December 28, 2021

This hasn’t happened recently, but it’s happened a lot over the course of my life: A person tries to predict my taste in gifts or music or memes, and they get it right on the surface but wrong at the root.

My first memory of this was in about 4th grade, when a friend saw me admiring one of her dolls. On my next birthday, she got me a doll that was similar in every way except the parts I was specifically admiring.

Whenever this happens, I always wish I could say, “Look, I really want to give you credit for noticing things about me and drawing logical conclusions about what I would like. Nevertheless, your conclusions are wrong, and I would love to take this opportunity to explain my preferences so you can model me more accurately in the future.”

It’s not just social conventions of politeness that stop me from saying that. It’s also that the person might feel hurt after the effort they put in. And in the case of gifts, it creates an awkward scenario if they haven’t explicitly said it’s easy to return.

I had to deal with that a couple years ago, when a gift giver interrogated me about why I wasn’t reacting more gratefully. I thought I was, but I guess my mask wasn’t thick enough for her. I then spilled the truth, and she was not pleased.

I don’t need everyone to understand me perfectly, and I don’t need every gift to be refundable. All I wish is that people would ask instead of assume.

Gifts, music, and memes come with a hidden hypothesis: “I think this suits your taste.” But I feel safer to be honest when it’s presented as a question, and when I can trust that the giver is open to any answer.

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.