In much of Central and Eastern Europe, Easter Monday is known as Wet Monday. As per tradition, boys would throw water at girls and whip them with pussy willows. The rather annoying custom was apparently meant to be a demonstration of chivalry and affection, but my memories of it are more along the lines of not being able to walk the dog all day as the local gangs of aspiring thugs would lurk with buckets behind every corner. I guess Wet Monday gave them a good excuse for fairly innocent mischief. Meanwhile, with her teacherly gaze and upright posture, my mum would make a point of projecting enough dignity never to get soaked. For me, it was prudent to stay at home.
Today, I think of Wet Monday with less annoyance and more tender nostalgia as its roots can be traced back to Slavic paganism which, unlike its Nordic cousin, has largely faded into obscurity. Perhaps in a bid to find an identity that would actually feel like my own, the history and pre-Christian beliefs of the tribes that once inhabited Central Europe are a new special interest of mine. I’ve ordered a large stack of historical and archeological books and started trudging my way through them, finding glimpses of long-forgotten lives and rites between the lines of dense, academic writing.
After a couple of weeks spent on the road and without much data, despite my best attempts at sticking to books and keeping the phone at bay, I have once more fallen into the trap of scrolling through social media. Yesterday Instagram informed me that April is autism awareness month, sending me down the rabbit hole of posts and information which I really did not need in my life. These days, every month has a theme and the etiquette of our online living requires us to display a keen interest and support for whatever it is, eliciting an inordinate amount of performativity. It seems that while in recent decades we’ve gained much freedom in terms of how we dress or speak, the digital era’s propriety is as rigid – if not more so – as the contrived rules of behaviour that governed elegant societies of centuries gone by.
What we speak of is carefully prescribed and, despite aspiring to higher values like social justice, we perform our wokeness in accordance with a content calendar of countless marketing departments. So, without much hope of going against the grain of the late capitalism-dictated etiquette, I thought I’d use the autism awareness month as an excuse to offer you a short dictionary of terms that I often use as an autistic individual trying to normalise my existence in a neurotypical world. So, if a few paragraphs above you were baffled by the phrase “special interest”, but, out of a justified fear of not appearing woke enough, were too scared to admit you had no idea what it was about, fear no more.