Sometimes when I meet new people, I feel quite a bit of pressure to mask and become a person I think they might like. Why? Because it’s the way I learned how to make friends as a child and teen. In the end though, I can never mask forever, and I have often lost friends after a year or so simply because I’m not the cool or fun or interesting person that they were led to believe I was (thanks to the mask). Recently, I’ve been trying a new tact. Instead of masking right away, I stay quieter and slowly open up about myself and my true interests. This takes several days or hangouts with another person, which is hard for the autistic person. If I had it my way, I would just say in a childish way, “You wanna be friends?” and that would be it before I shared my whole life story! But a slow start and a reserved expression helps me to protect myself, it helps others to feel less overwhelmed, and it helps me to stop using the mask.