Autism: Dressing Appropriately

03 Nov

It wasn’t exactly a cold day, but I had been getting sick. I had washed my hair, and since blow drying causes my scalp to itch intensely for a long time after and I therefore avoid it most of the time, my hair was quite wet when we went out that night.


Already feeling chilled, and knowing our seats were near the ice of the hockey arena (my husband is given free tickets when his friend and coworker, who holds season tickets to the home games, can’t go) I decided to put on a toque and gloves, and was glad that I did.

My husband also wore his toque, as he almost always has on some type of hat when we go out.

So there we were at the arena dressed in a way that made sense to us. In between periods we get up and walk around the arena – it is good for exercise, and a good way to spend the time.

On one of our rounds, however, a man stopped us. We didn’t know these people at all, wouldn’t recognize them to see them again, and I can’t see how what we were wearing had any effect on him – but he stopped us and seemed sincerely upset that we were wearing toques on that night.

He turned to his wife and asked her if it was cold enough for the way we were dressed. She said no, but that she thought our toques were ‘cute.’

He shook his head and mumbled as they walked away and I thought, “what does it matter to him how we decided to dress?”

It isn’t like we were naked, or wearing the other team’s jersey, or walking into a sauna dressed for winter – yet he was quite upset and I don’t get it. If he could get so upset over something that didn’t effect him in the least, how would he respond to something that was actually important?

It is true that I don’t often have any clue what other people are wearing. Even when I try really hard I can hardly ever keep in mind what people have on from the moment I turn away – I just don’t see it. That has always made it near impossible for me to dress in a way that I ‘fit in,’ and by the beginning of high school I had even given up trying.

I am, however, very sensitive to the weather. Hot, cold, wet, windy… I feel all of these to the point where if I am not dressed appropriately for the weather, I am completely fixated on that discomfort (read: pain!) For that reason I am very conscious that what I choose to wear is comfortable for the situation.

While I was in the arena – chilled, near the ice, getting sick, and with wet hair to boot – I was thankful that I had decided to wear my toque. It was only after this… interaction, that I became aware that we were the only two people in the arena dressed so warmly. Still I don’t understand why that mattered to much to him.

By the time the game was over (‘our team’ won 7:4) the weather had turned. The wind was blowing hard, filled with rain that even looked like snow up above us, and it was cold! So cold that my teeth were chattering by the time we got to our car – and this man still had me questioning my decision to wear a toque to the game.



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One response to “Autism: Dressing Appropriately

  1. Grainne

    November 3, 2017 at 12:10 pm

    I think that some people just have such a sense of entitlement that they feel they are actually justified in judging others. It doesn’t make any sense to me either. I’m like you; I dress how I want to, warm or cold. I have been in peri-menopause for a while now with violent hot flashes (they’ve subsided dramatically, thank heavens) but I still do not own a winter coat. I wear sweaters to work in the dead of winter (I live in Ontario and some winters are very cold). People will be out in full on snow pants and jackets, hats, scarf, mitts, boots and I’ll trot from my car in the parking lot to work in a tank top and a warm fleece sweater (which I have to remove once I get inside almost immediately or I start the motor going and I’m dripping sweat on my keyboard before I know it).

    Don’t worry though, one day, someone will judge him over something that seems insignificant to them, but means something to him, and he’ll feel that same astonished need to justify it. People don’t ever seem to learn anything until they experience it first hand. (Sorry for the ridiculously long comment here but it reminds me of something my son just did).

    Colt is in grade 8 and is on the spectrum, mid-low functioning. He had dealt with so much of what you have all his life; the sensory issues, the confusion, the isolation and/or emotional exhaustion when he doesn’t get away from people for a time every day. All his school mates are going through puberty and things like anxiety and depression are starting to come up as their hormones all go crazy….Colt looks around and wonders why the heck everyone is struggling so hard. That’s been his ENTIRE life…things not feeling right, looking right, sounding right. Things bothering him and fighting to keep his balance while being forced to endure things that make him want to scream and run out of the room.

    Life huh? 🙂 Hope you stay nice and warm! I’ll be over here trying to cool down and yet we’re both the same.

    Liked by 1 person


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