actually had kind and qualified teachers) lasted all of elementary school and into seventh grade. 

In fifth grade I forgot how to smile… when I looked at photos of myself, I freaked out because I was scared that I wasn’t smiling properly. Every day I would spend thirty minutes in front of a mirror practicing smiling, moving my mouth with my fingers, using my school protractor to measure the angles of my smile. I felt like a freak, and sometimes, when I look at photos of myself, or actors with great smiles, I forget how to smile once more. Every couple weeks I go to my bathroom mirror and practice smiling. Sometimes it’s for five minutes, sometimes two hours. 

Socialization comes easily to other people. I don’t know how to make proper eye contact still: people always tell me I either never make eye contact, or stare at people so aggressively, it creeps them out. I also overshare to everyone about my political opinions and my sex life, because I still don’t understand social norms in America. 

The other day I had an argument with my parents about not needing to wear pants when I go outside, underneath my hoody: “They won’t know what I’m wearing under this giant thing anyway… Why does it matter?” I still don’t know, and sometimes people think I’m faking not knowing these things to get attention. Truth is, I just don’t understand these unwritten social rules. 

I don’t understand why I can’t talk about sex, why I should be ashamed of one of the most natural things in the world. I don’t understand common dress codes, I think they’re sexist, bullshit, and meaningless—and it’s not simply that I’m a feminist, it’s also that my Asperger’s impairs me from understanding these things that everyone else seems to have no trouble with. 

Autism isn’t just social and mental, it is also physical, coming in the form of sensory processing disorders. If light is too bright, I can start crying; when people (including myself) chew too loudly, it feels like I’m being stabbed in the ear; and when I freak out or get really scared, my body shuts down, I can’t move, and I especially cannot say anything. I am ashamed because whenever strangers see these behaviors I am criticized. Even people who know and love me criticize me about these things. I feel like no one understands besides other people with these conditions. 

That’s the thing, the shame is bullshit, the hatred I have over my Asperger’s is bullshit, wishing I could get rid of my autism is bullshit. The smartest and most talented people in the world are almost always autistic, and always atypical: Einstein, Stephen Hawking, Neil DeGrasse Tyson—but not just scientific geniuses, artists like David Byrne, Bob Dylan, Picasso, Max Ernst, Leonardo Da Vinci, and famous writers like Ernest Hemingway and Emily Dickinson. 

You may have noticed that only one of the people on that list is a woman. That isn’t because men are more likely to be autistic, it’s that men are more likely to be diagnosed with autism, as women are taught to suppress their feelings and individuality. 

And fuck it, the pros of my Asperger’s far outweigh the social cons, at least at this point in my life. My creativity and vivid imagination, my natural leadership, my ability to work alone and feel confident in my own choices, my unique empathy toward others and compassion for animals, the fact that when I become interested in something I’m practically a walking encyclopedia for that topic—my sense of humor, and the way that I always say what’s on my mind, a trait that women are told not to have, I have because of how my autism affects my executive functioning and my inability to abide by social norms. 

I’m trying to stop freezing up when people ask me why I’m so strange, or if there is something wrong with me. I’m trying to not let people’s ableist comments get to my head, because I know deep down that in ten years these people won’t be able to produce an original idea to save their lives. 

I have one thing to say at the end of this: fuck off, ableist assholes; fuck off, Doctor A.—I’m not ashamed of who I am; and fuck off, shame—you pit of piss at the bottom of my stomach, you don’t control me! The problem is society’s attitude towards people with neurological differences—not the differences, themselves. After all, in ten years, whatever cool ass shit I’ll be up to, the same kids who bullied me as a child are gonna wish they had my zesty Asperger’s funk. 

Dear mom and dad, I know things are harder for me than the average teen, but I’m gonna be okay, because my brain is awesome, and my tits are huge. And to any other atypical person reading this, young or old, from mild A.D.H.D. to Rain Man levels of autistic spice, know that you have a powerful brain and are one of a kind, and these neurotypicals are really just jealous that we have all the hot geniuses and good music. 

Tell your shame to go fuck itself.