This started out as one post, but it got excessively long, so I’m breaking it up. Please forgive the choppy nature of the prose. I know the holiday season is coming to a close, so this is slightly late, but there’s still New Years Eve and New Years Day… Here is part 1: Clothes. (This could alternatively be titled “why I wear the same thing every day”)
The holiday season in my house* is synonymous with parties. My mother is what some people call a “super-neurotypical” – she lives to socialize, attend parties, and entertain. Usually the holidays mean an endless stream of going to and hosting parties with all of my mother’s friends. People who think they know everything about me and want to prove it. People who have no concept of personal space. And the worst of all, people who think they will be the ones to “cure” me of all of my social unease and all the other things my mother hates about me (read: all my Autistic traits). Over the years, I’ve developed several coping mechanisms for dealing with my mom’s obsessive party-going/throwing, and her worship of social customs. I hope that by sharing these, I can offer insight into surviving the holiday season with a little less trauma. The goal is to minimize the number of triggers. The less stress present before getting to the party, the less likely a shutdown is.
Holidays (traditionally) are a time where you are expected to wear your nicest clothes. This was always misery for me, since I am so texture-oriented. The instant you put me in clothes that I’m not comfortable with (especially “traditionally” girls clothes, eg dresses and tights, but also dressy pants and shirts), I lose it. There were screaming meltdowns when I was younger, and then when my parents “trained away” meltdowns as I got older (I have an obsessive desire to not upset people, another post for another time), there were internal shutdowns. There still are, when I’m forced into clothes I’m not comfortable with. So holiday clothes are not sensory-friendly – you can’t sit in them, because they rumple. They have that texture that makes me want to cry every time my skin rubs against it because it hurts so badly. They’re a different shape and fall differently on my body than what I’m used to. Since there’s no getting out of attending these parties, I have instead developed compromises. I have found dark jeans that look nice but still have the same feeling that regular pants do. I have a nice holiday fleece that I wear. I still look “appropriately festive and (somewhat) dressed up” according to my mother, but am better able to function, because I’ve controlled that one sensory input. So while it’s not grandma’s itchy holiday sweater on top of the fancy dress, at least it fulfills the social obligation without causing a tipping point for me.
I will also add that footwear is another issue here. My personal preference is to wear socks, and only socks. That way I can feel the contour of the floor without having to be assaulted by the textures and strange feelings of it. I absolutely abhor bare feet because of this. Although I have generally lived in colder climates where one cannot wear sandals in the winter, finding “appropriate” socks that I can deal with wearing has been a trial: one (supposedly) cannot wear their fun socks with designs on them to a party, so one must wear nice socks or tights. Find a pair or two of socks and shoes that fit the holiday season that feel really good on your feet, and you’ll be much happier. Another thought is that if you live somewhere that requires snow boots, bring additional footwear to the party: a favorite pair of slippers or shoes that can be traded for the snow boots when you get inside. There’s much to be said for having “happy feet”.
DO: Bring your own indoor shoes/socks, dress for comfort first. If your clothes hurt you, you won’t have enough brain power left to function at the actual event.
DO NOT: Buy fancy clothes unless you’ve tried them on first, or assume that “it’s just for a couple of hours”.
TIP: One or two holiday outfits that have similar textures and styles to regularly worn comfortable clothes will go a long way.