In Authoring Autism, Melanie Yergeau shares the origin of the Autistic Pride button that she still has, more than a decade later, on her backpack. She recalls the stories of its origins and journey but emphasizes how it invites other people to share their opinions and commentary about it. From the man who wants to know if she is one of those feminazi lesbians to the teenagers who crack “retard” jokes to the shy student who asks where she can get a button like that, her button starts conversations of all kinds.
Yergeau makes me think about how I only get comments on my “Science is not a liberal conspiracy” t-shirt in certain parts of Indy, always by people who share the view. I recall a friend who is a feminist and shows off her Minnie Mouse watch. I remember telling you our first week together that wearing Gator merchandise would likely get the evil eye.
Think about the items that you carry, wear, etc. that invite strangers, colleagues, and neighbors to engage with you, whether or not it is welcomed.
Write a personal narrative about the object (or trait) that, intentionally or not, starts conversations with friends, family, or strangers. Craft your narrative around specific scenes where people comment on what you wear, etc. Use sensory detail and imagery to place your readers in the situation and create the tone of the essay. Since this assignment expects you to write about your interactions with others, incorporate dialogue as part of the scene.
The purpose of your essay about these scenes should grow from what you, through the process of drafting the essay, end up learning or thinking about situations when others feel invited to comment on or start a dialogue about something we communicate. And a word of advice: don’t wait until you know how you will end your essay before you start drafting. Work on creating the scenes and thinking about what they teach you; you’ll figure out the ideas you want to emphasize and how to end the essay.