Have you seen the Progresso soup commercial where a lady phones in to Progresso and another woman answers. Then the woman who made the call says “I’ve been eating Progresso and now my old jeans fit“. The Progresso employee oohs and aahs and makes a big deal about the weight loss much to the callers delight.
Then another woman calls but this time a man answers the phone. When she tells him of her weight loss he says “ok“. She explains to him that she can now fit into something she hasn’t been able to fit into for years. Again he responds with “ok“. She then asks to speak to a woman. (Knowing that a woman would “get it”)
I remember when I was in high school, I found out that my friend had begun to have sex and she had told another girl about it but had said nothing to me. I asked her why she hadn’t told me but had instead told this other girl who wasn’t as close to her. She said because she knew that other girl was also having sex and I wasn’t, so it was easier for her to confide in that other girl. She wasn’t sure how I would treat her if I knew.
It’s like that with all things in life I guess. It’s easier to talk to someone whose reaction you’re sure of. Someone who you know for sure is in the same boat as you. It’s hard to open up or expose ourselves. Vulnerability is not comfortable. We want people to feel our excitement when we are excited. We are afraid of judgment. We need to feel emotionally safe.
Around this time last year I sent an e-mail to some people telling them that I was walking to raise money for Autism Speaks. Admittedly, I was selective with who I sent the e-mail to. Back then, there were still some people that I didn’t want to know about what was going on in my house. I was blown away by everyone’s response and generosity. What I didn’t expect, was to get an e-mail from 1 of my co-workers telling me that his son has Aspergers. (Lets call my co-worker Bob). Bob is someone that I like very much but I don’t see often. His son is around 10 years old and I had met him before but I had no idea that he had special needs. Bob told me that he and his wife haven’t told anyone except immediate family about his sons diagnosis. (I understand why.) But after I opened up about my son he felt comfortable telling me about his son.
Bob recently sent me an e-mail asking how Jay was doing. I replied telling him that the progress is slow but it’s there so we’re happy with that and then I gave him the big news about Jay using the toilet on a regular basis now (with prompting). His response was great. He got it. He was so happy for us. Then he told me that after 4 years of them trying to get his son to join boy scouts and him refusing … he finally decided to do it this year and so far has been loving it. I could tell how very proud he was and of course I get it. I was so very proud of his son too. I let him know how amazing that is and wished him much more success in the future with everything. I hope he felt my genuine joy for him.
I’m not sure why I’m writing about this stuff now. I didn’t have an end in mind when I started typing. I was just thinking about how much I understand peoples need to stay in their comfort zone. But I have found a lot of comfort in opening up. It hasn’t all been positive, but I have found friends and camaraderie in places I never expected. I have found that there are people who I never thought I had anything in common with but I do. (Bob is as opposite to me as you can imagine. In an effort to respect his privacy, I won’t tell you anything else about him.) There are definitely people who will never get it. Like my bitch of a co-worker who once told me to “do something about my son before she does” or like the man on the phone at Progresso. But there will be people who don’t judge, they just care. Like I would have been with my friend and like so many of my friends and family and all of you who read this blog.