I told one of the pediatricians I worked with that my nephew has autism.
“Oh, I’m sorry,” she said, with a frowny-face. Her response annoyed me, as he is very healthy.
I cocked my head and looked at her, then said, “Oh, well, it can be hard.” I made sense of it by considering her to understand how challenging autism can be and simultaneously thinking, “We don’t need your fucking pity bitch.”
I met a 20 year old patient at a clinic, who said she was going into education for kids with special needs. “People with developmental disabilities are the new, unspoken for minority,” she explained.
“That’s great,” I told her, “I’m quite familiar with that, because my nephew has autism.”
“Autism, cool.” She smiled.
I smiled too. Is it cool that my nephew has autism? In general, no, but my nephew is a mighty cool seven year old. “Kinda immature response,” I thought. Life would be easier for my family, and likely for him too, if autism was less a part of who he is. But my smile was genuine. I thought about all the things I love about my nephew, his odd nuzzling, his repeated exuberant exclamations in line at Costco, (“No, not the lady!” when we hand something he picked out to the cashier, or "No, don't do it!" if we do something he disagrees with), his predilection for gas stations and chain restaurants. “Cool” made me feel good, and I understood it as celebrating him rather than pitying his difference. I preferred that reaction by far, to “I’m sorry".