"You're the coupon lady," the sales clerk said as he walked past me in the store. I looked up from my coupon book confused by sudden conversation. "I see you on FB."
"Oh. Yeah, " I mutter. "It's my thing."
"Hey! Gotta save, right!" He says. He knows who I am, and chats with me every time I go into the store when he's working.
As I finished shopping I waited for the familiar shame of one of my weird interests being noticed to come up, but it didn't. Maybe, a slight embarrassment trickled in. A slight wonder of how the people in our small community perceived me definitely came up. There were worse things to be known as as than "the coupon lady". For instance, there is a lady known simply as "the crazy lady". I know it isn't nice, but it's how she is known in our town. I certainly didn't give her the moniker.
I did feel a bit exposed, as I always do when people call attention to one of my interests, or hobbies that I find out of the norm. I don't have too many interests that are pop culture, so many of the things I do are solitary activities off the beaten path. Even my favorite television shows are not what other people are watching, and I watch very few movies. It can feel a little scary sitting out there on my own, sometimes not really part of any group. These common threads are often what builds friendships. I don't have anything to add to topics of television shows, musical artists, and movies I have never heard of.
The few days following the store incident I kept going to back to what happened. I wondered what might have been different with me in that an incident of that nature in the past would have made me upset. I would have taken it as an insult, and as if the person was making fun of me. I would have avoided them in the future, and probably would have cried after leaving.
This time, I felt
a little embarrassed. I wondered how they meant what they said. I wondered how others perceive me. I wondered if I did seem a little awkward to them. Probably. Crazy? Probably not. A nice, decent, person yes. Instead of jumping to the worst possible conclusion of the matter, and assuming people perceived me as a weird (in a negative way) person, and changed how I went about doing everything in a frenzied anxiety to avoid having to encounter it again I just accepted that maybe people see me as awkward, but that's okay. I don't have to hide who I am.
After being diagnosed with Asperger's I heard a lot of chatter among the autistic community about what it means to "be yourself". I've been thinking about it for a few years now. For me, it means putting my awkward self out there, and being okay with that. It means not hiding my passions, and my interests, and my humor, however dark, or maybe raunchy even(!!!). It's a far happier way to live for me.