December 6, 2021

Whenever I see myself on video, I cringe. It puts a spotlight on ways of speaking and moving that I don’t notice from the inside, and don’t enjoy observing.

Yet, when I try to identify what turns me off about those mannerisms, the only way I can express it is through exaggerated, mocking imitation.

Where did I pick that up? It must have been elementary school, based on how snobbish and nonsensical it is to put down something so harmless.

I don’t remember being teased in that way myself – but I do remember kids making fun of one another, and figures in pop culture, for reasons that were unarticulated but widely understood.

Widely, but not universally. Sometimes people have surprising reactions to things I thought were cringe.

For example, the electroswing song All Night by Parov Stelar – the melody is playful and high-pitched, like the song Barbie Girl by Aqua, which my elementary classmates made fun of.

So when I discovered electroswing in my twenties, listening to All Night felt like a guilty pleasure. I used to roll my windows up instead of blasting it from my car.

That changed when I saw Parov Stelar live in concert a few years ago. With the first notes of All Night, the crowd went wild – and I suddenly realized that the Barbie Girl mockers weren’t universal arbiters of taste.

Beauty is only in the eye of the beholder – and so is cringe.

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.