29 June 2023

Am I Uncanny Valley?

“I was raised by a fairy…” is a common line I use. My mum is definitely a fairy. An Aquarius, hippie, witchy fairy. I was raised in the garden, loving music, and always seeing things from a perspective no one dreamed of. I was doubtlessly an odd child.


I had a level of intuition that often shocked the adults around me. For the life of me I couldn’t socialise though. I had so much trouble being ‘normal’. Nowadays, I’ve come to grips with being on the spectrum closer to ADHD, but as a girl I could and can mask like you wouldn’t believe. It took me years to craft these masks though.


I have been around the world making them.


It’s like that scene in Rango when he mimics all the creatures walking up and down the street and then he finds his own that suits him. The thing is, though, I’ve never found one that suits me because it’s not universal. The one that suits me is a bit too overbearing, and social rejection terrifies me. As I get older I care less and less about that rejection, but it still quavers there like a piercing violin note.

As someone who loves public speaking and caring for others, my masks are normally well loved, but the moment someone looks at me with those slicing eyes and sees the blank creature underneath, I am unearthed. There are a few people who can do that to me now, but a few in particular make me nervous just to be near them.


And it shows.


And they know it.


Cold and criticising introverts are the worst. With everyone else I can catch those micro gestures and facial movements that my intuition pieces together before I do. I can sleuth my way into a new mask that appeases the room by observing. But not with them. They give me no clues on what they approve of and I can only sit their nervously hoping their wrath falls upon someone else so I can hide back while I sort through my masks.


This is exhausting though.


I get why so many rainbow children are introverts.


Maybe I’m just better and faster at making masks than they are.


Sometimes I wonder, though, why my energy has to be so malleable and sparkly. I wondered why on this particular day and I realised what it may be.


Uncanny Valley.


When you see something that should be human but is just slightly off. Amongst tumblr and reddit circles the reason for this is because when there were other forms of humans walking around you needed to be frightened of them. They were stronger and more violent, the internet supposes.


My theory was that it was to protect us from fairies.


The fae can look very human, but their faces are always a bit off. Too squashed, or too angular. It makes me feel better to think that I have a bloodline of fae. Anyone on the spectrum may just have fae ancestry. To me they do anyway.


But because I don’t blink enough or the lilt in my voice doesn’t match the situation for a moment, because I might stare a bit too intensely, because I have an untempered emotional response, because I don’t get what is pleasing about the normalcy of mediocrity… for those reasons and more, I set off alarms in peoples minds. They see me as not human. Well…. Not quite human. I set off that primal instinct that tells them to push me away before I become dangerous.


In my childhood it looked like other kids bullying me verbally. It was never physical because that would be too dangerous. Who knows what would happen if they touched me. Then at random instances they would want to comb my hair. It was platinum blonde and shone like the sun. There was this conflict of “she’s weird and unnatural. She’s dangerous. But her hair is so pretty. But she will help me with my homework.”


In high school, that looked like bullying, ostracization, overly critical classmates, ridicule from teachers (it was very rare but the moments it happened stick in me like arrows yet to be removed), and being forgotten about for social gatherings. It also looked like a room of those that ostracised me most turning to me desperately to lead in a mock first aid situation. Their conflict was “She’s weird and unnatural. I can’t relate to her. But she knows things. She’ll act before I do. She’ll do the thing my tribe won’t let me do because she’s not one of us.”


At uni I met many more fae and I didn’t feel as alone. I loved uni. The lecturers could be your friends and the room was filled with people older than me who didn’t care that I was odd. They cared that I was there. That I could help. That I asked the questions they hadn’t yet thought to ask. My strangeness wasn’t celebrated, but I was no longer considered taboo or dangerous.


There is an odd phenomenon that happens to me though, which lead to my thoughts today. Throughout my life when my mask breaks or someone realises it is a mask at all, they snap. They point and snip at me as if I’ve done something wrong. They flick and nip at me as if my position was not next to them but beneath them. The derision and degradation for showing what is truly underneath is punishment for letting them see that my interaction is a mask. But as a fae child, the mask is not a lie.


Masks are used to hide something amongst humans, but amongst fae they are to portray something. To give the audience what they seek. To fulfil their desires. I don’t wear a mask to hide myself. I’m not a parasite hoping to feed and drop off. Have the other fae children harmed you?


I wear my masks to give you what you’ve told me you need. You think you want the real me because accepting that the mask IS me feels like I’ve lied to you and been deceptive. I haven’t though. I haven’t lied to you. In the moments I wore that mask it was part of me. What is underneath is blank. It is smooth and empty. I am filled with experiences that take no form until I have an image to mimic. Don’t be afraid of the mask, for while I wear it, it is me.


From all this, I have to ask myself. With no one to reflect, who am I?


That is not the question for now though. These are just my ramblings and thoughts as I pour the unedited observations onto a page to process them. As I write, I become my writing. In that moment I am not the writer, but I am the words.


Is that what it takes to be a good storyteller?


Perhaps it is those with the Uncanny Valley effect and fae blood in their veins that is needed to see the world in new ways.

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