Unreasonable. It is kind of like the word “picky.” A collective agreement about what is right and wrong; what is good and bad; all based on the typical preferences of the culture around us.
I have been considered ‘picky’ my whole life, because I don’t like the typical foods eaten by those of my culture: Pasta, hamburgers, hot dogs, sausages, Kraft Dinner, meatballs, mushrooms… and because many typical foods make me sick: eggs, dairy, wheat…
But those close to me are not considered ‘picky’ because they do eat those typical foods – yet don’t like much of the foods I do like: cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, baked eggplant, kale chips, millet, lentils, pumpkin, tofu, black beans…
Just because their foods are typical, doesn’t mean they are good; and just because I don’t eat their foods, doesn’t make me picky. Conclusion: their labels are wrong! It is like the story of the twins that were adopted to different families: One parent said, “My daughter is so picky; she won’t eat anything unless I put cinnamon on it.” The other said, “My daughter eats well; she will eat anything as long as there is cinnamon on it.”
That takes me to the label ‘unreasonable.’ Being reasonable is a virtue – but what determines what is ‘reasonable’ but a collective agreement on what is typically acceptable? This means that those of us who are… different in our needs, are seen as ‘unreasonable’, and so those around us who seem to pride themselves on being ‘easy to live with’ because they are ‘reasonable’ really aren’t easy for different people to live with because our requirements to live well are not typical.
I have been thinking about this a lot lately because I am having an ‘unreasonable’ issue, and don’t know how to communicate it. It really began when I switched rooms – which in many ways has been very positive for me, with the exception of this thing: I can’t share bathrooms. I can’t do it.
When I was in the Master bedroom, we had an en-suite My husband didn’t really use it. It was my bathroom. I liked it because it was small, and private, and guests wouldn’t use it. My husband would only go in there when I was in the shower (the en-suite is only a 2-pc bathroom) – which also upset me for several reasons, but…
Once I moved out – and the reason I stayed so long in that room was because of the bathroom issue, not to stay in there with him – he started using that bathroom, too.
I understand that it is ‘reasonable’ for families to share a bathroom. I know that many families have no choice. The thing that has always been true of me, however, is that this is an exceptionally stressful thing for me to do. I just can’t.
There are three of us living in this house with 2.5 bathrooms, however. Is it therefore unreasonable for me to have the half bath for myself in order to reduce the extreme stress I feel on so many levels from having someone use ‘my’ bathroom (I don’t want to go into the details, for it is those details that stress me out.) Or does it make my husband ‘easy to live with’ when it (reasonably) doesn’t bother him to share bathrooms, and so he will use them all? I don’t use his bathroom, with the exception of the shower (as there is no alternative) which I often clean while I am in there.
True it would make more sense if that were my bathroom for me to remain in the master bedroom (which isn’t much larger than the others), but I didn’t know how to communicate that, either.
It is much like other issues I have:
- Sensory issues like the smell of sausages cooking in the morning, or mushrooms cooking ever.
- Allergies to eggs and Kraft Dinner, meaning these foods cause panic attacks when they are being eaten around me (and both, but especially the KD, cause strong issues when airborne, too.)
- Food issues that mean ‘my foods’ have to remain mine – so I don’t go to eat something only to find someone else has eaten it, or cross contaminated it with other ‘bad’ foods.
- OCD issues, like the disgust I feel when bugs are mushed on the walls, or someone has touched the taps with dirty hands.
With my Autism, and OCD, and severe sensory issues, and… I admit that I am not easy to live with. I know this. But the very fact that other people seem to believe that because they are reasonable, they are ‘easy to live with’ means that every different request I make, or every different need I have is my problem and my problem alone (and therefore every conflict in our home is my fault because I am ‘unreasonable’.)
All of these things, though not typical, are nevertheless true. And the thing is, with my challenges with communication – and my knowledge that I am not easy to live with – there are a huge number of things that I struggle with which I never share. Others believe they are reasonable, because they are typical – but is it truly unreasonable to ask for modifications (such as allowing me to keep my bathroom in a home with three for three people) for things that I really do struggle with?
That is, after all, the main reason I went for diagnosis: that others might be able to see that what seemed unreasonable actually wasn’t in light of my very real struggles.