Things I didn’t realize until much later

March 9, 2008

things I didn’t realize until much later:

-people on TV don’t respond to those watching at home. Because they can’t. The show has already been recorded and put on TV. The TV is an inanimate object and the actors on whatever show you’re watching, never see you sitting at home or wherever you might be sitting in front of a television set. I thought of this when I woke up rather late this morning (August 6th, 2006) when I thought of Peter Pan begging unknown people watching that movie to save Tinkerbell, his fairy friend, after she drank his medicine which had been poisoned by Captain Hook. (Here’s a bit of background info about where I was when I thought of this: I had just arrived at the home my family and I would be staying in for about the next two weeks.) Now mind you, this is the non-animated version of the film I am referring to. When he realizes that Tinkerbell has drunk his medicine and is dying as a result of the poison (she drank it to save him from being poisoned.), Peter, played by Mary Martin, says roughly the following, staring up into space, eyes directed as if gazing out of the set at the viewer: “Do you believe in fairies? Please, please believe…. If you believe, simply clap your hands and keep clapping to bring her back.” And then Tinkerbell begins to recover. But how? My sister and I sat on the couch clapping, obviously thinking that it would save her. (This is a memory of something that happened a long, long time ago. I cannot remember how many years ago now, but I don’t think I had hit puberty yet.) I believed for a long time that Tinkerbell survived as a result of our clapping, and held this believe for several years (I think) after that. I’ve never admitted that to people, for several reasons, including not having recalled this event until many years after the fact.

-that I can’t see my own eyes rolling or moving at all when I’m looking at them in the mirror, no matter how closely I look at them. A well-known autistic author mentions a similar experience in one of her books (elaborate if given permission. It was the part about looking at her face in the mirror, thinking it was another person, and then wondering why her face looked away when she looked away from the mirror.) I thought I had something seriously wrong with my eyes, and I also thought I was crazy, and that “everyone else must be able to watch their eyes roll in the mirror! Why not me?”

-that coughing up phlegm meant I had HIV/AIDS or some other terrible sickness. To this day we have no clue what led us to that conclusion, all we know is that we had that fear for a while.

I am sure there are other things related to these, that I have had trouble deciphering at some time or other. Reading Donna Williams’ “Somebody Somewhere,” specifically about her interaction with her friend K. and the mirror, was very vindicating. I realized there wasn’t something horribly wrong with me for not figuring out the above things so long ago.


p.s. I included this in the category of embarrassing things not because I’m embarrassed at any aspect of being autistic, but because at the time I was pretty embarrassed that I couldn’t figure these things out.



  1. re peter pan . embarrased? For caring? for participating? that was the intent, you knew it was a story. the trouble was/is technology. If the story of peter pan was told in the past before technology, it would have to be a live performance. The audiance would be expected to participate, and clap. A well told story makes the viewer believe the story is important, gets the viewers feelings involved. If it were not a good story, the audience would be inclined to leave or call it boring.

    My kind of people get drugged for the rest of their lives, for doing what you did.

  2. Hi there, Mark.

    We’re psych survivors ourselves……we were misdiagnosed as bipolar when we’re really autistic…..of the Asperger’s persuasion, according to our “official” diagnosis…..we had to take lithium, depakote, and a whole lot of other crap.

    About the peter pan thing, I (speaking as Athena, I wrote that entry) guess I was embarrassed to remember having clapped….having taken literally the requests of a character in a movie. I do realize that I was young at the time, but I feel a bit sheepish recalling such a memory and committing it to writing. That embarrassment is not entirely my own…..rather I think that the expectations of society tell us that we should be embarrassed to admit certain things…..no matter how old we were when we did them. If I, or two or three of us working together (I’m assuming you can tell from our writing that we’re a plural system, if not, well, you know now. sorry for the initial confusion) can come up with a better explanation of this idea of societal dictation of being embarrassed, we will post it.

    Athena of athenivanidx

  3. The Mary Martin movie version of Peter Pan held very closely to the Broadway version, in which she starred for many years. The part about clapping was put into the play so the (live) audience could participate. Their clapping was the cue for Tinkerbell to revive, and the intensity and volume of their clapping had a direct correlation to how quickly and “well” she revived. It’s a charming addition to the play; I’m not sure why they kept it in the movie, though!

  4. oh….we never thought of that before……..we watched the film several years ago and didn’t realize it was a play at first, made into a movie………..

    makes sense years later though.

    The Integral of athenivanidx

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