It’s taken me a long time to gather my courage to address the Tavi Problem. As her celebrity increases, I keep wondering why nobody brings up the subject of autism.
Aspergers Syndrome is a condition on the autistic spectrum, often characterized by a high IQ and an intense preoccupation with a specialized field of interest. In children, Aspergers can be especially endearing. A young person animated by a passion for learning, even if it’s about vacuum cleaners, is a pleasure to be around. As the mom of a kid who attends a special needs school, I’ve come to recognize signs of Aspergers from a mile off, and I’ve come to appreciate the quirky brainy kids that my son hangs out with.
Tavi strikes me as a kid with Aspergers whose obsession dovetails perfectly with the zeitgeist, i.e. the burgeoning influence of bloggers and the fashion industry’s desperation to appear ‘fresh’ and appeal to new markets. Her extraordinary knowledge of fashion is mind boggling and she clearly has a prodigious memory for details. Gregory Evans has a similar understanding of vacuum cleaners, a gift that has earned him some notoriety but unfortunately not the same outpouring of love that Tavi has received.
Here is what Rodarte sister Kate Mulleavy says of Tavi: “When spending time with Tavi, I am always astonished by her observations. Tavi is a writer in every sense. Her way of interacting with the world comes from a sensitivity and madness that belongs to poets and bank robbers.”
My goodness! Poets and bank robbers?! I worry that Tavi is the Flavor of the Month, and that when the fashion world grows tired of her it will be a difficult transition. I hope her parents know what they’re doing.
My purpose in this discussion is not to diminish Tavi’s achievement but to suggest that using the term Aspergers Syndrome or even autism would help to dispel the notion that those on the spectrum are retarded or stupid. It would encourage other gifted kids to pursue their interests, full steam ahead.
I’m prepared to be scolded for daring to label everyone’s little darling, who is only thirteen. But it’s a label I use with affection and admiration. I’d like to see more kids and adults identify themselves as being on the spectrum. I’d like to see the end of the stigma that persists. As for the Rodarte sisters, I’m pretty sure they have Aspergers too.