Thanks to the wonders of Zoom technology, local woman Jennie Li is able to work from home without any of her coworkers noticing she’s autistic. She appears cheerful and outgoing, seems to make eye contact and always has the appropriate facial expressions for the situation. Her secret? That sweet, sweet little self view camera that allows her to create a mask of neurotypicalness so flawless that her coworkers are none the wiser.
“I’m so good at hiding behind a mask, I put the Phantom of the Opera to shame,” said Li (over Zoom, of course). “Basically, since I can see myself in the self view camera, I can make sure I’m making the right faces to make neurotypical people comfortable. Normally, as an autistic person, I find facial expressions confusing, but with Zoom, no more pesky face-blindness! Is it uncomfortable and draining? Yes. But in a world full of ableism, Zoom is helping me stay employed, baby!”
Li’s coworker, Kevin Morales, said he was confused when he saw Li in person for the first time. “I had no idea she was autistic. When I saw her at an in-person happy hour, she seemed like a completely different person! On Zoom, she’s so smiley and expressive, but in person, she has a serious case of RBF. I guess that’s the flat affect from her autism.”
“That’s what many people don’t understand about autism,” said Li. “Even if I’m feeling happy, I don’t always look like it on the outside. I often have a neutral facial expression or the wrong facial expression for the situation. I can’t really picture my own face in my head, so I don’t know what I look like to other people most of the time, or if I’m masking well enough. It gets me into some awkward situations. At my last job, I got fired for having a ‘bad attitude’ and ‘scaring the customers,’ but that’s just my face! On the outside I look like Wednesday Addams, but inside I’m a ray of sunshine, I swear!”
Li says she hopes eventually she’ll feel comfortable enough to unmask around her coworkers, but for now, that “hide self view” box will remain unchecked.