Cowgirl and Chick A-D-D, Zoe Kessler

Cowgirl and Chick A-D-D, Zoë Kessler
Photo by Jake Cheghano, 2011

I don’t know about you, but for me, one of the most difficult aspects of ADHD is the social awkwardness. It’s like, as a kid, I missed every Social Skills 101 class (except, sadly, social skills classes were never actually offered).

Nor did I pick up social skills by observing others. While I didn’t skip classes, I was playing hookie, but it was my mind that was elsewhere, not my body.

Either way, this means that I missed out on some pretty essential life lessons. Oops.

A false start

Sure, I’ve been picking up some social skills since my ADHD diagnosis, but it hasn’t been easy.

About two years after I was diagnosed, I was being interviewed for a part-time job as the webmaster for a tack shop. If you don’t know what a tack shop is, it’s like a candy store for wealthy rural women and their spoiled daughters. (See? I totally shouldn’t have said that. I’m working on it…)

This one sold horse blankets, saddles, riding boots, cowboy boots, reins, equine magazines, anything you could possibly want as a horse rider (or, as we like to call it, an “equestrian.”)

The worst part was they also sold gorgeous riding jackets, breeches, show shirts, and casual clothing. Sexy. Very, very sexy. This wouldn’t have been a problem, except I was interviewed right in the middle of the store. To someone who’s easily distracted, that’s tantamount to torture.

So, here I was doing my darndest to fight the urge to gape at the goods and to focus on the store owner as she interviewed me – and I was doing a mighty fine job of it too – when I found myself staring at her face and thinking, How long am I supposed to be looking at her? I suddenly realized I didn’t have the foggiest idea.

I mean, was I being creepy, or appropriate? I just about choked when I realized I didn’t know which was which.

Conditioned response

Having been lambasted for not paying attention in the past (even when I was), I was hypervigilant about looking focused. But what was the right amount of time to maintain eye contact? Didn’t most people know this at my age?

Did this poor woman realize she was interviewing an alien? I couldn’t decide whether to look away, and if I did, what was I supposed to look at? And when was I supposed to look back? And for how long? How could I possibly not know any of this?

The worst part was, when I get flustered I blush; when I blush, I get flustered, and then I’m in a self-destruct loop and my brain begins to disintegrate, leaving behind only the ADHD bits that generate inappropriate comments (clearly a more robust brain section than, say, my memory).

Miraculously, I got the job. Even more miraculous, I’ve held it for over four years now. The owner and I have a rather nice rapport (and I have some amazing riding clothes I’ll never wear because I don’t have a horse. But damn, I look good.)

On the bright side

My ADHD diagnosis made me more aware of my social ineptitude. Hey, I guess things have to get worse before they get better. I’ve accepted that I had a lot of catching up to do.

While my skills might still be lacking, at least I have a sense of humor about my social pratfalls (past and present).

A near miss

One time, while driving to a party, I was fishing around in my purse for my lipbalm. I was just about to apply it when I noticed it wasn’t my cherry Chapstick I’d grabbed, but a coverstick.

Now, for you menfolk, a coverstick is like a, well, it’s a tube of skin. It’s basically face-colored lipstick. Had I not noticed my error and applied the coverstick, everyone would have been staring at me.

This, in itself, would not have been unexpected. After all, I was new to the area. But – what they would have been staring at is the fact that I would be entering the room with no lips. I would virtually be a muppet.

I still have ADHD social awkwardness. But at least I was saved from that.


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