AAC & Romance
I just don't write “easy romance.”
It seems fitting that I should start this hashtag in my therapist's waiting room. I decluttered one book shelf in the living room yesterday; my Master dropped an oil change appointment on me this morning. Not at all feeling okay.
Well that was before therapy. Doing better, although I realize now that as we were talking about a goal of doing something independently once a week, I didn't tell my therapist about these “hanging out in the mall food court while daughter is working out.” It does make me ponder this hashtag more- #TherapeuticThursday- “Well maybe sensory needs of partners, or a look at one of your characters disabilities and what technology, therapy etc that character uses?”- as my first girlfriend suggested when she read my pondering about blogging.
So her suggestion had both implications for my writing and my non-virtual life. Augmentative and Alternative Communication (known most by its acronym AAC) is an important thing for people with different issues, including those on the Autism Spectrum, like my character Happy and myself. I started off writing “Typing My Love,” my WIP in which Happy is one of four main characters, in part to consider what it would be like for romantic and/or queerplatonic relationship partners to use AAC with a partner who uses AAC. I didn't realize until a few weeks ago- my Master has always supported my use of AAC.
AAC in practice can mean any number of technologies, from the no-tech of using American Sign Language to an AAC device costing thousands of dollars that can be worked by the user's eye gaze. I have a laptop, a Neo (a portable word processor made by AlphaSmart), a white board with a few words related to shopping glued onto it with space for writing in dry erase marker, notebooks, and I'm also learning ASL. But as I said in the previous paragraph, my Master has always supported my use of AAC; I just need to remember His stance. One of my current writing projects is a sexual situation for my Master; I'll share the first line with you, but the contents of the whole scene is only for Him. -- “So I decided to give you two slightly related versions of something, Master.”
Now I want to share a snippet of Happy using AAC to communicate with one of joys loves. Quick explanation that I ended up having to give my therapist when she was confused by the snippet I shared with her: Happy is bigender and uses the noun-self pronouns joy/joys/joyself. Joys partners are named Ziba, Iovita, and Mairead; when my therapist asked if Ziba is a woman, I *amusingly to me* paused; I decided with Ziba and Iovita to write women who consider themselves cisgender even though they have intersex traits.
I decided to show you a snippet of a dinner in a restaurant later the in book (still “in progress”). In it, Happy's current service dog, Alfie, and service dog prospect, Vivien, are both mentioned.
Ziba held the cafe's door open for Alfie and Happy. Soon Vivien will be ready for public access training, even if we will put her to USA standards on that. She followed them inside.
Happy took out joys tablet and made it speak the prepared phrase, “Two for dinner. My partner called ahead so you were aware of my service dog.”
“Of course,” the hostess said. “This way. We set up a booth in the back corner so there would be more room for your dog.”
Ziba and Happy followed the hostess through the restaurant.
At the booth, Happy ordered Alfie to tuck under the table before joy and Ziba sat.
“Oh, oops,” the hostess said. “I didn't think to ask. Do either of you read German or should I get English menus?”
“We can understand enough German to order,” Ziba replied.
“Good. So here are your menus. Lina will be your waitress and she'll be over shortly.” The hostess hurried away.
Happy turned on joys tablet. After a bit, it said, “Thanks for calling ahead to let them know about Alfie. Although Austrians are as good about dogs as most Europeans.”
“You're welcome. It's good to be safe since we don't have anything like the US's ADA here.” She opened the plastic menu. “Well they are known for their pizza here. They make various kinds of vegan cheese in-house.”
“Hi, my name is Lina and I'll be your waitress tonight. Would you like to start with drinks?”
“I have a question about the smoothies.” At Lina's nod, Ziba continued, “Do they have ice in them?”
“No ice cubes because we use frozen fruit,” Lina said.
“I would like the mixed berry smoothie.”
Happy's tablet said, “I would like the strawberry kiwi smoothie.”
“Are you both ready to order your food or do you need time?” Lina asked.
Ziba nodded. “I would like the eighteen centimeter pizza with red onions and chef's choice of cheese.”
Happy's tablet made a weird squawking noise before saying, “Achtzehn Zentimeter Pizza mit Kase und vegetarische Wurst.” Joy snorted and voiced, “It thinks pizza is just English.”
“Bad tablet,” Ziba laughed. She turned to Lina and explained, “My partner uses text-to-speech software because speaking can be hard for them. It doesn't like what it perceives as mixed language sentences though.”
“Technology still has a long way to catch up on many things,” Lina agreed.
It's seldom that I need the same AAC support as Happy is shown using in the previous scene. Most commonly I need some written or visual way to communicate with my carer when I'm wearing my noise-canceling headphones. However, when I'm at my most distressed, sometimes having that level of communication support seems like a need to me. Of course, at 40 years old, I'm just a few years post-coming to terms with the fact that I'm on the Autism Spectrum and have unique sensory challenges; it seems that as an AFAB person, I have just learned social masking too well. Earlier in the book with Happy, I describe a childhood spent in an intentional community- in many ways, Happy got the support I also needed, but was denied. But you know, if someone sat down beside me in the food court where I'm sitting now and gestured that they wanted to type, like I've been daydreaming, I would be ecstatic.
I wanted to continue with a scene showing the use of AAC during a sexual situation, but I'm going to reserve that for next Thursday's #TherapeuticThursday.