Being single has its advantages, but it also entails many Q&A, and I don’t score well in Q&A – basically, unless the questions are concise, I may misinterpret it and result in giving irrelevant answers.
I am not looking to date. I mean, the idea of falling in love and being in love is nice, but if there is anything that I learn from the previous relationship, it would be that a man who fails to take the effort to see and appreciate me for whom I am, should not deserve me.
So, the ‘not-your-usual kind’ of pre-requisites to date an Aspie girl (seriously, are we going to wrestle around the use of the word ‘girl’ in this context? I am a girl in a woman’s body!) is that the Primary Key requirement is:
1. Read ‘Pretending to be Normal‘ first
2. Read other materials relating to Asperger’s, such as Safety Skills for Asperger Women (Traits and experiences written by Liane Holliday Willey are impeccably relevant to my own)
Asperger’s falls in the grey area of the autism spectrum. We look normal, and for some of us, we excel in performance at work and studies exceedingly – sometimes accomplishing more than the neurotypical.
The challenges that we face and cope with on a daily basis are frivolously ignored and disregarded by our fellow neurotypical friends. It’s a slippery slope thinking process (aka faulty thinking) – I look normal; therefore I am normal; I am normal, therefore I must behave normal; I behave normal, therefore Asperger’s is not real.
Fall in Love
Falling in love with the neurotypical man is a challenge on its own. They try to ‘fix’ me, teach me to be normal, coach me to improve. See, that is the time bomb waiting to explode. When they try to fix me, they harbor false hope that I can be normal some day.
The truth is, we don’t get better, we don’t recover. We just cope – that simply means, the traits never go away, we just try to work around it to suit the neurotypical friends and partner. We can learn to cope better, but that is all we could do. We cope; coping on an everyday basis, is mentally exhausting.
Love and Patience Wear Out
He was attracted to the witty girl and her quirks were refreshing, he was curious and intrigued by her qualities and possibly eccentricities. Years passed. The girl with the unique characteristics and personality traits never get better like he expected or hoped. Even the professed love and patience are not enough to see the journey through. In the end, people always do the easier thing – changing the ‘faulty’ partner. Only that, life is fair in some way, the ‘normal’ new partner can be full of new normal problems.
Learning About Asperger’s
Therefore, it’s of paramount importance that whoever wants to date another person with Asperger’s must at least WANT to know about this condition. My previous date never once tried to read up the books that I have.
The misconception is that people think we choose to be what we are. They think we choose not to socialize – and that is true, because socializing can be emotionally draining and painful. They think we don’t try hard enough to improve on our socializing skills.
Socializing skills come naturally for the neurotypical like breathing. They must think, ‘who can’t socialize, and if they don’t socialize well, they can always learn, just be flexible, and in no time, they will be a pro!’.
I was trying to make a good friend understand Asperger’s, but it has proven to be a very lonely process. It’s as though we were walking on parallel tracks where there is no meeting point; before, during, and possibly the future. I realized that as much as I enjoy aloneness, this journey has always been lonely.
What It’s Like
The closest I could even try to describe in simple sentences would be that it’s like playing a game with the foreign language instructions. We learn to recognize and memorize the strokes of the alien looking words by heart so that we can choose the right tools/selection to get us through the game.
See, it’s the same for me in socializing. I learn by heart and apply the responses and behaviors by matching with previously learned examples and experiences. This gets better with time – that is why, many matured Aspies do not get diagnosed because they have learned to work around the challenges, and minimize social activities, so, they cope, not cured.
Similar to the game, when the game characters converse with one another, the text is in the foreign language (when I say, foreign, I mean foreign, there is no learning, a learned foreign language is a familiar language). For most of the times, I couldn’t fully enjoy the game and miss most of fun and jokes even. I just wait for my ‘turn’ to make the next move. When I was younger, I didn’t always know when I was supposed to respond while everyone waited; that earned me a social badge that read ‘slow’.
It can be frustrating, probably derived from the cold loneliness knowing that except for the same kind, the majority group may never understand.
They mean well when they try to teach me ‘how’ to get better. It’s equally sad that I know one day, I will fail the expectation because I don’t get better. I will have to pretend to be normal because the minority is expected to accommodate.
An example is when I was a child. My smarter older sister tried to teach me Mathematics, she taught me the short-cuts to derive at the same answer quicker. I don’t do short-cuts, unless at my pace. I have difficulty in understanding problems or anything at all without a process. My sister was so angry with me, she cried and scolded me of being stubborn. That was the last time she taught me anything.
Even the Professionals Lack Empathy and Knowledge
I can’t say for sure it this only applies to Singaporean professionals, but there is definitely room (like super huge room!) for improvement in training these people to be more empathetic and expand their scale of knowledge.
The GP who I saw to get a referral for a diagnosis gave a funny tone (yes, when you are as matured as I am, and watched as many movies/tv as I do, you learn to pick up unfriendly tone in voices too) and asked, ‘what’s the point?’.
The psychologist who I saw was amazed at how ‘successful’ I am in running my own business and being independent. I am ‘coping’ so well, he said. He too asked the ‘what’s the point’ question.
These people, didn’t bother for a second to imagine that what they have naturally and probably take for granted, is what I have to compensate for. I wake, and I ‘rehearse’ in my head of the various social situations that I can preempt for the day; while they spend this same amount of time thinking of what branded bag or golf clubs they are planning to buy after smacking the Aspie girl down with an insensitive remark.
There is no cure for Asperger’s, but only if you even know a tiniest fraction of my life, closure is the closest comfort I could get. So, don’t ever ask me what’s the point, the point is, you don’t get to ask that question until you live a life like mine.
The Imaginary Safe Harbor
I haven’t asked other Aspies, so, I can only speak for myself.
For the longest time, I wish there was a safe harbor for me. A person who truly understands, who will never want to fix me, who will never expect me to be better, who will try to see the tremendous effort I am putting in.
Sadly, what I take away from the previous relationship is that I may never be able trust anyone. I may never be comfortable in getting too close with the neurotypical friends. Eventually, I fail to meet their expectations, in the end, they take the easier route out to replace me with a ‘normal’ partner/friend, even if she is lesser than I am.
There may be only one safe harbor – solitude.
The pre-requisites seem rather redundant now, don’t they? Until the guy finds me worthy of their time and effort, I will not date anymore.
It is not about how deeply I have been hurt by the previous relationship; it is the epiphany that I am eternally grateful for.