For the first twenty years of my life, I felt like I was an alien without the manual for being human. Part of that was because I was the kid of two immigrants who did not want to be in America. Or rather, one of them did not want to be, and he was the king of the castle. We had very little interaction with American culture as my parents spoke Taiwanese at hom (to each other, but not to my brother and me), had only Taiwnaese friends, and did not watch any American TV. We did not go to the movies or listen to the radios. My father demanded Taiwanese food, and my brother and I wanted American food. We preferred pizza, mac and cheese, and the like.
Side note: My favorite part about church was that we went to a fast food restaurant afterwards. Usually McDonald’s or Burger King, but sometimes arby’s or Wendy’s. Then, for one glorious meal, I could eat a delicious Big Mac or a chicken parm (at BK) or a roast beef sandwich without being shamed for it.
Side note II: For decades, I thought my mother liked cole slaw and always gave her mine when we went to Kentucky Fried Chicken. Turns out she did not, but she felt she had to eat it because she did not want it to go to waste.
I did not realize that I was also just…diffreent. I didn’t think of things in the way other people did, but I didn’t know why or how to correct it. For example, other girls liked to play with dolls; I never did. I like stuffed animals because you could cuddle them and they felt squicshy and comforting. I didn’t realize until much later that this was because of my sensory issues, but I always felt better after hugging a plushie.
I also felt as if other kids were talking to each other in a language I could not undrestand. I remember going through the motions and hoping that no one would notice that I did not know what the hell I was doing. I basically shut up and didn’t say anything that would make me a target.
In addition, my father had a weird idea of what was supposed to be kept ‘secret’. The example I always give is when I was a kid, he and my mother were out playing tennis with some friends. Another woman from church called and asked for my father. I said that he was playing tennis with some friends and thought nothing of it.