PUBLIC PRESSURE

We’ve all heard the old saying, “Just be yourself”. But what if you are a public figure or an “icon”? How should you act or “be” then? I think public figures are almost forced to act a certain way in public, and even in their personal lives. If you don’t behave the way society expects you to, you fall from grace. I think that can apply to everyday off-the-street people, too. Here’s the thing. I feel celebrities want privacy. They want to be left alone when they are not promoting something. It’s almost human nature. If you bump into, oh let’s say Tom Cruise or Ellen DeGeneres or someone like that on the street, odds are they’re going to be polite because you are a fan and they don’t want their image ruined. If you are famous and you act like a dick or an asshole toward fans…people are going to notice, particularly the paparazzi. It goes beyond that, too. Not only does your attitude have to be a certain way…so does your language! And I know this because I speak from experience.

I am sort of an authority figure on Autism in Baltimore, so I too have to watch it. I know if I am wearing that Pathfinders shirt and I say something that pisses someone off and it gets back to Pathfinders…I’m ruined. Not only that, but it’d look bad on the company or organization as a whole. Look, I’m not perfect. Nobody is. But I know when to keep my mouth shut…for the most part. I’m human; things slip out sometimes. I can’t help it. People at my agency annoy me all the time, and I have people ask me blanket questions about Autism all…the…time. It offends me and pisses me off. HOWEVER, am I going to tell that person or those people to fuck off? No. I usually tell them I cannot answer that or simply, “Can you please leave me alone?”. I don’t think that’s a mean thing to say/do or an impossible request. I just want peace and to be left to my own devices from time to time. I do not want random people to know my personal business. Like God forbid Allie and I ever broke up…again, God forbid. I would not want everyone and their mother to know about it. I’d only tell a select few people who I know will not say anything when I ask them not to. I think that’s the quality or hallmark of a good or true friend. Someone who will not leak whatever you tell them on social media or run their mouths to their friends and then suddenly, everyone knows what’s going on in Tom Whalen’s life.

As someone in the Autism community who is well-respected, I know damn well I cannot afford to mess up. I HATE answering blanket questions like “Why do people with Autism act like this?/ Why do people with Autism do that? Etc.” Why do I hate it? Simply because I…DON’T…KNOW! Simple as that. And the last thing I want is for someone to take my advice about Autism, which may not apply to the next person in line with Autism, and use it as a statement that all Autistic people act this way. That’s not my intention. I think that’s insulting and putting words in my mouth. I have NO IDEA how Autism impacts others. I’m still trying to figure out how it impacts me. I will never know how the Autistic community is impacted on an individual basis. Nobody does or ever will. I hate being put on the spot to answer questions like that.

I do comedy, too, and I hate when someone comes up and, “Hey Tom! Tell me a joke!” I have to think on my feet and that’s when I come across as offensive. Again, not my intention. If I am put on the spot, I do not think I should be held entirely accountable for what I say or how I react. So in closing, do I like holding almost a celebrity status in Baltimore? Yes, and no. I love the fame and where it has gotten me, but I do not like the fact that everyone knows my every move. I want peace, quiet and sanctity from it all every once in a while. That’s why I like it at home where I can go in my room, shut the door and have alone time.

At my agency, that is almost impossible. My public life and private life are similar but different. The Tom Whalen you see that is very outspoken about Autism is who I am at home, but I also tend to almost shy away from people in public or even at home. It’s just who I am. So that’s it from me. I want to hear from you guys. Do you think public figures have it worse than everyday people and should we leave them be? Thanks for reading!

-Tom

Author: AuTom Spectrum Blog

I have Autism and am a self-advocate and public speaker. On the side I do stand-up comedy. I live in Baltimore County and have an AMAZING girlfriend

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