memory hierarchy

The one pattern I didn't want anyone noticing. And being better versus not being worse.

When I was a kid, as now, my strength was picking up in patterns. Not patterns of logic and ideas so much as patterns of sensory information. But I used it to make up for areas I wasn’t so good at. Like language.

Around junior high I started really noticing patterns in how each person used language. I pointed them out a lot. This wasn’t very appreciated by other kids. Especially when it got weirdly meta. Like the girl in my grade who always said to people “You ALWAYS say that – ALWAYS!” I had no comprehension of her anger when I repeated back to her “You ALWAYS say that – ALWAYS!” She probably thought I was taking the piss, rather than attempting human interaction very badly and believing myself clever for figuring out other people’s language patterns.

Well, I did this sort of thing a lot. Sometimes I would deliberately say what someone was going to say just before they said it, or just as they were saying it. Sometimes I repeated it back to them. Sometimes I used one person’s words when speaking to another (that one girl’s catchphrase was incredibly useful for that purpose). Sometimes I talked about how often someone used a particular phrase. All of these things were my attempts to show I understood things and could communicate about them.

So the one pattern I didn’t want anyone to know. The one that filled me with shame and dread to think about. And the one that consequently got used against me in these situations more than anything. Was the pattern my own interactions took.

I would do whatever I was doing that day to indicate that I could predict the words people were going to use, or that I’d noticed they used the same words all the time.

And then someone would reply with the phrase I dreaded:

“You don’t even know what that MEANS, do you?”

For instance:

Me: Every morning you guys are yelling over the top of each other about trickle down economics…

Other kid: You don’t even know what that MEANS, do you?

Because I didn’t. Truth be told, for that and many other real examples, I still don’t. And that made me feel like an idiot. And it was exactly that feeling like an idiot that I was trying to escape by showing I could pick up on these patterns. And with the social skills of nonautistic middle schoolers everywhere, the other kids smelled weakness and figured out they could put me right back in my place by showing I didn’t understand so much after all.

By the way? I notice people sometimes act like I’m trying to show my sort of person is better than other people. Like when I talk about how cool it is to be able to pick up on sensory patterns, I’m saying that makes me better than people who can’t.

No. It’s the result of a lifetime of this sort of bullshit. Where being someone for whom sensory thinking outstrips idea thinking is decidedly uncool and a mark of being inferior and maybe not quite human. All I’m trying to do when I talk about the importance of sensing and the skills that come with it, is even the score a little. I’m not saying I’m better. I’m saying I’m not worse. Unfortunately in a competition based society a lot of people can’t seem to imagine that “I’m not worse than you” doesn’t mean the same thing as “I’m better than you”. But it doesn’t. It just means I’m not worse.

Apply that any time you see me talking about how cool it is to be sensing, or a Hufflepuff, or referring to having medical implants as being a cyborg, or whatever other thing it is. You’ll notice a common theme if you look hard enough: Every quality I’m trying to elevate is one that people get put down at best and killed at worst, for having. All I’m trying to do is say people with these qualities are okay as we are. I’m not trying to say we are better than other people or that I want everyone to become just like me. WTF, what kind of world would that be? So no. Not saying better. Just saying not worse. It disturbs me greatly that people confuse the two so easily, although maybe in a world where some people really do like to simply flip things upside down instead of getting rid of the inequality, it shouldn’t be so surprising.