Like a lot of people, I grew up understanding the importance of being co-operative. Don’t make a fuss, don’t be difficult, don’t ask for what isn’t available. Like what you get. If I’m not paying attention, or feeling confident, I still default to whatever’s cheapest, whatever is most convenient for everyone else. It’s taken me a while as an adult to make the headspace to explore my own preferences. What do I want to wear? What do I prefer to eat? What don’t I like?
I’ve made some startling discoveries. I find loud food really stressful. I suspect I’ve always found it stressful, but I’ve never taken it seriously before. There are things I really don’t like having in my mouth because of how they sound. There are textures I don’t like.
I don’t like bright light, the noise the strip lights make is stressful. I hate the hum of the desktop computer, I have a hard time sleeping if there’s any light source in the room. I’ve known for a while that there’s only so much noise and movement I can process before my brain has a bit of a meltdown. When I’m tired, I can’t figure out where the ground is by looking at it, which is awkward on non-flat surfaces. None of this is new.
I’ve given myself permission to be awkward. I’ve given myself permission to not like things, and to say no to things. To let go of things that don’t work for me. I’ve even given myself permission to say when I don’t like how a food sounds inside my mouth, or something else is bothering me. Having given myself that permission it is easier to pay attention to what’s happening to me, and to take some control of that. It’s taken me a while to figure out that I am allowed to do that, and no one minds.
There’s a class aspect in all of this. I think children from more affluent backgrounds tend to be allowed to be fussy, to have preferences, not like things, to want things. I think there was, and still is, more willingness to think that an affluent child may have a condition, need a diagnosis or special treatment or accommodations. When what there is, is what you can afford, a fussy child is a problem. A fussy child is going to have to get over it and eat what’s there because there isn’t anything else. You wear the hand-me-down clothes because that’s all there is, there’s no point having feelings or preferences about it. If you’re poor, you may not be allowed to be delicate, or sensitive. You may not be allowed to say no to things.
Being allowed to be awkward feels like a luxury, and looks like a privilege. I’m glad to have that now, and for the opportunities to be more comfortable that it will allow me.