I know you’re all waiting with bated breath to see if I’m still alive. I’d almost forgotten that I intimated that I might be dead by this time. Well, I’m not. I’m alive. I successfully arranged a play date for my son and also for my daughter. So I have two kids-unrelated-to-me over here. I did it so my son wouldn’t bother his sister and her friend, so hopefully it works.
As it turns out, laser tag does lend itself rather well to peripheral engagement. I found a place to hide and waited for people to show themselves and shot them when I could. In the end I ranked 38 out of 40 players, but my firing accuracy was 21%, which was better than I suspected. I got shot much less when hiding than when not hiding. So it really was like gym class. My husband had a great time, and that’s what matters. Still not my cuppa, but as my husband pointed out, we so rarely get invited to things, we really ought to take advantage of what few social opportunities come our way.
“You know why that is?” I said. “Because people don’t like me.”
“Actually,” he said, “I think it’s because they don’t know what to do with our children.”
I think he’s right about that. I think the fact that two of our children have disabilities and don’t socialize well with other children has put a distance between us and others in our demographic. Of course, we’re not the only people in our age range/stage of life who have children with autism. You can’t swing a dead cat without hitting somebody’s kid who has autism, but oddly enough, having this thing in common is not enough to base a friendship on. At one point I was seeking out support groups for parents of Aspies (before I knew that Elvis was also autistic, when Princess Zurg was my main worry), and I found that they just weren’t my scene. All the conversations revolved around how much trouble our kids were giving us, or what kind of trouble the schools were giving us, and frankly, it was all pretty depressing.
Now, you know me. You know I like to complain about stuff as much as the next person, maybe more. But I’ve come to the sad conclusion that my misery doesn’t like that much company. I don’t really want to relate to people primarily in terms of how much trouble I’m having with my kid. We can all commiserate about that to some extent, but I don’t define myself primarily as a parent of someone with autism, and being in those support-group situations makes me feel sort of, I dunno, boxed in. Like I don’t really belong. I don’t imagine that other parents of autistic people define themselves primarily in that way and that I’m some special snowflake, but maybe I, more than these other people, have some personal problems that prevent me from feeling like one of the group. Maybe I’m in denial. Probably there’s no maybe about it. I’m sure I’m in denial. I know that my children have autism and that sometimes it sucks, but I don’t like to be confronted with it. I don’t like to face the fact head on. I prefer to think of it as an interesting facet of my life, rather than the mostly-consuming thing that it really is.
A couple months ago a friend from church was over and asked Elvis how old he was. I thought, “He’s not going to answer that question,” because I’d never heard him answer it. I knew that he knew how old he was–at least I was pretty sure he did–but that didn’t necessarily mean he would be able to process this person’s question and come up with the right response, or, for that matter, be interested enough in the person’s question to bother trying to come up with a response. So when he said, “Seven,” I was pleasantly surprised, and simultaneously started crying. Possibly because I realized he’d hit a milestone, but also because I was confronted, unexpectedly, with how low I’ve set the bar for pleasant surprises. That unexpected confrontation is not a pleasant surprise.
So, yes, I’m in denial. I’m in denial about a lot of things. Maybe that’s my defining trait. I’ve spent the last little bit of my life coming to terms with the fact that I really am an upper-middle class person, heavy on the upper. I’m not rich, at least as the government defines it. Our household doesn’t make more than $250,000. (It doesn’t even make $250,000.) But I have housekeepers and a part-time nanny, and my husband and I go out to eat at expensive restaurants. When I was 24, I went to New York City with a friend, who was there on business. My friend’s boss told her to go out for a nice dinner with her friends (me and another gal, who we were staying with) and expense it. So we went to the Rainbow Room, which was the swankiest place I had ever been in my life and probably remains so. (Fancy restaurants and operas and crap on the West Coast are just not the same as fancy places on the East Coast. West Coast is much less formal.) It was an incredibly uncomfortable experience for me. I didn’t care for the food, but more than that, I felt ill-dressed and magnificently out of place. I felt like the wait staff was looking down on me. You might be able to convince me intellectually that it was my imagination, but emotionally, forget it. I knew I was not good enough to be there.
I still don’t feel good enough for places like that. I don’t feel good enough to have housekeepers, either. I’ve had housekeepers for three years, and I still feel like it’s beneath them to clean my house. I’m embarrassed to have them over, and I’m embarrassed to tell people that I have housekeepers because the response is always, “Wow. Must be nice.” Well, yeah, it is. I hate mopping my own floor. But it’s also weird, being this person who has other people mop her floors for her. It’s weird to have angst over whether or not or how much to tip the help. Ha ha, “the help.” It’s weird to think, “They didn’t do a very good job vacuuming this time,” because then I think, That is not who I am, the lady who complains about The Help. The Help is probably complaining about me. (“Her floors are sure filthy.”) I’m not fit to complain about The Help. I’m just a simple girl trying to get by. Or am I?
That last part was rhetorical flourish. I didn’t really mean it.
When my husband was still in grad school and we had run out of money (again), we housesat/dogsat for these people who way out-classed us. (We weren’t doing the housesitting/dogsitting for money. We were doing it for cheap rent while my husband was interning at the Big Satan for money.) I felt weird and unworthy living in their house and using their towels. It was a nice house; they had nice stuff. They used to get these catalogs in the mail for home and garden accessories, and this one catalog sold fancy mailboxes. The ad copy said, “Have a mailbox that matches the caliber of your home.” And we just thought that was the height of pretentiousness. It’s been a joke ever since. Every time we buy something, one of us turns to the other and says, “But does it match the caliber of our home?” We are overfed white people who mock overfed white people. We know we’re them, but we also think we’re really not.
These things are related, but I don’t get paid enough to write something coherent about the relationship. I’m just a housewife with a free blog. Or am I?
(No. I really am.)