I never understood intense interest in girl or boy things--I found the whole gender thing silly. I didn't understand doll play, though I liked the idea of a baby doll substituting for the one day baby I wanted even though I didn't play with dolls. (And never had.) I felt compelled to possess some of the things my "girl friends" obsessed about (e.g., all things Barbie)--because that's what girls did and I was a girl--, but I didn't know what to do with them and didn't derive the pleasure from having the possessions that my friends seemed to derive. Doing most "girl" things left me feeling flat and I thought GI Joe as stupid as Barbie. I preferred being physical and was naturally athletic even though I was dismissed by even the tomboys because I was slight--I wasn't given the opportunity to show my ability to have both power and grace in directed action, which was unlike my general clumsiness.
And like you, at school my penmanship and neatness skills were criticized. It hurt to write and I couldn't keep my desk organized to save my life. Everything was just stuffed in my desk and lockers. (Meanwhile, my clothes drawers were very neat because that sort of organization was easy.)
While I disliked school, I enjoyed playing school because it helped me make sense of something that at least had some structure. Structure made me feel safer than being in unstructured settings even if I had trouble fitting. If I played house, I had to be the father so I could hide behind a pretend newspaper because I didn't know how to play with other kids in a way that made sense to them.
Essentially, I mostly lived in my head and ran around and sang to burn up energy.
And yes, it took me forever (into my 50s) to understand the problem I had with reading faces--actually, it took two teenagers moving in with me who were not skilled at hiding their emotions like many teens... I found them so much easier to read than most adults because their facial expressions, body language, tone of voice, and words all matched. They weren't invested in maintaining a persona--an idealized image of themselves that did not hold up to their reality.
My instinct in knowing someone didn't care for me worked when I'd first meet people, but it derails if someone is in relationship with me in some way. I literally could not/cannot tell when a relationship is going off the rails. I pick up on stuff but can't make sense of it in relation to the relationship. I'm forthright, give people the benefit of the doubt (beyond what is self protective), and either don't make negative assumptions about others or check them out (or let them go), and it makes sense to me that this is what you do when you care for someone. Apparently, it's not the way a lot of NTs work.
My learning not to take responsibility for others (because I don't know how to read them) has been mistaken for being narcissistic. When you have to choose between being responsible for everything (i.e., apologizing, worrying, etc.) and allowing others to be responsible and yet also lack the ability to discern when it might be appropriate to check in with people, or worse, not recognize when that someone is covering up or being indirect when you do check in with them, people don't see that as your being unskilled in that area (not when you are gifted at processing experiences that are described in words), they see your inability to read them as intentional and self centered. Well, yes, it was intentional not to kill myself with worry over what I couldn't understand. Expecting other people to be adults and directly communicate was not such a bad idea, but not knowing I had Asperger's meant that I couldn't read their indirect attempts at communication and I didn't know what I was missing.
I think that, given my own interest in communication and actually developing and providing communication workshops, that we Aspies probably make up a good number of the people who advocate for more direct communication (and authenticity) in the NT world. And many of us are probably undiagnosed like I was. Providing workshops was a way for me to engage people in a scripted manner. Again, it was a safe way to connect with others because of the structure.
:D I also read the dictionary for fun and self defense. I found insults using big words that the bullies didn't understand and delivered with a smile (probably a crazed one) intimidated most bullies and made them leave me alone.
Sorry for the long response... I think I just needed to write that out. :P
*I also appreciated this, as it has been my experience: "The best cure for an autistic-feminine moodswing is awareness of the triggers and knowing what helps to get through it/calm down...and also the awareness that autistics are more sensitive and reactive to things such as imbalanced hormones and such." When my father died in my mid 20s--my first such loss--, I was diagnosed as bipolar. I rejected that diagnosis because I knew it was not true. I'd become aware of the negative messages I'd internalized and how they acted as triggers and the need to develop skills so that I could be in charge of my moods. I was right. My moods evened out, and I find intense feelings to be more related to huge life events and even then, I've become (mostly) skilled at coping.