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My Special Interest

Updated: Jan 21

Once, I met a woman named Anthea.

"Wow!" I exclaimed immediately. "What's it like having a name that's comprised entirely of articles?"

She stared back at me blankly. At 30 years of age, it was the first time this had occurred to her.

I’m a poet in one of my other lives. Words are an intense and gratifying special interest for me. Ever notice the similarity of “rudder” and “udder?” It brings me so much joy. I’m personally responsible for half a dozen new words on Urban Dictionary: condesunshine, which I co-created with my sweetheart Jess Abralind, is a particular point of pride. So is its definition: "Don’t parade on my rain."

The structure and composition of words is very present for me, especially in names. When I first met my friend Lisa Poggiali, she told me she was an anthropologist. A few days later, I texted her, “Dear Anthropoggialigist.” Twenty years into her career, she was stunned that nobody had ever thought of it before.

When my mind hitches on word details, I never think, "Communication abnormality -> autism -> disorder."

I think, "Wonder -> delight -> superpower."

One of my personal heroes, the poet e.e. cummings, is on my list of famous autism harnessers (dedicated post coming soon). Imagine if cummings had only ever expressed himself in the erratic, mixed-up style of writing he’s most famous for.

What a head start he would’ve had on his poetry!

Aaaaand what a liability. He might easily have been marked with the humiliating diagnosis of “Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD),” which during his lifetime was just entering medical rhetoric, courtesy of psychiatrist Leo Kanner and other pioneers like Dr. Hans Asperger. One early researcher, the well-intentioned psychologist Ivar Lovaas, advocated for deeply-damaging “treatment” of autism-expressers that remains unfortunately all too commonplace to this day. It could've nipped cummings in the bud, obliterating my favorite poem, "here's to opening and upward."

I get so much joy out of holding the simultaneity of word meanings in my non-binary-thinking mind and when good ones come to me, I am compelled to capture and squirrel them away. I keep an ongoing list of band & album names in my elbibi, the "Little Black Book" (LBB) that I keep in back left pocket at all times. Every once in a while, a moment will arise when I'm able to multiply that delight by sharing that wordplay with someone else, and I can pull it out for a recitation.

Here's a photo of the page of my 2022 elbibi with all my entries. Thank goodness for neurodiversity, amirite?

P.S. Does anyone know the story behind the website Redefine School? After following a hunch to google “‘Don Norman’ autism,” I found their article on him. I was mystifascinated (= mystified + fascinated). Still haven’t figured it out, but it reminds me of the auties chapters in the sci-fi novel Existence, by David Brin, and I love it.

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