Thank you for inviting me to your house for a dinner party. Sincerely, thank you. As an autistic person, my life has been littered with these rare invitations, as my personality usually places me towards the bottom of your invite lists. Whenever an invitation comes, I cherish it. But I’m not coming to your dinner party.
Neurotypical people are those who don’t have an autistic condition. And you guys are great. In fact, without neurotypical people like you, people like me would probably never leave the house. However, you are also the primary cause of all the problems in my life.
I don’t suffer from autism, I suffer from you. I am expected to fit into your way of living, and I cannot do that, so I’m not coming to your dinner party.
You like me. I make funny jokes at work. I like awesome music, and have been known to enjoy a beer. I like you, you share my interests and sick sense of humour. You’re friendly and have never criticised me, until I wouldn’t come to your dinner party.
Being autistic, there are a number of things that scare me about your dinner party. The first is the amount of people in one room. I have a limited bucket of energy for social interaction, and being placed in a small room with three or more people will fill that bucket within minutes.
At a dinner party, we are all seated facing each other, meaning I have to look at you. Looking at people in the eye is an intense experience for me. Also, I am worried about my sensory processing issues. Lots of people talking at once will sound, to my ears, like 12 freight trains are driving through your dining room. I am uncomfortable in new environments. I don’t know the rules of your house. Where should I sit, what should I say, where is the toilet?! When can I leave? What is the normal amount of time a person is expected to stay?
Will you pressure me to eat foods I don’t like? I have a limited palette, like most autistics, but I’m not a child and I won’t spit the food out… well, hopefully I won’t spit it out. I don’t even know the layout of your house well enough to find a door leading outside for some space. I am terrified of your dinner party.
I love dinner. I know a number of great restaurants where the food is fantastic. But I am familiar with them and I can get up and leave at any time if the dinner experience becomes too much.
Despite the misconceptions, autistic people are interested in you, and we would like to spend time with you. Movies are fantastic as we all face the screen, there is little talking needed, and the post-movie debrief is an easy interaction to take part in. Concerts are as manageable as movies. Please talk to me, online chats are just as valuable as face-to-face.
I am flattered by the invite to your dinner party. I would like to hang out with you. But I’m not coming. I wasn’t coming the first time you asked. I’ll always have something on, or a crisis will come up suddenly preventing me from getting there. I know you are feeling like this might mean I don’t like you, but it doesn’t. It doesn’t matter how many times you ask or how nice you are.
Invite me to the pub, at least I can somewhat hide my discomfort with alcohol. Invite me to a sports game, the crowd might cause me high anxiety but I can manage that in isolation. Please stop inviting me to your dinner party.
Author’s Note: Some autistic people like dinner parties, but the issues presented in this article are real and apply to various autistic people in ranging situations.