April 30, 2023

One interesting side effect of discovering my autism was that people stopped apologizing to me in grocery stores.

For years before that, whenever I passed someone with my cart, they would often say sorry. It happened at least 2 or 3 times per store visit.

It was baffling, because I never felt like they were in my way, nor I in theirs.

I had no idea there was a whole other layer of communication happening above my head, one where people share intentions through shoulder shifts and sideways glances.

They say, “I’d like to turn here. Oh, you would too? Well, please go ahead then. No, it’s no trouble…”

All without speaking a word.

As soon as I became aware that this is a thing, I started looking for it. With concentrated effort, I was able to catch it, and the awkward apologies faded.

My errands also became more tiring, but it’s hard to go back to blissfully ignoring what people are trying to tell me without words.

Struggling with nonverbal cues was not one of the traits that led me to realize I’m autistic. Rather, autism led me to realize that I struggle with nonverbal cues.

First, I found my people through our shared need for precise language. Then, I learned the name of our neurotype. Then, I began to see what else I’d been missing about myself.

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.