All the world’s a stage, and autistic people are better actors than our detractors will ever know. The allistic majority operates by alien rules that most of us do not truly understand until we are nearing adulthood, and which seem arbitrary and pointless even then. In the meantime, our traits are unwelcome in their spaces and they respond to them with vitriol, ostracism, and violence. To exist in public and maybe even have friends, most of us learn one pivotal skill: masking. We master hiding many of the traits that define us, restraining stims, concealing enthusiasm, and imitating social niceties that do not come naturally. The mask becomes instinctive, unwanted and unnatural but nevertheless automatic.
And sometimes, that has me looking pretty sus.
People’s speech patterns are integrated into those same social rules, and they are easy to identify and imitate. Jokes, fandom lingo, and references are especially easy to incorporate into social scripts, even if one otherwise has no experience with a franchise, has not participated in a fandom, or doesn’t even speak the language of the joke. Relating to friends means mastering how to speak in the terms they understand, even when the references are not personal and one cannot riff on them for too long before the limits of one’s knowledge start to show.
My friends, among us is an IMPOSTER.
And I have been called into multiple emergency meetings over this outrage.
I have laughed at images in languages I do not speak because they had the visual structure of puns and that was enough for me to recognize them. I have asked friends to show their love for The Child and specified that this is the way despite never watching a single episode of The Mandalorian. I have taken what is mine with fire and blood while knowing Game of Thrones only from cultural osmosis. Being this echolalic and this aware is an act of love as well as a reflex, sharing in things my friends enjoy because they enjoy them. It is also, after a lifetime spent learning when and how to respond to neurotypical social cues, sometimes a thing that happens before I’m even aware of it.
So, I have not experienced Welcome to Night Vale, but I own some merch.
I do not practice witchcraft, despite my writing style.
I am not sexually interested in being consumed body and soul by Lovecraftian immanences from beyond time and space or achieving erotic congress with household objects, despite playing that person on TV.
And I have never played Among Us.