You can learn how neurotypical people socialise from neurotypical people. When you need to act like them it’s called masking. It’s like acting out a character.
Be careful not to lose yourself! In my experience I fail a lot. It is time consuming and very tiring. It is stressful and can also lead to a lot of meltdowns.
I actually fail less with everyone when I’m being a freaky autistic weirdo. For me, trying to assess my performance after an event became obsessive. I picked over every single thing I did. And of course from “how I felt” and “did I get away with it?” not from how they felt.
Neurotypical people tell white lies so they don’t hurt each other. They aren’t generally going to provide constructive feedback unless they are your carer or psychologist. And even then they might think they are being encouraging or kind by not telling you how you really did.
So (again this is just my experience) you will never genuinely know what you are like from a neurotypical perspective. And .. there are good and bad judges of character.
People have agendas. I ask my family or my partner and occasionally take advice from my kids. They all have an agenda. I trust all of them not to take advantage of me and use their observations of me to manipulate me. I’ve had people do it in the past and I have been completely derailed by it for a while.
One thing for sure is that masking is time consuming and tiring. The longer you have to do it the harder it gets. It can be stressful and upsetting.
My personal experience is “pretending to be a normal person”results in anxiety and I’ll leave because it can lead to a full blown panic attack.
For me I get tics and start staringy at random things or my eyebrows go a bit haywire. This is not a great look and probably looks less normal than simply having Autism and talking over people or paying more attention to an interesting bean in the food than the people I’m eating with.
When I learned about masking I realised how ill it had made me. I’ve been sectioned in the past. I’ve been agoraphobic, I’ve used alcohol and other drugs to combat the anxiety or depression. I’ve had panic attacks last for days. I couldn’t connect with people and I was totally dysfunctional.
So I drop my mask where possible. One very unkind family member has consistently told me I’m much worse since I was diagnosed. They also think I’m playing the whole thing up to get attention. I make jokes about my behaviour sometimes to make light of it but like you I often wish I was normal.
There are advantages to being me. I don’t skirt around the bush with people. If I’m in a restaurant and people are too embarrassed to ask how things are done in that particular establishment .. do they bring us the check? do we go up and pay? etc I’ll just do what everyone else is scared of doing or think is being rude or not the right thing to do ..
I have had a lifetime of getting it wrong so it’s not really a problem to do it one more time. I can always use “hi look this may be an unusual request we aren’t sure how you do such such and such here and I just wanted to know what I should I do about?” and if they look at me like I’m a total retard then I might use Autism as an excuse for asking ..
Which in turn bails the people who I am with out because they can pretend they knew the answer all along and I’m just the weird autistic guy they are embarrassed to be with ..
So I get what you are trying to do. There are videos on YouTube to teach you how to mask. There are lots of ways to do it. Who you won’t be for your friends is yourself. Generally romantic partners will see straight through you.
Do I still mask? Yes of course I do. For job interviews? Is it a good idea? Probably not I almost certainly come across as disingenuous, disinterested or maybe they think I’m a murderer. Whatever they think they know something is off.
I also do it around other people’s children. I usually blow it by actually listening to what they have to say then having a really weird conversation with them they find intriguing. Children aren’t stupid they know all the other adults treat them like children. They seem puzzled by talking to someone who is as curious about their experience as they are curious about what their parents have to say.
Then you get an adults who looks concerned for you because the conversation has some kind of weird intensity they’re not used to. Then they feel they have to rescue you from the kid. Or maybe they feel they don’t want their kid around someone weird.
I ran a shop for a while and discovered that when an adult is buying a musical instrument for a child there’s absolutely no point talking to a neurotypical child to gauge their opinion.
Neurotypical people have to be told what to do. They have to follow cultural norms. They can’t not do it. You get badly behaved neurotypical kids and badly behaved neurotypical adults. And I know a few who are much harder to be around than someone who is stimming or who makes inappropriate eye contact or has weird body language .. anyway .. that’s all fairly long winded ..
What I could have said is YOU ACT NORMAL .. you play a character .. it’s a bit like method acting (kinda do it like Jim Carrey played Andy Kaufman .. you need to BE the other person all the time which means you might lose your sense or you or end up with a head full of arguments from alternate points of view) ..
Study groups of people .. decide what sort of character you want to be? are you the strong silent one? the clever one? the cool one? the shy one? the life and soul? the lazy one? the loser? the one who is always in trouble? the one who looks like they have it handled but is really a mess on the inside? the stressy one? the worry wart? the warrior? the aggressor? the helper?
Remember there are loads of kinds of normal .. the one who likes to be led? the manager? the sleepy one? the bouncy crazy energetic one? the fuck you I hate all this one? the all the boys love me and none of them can have me one? the I’m fat and ugly I’ll have sex with anybody one? You have to choose or it won’t work ..
My mask is the mad professor who blows stuff up by the way .. he can fix anything and he sets fire to random stuff sometimes and says deeply philosophical shit and helps people with stuff .. like this answer .. so now you have your character it’s just a case of finding more examples and practicing being that person. It becomes a life long project.
I didn’t get to choose mine in the sense that Autism in the way it’s recognised now didn’t exist in my school years. I guess you get to choose yours if you haven’t already. For me I always wonder “what would have happened if I had been the real me earlier in life?
I’ve had my successes and failures. They look grandiose but I could have earned a lot more money over the years working a consistent job in McDonalds. Could I do it? Probably not.
Being my own boss always gives me an exit route when I get overloaded and need to go off and send abusive texts to my wife or smash things.
Why do I do that?
Because life fries my brain and the character I play can be a loud obnoxious twat and he tires me out. So there you have it. You have instructions.
I’ll qualify them by saying this is just my personal and ongoing experience and it’s not really advice even if it seems to be worded that way. I’m not responsible for your well-being or anything that happens if you try any of this. It sounds super simple easy peasy and really it’s not .. it’s incredibly time consuming so my one piece of advice and probably something I should always remember for myself is .. please don’t make yourself ill trying to do this! MASKING .. look it up.