Socialness and stuff.

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Natalia and Gabriel came by, and took this set of pictures from the trip.

Natalia was surprised I was so short, and I was surprised she was so tall. :-P

About Mel Baggs

Hufflepuff. Came from the redwoods. Crochet or otherwise create constantly and compulsively. Write poetry and paint when I can. Physically and cognitively disabled. Anything you hear in the media or gossip is likely to be oversimplified at best and wildly inaccurate at worst, the only way to get to know me is to actually know me. I'm not really part of any online faction or another, even ones that claim me as a member. The thing in the world most important to me is having love and compassion for other people, although I don't always measure up to my own standards there by a longshot. And individual specific actions and situations and contexts matter a lot more to me than broadly-spoken abstract words and ideas about a topic. My father died a couple years ago and that has changed my life a lot in ways that are still evolving, but I wear a lot of his clothes and hats every day since he died and have shown no sign of stopping soon.

30 responses »

  1. woohoo, we made the blog! (^_^)

    But, seriously, to everyone else (i remember i was not the only one) who looked at Amanda’s photos and saw her as tall, she really is small.

    Laura/Muskie looks just about like she does in the photos i had seen, except looking friendlier in person.

    the rest of everything, though, was just about as i had imagined…
    yours and Laura’s apartments have a lot of your personalities in them.

    oh and the dog and the parrot didn’t make me very scared like i had expected, so that was nice.

    that was the first time either of us ever saw VT. it seemed awfully northern (ie: potential for a lot more wintry weather than the little bit of snow that we got to see), but other than that, nice. there are things about the ruralness of VT that remind me of rural parts of SC and PA, but different.
    OK, like… in the airport giftshop there was a t-shirt that said “What happens in Vermont stay in Vermont… But nothing really ever happens here.” in your city there is a pleasantly odd sense that it’s not a city but it has all the stuff that you need in a city.
    also the way of being nice is different in VT. the strangers seemed real nice but in a much shorter way than the long-winded southern kind of nice that i have almost gotten used to here.

  2. Yeah, I’m very comfortable with the short-nice, after a long time of California versions of nice that often aren’t actually all that nice.

    And, small vertically at least. Not particularly small horizontally.

  3. yeah, no offence to Southerners, but to me the Southern way seems like the extreme of NT politeness behaviours.
    i would like to know from actual Southern Autistics how they interact with that particular part of their culture. i remember we were wondering this in relation to this blogpost elsewhere, about how disabilities don’t automatically make people foreigners to their own culture. being autistic can make you partly a foreigner to your original culture, though, so it makes me wonder more about how exactly that plays out in different people’s lives… like i don’t know how much bluntness is from aspie and how much is from growing up in NY state. and which parts of me that didn’t fit in when i was a kid were from being raised by hippies (counterculture, even then/there), and which were from being autistic.

  4. something weird just happened. i typed a whole nice long answer to that, about culture and autism, and when i pressed “submit” it not only disappeared but also my browser doesn’t allow me to hit “back” like usual. hmmmm…

  5. Hmm, the same thing happened to me yesterday — I was trying to submit a post answering someone who was basically asking a bunch of the usual “I just found you on CNN” questions (I forget now in which thread) and it disappeared … I tried again and it disappeared again. Not even the nice, reassuring, “do not be alarmed, I turned on moderation, blah blah” message. Just gone. I didn’t even think to try hitting “back.”

    But so far, no problems posting today.

    But it’s always so annoying when you spend a long time typing something only to have it vanish on you :-(

  6. OK, trying again:

    No offense to Southerners, but … I always felt like the Southern way was an extreme form of the NT politeness behaviours. I would like to find out from Southern Autistics how they interact with that part of their culture. I remember we were wondering about this in relation to this blog post elsewhere about how disabilities don’t necessarily make a person a foreigner in their own culture. But autism can make a person partly foreign to their culture of origin. So I wonder how that plays out in other people’s lives.
    Like, I don’t know how much of my bluntness is from being raised in NY state, how much is from being an aspie, and how much is from my parents being aspies. What parts of my not fitting in as a kid were from being autistic, which parts from being raised by hippies (counterculture) and which parts from our family being conservative christians (yet another counterculture!) in a secular-liberal environment?

  7. OK, trying again:

    No offence to Southerners, but … I always felt like the Southern way was an extreme form of the NT politeness behaviours. I would like to find out from Southern Autistics how they interact with that part of their culture.
    I remember we were wondering about this in relation to this blog post elsewhere about how disabilities don’t necessarily make a person a foreigner in their own culture. But autism can make a person partly foreign to their culture of origin.
    So I wonder how that plays out in other people’s lives.
    Like, I don’t know how much of my bluntness is from being raised in NY state, how much is from being an aspie, and how much is from my parents being aspies. Which parts of my not fitting in as a kid were from being autistic, which parts from being raised by hippies (counterculture) and which parts from our family being conservative christians (yet another counterculture!) in a secular-liberal environment?
    And this is not even counting personality (whatever that is).

  8. THE FOLLOWING REPLY WAS EMAILED IN BY N. WHO COULDN’T GET IT TO APPROVE THE COMMENT. (I have also cleaned up some of the HTML, which might have been part of the problem.)

    OK, trying again:

    No offence to Southerners, but … I always felt like the Southern way was an extreme form of the NT politeness behaviours. I would like to find out from Southern Autistics how they interact with that part of their culture.

    I remember we were wondering about this in relation to this blog post elsewhere about how disabilities don’t necessarily make a person a foreigner in their own culture. But autism can make a person partly foreign to their culture of origin.

    So I wonder how that plays out in other people’s lives.
    Like, I don’t know how much of my bluntness is from being raised in NY state, how much is from being an aspie, and how much is from my parents being aspies. Which parts of my not fitting in as a kid were from being autistic, which parts from being raised by hippies (counterculture) and which parts from our family being conservative christians (yet another counterculture!) in a secular-liberal environment?

    And this is not even counting personality (whatever that is).

  9. I was surprised at how much smaller you looked in Natalia’s photo than you did on CNN or in other photos. Maybe it’s a trick of Natalia’s camera. :-) At least CNN didn’t play “Short People” by Randy Newman at the beginning of their second broadcast.

  10. I have lived in 3 different regions in the country and by far, I felt the most alien in my hometown in Northern California. It is bittersweet because I’m so comfortable with the land and social habits of its people, though I was always angry at my “friends” and family.

  11. Re the regional culture thing, it often occurs to us that possibly the reason we avoided going “under the radar” as far as being singled out for being “disturbed” is that we spent most of our grade school years in New England. There, it was acceptable to not be social all the time, to not have to make eye contact with every stranger you walk past, and so while our social skills still looked “weird” and other people apparently saw us as much less coherent (speech-wise) than we ourselves thought we were, we looked less weird than we would have in much of urban California, where the expectation (especially in the southern part of the state) seems to be for you to be hypersocial with strangers. But like Amanda said, California nice actually isn’t necessarily all that nice, or it only is if you’re defining niceness by certain predefined cues and ignore everything else.

    (Our mother, conversely, despite having some autistic traits herself, seemed to be firmly convinced that any stranger who doesn’t immediately make eye contact with you and smile at you is EVIL, or at least a mean and unfriendly person.)

  12. I’m sure I remember reading in an earlier blog post that you said you were small. Yes, that was it, you were talking about the impact of change on your body and you said that you would have to grow about four inches to be – I presumed – of average height. So I’m guessing you’re roughly five foot? Or maybe a bit less?
    Anyway, the photos have turned out well. I love the single red flower in one of your apartments.

  13. Great shots of the lake. Too bad the first visit was during mud/ melting snow season. The spring, summer, and fall here are beautiful!
    I live just outside of Burlington and thought perhaps we were on our way into spring but alas…it was not meant to be. More snow tonight!

  14. Also regarding the regional culture thing: where I live/have lived (UK – various regions; working-class background) it’s definitely not expected of you to smile at or make eye contact with strangers. People tend to become uncomfortable or even hostile if someone does this or is perceived as doing it. And bluntness seems to be the norm for most people I know, including my family – both autistic and non-autistic members.

    Which is, of course, part of why “universal social skills” assumptions bother me so much.

    Re: the pictures: I like the red flower as well. And the rainbow door.

  15. About that “Southern nice” (as experienced in Texas) – it can be hellish if you have the least bit of trouble with non-verbal/non-literal meaning, especially if you’re female. As I mentioned in another post, I learned a lot of the social stuff the way most others learn math: brute memorization of processes broken into little steps, wondering why I had to know this junk, but seeing the possible advantages.

    I left for a Mid-Atlantic college with a very nerdy reputation at age 18, and immediately felt better. Best place in the US for me, so far: Seattle area. Best place so far: Germany, where many people are blunt nearly to the point of rudeness and do not pretend to be your friend nor insist that you pretend to be their friend. I speak enough German to understand things on a literal level (and only to express things that way), and most Germans who speak English are also only capable of telling it straight. My German boyfriend speaks English quite well, but he’s also a very literal-minded person. Works out nicely.

  16. March 19th, 2007 at 1:20
    Message from Davis Mirza
    Kudo’s ballastexistenz…the “Un-person/Person video rocks! Thanks for including the yellow subtitles…I’m currently enrolled in an Ethics and Disability philosophy course in Toronto…could I post your video in my internet discussion board as part of a group project I’m doing on contested meanings of care b/w the disabled people’s movements vs. feminists.

    The authors of the article (read below) conclude that feminists & disability activists must unite around the ethics of care – a kind of embodied interdependence that is feminine/tactile- values touch and practices of care like emotional relationships…and that challenge the male-stream interpretation of caring as marginal, de-based work. {check out the article: Hughes, B. et al. Love’s Labours Lost? Feminism, the Disabled People’s Movement and an Ethics of Care. Sociology, April 2005, Vol. 39 Issue 2, p259-236.

    Your experiences be stigmatized as an un-person illustrates the extremes of care in our society…when has care made you feel like a person and would touch and emotion make a difference toward gaining dignity as a person with autism? I ask this question b/c @ the 8 minute mark of your video, the subtitile reads: “Now I am sometimes an unperson and sometimes a real person, depending on who is around me…” and magically you beautiful cat jumps up on the arm-rest to keep you company. As a animal lover and vegetarian male, I found this image profoundly moving…that a cat could offer caring without judgement…care to elaborate on our connection to other sentient creatures who care for us better than our own kind…and why that is? I’ll check back soon re. video consent…Thank you for your consideration.
    peace~davis
    toronto, Canada

  17. About that “Southern nice” (as experienced in Texas) – it can be hellish if you have the least bit of trouble with non-verbal/non-literal meaning, especially if you’re female.

    Yes, I think overall, the pressure to be ultrasensitive to non-verbal cues, to “be empathic,” to pick up on others’ feelings instantaneously (I’m actually not sure this can be done reliably even between completely typical people; I’ve seen it claimed to exist more often than I ever have actually seen real examples of it), etc, are a lot more intense in most American subcultures if you’re female-bodied. Women are “supposed to” be the peacemakers, the caretakers, the ones who are good in dealing with people. Both men and women come down much harder on women who can’t do those things than men who can’t; a man who can’t live up to those impossible ideals is let off the hook for “just being a typical guy.”

  18. Hi Amanda

    I’m sorry to leave a message on your blog but I’ve been trying to get in touch with you for a week and don’t know where else to try. I’ve left you a YouTube message and emailed autistics.org, but haven’t had any luck finding you.

    I’m a journalist in the UK and I’m writing a piece for the Times about neurodiversity and autistic rights. I’d really value the chance to talk to you about it. Most people in the UK haven’t heard about the movement and I want to introduce it to a wider audience.

    I know you are very busy at the moment – but would be great if you could email me back to let me know what you think.

    Jenny

  19. Jenny

    I don’t know if Amanda intends to get back to you (since I don’t know Amanda and am not psychic). But whether or not she does, you might want to do some further exploration on your own.

    1. You may want to browse around this blog in general to see what you can learn — you might pick up some things along the way that you hadn’t even thought to ask about. You will note that there are two ways you can browse: by date (this blog goes back to 2005), see the calendar in the left hand column on this page. Or you can browse by category, also in the left hand column on this page.

    Also, go to http://ballastexistenz.autistics.org/?p=317 and scroll down to see comments #56, #92, #105, #133, #134, #138, #147, #158, and #161 — all of these comments have a bunch of links that might be of interest to you, and might answer some of your questions. Do especially be sure to explore the links to blogs by other autistic adults. Amanda is not the only intelligent, articulate, insightful autistic adult writing on line (or in print), about neurodiversity or otherwise, so there is a lot you can learn from others too.

  20. Wow – thanks so much for this. I’m amazed by how many articulate autistic people are writing online and will definitely look through all of your suggestions.

    I wanted to talk to Amanda because her YouTube video has become such a phenomenon – among both autistics and non-autistics alike. She has unique perspective on the crossover between communities. So it would still be great to hear from her!

    Either way, I’m very grateful for the help of people on this board. I’ll let you know what happens.

  21. On second thought, I don’t think I need a conversation with a particular person intruding on post about a very pleasant in-person visit with my online friends. She’s caused enough trouble already. ( Someone who knows I want zero contact with her, posted a question here. Since the question, if not its manner of asking, was innocent (even though the person asking already knows the answer), I decided to let it slide, and even answered it, before telling her to stay away from me — everywhere — and that this was the last time I was going to say it explicitly. But then I realized that I don’t need her on my blog, regardless, so I’m editing this comment and removing hers. She, and anyone sent by her, is not welcome around me. Period.)

  22. bullet (sorry didn’t see your question, I was approving a bunch of stuff without replying), no, I’m actually 5’2″. Muskie is last I heard five feet even (may be shorter by now, her spine makes her shrink, she would be 5’6″ without scoliosis, and she couldn’t stand long enough to be measured the last time someone tried to measure her). I didn’t mean growing to be of average height, I meant growing to be the height that would be expected based on my family’s heights. Somehow from photographs several people have assumed I was tall (not just taller than I am now, but tall in general), hence Natalia’s surprise when she met me. Similarly, I’d assumed somehow that Natalia was short (possibly based on her Second Life avatar), and was mildly surprised when I met her.

  23. I’m five foot three (give or take a half inch or so — I’m not sure how to measure height most accurately considering the possibility of unintentional slouching or slight raising-on-one’s-toes). I was sort of surprised at how short Amanda’s second-life avatar seemed, since I have mine on nearly the shortest setting possible, but I’m guessing that different basic skins in SL probably have different scaling associated with them. Mine isn’t all that heavily customized.

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