The Fair-Weather Friend
A fair-weather friend is someone who’s there for you when things are going well in your life, when it’s convenient for them, or when they benefit, but whenever you need a favor or you’re not doing well, this ‘friend’ is nowhere to be found. Needless to say, fair-weather friends aren’t really your friends. Real friends care about your well being.
What does this have to do with autism? Well, when I first heard the term “fair-weather friend”, I thought the concept was similar to the treatment of autistic people by neurotypical society. Allow me to go into more detail:
Autistic people engage in masking, the suppression of our authentic autistic selves to fit into society. Pretending to be someone we’re not all the time is exhausting and unsustainable, so occasionally our autism shows. Other times we may voluntarily cease masking or involuntarily become unable to hide it due to an overwhelming sensory environment. Whichever the case may be, when the mask comes off, it often happens that the people we thought were our friends vanish into thin air.
Someone who’s too embarrassed to be seen around autistic people unless we pretend to be normal isn’t an ally of the autistic. Like a fair-weather friend, they’re only there for us when it’s convenient for them. The moment we make them look uncool by being ourselves, they’re gone. If we have neurotypical problems with neurotypical solutions, then they’re helpful, but the moment we have a challenge that neurotypicals don’t face though, then we’re on our own. These ‘friends’ are never there when they’re needed most. This is insufficient.
So if you have a friend in a marginalized group, listen to them, try to understand their unique challenges, and defend them even when it’s socially inconvenient, because that’s when your support can make the biggest difference.