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A + for The A-Word: The most authentic look at Autism on screen.

I worked for several years with a succession of autistic children—which mostly means boys—kids who were mainstreamed in regular education classrooms, with a classroom aide assigned to shadow them. That was me, the shadow. 

We also lived next door to a family who had an autistic son who became one of our son’s closest playmates, until we moved away at the end of elementary school. Chris, with his funny idiosyncrasies is the source of some very sweet memories, as well as moments of high drama. That’s what you get with autism, children who can be deeply involved when their needs and passions are directed and shared but who can sometimes find it frustrating when those needs are brushed aside. 

It’s typical for an autistic child to want to talk about dinosaurs—or whatever the passion is—and be frustrated while the rest of the kids have moved on to another topic. The autistic child is focused on that stegasaurus and exactly how cool it is, just not quite getting that the others don't shar…

Leaving Home: A Divorce Story [Part Four]

I looked at the clock glowing on the dashboard; just after eleven...

He was tall and almost cool with aviators and a mustache that matched his shaggy golden brown hair...

Leaving Home:  Part Three                                                                                                                  
The next couple of months blurred by. ...

OR Read it in sequence here

Part Four

I couldn't tell you how it happened. There weren't a lot of real dates; our courtship was a verboten workplace flirtation. Furtive conversations in the office where we sales clerks counted out our cash drawers. Small get togethers at his place with friends from work, in, on what was becoming our secret. Somehow, slogging through the last, grey, overcast days of a California winter, I found myself looking up one rainy night and finding his reflection in the drugstore's overhead security mirrors, captivated as I watched him fall to his knees on the floor, right there in the middle of the greeting card aisle. Where once he'd asked me to go out with him, now he was on his knees, his reflection in the mirror asking me to marry him. He dropped to his knees in the middle of the store; I couldn't get over that.

The truth? Oh God, the truth. I luxuriated in his want. I lapped up his attention like a lost kitty, purring into his pats the way a cat pushes and presses into you for more petting, deeper strokes. Insatiable, a stray cat left to prowl the city in search of a dish of milk left on some kindly soul's back porch, I couldn't get enough. There are girls pretty, poised, smart, and confident enough, they don't need someone else to tell them who they are, some guy to tell them they're good enough.  I wasn't those girls. There are girls so sure of their place in their worlds, so powerfully aware of the sexuality they ooze, they can play with a boy's want, tease a young man's aching physical need the way a cat toys with with a trapped mouse. The kind of girls authors wrote about in books, the kind of girls that filled the pages of the young women's magazines I devoured. Girls I wanted to be. Girls I wasn't.

Twenty two going on twelve, I was frozen in adolescence, a girl-child, still living at home, still searching for my saucer of milk. Silly and shallow, I'd long fed myself a steady diet of articles with titles like How to Get a Guy to Like You, expecting nothing and everything in return. I once asked a guy I was seeing why he never told me I was pretty. "I wouldn't be with you if I didn't think you were pretty." That wasn't enough for me, I needed more, I needed to be told. But when I charted my physical features, the good vs the bad, all I could see was the Con side of the page: thin lips, thick glasses, lanky hair, small breasts. I didn't see the pretty eyes behind the glasses. The nice smile. The sometimes sarcastic sense of humor.  Flaws, flaws, flaws. That's all I saw. Not the kind of girl men mooned over, not the kind of girl they wrote songs about.

Philip, poor Philip, he made me feel like I was.

I said yes.

Not just yes, but yes and let's hurry, setting a date little more than a month away. My friends and family waged a war around me, their words meant to stop me from being so wildly impulsive.

"You barely know him!"
"Are you sure you love him?" 
"What can you possibly see in him?"
"Are you pregnant? You don't have to marry him just because you're pregnant."
"Please, Simmy, don't throw your life away." 
"Do you really want to do this?
"What's the rush?" 
"Why can't you wait awhile at least. If you still want to get married in six months, you can always get married then."
"You're making a big mistake." 
 And to my parents, "How can you let her do this?!"

The look on my brother's girlfriend's face frozen in stupefaction. What was I doing?!

The more they said, the deeper I dug my heels in. No I wasn't pregnant, we were in love, waiting wouldn't change anything, why can't you all just be happy for me?

The truth, the horrible truth? Some part of me knew they were right. So I did the mature thing.

I went shopping for a wedding dress.



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