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11:37 a.m. - 2012-01-25
Aspie 101- a short survey course.

I had to stop working almost as soon as I got started this morning. In doing some research I stumbled onto yet another of those, "Golly, gee whiz, those Asperger's people are amazing and quirky fun!" articles. The kind that make me shriek like a pterodactyl and yank at my hair in frustration.

Look, I'm not saying Aspies aren't worthy of the respect any living being is, of course they are. I love my sons. The ex can drop off the edge of the Earth and I'll do a jig, but I truly liked one of his brothers and miss him sometimes. The other brother, though, was second only to his big brother (the ex) in being a maddening pain in the ass. Husband, sons, brothers-in-law, Aspies, the whole crew of them, over the last 30 years I've dealt with every flavor and degree of Asperger's there is. And not one smitch of it has been quirky fun.

The romanticized view of the outsiders is doing such a disservice to those who live with, work with, and have to raise Aspies. And to some extent this myth-making is harmful to the Aspies themselves. They're not fucking Hobbits, Aspies are people with mild to severe emotional deficits and social handicaps. For the most part they live in a world of roaring sensory overload and do their best to cope by imposing rigid routine and self-soothing order on everything. They live in a universe of their own making not because they are fey delightful folk here from the Land of the Offbeat, but because that's how they deal.

I'll tell you something else, something key. Their universes are universes built for one. There are no other chairs at the table of the Aspie Mad Hatter tea party. Aspies exist only to themselves. They are as bereft of the concept of emotional reciprocity as Lady Godiva was of clothing. Aspies only see, hear and interact with others to get what they want. There's no shame in this lopsided equation, no guilt, there's a gaping hole where things like charity, kindness, and caring usually go and Aspies truly don't give a shit who they hurt to get their way. The idea of anyone else even having needs is ridiculous to them. Aspies are fueled and controled solely by the Id.

Oh, they can learn. Aspies are hell on wheels about rules. The nice ex-BIL I mentioned? At age 19 he taught himself to smile. He'd finally figured out that his habitual deadpan made other people uncomfortable. So he spent some time observing others and learning the prompts and cues of situations where a social smile was required and then he spent 6 months practicing in the mirror until he mastered the art of the pleasant expression and the smile. He wasn't any more interested in people and what they were saying than he had been before. Nope, he learned to smile and seem interested because it served his own needs. The social smile was a means to an end. He needed lab partners, he needed a job, he wanted to get laid. And ain't none of those things coming his way without his putting on a grin. He understood he had to pay the ante to play the game. At age 19 he'd finally cracked one of the codes of being a social animal and understood that the smile, the "Hi, how are you?", that looking at the person speaking to him was the coin of the realm when it came to getting others to give him what he wanted. It was a straight up barter. He smiles and pretends to listen and he gets the job, the study notes, and the girl.

In many ways we ALL do this kind of bargaining. Our needs aren't so very different from the Aspies'. The major difference is most of us 'neuro-typical' folk have the need to give back. We enjoy it and it's almost as necessary to us as the getting. Asperger's people don't have that. Some figure it out, like ex-BIL and Wolf. They discover they like the goodies that come with giving back. They like being approved of and hugged and welcomed. The give and take of being a social person is a reasonably fair trade to them. But most don't. They're indifferent to it. The human connection isn't a priority. They get what they need from their own stuff- baseball cards, YouTubes, statistics, knowing every single stinking thing about Pullman cars from the 1940s. Whatever. And romanticizing their indifference and isolation is wrong. The Aspie guy who spends 17 years building a detailed working model of the Cathedral at Chartres isn't waiting for someone to come and admire it and join him in his medieval stained glass wonder. Far from it. It's his thing and his alone. And he likes it that way. He's not gagging for praise and positive reviews and attention. You come near his cathedral and he'll probably bitch you out. Or even bite you if that's what it takes to get you to leave him and it alone. So tell me, what exactly is romantic and quirkily fun here?

Do I have a degree in clinical psychology and a doctorate in autism studies? Nope. But if hands-on experience and 30 years of observation, work and heartbreak count for anything then I definitely qualify as something of an expert. If I had this much time in and experience with wiring and junction boxes I'd be a fricken master electrician and president of the union.

Aspies do NOT care what you want. They don't give a warm handful of bile about how they look to other people either. Their indifference is genuine and hard-wired into their very being. They are not lonely princes waiting for rescue. They are not amiable goofballs whose other-directedness is a charming way of marching to the different drummer and they are NOT longing for others to join their parade. If somewhere along the way they understand themselves to be lonely and hurt they still will absolutely NOT feel they are the ones who need to change. Instead the resentment over how bad others treat them builds and builds and they feel completely justified in striking out and punishing those who will not serve them as they feel they should be served. The idea of owing any debt or taking any responsibility for how their behavior effects those around them is at best a hilarious joke. Why won't the world understand that they and they alone are the ONLY ones who matter? Good god, isn't it obvious?

That's the mystery and fricken romance behind the way Aspies behave as they do.

Are we having fun yet? ~LA

4 Wanna talk about it!

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