One of my most embarrassing moments ever: Pajama Day

I think it’s fair to assume that nearly every person on this planet (autistic and non-autistic) experiences some embarrassing, humiliating moments every once in a while. Since human beings are never perfect or flawless, we all have to deal with being in a really discomfiting situation at least a couple of times in our lives.

Naturally, people with Asperger Syndrome such as myself often experience more than our fair share of humiliating moments, given our  difficulties with socializing and our repetitive, “weird” behavior. I believe that a huge chunk of our most embarrassing moments occurs during childhood, when our social interaction skills and communication abilities are usually at their worst. If you’ve seen some of my previous posts on this blog, you’ll know that I am definitely no exception; many of my most humiliating experiences happened when I was a child (particularly between the ages of 8 and 14).

If I were to choose one specific moment that I felt was the most embarrassing of them all, it would have to be Pajama Day from when I was in Second Grade.

I think some of you might (vaguely) remember a Pajama Day when you were in elementary school. It’s a day when you the school allows you to come to class in your pajamas. Sounds pretty fun, right?

Well apparently, back in 1999 (I think), at least 95% of the kids in my school thought the idea was lame and decided to wear normal clothes instead. Unfortunately, I was one of the very few kids who thought it might be cool to sport our PJs to class. In fact, I can only remember one other student wearing pajamas to school that day.

The PJs I was wearing were Toy Story 2-themed (the film had come out earlier that year), and to be fair, I don’t think they looked embarrassing or silly upon retrospect. However, that didn’t stop much of 2nd grade class, all of whom were dressed in normal attire, from pointing and giggling at me. It didn’t take long to realize that everyone else decided against celebrating Pajama Day and thought that I was being ridiculous for wearing my PJs to school. One kid that I really hated back then made fun of the fact that I was wearing Toy Story-themed PJs, saying that stuff like that “was for babies” (yeah, he apparently thought it was uncool that I enjoyed one of the best animated films ever made).

Needless to say, I felt humiliated and just wanted to disappear right then and there. I think my face must have been as red as a tomato, and I must have been fighting super hard not to cry. Unable to deal with the embarrassment, I convinced the teacher to excuse me so that I could go to the nurse’s office. Fortunately, the nurse was nice enough to give me some extra clothing that belonged to other students that I got to wear for the rest of the day.

I was still somewhat embarrassed throughout the rest of the day, and had to deal with teasing from a couple of kids (especially from that one kid I mentioned earlier). Nonetheless, I was able to mostly survive the humiliation of being the only kid in class wearing his pajamas on Pajama Day. More importantly, though, I learned that day to never celebrate school “holidays” where you wear something weird or special. It may or may not have also played a part in why I haven’t worn pajamas to bed in a long, long, long time.

On another positive note, I don’t think I’ve experienced another moment where I’ve felt as humiliated as I did back then. Oh, I’ve certainly had more than a couple of embarrassing and shameful moments in my life afterward (having Asperger Syndrome certainly didn’t help in that regard), but none that made me feel as bad as I did back then. I suppose that’s one good thing I can say about the rest of my childhood and my life up to now. Hopefully I’ll be able to maintain this trend and avoid instances where I feel so humiliated that I want to disappear and die.

I apologize to those who were hoping to see something more related to Asperger Syndrome in this blog post. I simply really wanted to share this childhood memory of mine as it’s an experience that I’ll won’t forget anytime soon and that left an impressionable impact on my childhood as a whole. Hopefully some of you out there can relate to experiences like this one and can now back on them and say, “Yeah, that was seriously embarrassing, but I’m glad I remember them because, as bad as they were, they’re still a sort of important part of my life.”

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Preschool memories of an Aspie

Yep, that’s right. I actually remember a couple of things from when I was in preschool, at which time I was 3-4 years old. Of course, my existing memories of preschool are extremely vague and few in number. Nonetheless, many of the experiences that I can recall seem to indicate my Asperger Syndrome pretty well, and they sort of set a benchmark for what life was going to be like for me throughout the years that followed.

One of the very first memories that comes to mind when I think of my preschool years is the time when one of the teachers got really impatient with me while trying to help me in the bathroom. You know how 3 or 4 years is usually the age where many kids start learning how to properly use the toilet? Well I guess that I may have been having a bit of trouble  in certain areas. I cannot remember what exactly I was doing wrong or why the teacher became so frustrated with me. All I know is that I was trying to use a toilet or urinal, while the rest of the class was watching a video I believe, and at one point she grabbed my pants and loudly whispered something along the lines of “Pull your pants down/up now! Or you’ll miss the rest the video!” My recollection is, again, tremendously vague and there are probably a lot of details that I’m missing. Regardless, that moment seemed to really stick with me for one reason or another, and I distinctly remember being very intimated and scared by the teacher. Consequently, whenever an adult angrily scolded me for my apparent misbehavior, I would often think back to this incident with the preschool teacher.

Another incident from preschool that frequently pops up in my memory is when I randomly hugged some boy in my class. We were all outside picking flowers and doing other stuff, and out of nowhere, for some reason that I have no recollection of, I gave one of the other kids this big hug from behind. As you might expect, the other boy didn’t enjoy this sudden physical display of affection and immediately told me to stop. Fortunately, I complied, and I believe not much else happened afterward. The best guess I can come up with as to why I did that is because I had been watching too much Sesame Street or Barney the Dinosaur (y’know, the shows that have unrealistic expectations of how young children behave). I can safely say that this was not the only time in preschool that I acted in ways that the other kids found weird or annoying. I think that in most cases I was imitating something I saw on television or a movie; completely lost in my own world and oblivious to what I was really doing (see “Imaginary Play” for a fuller discussion of this issue).

I can also hazily remember spending time with this one teacher, separately from the other kids, to engage in some special activities. Once again, I do not recall any of the specific things I did with this teacher, but I believe it was some sort of physical play therapy, designed to help me with my motor skills and coordination. I say this because I remember these sessions being heavily physical and focused entirely on my body – as if I were exercising. The fact that the teacher had me do these activities apart from the other kids also gives me a pretty good idea of what its purpose was. Whether or not this purpose was successfully fulfilled at the time, I could not tell you.

One last memory from preschool that I’d like to share is much more positive. In fact, it might be one the happiest experiences from my preschool years. At home I had this CD-ROM program that was a collection of kids games based on the Disney film, Aladdin. One of the games in it was a simple coloring book thing: where you have a pre-drawn image associated with the film, and you get to color it in however you please. One day, perhaps on the encouragement of one of my parents, I printed out a bunch colored-in pictures from the program and brought them to class to give out to the other kids. The teachers seemed pretty happy with what I had brought in, and made each of the children got a picture. I think we even got to watch some of the film itself, Aladdin, to celebrate. This was probably one of the very few times in preschool where it seemed that the teachers were pleased with me and the other students (sort of) respected me. I felt immensely proud for it!

I think that the reason why each of these moments really stick out in my memory is because they had something to do with the fact that I was “different”, or had difficulties that weren’t present in the other kids. I didn’t fully understand what was going on at the time, of course, but those incidents possibly gave me some sense that there was something “wrong” with me; something about me that was “special”. This would become increasingly clear to me in later years, from Kindergarten onwards. There are still times when I think back on those preschool memories, reminiscing how difficult it was for me even back then to be “normal” and fit in with everyone else. I believe that many others with Aspergers and other autism-related disorders might have similar memories of their early years.

Selling rocks

I think many of us have childhood memories that may not seem very significant upon first glance, yet are immensely special to us for one reason or another. These are moments during our youth that made us particularly joyful, and that we like to reminisce about every now and then – even if they didn’t leave that much of an impact on us. I have a couple of childhood memories that meet this description, many of which involve friends and family. One memory in particular that sticks out in my mind an awful lot is perhaps one of the most peculiar: it involves me “selling” rocks with another kid during recess.

Here is what I can remember from this experience: When I was in 4th or 5th grade, there was this boy I knew named Chris. To be honest, I didn’t really know him all that well, and I hardly spent time with him outside of recess. So anyway, I met Chris one day near one of the jungle gyms on the playground, where he was doing something a little odd with the small stones that filled the surrounding area. He was lining them up on the wooden barrier around the jungle gym, and occasionally talking to other kids, asking them if they wanted one. Instantly intrigued by what he was doing and having nothing better to do, I asked Chris if I could join him. Fortunately he was kind enough to let me partake in his little activity, which he called “selling rocks.”

So for the next couple of weeks that followed, almost every day during recess I would “sell” rocks with Chris. We pretty much collected little stones around the jungle gym area, picking out ones that we thought looked especially pretty, and placed them on the wooden slabs that surrounded the jungle gym. Afterwards, we tried to get the attention of other kids and ask them to “buy” some of the stones from us. Of course, we never actually charged them money or anything; we essentially just gave the stones away to anyone who would take them.

This “rock-selling” business went on for a while, but unfortunately, it didn’t last longer than a couple of weeks. I suppose Chris eventually got bored with the game, and I wasn’t really interested in doing anything else with him. Sadly, we didn’t do a whole lot together or hang out with each other much afterwards. I did see Chris here and there during middle and high school, but mostly because some of the friends I had at the time knew him. Essentially, that rock-selling game we played in elementary school is the only thing that connects us.

Nonetheless, that rock-selling game was more than enough for me to cherish Chris as an acquaintance, even if it was only for a brief period of time. The fact remains that, as boring or stupid as it may sound to other people, this little activity was loads of fun for me as a kid. Back then, until it was over, I looked forward to selling rocks with Chris every day. It’s hard to fully explain why I liked it so much, but I will say that it was one the only activities I genuinely enjoyed during recess. Unlike many of the other recess activities I tried out in elementary school, I was actually having a lot of fun with this game, feeling a little sad when I had to stop and go back inside. I suppose the fact that Chris and I were playing pretend, something that I loved to do as a kid, may partially explain why I was having so much fun with it.

More importantly though, this was one of the only recess activities that I could truly enjoy with another person. Indeed, most of the time when I was in recess, I was either forcing myself to play games with the other kids that I didn’t really like, or I was trying to have fun by myself. Selling rocks with Chris was one of the very few things to do in recess that was not only entertaining for me, but also involved someone else around my age. I got to interact with him in a way that I wasn’t able to achieve with the other kids in class, and I was just as engaged in this game as he was. It was as if we were doing something that, in a manner of speaking, “spoke to me”; allowing to me to be myself without having to do it entirely alone. This wasn’t something I got to do very often with other kids my age, even among my friends.

That’s why whenever I think of really positive moments from my childhood, one of the first to pop up in my head is pretending to sell rocks with Chris in elementary school. Sure it may not seem like too much at first, and I doubt that it made a big influence on my life overall, but I genuinely treasure the memory with all of my heart. Like I said, it’s one of those things that gave me so much pleasure as a kid, simply for being an activity that I got to fully immerse myself in with another kid my age. The fact that this sort of thing was rare back then might be sufficient to make it one of my fondest childhood memories. I guess all I can say for now is thank you so much, Chris. You may not be able recall our rock-selling game very well, but you ought to know how much it meant for me to be able to play it with you back then.