Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Clothing and The Positional Warfare

Last week as I was walking the campus of Concordia University Irvine I noticed that everyone there would be able to tell I wasn't from around there. Why? Well, while everyone else was dressed for the 90+ degree heat I was in black pants and a long sleeve shirt. I certainly stuck out, but I thought nothing of it until I was asked why I wear what I wear. I never had thought of it before but then the answer rushed into my brain.

Before I give the answer I would suggest you read The Positional Warfare story I wrote last year. I believe my clothing choice is a direct effect of that concept.

So how does clothing play into this? As I saw everyone at the college campus dressed in shorts and light shirts I realized that I will always be in long sleeves and black pants. I thought it was just a routine, but then I realized that this wasn't the case. By wearing long sleeves I am hiding myself. Also, my wearing black pants I also am minimizing what signals I am sending out.

Signals? Yes, by signals I mean the amount of information I am sending to the world. I see this the same way as when I don't know how I should be standing in the space I am in. By covering my arms I don't have to worry about sending any signals with the exposed skin and all I have to do is worry about my hands.

In this same way I don't wear shorts. I honestly can't remember the last time I wore shorts. I also don't like shorts because of the feeling of the air moving on my skin as I walk which this brings up a good point I must say; remember, if you've met one person with autism you've only met one person with autism. Myself, I wear what I wear to minimize the social impact of my presence. However, other people on the spectrum may only wear firm fitting clothing due to sensory issues; and then again another person may wear very loose fitting clothing.

When I flag I am in short sleeves as this photo proves. However, while I am flagging I am in my ultimate Kansas (see my glossary if you don't know my terminology) and Alias and I don't feel all that uncomfortable. As I mentioned in yesterday's blog, we went out to eat after the racing on Sunday and I was out of clean long sleeve shirts so I was in a short sleeve t-shirt. It had been a while since I was in an open ended environment in a short sleeved shirt and the level of positional warfare was great. I kept moving my arms about and I kept crossing them in a futile attempt to minimize the signals I was emitting. Over time this diminished, somewhat, but it was a lesson that I need to prepare and not wear short sleeved shirts in public.

I always try to be invisible when I am in public. My goal is to be seen but not noticed. To be noticed risks being spoken to and since those conversations are always random I will do everything I can to be as bland and blank as can be. I achieve this through my clothing choices and feel at ease in black pants and typically a solid color shirt. Again, I always thought this was just out of routine, but boy I was wrong. Over the years I subconsciously developed this defense mechanism that I wasn't even aware of. I will once again mention that if you've met one person with autism, you've only met one person and if another person has an odd clothing habit there could be many elements in play. For me though, moving forward, I am thankful I defined this aspect because summer is coming and I always get asked, "Aaron, it's 100 degrees outside, why are you in long sleeves?" I never knew why I did, but now I do and am more comfortable than ever with this side of my life.

1 comment:

  1. Although you did not ask me what I think, and I know you prefer not knowing what I think, I always like to offer you a challenge the same way I offer my own two boys challenges. Sometimes they are up for the challenge and sometimes they are not. Sometimes they go for it and realize that it worked for them and sometimes it does not work. But one should try everything at least once, twice if it works out and then perhaps 3 times will broaden ones options. If it is impossible after the first attemt, stop. Nothing gained and nothing lost but at least you tried. And you have your answer.

    Have you considered that by dressing opposite of summer temperatures that you are actually bringing MORE attention to yourself?

    My challenge for you is to go buy one or two short sleeve shirts and when you are at home and not on the road, attempt to wear them and see what happens. I would suggest button up shirs of the same material that you are comfortable in before jumping into a t shirt.

    You have much more confidence today than you did 2 or 3 years ago. You may find that your sensory system has grown as well.

    You could call it the "Short sleeve shirt experiment". You're sunglasses experiment was so interesting to both you and your readers that I am betting this experiment would be interesting data as well.

    Weather (spelling pun intended) a good thought or a bad thought it is still just a thought.