Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Revenge Fantasies

Everybody has fantasies about getting revenge on people who have wronged them. Mine are mostly against the holier-than-thou neurotypical people who have wronged me in a passive-aggressive manner; the revenge fantasies are also passive-aggressive, against: Melanie, my ex-best friend who has shunned me; my most recent boss who told me I was "doing fine" and then fired me; people in Meetup groups who, instead of confronting me directly about issues they had with me, reported me to the organizer and got me kicked out; and many, many more. The revenge fantasy that continually comes to my mind is one that fights passive-aggression with, well, passive-aggression. I have nobody specific in mind for this story, but since I have to use pronouns I'm just going to use "she" for the person I'm getting revenge against, as most of the people who have been passive-aggressive to me have been women.The story goes like this:

I am visiting my parents in Pennsylvania, driving alone along one of the back roads in one of the more rural areas of Bucks County, returning from... oh, does it really matter? I just felt like going for a drive. Alone. Some me time. What I hadn't counted on was the snow. The weatherman on Channel 6 had said that the high was going to be fifty degrees and there might be some light rain, but right now it's twenty-eight and the snow is coming down in clumps, attacking my car on all sides. The heat is cranked up, the defogger is on the highest setting, and the windshield wipers are thump-thumping, trying desperately to attack the clumps before they obscure my view. It doesn't help that the sun has already set and that my high-beams barely penetrate the darkness. 

And then I see the flash, the reflection of a deer's eyes. A deer in the headlights. Caught. Just like in the metaphor. It's not going to move. 

"Shit!" I yank the wheel to a hard left.

But then the world spins around me. I jam on the breaks and hear their screeching protest against the relentless ice and snow. When the car finally stops and I get my bearings, I see that the car has done a complete one-eighty: I am facing backwards. Damn good thing that nobody else is on the road. And who would be in this weather? As soon as my heart stops racing and I confirm that the deer is gone, I maneuver the car back on to the right side of the road, again facing the correct way.

I haven't driven in a year because I've been living in Boston where one doesn't need a car, but I think I am doing well, considering that near miss. Since I never really learned to drive until just under two years ago, it's amazing that the driving skills I have learned are still there. Like riding a bike, as they say. I think about the neurological connections one has to make when learning a new skill and how those neurological connections just stay even if they have not been accessed for quite some time. I think about the time I learned the lanyard box stitch from a ten-year-old kid when  I was working at a summer day camp in 1999. I showed it to my father, who had learned the same stitch when he was nine or ten. Since he was then almost fifty years old, it had been a good forty years since he had done the box stitch. But when I handed him the lanyards I had been working on, he completed the next couple stitches. Once the lanyards were in his hands, he knew immediately what to do. Muscle memory? Or perhaps tapping into some unused but present neurological pathway, like accessing a file on a computer one hasn't used in a while? Both? As I wake up from my mental tangent, I make a note to buy more books by Sam Harris and Steven Pinker to see if the answers to my questions are there. Maybe I'll stop at the Doylestown Bookshop on the way back to my parents'. Mom will be doing the typical mother thing and worrying herself to death about me (I'm amazed my cell phone hasn't rung yet), but she'll live.

Yeah, that sounds good. A couple of nerdy books to read while wrapped up in a warm, down-filled quilt in front of a fire. The only thing that would make the night complete would be a dog curled up beside me, warm, fuzzy head in my lap. Like the last dog that my family had, a sweet and affectionate yellow Labrador Retriever. We got her when I was 12 and she was put to sleep in early 2008 at the age of 14 1/2. For a dog that size that is the equivalent to a person living into her early '90s. She was a great dog.

Whoops, there I go. Another mental tangent. They say that those with Asperger's can't multi-task. But here I am, driving and daydreaming at the same time. If people think that those with Asperger's can't multi-task, then they don't know me...

The robotic woman on the GPS tells me to make a right at the next stop sign. That will eventually lead me to route 611. I'll know how to get back to my parents' from there. As I turn, I notice a car at the side of the road. Its headlights aren't on. Hell, even its hazard lights aren't on. I can vaguely see that it is blue, but it's hard to tell in the darkness and with the snow blanketing it. Did somebody abandon their car here? I wonder. But then I see the silhouette of a head in the front seat. I slow down, realizing that the person's car's battery must have died. I have some jumper cables in the trunk. Last year Dad taught me how to jump-start a car. I don't remember how to do it, but I'm sure I can figure it out. If not, at least I can call Dad and he'll talk me through it. 

I stop the car, pull on my coat and gloves, and step out into the blanket of nighttime snow. How long has this person been waiting? I wonder, looking at the snow that has accumulated on the car. I look through the driver's side window. A woman's head is resting on the steering wheel, her hair obscuring her face. Christ, has she fallen asleep, waiting for help? Even though I can't see her face, there's something oddly familiar about her. I knock on the window. "Hey, do you need help?" I call.

The woman nearly hits her head on the roof as she turns to look at me. She opens the door, an ear-to-ear grin on her face. "Oh, thank God!" she says. "I've been waiting forever for someone to get here. I--"

Oh my God. Her. Her. What were the odds of me running into her

"Julie?" she says. "Is that you?"

"Um... Yeah," I say, jamming my hands into my coat pockets and kicking at a clump of snow with my left boot. "Wh- what are you doing here?"

"I was driving home from a friend's house. But I've been stuck here. My battery died."

I look at her and see the desperation in her eyes. She's hoping I'll forget what she did to me. People with Asperger's are said not to be able to interpret any social cues or read any body language. Bullshit. Asperger's is part of a spectrum. I know and understand a lot more than people think. In any case, she's counting on my not picking up on her hopes that I don't remember because she knows damn well that makes the difference of whether or not I will help her. Or she's at least counting on my being a nice, naive, compliant Aspie woman who doesn't know when she's been manipulated. Or maybe she's just counting on me being more forgiving than anyone can be expected to be. Well, I know damn well when I'm being manipulated and even I have my limits for forgiving. 

"Your battery died, did it?" I ask.

"Yeah," she says. "Oh, Julie, it's so good to see you. I haven't seen you in ages."

"Yes, I know," I say. Inside my right glove I can feel a hangnail. I just clipped my nails this morning, but I guess I missed a spot. I remove my hand from the glove, bite off the hangnail, and spit the remains into the snow.

"So, how long have you been out here?" I ask, slipping the glove back onto my hand. 

"Two hours, I think," she says. "It's horrible. The car battery is dead. I can't start my car and the heat won't work."

"Yeah, that's what happens when car batteries die," I say. I can feel a slight tug at my lips.

"I can't get home," she says, her wide eyes begging me to not remember. 

 "And?" I ask, feeling an even stronger tug at my lips. I scratch an itch on my left arm and flick away some snow that accumulated there. 

"I'm stuck here. I don't even know where I am."

I nod, my lips now ear-to-ear. I walk over to my car and lean against the driver's side door for a moment.

I then walk to the back of my car and open the trunk. She looks hopeful, but it's not jumper cables I'm getting. It's a scraper. In the five minutes that I've been out here the windshield and the back window have been completely covered with snow. I brush the snow off of my windshield. She still hasn't taken the hint. Funny, I thought that's how neurotypicals communicated: through hints, not direct confrontation.


"Yes?" I stop for a moment to look at her again.

"What are you doing?" 

"Getting the snow off the windows so I'll be able see where I'm going."

She still says nothing. She is looking at me, her eyes radiating disbelief. I finish cleaning off my windshield and then begin working on the back window. When I am finished with that, I toss the scraper back into the trunk. I then open the front door of my car. She is still watching me. I put the key into the ignition, and the engine roars to life.

She knocks on the window. I roll it down.

"Julie? What are you doing?" she asks, looking at me through the window.

"Going back to my parents' house. I might pick up some books on the way home first."

"Aren't you going to help me?"

"It's really coming down out here. I don't have time."

She leans through the window. "But I'm stuck here."

I look at her. She is so desperate. She cannot imagine why I am doing this to her. But hey, it's not my problem. Besides, I'm sure she has a cell phone and if she uses her brain she'll figure out that she can call Triple A, I assure myself, just like she probably assured herself when she screwed me over that I would "forget about it" and "get over it."

"Well," I say at length. "I guess you're fucked."

She says nothing. I press the button to roll the window back up. She steps back, just barely avoiding getting clipped by the moving glass.

I put the heat back on, restart the defogger and the windshield wipers, and flip on the high beams. She steps out of the way, staring at me as I pull back into the street. Some music would be nice. I turn on the local oldies station. Oh, hell, yeah. They're having a Beatles marathon.

I plug the address of the bookstore into the GPS. I should be able to detour there before I go back to my parents'.

She steps out of the road, her back against her car. She continues to stare at me until I have driven far enough away that we can no longer see each other.

I feel something stirring in my belly, moving up towards my lungs until it emanates from my mouth like a desperate animal bursting out of a cage: A laugh. A laugh so powerful that moisture forms at the corners of my eyes. I try to stop so I can focus on the road, but the sound keeps desperately forcing itself out of my mouth and almost snapping my eye shut. Somehow, however, I manage to get myself to Route 611.

And I don't look back.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

As Nature Made Me: The Aspie Who Was Raised as a Neurotypical: Part II- Thoughtcrime

When Dr. Jack Kevorkian, an intellectual hero of mine, died on June 3, 2011, I stared at the computer screen and muttered, "Oh, no." I felt my heart racing. And the next day on the way to Manhattan to see a friend, I briefly had tears in my eyes thinking about it. But why? I had never even met the man. Immediately, I found myself thinking, "What's wrong with me? Why should this upset me?" But of course I understand why. This was because reading about Dr. Jack Kevorkian I learned that he was a unique person, more than the Dr. Death stereotype. He was a painter, a musician, a filmmaker, a historian, a philosopher, a linguist, and an overall fiercely independent and brilliant man.  I had never heard of anybody quite like him, and I had suspected that he had Asperger's Syndrome. My words here don't do him justice; one has to read his biography and watch the HBO documentary Kevorkian to really get it. I was upset because what it came down to was this: There will never be another.

Above you can see that I was justifying my feelings to myself. I felt I had to. It really shouldn't matter why I reacted the way I did to Dr. Kevorkian's death. It is the way I reacted, and I should have been able to own and embrace it. But my reflexive need-to-justify comes from years of unwitting conditioning from my parents. I thought that if they knew about my upset over Dr. Kevorkian's death, their reaction would be, "You have an unhealthy obsession with this." In fact, I had decided that if they did react that way I would tell them to get over it, that I'm an adult and this is who I am. Of course, now that they understand me better, they didn't bat an eye when I told them about my reaction to Dr. Kevorkian's death.

"As Nature Made Me: Part I" talked about the things that I did that my parents tried to fix. But what about the things that I thought? Yes, my thoughts were under scrutiny too. As you can see from the above anecdote, I was reflexively afraid of what amounts to being guilty of Thoughtcrime.

My parents' attempts to "fix" me didn't stop in telling me what to do and what not to do. My mother in particular pried into my thoughts with questions, comments, and judgments. I understand that she was trying to help me and just didn't know how. But it is still a frustrating memory that resonates to this day.

For example, when I was twelve there was a story in the news about conjoined twins that had been separated. I jokingly asked Dad, "What did they do? Take a knife and chop them down the middle?" Dad rolled his eyes and said, "Yes, Julie, exactly." Just as Dad was finishing his sentence, Mom shouted, "How could you find that funny? Why do you find these things funny?" Often, I was asked why I found a lot of different weird things funny. I had no answer and I couldn't think of a single one that would alleviate Mom's fears and concerns about me. It really hurt when Mom responded negatively to my gallows sense of humor, often by saying, "Get those odd thoughts out of your head!"

As a reaction to my absurdist sense of humor and oddball cartoon characters I created, Mom would often ask, "Why aren't you interested in 'nice' things, in 'beautiful' things?" or "Why can't you create a cartoon character like Belle from Beauty and the Beast?" To the first question, I had no answer. I wondered why there had to be one. And as for the second, SNORE.

There was also the Thoughtcrime about the movies and TV shows I got obsessed with. Mom would say: "Why do you talk about [insert movie here] all the time?" or "Why are you always thinking about that?" And this gem: "I don't want to talk about [insert set of characters here]. They are not people in my life!" I understand that it was probably tiresome for Mom to listen to me go on about the same thing over and over again, but I felt like I was being shut down, dismissed, and, most importantly, judged. I felt like I was committing Thoughtcrime. Today, it reminds me of how religions often chastise people for "impure thoughts".

Then there was the Thoughtcrime about thoughts I didn't have. I didn't have thoughts about the opposite sex at all until well into my teens. My parents thought I was gay and not ready to come out of the closet. Both of them (again, mostly Mom) grilled me about why I wasn't interested in dating, what thoughts I had about boys (sorry, none), and whether I had thoughts about girls (none there either). Telling them of my indifference was unsatisfactory. They just kept asking. In a way, it seemed that they didn't want an honest answer, but the "right" answer. To get them to leave me alone, I had to give them the answer that they wanted to hear. After all, any honest answer I gave was met with more questions.

Over the years I felt helpless to control my thoughts, my feelings, my obsessions, and my sense of humor. I often had intense internal monologues with myself, trying to justify as to why I was the way I was. I felt that I needed to justify these things, not just to my parents, but to myself. If I couldn't justify my thoughts, there was something fundamentally wrong with me. 

In the days before Asperger's Syndrome was widely recognized, there was a huge coming-out process for those on the spectrum. At around age fourteen I came out to my father about the intensity of my obsessions with movies and TV shows (they manifested as "butterflies in my stomach"). I trusted him with this information because I knew it wouldn't freak him out. We often had talks about these sorts of things when he drove me to school in the morning. When I asked Dad, "Why do I get these physiological reactions?" of course he didn't know the answer, but he did often respond with, "That's you", or "Because you're creative and you get excited about these things." 

Both of my parents are guilty to some extent of the accusations of "Thoughtcrime", but Dad was more laid back about my idiosyncrasies than Mom. Maybe mothers are just naturally grizzly bears, so to speak. Or maybe Dad's psychological profile, despite not having Asperger's Syndrome, is closer to mine than Mom's is. In any case, what a person with Asperger's needs is understanding about and acceptance for who they are. They don't need invasive questions, demands to stop thinking a certain way, and they certainly don't need to be fixed.

As Nature Made Me: The Aspie Who Was Raised as a Neurotypical: Part I- Fixing Me

...Brenda [Reimer] was now living a life in which every instinct had to be denied, repressed, hidden: at dances, at parties, in the classroom, and on the street. "I was like a robot," he [Brenda, now David Reimer] says, describing the playacting that his day-to-day, moment-to-moment survival now entailed. "You're so careful to look normal, but you don't want to go overboard. You're saying to yourself, This looks like an appropriate time to smile. So you smile. This looks like an appropriate time to cross your legs. So you cross your legs. You're always thinking one step ahead, like in a chess game."
It was a chess game Brenda was losing.

This passage is from the book As Nature Made Him: The Boy Who Was Raised as a Girl by John Colapinto. This book tells the true story of David Reimer, a genetic male who was reassigned and raised as female named Brenda after a botched circumcision destroyed his penis. Dr. John Money, who championed the idea that gender identity is learned, not innate, supervised then-Brenda's sex reassignment and trumpeted this grand experiment as a success. It was, however, a terrific failure. Despite the fact that Brenda was reared as a girl from just under two years of age, "she" never felt like a girl. Even when "she" tried to fit in as a girl, "she" failed miserably. When Brenda learned that "she" was biologically male, at age fourteen, "she" immediately reverted to living as a boy. 

The point of today's post is not gender identity specifically (but that will be addressed somewhat) but rather something in the above passage that resonates with me: "Brenda was living a life in which every instinct had to be repressed, denied, hidden..." This has been my life with Asperger's Syndrome, particularly growing up. By the time I was a teenager, I got the message that who I was was not okay. I tried so very hard to be socially appropriate, but each time I failed miserably. People told me that I joked around too much, so I tried to be serious. But then if I tried to be serious I would inevitably say something that "makes no sense" and end up making people uncomfortable. In the best case scenario, I would do neither and end up being a total stiff, doing my best to keep the real me hidden so I wouldn't put people off. But I put people off anyway: who wants to be around a stiff?

Every day in school, no matter what I did, I was shunned, taunted, and sometimes even physically attacked. Telling my parents made the situation worse. They tried to fix me. That is, they nitpicked every little thing about me because, hey, every little thing about me somehow rubbed people the wrong way. Often, my mother in particular told me what not to do:

"Don't talk about Alan Arkin movies. You can't expect the other girls to be interested in Alan Arkin." So? The girls can't expect me to be interested in makeup.

"Don't talk about cartoons. That's not what kids your age are interested in. It's juvenile! You're fourteen years old!" But that's what I'm passionately interested in. I'm going to be an animator when I grow up. I'm going to make the kind of weird, absurdist cartoons that you aren't thrilled that I enjoy watching.

"You can't go to school dressed like that. You look like a boy!" But I want to look like a boy. Well, more like a tomboy, because that's what I am. But girls are expected to outgrow that stage by age twelve, so I'd better keep my mouth shut about it and pretend I have no idea what Mom means by that. I'd better not tell anybody that I know this is never going to change.

Then came my mother's advice of what to do:

"Why can't you talk about what the other girls talk about?" Because the other girls talk about boys, clothes, and makeup. They flip through Teen magazines going, "And he's cute. And he's cute. And he's cute. And he's cute..." Snore. 

"You need to learn how to make small talk. Talk about the teachers and ask what the other kids think of them." So on the first day of 8th grade I asked some other girls, "What do you think of Mr. Henry? It was so funny today when he went on about chewing gum in class and made those noises like he was cracking gum." But it felt so phony coming out of me, like I was reading from a script. And I think the other kids knew it.

"You need to learn to wear what's in style." What's in style are low-cut shirts and super-tight jeans. Wearing those things makes me feel very mortified and self-conscious. I like T-shirts and looser-fitting jeans.

From both of my parents came this gem:

"You have such a great figure and such beautiful hair. Girls would kill to look like you." I'm glad that I'm skinny, but not for reasons that you think. Skinnier people live longer. And it fits the tomboy image I have of myself. As for my hair, I hate it. It sticks out like Doc from Back to the Future. It takes me an hour to wash it and dry it. I want to cut it off and get a more tomboyish looking haircut. But I'm not allowed to because as a fourteen-year-old girl, I should love my hair and do my best to look like a model, because that is the normal psychology of a fourteen-year-old girl.

My parents tried their best to fix me, and when I resisted, they called me stubborn. They chalked up my resistance not to strength and self-awareness but to my being a teenager who thought she "knew everything". And it wasn't that I didn't try. I tried out Teen magazine in fifth grade. I couldn't get into the articles about the latest teen hunks and fashion tips. As I said, I tried the small talk about the teachers, but it was phony. And it was exhausting. In some ways this isn't terribly different than what poor David Reimer went through when he was growing up. How can you live your life when everything you say and do is subject to scrutiny and judgment?

Or how about what you think? Stay tuned for "Part II- Thoughtcrime". 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

I Want to Know

Like many people with Asperger's Syndrome, I'm not a huge fan of small talk but of ideas. I like to talk about ideas, debate ideas, and wax philosophical about ideas. No idea is too taboo. I just want to know.

I want to know if it is theoretically possible for someone to be able to perceive and see a four-dimensional object. Or, at least, what evolutionary changes would have to take place to make that possible.

I want to know if the universe is actually more than 13.7 billion years old.

I want to know how insects would adapt if a nuclear holocaust destroyed mammals, birds, and other species that couldn't handle radiation. I wonder if they would grow large.

I want to know if there ever will be a way to circumvent the light barrier in order to get to distant parts of the universe. Warp drive, anyone?

I want to know if it is possible to time travel to the past and what would happen if someone killed his grandfather before his grandfather procreated (It's called the "Grandfather Paradox"). 

I want to know what the last moments of life feel like without having to actually die so I could report the experience.

I want to know what would happen if someone were cloned and born 15 years after the original copy's birth and how different that person would be. How about 30 years? 45 years? 100 years? 

I want to know what it's like to be a cat and to think that the world is out to destroy you. And what does my cat think is happening when I put him in his carrier?

I want to know if there is life on other planets and, if so, what their genetic code is.

I want to know how much more productive people would be if sex drive became obsolete. 

I want to know if it's possible to genetically engineer certain harmful herd instincts out of people and, if so, would it be ethical to do so.

I want to know what exact genes and in-utero hormone levels are responsible for producing kids with Asperger's Syndrome as well as kids with more severe autism. What variables would a bioengineer have to twiddle with in order to affect the severity of the autism?

I want to know what exact genes are responsible for a person's hobbies. I want to know how those genes would manifest if that person were born in a different time and place. For example, how would genes that make someone interested in filmmaking have manifested before the invention of film?

I want to know what combination of genes and hormones is responsible for a person's precise location on the gender spectrum.

I want to know-- and experience-- how people who are completely deaf interpret the written language, since they have no point of reference for phonemes. 

I want to know if my perception of red is the same as your perception of red. And yours. And his. And hers. 

I want to know what the brain activity looks like of someone with Asperger's engaging in his/her hobby with a single-minded focus.

An Open Letter to an Ex-Friend

November 20th, 2014

Dear Melanie,

I am not using your real name here, but if you are reading this, you know who you are. 

I hope this letter finds you well. It has been 7 1/2 years since we've spoken last and 9 years since I last saw you. There is something I have long wanted to talk to you about. I would have done it a long time ago had you not stopped answering my emails and stopped taking my telephone calls. Wait a second. Actually, that is what I wanted to talk to you about. 

We met in fall 1992 when we went to the same private school together. I was 12 and in 6th grade, and you were 13 and in 7th grade. We became fast friends because we were both odd, independent kids. I was the odd kid with undiagnosed Asperger's Syndrome, and you were just an odd, independent, and fun kid. Both of our mothers were teachers at the school. After school we hung out in the library while our mothers were at staff meetings. We drew comic strips that would have pissed off our mothers had they seen them, we had sword fights with my mother's Christmas decorations, and we did the Russian Kazatska around the playground just because we thought it was a funny dance.

Then my mother got a new job in the public schools and I couldn't come back to the private school for 7th grade. I'll never forget when I called you to break the news. You were crying hysterically on the phone. You said I was your best friend and you were going to miss me. But we kept in touch. We saw each other several times a year throughout my 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, and 12th grade years. We were still best friends. 

When I packed up and moved to New York City for college in the fall of 1999, you continued to live with your parents in Philadelphia and you commuted to a local university. But we still saw each other a few times a year, including on New Year's Eve, as was the tradition. We also continued our tradition of seeing the latest Disney animated movie together. 

But then in spring 2002 you got a boyfriend. At age 22, he was your first boyfriend because you, like me, were a late bloomer. I was happy for you. I met the guy a few times and I thought he was great. Then your relationship with him became more serious and you talked to me less and less. I figured it was because I was living in New York and you were still in Philadelphia. Besides, you talked about marrying the guy and about how I was going to be at the wedding. The last time we spoke, in 2007, you said that you had set the wedding date for Saturday, August 16th, 2008, if I remember correctly. But as August 2008 approached, I noticed that I never received an invitation to the wedding. I called you and emailed you, not mentioning the wedding but to see how you were doing. I figured during the conversation I could broach the topic of the wedding. But you didn't answer my emails or take my calls.

Why didn't you invite me to the wedding? If you had had a limited budget and could only invite people in the Philadelphia metro area, people who you saw on a regular basis, I would have accepted that. What hurts is not that you didn't invite me to the wedding, but rather you didn't give me an explanation as to why you didn't invite me and, more importantly, why you have continued to shun me to this day. Every once in a while over the past six years I have sent you an email asking you how you are doing, and you haven't responded. Why? Why, after the 16 years that you had known me was I no longer good enough to be your friend?

Perhaps you outgrew me. Yes, you went from getting girlhood crushes to having a serious boyfriend-turned-husband while to this day I still awkwardly struggle with obsessive crushes (mercifully the last one I had was in 2008) like a teenager. You went from laughing at my stupid jokes about my dad being older than your dad (when the reality is that your dad is older than mine) to telling me to "give it a rest." We were both huge fans of Darkwing Duck. But perhaps being a fan of a children's cartoon seemed too juvenile to you as time passed. Hell, maybe I seemed too juvenile to you. Now that you were getting married, you had to "put away childish things", and that included me. Perhaps I was simply beneath you in so many ways.

Or maybe you were afraid that I would say or do something inappropriate and embarrassing at your wedding. So instead of talking to me about it, you did what most neurotypicals do: not confront it and ditch the person. Out of sight, out of mind. Not your problem anymore. You knew I have Asperger's Syndrome, but if you had brought a concern to my attention I would have taken it seriously. But perhaps Asperger's is just too frightening to you and you want nothing to do with it. Oh, and incidentally, I heard through the grapevine that your son is on the autism spectrum. If my Asperger's is a reason for shunning me, I hope the irony isn't lost on you. And I hope you never have to watch your son go through the agony that I've endured for almost seven years: wondering why his best friend for more than half of his life now wants nothing to do with him, having dreams about confronting said person to get answers and closure, and wondering what's wrong with him that would make the other person do this to him.

That is all.

Bittersweet Wishes,


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Thanksgiving and Social Norms

Wow, it's been almost two months since I last posted here. Sorry about that. Whew! There's been a lot going on that I'd rather not get into on a blog connected with my real name, but it does have a lot to do with why I've been silent here lately...

Anyway, with Thanksgiving coming up, I thought I'd write another Asperger's-persepective post about the neurotypical world and how that world manifests on Thanksgiving (or any other major holiday where extended family comes over). One thing I hate about Thanksgiving is how much food there is. Think about it-- we're supposed to be thankful for what we already have, and to celebrate that we overeat? I recently lost a lot of weight and have been trying to keep it under control, and Thanksgiving is one of the most threatening holidays in terms of that. 

Why is there always so much food on Thanksgiving? Why are there usually no fewer than ten different desserts? It's ridiculous. Well, think about it. Even if the person who is hosting Thanksgiving wants to limit the number of desserts, how dare s/he tell the guests not to bring any? It sounds rude and ungrateful to the guests who are being oh, so nice and buying or baking something. On the other hand, guests are expected to bring food or else they're "bad guests" who are taking advantage of the host. Meanwhile, both parties might be thinking about how the overeating will impact their weight, or even that it's just so unnecessary to have so much food. It's just another case of people following social conventions in order to maintain bonds despite their own objections or concerns.

Is it really that rude, when hosting a Thanksgiving, to say, "Hey you know what? It's so silly to overeat on a holiday in which we give thanks for what we already have. It's not healthy to overeat, and a couple people are trying to watch their weight. Why don't we decide on one dessert that we all like and we'll have that?" Is someone who had planned to bring a 1200-calorie-per-slice chocolate cake (yes, we actually had that one year) because social norms dictate that s/he must bring something going to be offended? I highly doubt it. And I bet s/he will be secretly relieved that s/he doesn't have to spend money on it or time baking it. No, really. Why don't we try it? Why don't we buck social norms for a change and be a little more rational?