Socially Awkward

This post originally appeared on my tinyletter, Where is my Mind?

My son, who also has ADHD, is an introvert. I’ll often find him sitting on the couch, under his heaviest, thickest blanket, watching YouTube on his phone. I call it his Fortress of Solitude. He prefers Cocoon of Awesomeness. He knows he’s an introvert, understands this, and is beginning to already articulate what he struggles with in personal interactions. We, his family, already know. He hates large crowds, noises, over-stimulation, chaos. He told me that he is socially awkward, and finds it easier to talk to “strangers on the internet” than he does to people face-to-face.

He plays games like Fortnite and Minecraft and Roblocks, making friends there, connecting with his school friends. His sister texts, he plays video games and chats.

What prompted this observation from him was a reaction to me making small talk with someone we passed on our way out of the Y after swim team. The person we passed was an employee at the Y that I see frequently, so while we don’t know each other’s names, we recognize each other as “regulars” at the Y. My son marveled at how easily I spoke to the person, how I made eye contact, how I was able to carry on a short conversation with ease.

I can’t do that, mom, he said to me. I’m an introvert and therefore I am socially awkward.

I laughed. Son, I said, introversion has nothing to do with it. I am an extrovert and socially awkward as well.

It never occurred to him that I was as socially awkward as he is, just in a different way. I explained to him that I come on too strong, that most people think it’s weird when someone they barely know goes beyond making small talk, that I talk too much and too loud and too fast and try to connect too intensely. He understood immediately. I explained that introversion and extroversion are just ways that we process energy, what feeds us and what drains us. People and their energy feeds me; people and their energy drains him. Social awkwardness just comes, in a lot of ways, from the ADHD.

Later that night, after the kids were asleep, I saw one of those viral videos featuring women catcalling men, instead of the other way around. The men don’t expect it, they recoil, they lash out. And I realized, holy shit, this is basically how I am socially awkward. I mean, I don’t go around catcalling men, but I do blurt out whatever crosses my mind a lot. Or I did. Well, I still do, just on Twitter.

I began to think about all of the work I did growing up, work I still do, to conform to what is expected of me because I’m a woman. I want to (metaphorically) catcall, but I know I can’t. Or I know what happens if and when I do. Because I’ve been doing it my whole life, despite knowing I shouldn’t and trying as hard as I could not to. And thinking that, deep down, I was broken and that there was something irreparably wrong with me.

And I can’t help but think of all of the women in history labeled hysterical and crazy and unwomanly and how many of them probably had ADHD or some other form of neurodivengence and how much suffering could have been avoided if we just took women seriously and listened to them, to us. How narrowly we define what is feminine and womanly and acceptable.

I am socially awkward. The world makes space for my socially awkward, introvert son. The world makes no space for a socially awkward extrovert who also happens to be a woman with ADHD.

I want to claim my space.

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