December 21, 2020

Back when people traveled, I spent a summer living and working in Europe. I took more selfies that summer than in my entire life before.

It felt meaningful, a way to stay connected with friends back home. But to give them an accurate window into my world, I needed a skill I’d never practiced before: Making my face look the way I feel.

Through lots of trial and error, I learned which muscles on my face match which expressions in a photo. Now, a posed photo of me looks almost as good as a candid one.

Like one bite from a tree of knowledge, I can’t undo that awareness. The mere presence of other people gives my mind a preview of what my face is doing. I feel uncomfortable if it’s inaccurate – for example, a blank look when I’m actually interested – and I manually correct it.

I dislike the word “masking” because it sounds like I’m being deceptive, or changing who I am to fit in. More often, I’m just trying to wear my true feelings on my face.

Writing is easier.

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.