For one reason or another I happened to read the directions on a bottle of body wash. The directions were as follows: “Squeeze product onto washcloth. Work into rich lather and rinse.” I started laughing to myself, thinking what would happen if someone who was very literal, like some autistic people, followed those instructions. They would never actually wash themselves, just lather up the washcloth and rinse it off.
Someone like Amelia Bedelia.
If you don’t know who she is, let me enlighten you. Amelia Bedelia is the beloved eponymous character from the Amelia Bedlia children’s stories. She is a house-maid who follows order to the letter, but in a completely literal way. She has no understanding or concept of idioms, implied meanings or plays on words. As you might imagine, this gets her into many scrapes and interesting situations. In one story she is asked to make sure to “put the lights out”. She does.
I stopped and pondered. If Amelia Bedelia was the kind of person who might take those directions on the body wash literally, but an autistic person might also take them literally… could Amelia Bedelia be an autistic person? Could it be that hours upon hours of my childhood were spent mocking someone with a learning disorder? Could it be that these books I found so amusing actually conveyed (to an extent) situations some people with autism find themselves in, and which I doubt they find hilarious in the least?
Isn’t it awful how thinking can ruin things for you that you loved in your childhood?
I think it highly unlikely that Peggy Parish purposefully created Amelia Bedelia for the purpose of laughing at autism, but I have to admit I sort of wanted to go take a shower and wash up. Making sure not to follow the directions on the body wash, of course.