Saturday, September 24, 2022

Autism Answer: Without Wings (Short Story)


It was all inside. The nourishment, the entertainment, the company. The sharing of ideas, the music that swayed and swelled and invigorated those ideas, the others with their news and affections. It was all inside today.
Platforms rested at open WIWS (Walk In, Wing Span) windows while individuals, groups, families flew up, landed, went inside. Simply went inside. 
Wanting to go inside, to have what was inside, I wandered around, looking for the special entrance made for me. For others like me. While looking for my entrance, I couldn't help but also look for someone similar to me; another someone needing the special entrance. I looked partly to remind myself that I was not alone, and partly to follow them in as I couldn't seem to find the entrance myself. 
I wasn't in a hurry. I'd gotten here early knowing that sometimes getting inside takes me a little longer than the others and I did not want to feel anxious about time. Plus, I have to pay attention to the places I put my feet in order to stay safe, and I like having time to stop and look up at the world. So I am here early. As are those I see entering welcoming WIWS windows now.
Often our special entrances would be signed clearly, often not, but usually there is at least one for buildings such as this, and I really wanted to be part of what was inside, so I kept looking. The ground is not easy to traverse because, well, most others simply fly over the rough stuff. So it isn't cared for in the way it could be. Admittedly, there are a lot of people like me, but many of us don't often find the desire for what's inside and up high worth the work of getting to it.
Today, I do. But as others fly up to the busy perches, move swiftly into the open windows, the sound of chatter and music raining lightly down on me, I see they are mostly too busy or rushed to notice me, to offer assistance. They aren't cruel; they are simply on their way somewhere and focused. I don't want to interrupt their flow so I continue climbing over obstacles and seeking a sign for my entrance. I don't ask for help up.
I have still not seen another like me today, and can't help but wonder if I am being too insistent on taking part of what is inside. I mean, after all, once I do find the entrance and make my way to the gathering of wonderful things up high, will it really be so wonderful? I'll be tired, they'll be busy, I'll have to find my way back down. But, I remind myself, by then I will know where my special entrance is at least. 
And this cumbersome ground is simply that. Cumbersome. Challenging. Not impossible. I can do it, I have done it, I will do it.
Today, I want what is inside. Today, I want access to wonderful companionship, nourishment, ideas. 
Someone smiles at me as they fly by, nodding and moving swiftly upward. I think I see them point in the direction I'm walking... 
Oh, I see it! Barely fifty feet away, beyond a noticeable crack in the ground I know I can make my way across. The crack is not too large, but it is large enough that I see it before tripping into it. It is simply a hop for me when I get there. I see the sign "Without Wings" above a lovely little door leading inside. 
I know today will be worth it. I will open the door, which should be unlocked, and head up the stairs, which I know will be in okay condition - the laws insist they be safe enough - and though I'll be tired by the time I reach the floors above where everyone is gathering for today's meeting - an important meeting meant to discuss and decide important things - the ideas, nourishment, and music should help perk me up rather quickly. Once inside I know I will require a modicum of assistance, some help having access to things available on higher perches and platforms. Places like this are designed by those with wings so why would they not incorporate all that space up high? For people like me, though, they will kindly help. In fact, in most instances, they will like to help. In general, we all like an element of helping. 
I, unlike the majority, am without wings, and I am here. I intend to add my ideas to the others. To let my ideas fly, without wings but amongst them. 
Today, for me, it is worth it. I feel certain of it. 

Friday, September 2, 2022

Autism Answer: Teeth Aren't Supposed to be Bright White

I don't know why it bugs me as much as it does, this culture of wanting a pretty white smile. Okay, maybe I know why. There are a few reasons.
Reason One: bright white teeth are not natural. Yes. our healthy enamel has a natural white hue to it, while the stuff underneath (dentin, according to my search engine) is yellowish. In general, healthy teeth are yellowish in color, though everyone is different. If your teeth are naturally white, they can be healthy. If they are naturally quite yellow, they can be healthy. But presuming white teeth are the prettier, better, healthier, cleaner teeth just isn't true. 
Reason Two: my autistic brother, Dar, has quite yellow teeth. They are also quite healthy teeth. He is lucky that there's a fair amount of space between them, they're easier to clean that way, and he doesn't have the best motor skills so excellent tooth brushing doesn't come easy to him. Forget flossing! However, his big beautiful smile, when bestowed upon people, is sometimes followed up with a comment on the color of his teeth. I'll say it plainly: A lot of people look at my brother and see a disabled man with yellow teeth, the yellow teeth adding to their already predisposed discomfort around a disabled man, due to their predisposed discomfort around yellow teeth. 
Reason Three: I feel like (and here I admit it's simply my feeling, I've done no research or anything) there is enough money being made in the tooth whitening world that it will be really hard to shift this frame of mind. I mean, with the money being made it's gotta be worthwhile to keep pushing this "whiter teeth are better teeth, of course you want whiter teeth, we can sell you whiter teeth" narrative. And with little to no tooth sensitivity, too! 
Reason Four: speaking of money, the insidious bias that whiter teeth are better teeth means we practically can't help but judge each other as cleaner, healthier, classier, when we have whiter teeth. So to get ahead in the world, maybe we should whiten our teeth. Because that's how you get the job, the partner, the trust, the great customer service, by appearing healthy and clean. A nice clean healthy someone we want to be around. Which means you need to have money in order to whiten your teeth (even if you choose to use oil pulling, the oils cost money) so you can get the job, the partner, the trust, the great customer service. 
Reason Five: I think I'm bothered because it works on me. I get excited when my teeth look whiter. I take note of what toothpaste I used that made my teeth looker whiter and I try to find it again. This is fine, as is whitening your teeth if you want, but I don't like how insidious it can be. How I feel more comfortable smiling when my teeth look whiter because I know the receiver of my smile won't be awkwardly distracted by the yellow of my teeth. A natural yellowish healthy tint of teeth should not unfavorably color the joy of a smile. (Okay, I admit to barely actually thinking about the color of my teeth when smiling, but it does happen now and then.)
I feel like the whole "having white teeth is better" fiasco is an example of a lot of things that simply go too far. Things that go from misinformation to disinformation. Yes, teeth are stained by things we eat, drink, and do. Smoking stains them for sure. So can my beloved coffee. Also, malnutrition breeds less healthy everything, including teeth. As does poor mouth maintenance, leading to discolored teeth. This feeds the misinformation that white teeth, then, must be clean cared for teeth while yellow teeth must be stained neglected teeth. Then, when people start selling tooth whitening products, the misinformation turns to disinformation. The advertisements insinuate that, clearly, you want whiter teeth because those are better, so here's why you should get those whiter teeth with our product. Everyone we like to look at on our screens has white teeth, unless they are the homeless one, or the junkie. Etc. We are purposely sold the lie that the whiter the smile, the cleaner and better and more successful and healthy is the person behind the smile. 
I know, I know, it's silly. It's not a big deal. Whiten your teeth if you want to. I continue to smile easier when I know my teeth are whiter. 
But it's too bad, isn't it? Wouldn't it be cool if we all agreed that teeth can simply be healthy? Not have to look a certain way to prove it? Let them be missing, crooked, far apart, crowded. Fix the stuff that makes it harder to be healthy, let the rest be beautiful in it's own right. That would be nice. And more affordable.
When my brother smiles big, when he makes direct eye contact and gives a huge from the soul of himself grin, it is bloody gorgeous! 
Those far apart yellow teeth of his rival the sun for the light they bring into a room. 


My brother, Dar, in a pool wearing his gorgeous grin