In The Club

June 13, 2011

While the outside of a nightclub is clearly terrifying for my crippling low self-esteem and self-loathing, the inside is actually a lot more perilous from an autism perspective. Loud music! Personal Space Issues! Socialization! Here’s my lazy, so-late-it-barely-matters-anymore recap of my night as an autistic club kid.

Loud Music

Although I had to beg my mom to turn the music down when I was a teen, my sensitivity to sound is relatively minor. I’ve never felt overstimulated by music. Loud sounds are only really upsetting when they’re a surprise. I can (and regularly do) attend concerts without any major issues.

I am, however, no good at having a conversation while loud music is playing in the background. I can’t always separate the tone of a person’s voice from the overall sound and, even if I could, I can’t really process the conversation as quickly as I would be able to if there weren’t any outside stimulants. Which is all for the best, because I have problems moderating the tone of my voice at the best of times, so even when I can attempt to be part of a normal club conversation, no one can ever hear me.

I solved this by…

Personal Space Issues

…leaning right into people and yelling into their ears! Because taking an autistic person’s unique concept of personal space and mixing it with alcohol can’t go wrong!

Socialization

For the first hour, I watched everyone else in our party get approached by guys. Then one particularly confident and focused gent strutted up to our bench and sat right down beside me… so that he could talk to the girl who had been sitting on the other side of me. I handled the slight with dignity (or, um, loudly declaring myself a Liz Lemon and high-fiving a million angels) but it’s not exactly the biggest ego boost when you’re the only undesirable in the group.

I have three theories to explain my lack of male attention:

1. I was wearing glasses. And while Dorothy Parker’s line doesn’t necessarily apply to a city soaked in hipsters (who stole my look), it still might be accurate in Niagara Falls.

2. Although I was not hideous enough to be turned away at the door, I’m still only slightly hotter than a middlingly sexy version of Odo from Deep Space 9 at the best of times.

Hello, boys.

3. Boys apparently complained to the bride to be that some of the girls in her party were stuck up and just hanging out with each other and weren’t friendly. This could have been me. I haven’t exactly mastered the art of open body language and my shyness has often been mistaken for aloofness.

At some point, the boys either ran out of other options or I magically appeared less accidentally bitchy and they started to talk to me. Here are some actual conversations that I had with strange men who may have wanted to get into my Starfleet uniform:

Boy: Hello ladies! Where are you from?

Me: Toronto.

Boy: Oh.

and

Boy: Hello! How are you?

Me: I’m married!

Eventually, one sweet, nerdy and impossibly young boy took a fancy to me. I gave him a lovely speech about the possibilities of youth and how he had so many years ahead of him to make stupid mistakes and have bizarre adventures. He asked me why I was talking like I was old. Then a security guard came up to us and said that he looked better in stripes than I did.

I doubt a neurotypical could make any more sense of that than I have.

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Actually, he suggested that I try it out to test my suspicions about the whole scene.

I rarely get invited out to clubs. I think most of my friends, even the ones who don’t officially know that I have autism, just assume that I’m a little awkward and nerdy and not the type of person who would want to go to a club, so they don’t ask. The truth is, though, that my only real problem with clubs – aside from music snobbery –  is that I have always been convinced that I’d be turned away at the door because I’m not attractive enough. I simply wanted to spare myself the humiliation.

I explained this to my therapist and he said that maybe I should actually give it a shot. He seemed to think that I might be surprised by the results. I told him that I’d consider it at some undetermined date in the future and then promptly forgot about it.

My assignment was the last thing on my mind when one of my oldest and best friends invited me to tag along to her friend’s bachelorette in Niagara Falls. I just wanted to hang out with her. And I wanted to be in Niagara Falls, because I love that city in the absurd obsessive way that only an Aspie can. It wasn’t until well into the evening that I realized I had accomplished my goal. “Hey!” I yelled above the Britney remix as I stole a cupcake from a neighbouring VIP booth. “My therapist told me to do this!”

For the record, my therapist did not tell me to steal cupcakes at a club. My second martini told me to do that. But when I told my therapist about it today, he didn’t seem to think that it was a bad idea, either. At least he didn’t admonish me for it. I’m going to take that as an endorsement of sorts.

Anyway, I made it past the door pretty well. My virulently low self-esteem still believes that I was only let in because I was with a group of women who were rather attractive, but, at the very least, the bouncer didn’t think that I looked much like my ID. Given the photos on my health card and passports, I consider that promising. “I like to tell people that I look like Charlize Theron on my ID,” I told the bouncer. “Unfortunately, I look like her when she was in Monster.”

The bouncer barely grunted in response as he shooed me in.

So the good news is that I am not so shockingly ugly that I can’t get into clubs. And that is good news, indeed, because I clearly can’t rely on my wit to get me past the door.