‘Laughing all the way to the bank’… I tried it once, but only made it halfway. My sides hurt, I was holding onto the steering wheel with one hand and wiping the tears of laughter out of my eyes with the other hand. I’m lucky I even made it to the bank!
Ok, yes, I like to have fun with idioms sometimes.
I do have a point to this, I really do. I was just reading an article* from a Scientific American (SA) blog called, “Autism: More than Meets the Eye”. Haha! I just pictured someone named ‘Morethan’ meeting someone named ‘theEye’ and wondered what that had to do with autism, but I digress.
So, back to the SA article, in which I found the answer to a mystery I’ve tried to solve for years. I found out why a group of non-autistic people would all laugh together when I, honestly, did not hear anything funny. I have never been able to understand why they all have a good laugh together when I can’t even come up with a grin. This group laughter has happened to me at day long trainings, conferences, and retreats. Basically, a place where no one really knows each other, they are there for only a day or two sharing the event together.
Here’s the answer to the mystery according to the SA blog – the group laughter is a way they are socially bonding together. In my experience it does not seem like the laughter was planned. So, how do they all know when to do it at the same time? Did these people learn how to do this as they grew up? Do the older non-autistic people pass this knowledge down from one generation to the next through storytelling? I know one thing for sure; I didn’t get an invitation to story time!
Now I understand a bit better why I stand out as awkward and am ostracized from the group for not joining in on the laughter (only because nothing was funny). Could it really be that I essentially ‘told’ them I didn’t want to bond together with them as a group by not laughing? Is this group laughter the ticket to belonging? It has a very short window of time for me, I only experience it when I’m at organized events and it is lunch/ supper time. I only go to events once or twice a year.
Who knew laughing meant more than expressing something funny?
There is another mystery that quickly follows the group laughter. The group is getting ready to go get some lunch. Knowing we’ve all just met, I watch to see how other people talk and get lunch companions. To my dismay, people just seem to magically group into twos and threes and all head out the door without saying much. No one extended an invitation to anyone else. How did anyone know who to group up with for lunch? I’m left there alone, as usual. Was I just supposed to go join them without talking about it first? What if they all left as a group without me because I didn’t join in on the group laughter and they thought it was because I chose not to bond with them socially? All I did was choose not to laugh because – I didn’t hear anything funny!
The SA blog validated something I do as an autistic woman sometimes, which is to laugh out loud at my funny inner thoughts. An autistic person laughing out loud alone within a group of non-autistic people may again indicate not wanting to bond socially.
I remember the title of the blog and start laughing out loud at my inner thoughts about Morethan meeting theEye – and I’m glad they all went to lunch, I didn’t want to send the wrong message. I mean, honestly, sometimes laughter just means something was funny.
*I do not agree with most of the content of the SA blog post I refer to in my article, but as with everything, nothing is all good or all bad, so I took something I learned and left the rest.
About Lisa Morgan
After working as a software engineer for a few years in the mid-eighties, Lisa stayed home after her first child was born for the next thirteen years homeschooling her kids. Now, four kids later and a master’s degree in the Art of Teaching, she has taught in different school settings for 15 more years. After experiencing the loss of her husband of 29 years to suicide, Lisa authored, Living Through Suicide Loss with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Now, Lisa, an autistic adult diagnosed late in life, has become an advocate for other autistic adults who have had similar experiences. She has started a conversation with several nonprofit organizations in the US to help enhance the suicide prevention and postvention resources to be a better fit for autistic adults, as well as, to spread awareness of the resources available to the autism community.