Ahh where to begin.
I woke up, dragging the metaphorical chain this morning.
I’ve written about this a few times before.
For many years, I cut my own, long black, straight hair that I hated.
It was a dead weight but time after time, the trauma of change with each cut and each stylist left me not wanting to return, and so I didn’t.
A year ago, my identity as a proud autistic woman, still exploring so many parts of who I am, including intersectionality, began to unravel.
I went, on a whim one night to get my entire head of hair cut off.
The next day, I thought I’d grieve.
Instead, I called a friend and asked her to shave it further.
It was a shedding. A shedding of layers.
Of what it means to be ‘feminine’, to be ‘typical’,
To play a role, to perform as an autistic undercover, presenting as a neurotypical.
I realised very quickly I needed to invest properly in my style now.
I needed a signature cut, to own it.
I needed to uncover what was waiting beneath the surface, the superficial.
I found a wonderful stylist, but it was in the heart of the city and oh
Me oh MY does the city burn this little autistic out.
The sounds, the chaos, the energy,
The requirement for my ADHD brain to retain information like where I parked
To find a car park,
To know how to get there on foot,
To walk amongst people frantically busy and sometimes self important
Along with those who would stop me and ask for support.
My heart would break into a million pieces,
My ears would struggle to cope,
My body would be in pain.
The anxiety was real.
It still is.
Many people have asked why I bother,
And here’s why.
The first appointment,
My stylist very quickly engaged in talk of philosophy and spirituality.
He asked me what I do and I shared that I run my own business educating about autism and supporting families.
After some time of discussing autism and answering all the important questions,
I disclosed my own autism diagnosis.
Each and every single morning I’ve woken with anxiety around the city trip on haircut days,
I’ve still managed it.
I’ve been burn out,
I’ve come home with migraines.
I’ve had meltdowns,
I’ve ignored my body’s basic needs out of extreme anxiety.
And yet, each visit I have practised and focused on a little part of the process
And it has become easier.
I really didn’t think it would.
I still hate it.
I still feel anxious.
But I have my car park. It’s always there.
I know where to go, and what to expect.
I’m always greeted by happiness and great care.
Herbal teas, coffee
And my wonderful stylist.
The conversations, the connection
Has been so lovely.
I’ve had the space and the freedom to be me.
I’ve been able to share my challenges and be real.
And as I sat there for my final appointment for the year,
Something beautiful happened.
I sat in the chair,
And Max said to me:
“I knew you were coming, so I turned the music down.”
Everything kinda stopped in that moment, although I didn’t let on.
“Huh? Oh Max, that’s so lovely, thank you. I really appreciate it so much, but never expect it. It’s the way the world is”.
And in response he said:
“Mmm, but the world doesn’t have to be that way. When it’s just you versus the world, it won’t hurt us to change for a moment if it’s going to make your day easier.”
And THAT is why I return, over and over and over.
THAT is why I brave the sensory bombardment,
THAT is why I feel the fear and anxiety and do it anyway.
A year ago when I went into that salon,
My stylist knew nothing about me, my autistic kin.
Since then, look how far we have both come.
I’ve even taken a younger member of our community in to see Max,
In order to receive a fabulous androgynous cut,
Which led to discussion around the LGBTQI community and it’s intersectionality with the autistic community.
We explained all about the neurodiversity symbol and autistic pride
Open space, welcoming spaces, receptive and accommodating spaces for autistic people
Encourage us to move forward, to keep moving forward
To try new things.
All we want as autistic people
Is to be who we are
And still be good enough.
Thank you Max, for a banging hair style and for being such a beautiful, generous, open minded and selfless human being. . . . . Kristy Forbes inTune Pathways . . . . (Image Description: Shadia of Autism Actually having a badass haircut from Max inside the salon).