November 29, 2018

“Do you sell any colorful duct tape?” I ask.

“Hmmm, how colorful are we talking?” he answers with a smile. He isn’t being serious. It’s a craft store, so if they have duct tape at all, it will be colorful.

When a store associate isn’t being serious, it’s always a he. They do it so that I’ll respond with something similarly insincere, we’ll both laugh, and they’ll get a rush of happy chemicals from the interaction.

Usually I can’t tell if they’re serious or not. Today I can, but I’m too rushed to think of a good response. I need to get back to work, and I ponder the fastest way to find out the actual answer.

“Well, do you have any thick tape at all?”

His face drops. “Aisle 32, left side.”

I thank him, then make my way across the store. My mind goes back to all the boys who said similar things to me in high school, got similarly shut down, and never tried again.

I always wanted them to try again. I wanted to learn how to respond in a fun way. I did learn a bit, but it took many years, because they gave me so few opportunities to practice.

Today, it no longer bothers me when I accidentally interpret a flirty statement as sincere. If I say something awkward in response, it just feels like practice.

And I have four new rolls of very colorful duct tape.

P.S. I write from my personal experience as an autistic. What I share is not a substitute for advice from an autistic medical professional. Also, some of my opinions have changed since I first wrote them.