I sometimes go to IHOP to write. This sounds counterproductive due to the noise level and being interrupted by waitstaff, but in reality, it’s very comfortable. When I was in college, IHOP became a place of comfort for me. There would be whole groups of us that would gather there late in the evenings (and often into the morning) playing the question game, actually interacting, and being 100% genuine. There wasn’t a lot of judgment at that IHOP. More likely, it was because the atmosphere of a college town where there are competing colleges with competing theological ideologies allowed for an ambiance of honest communication to truly develop.
It was a special time in my life and the only time (prior to knowing about my ASD) that I felt totally comfortable being myself.
Back to the IHOP at present.
When I left yesterday, after completing the Coffee Share, I walked past this table with a family of six. The husband and the two boys were all on devices. One boy was watching a movie or a YouTube video (I didn’t investigate), and the other was playing a video game of some sort (looked like War Dragons… my roommate’s kid plays that and regularly gives me in depth details about the game… whether I want them or not!). The father was on Facebook or checking email.
Meanwhile, the wife was working with her two daughters on the color/puzzle pages on the back of the kid’s placemats. When I saw that, I realized that I would never find a perfect example of the differences between men and women ever.
Women are very social creatures. We just are. Men, on the other hand, are goal oriented. That’s not to say that men don’t have social interactions, because they very much do, but their purpose for the social interaction is to achieve a goal of some sort. They don’t talk just to talk.
I think that may have been part of my confusion with the Last Guy. We told stories to each other, personal, private stories about who we are as people, and about family. Since I understand that guys don’t just talk to talk, the sharing of intimate details serves a purpose, and I was certain the purpose was because there was something special there.
My frustration came (before the accident) because it was important for him that I know that there wasn’t anything special there. His need to insist that it all meant nothing, was infuriating. There were so many things that he did that suggested otherwise, and what was the purpose? If men do things for a purpose, then the purpose was just to get physical intimacy, and yet me saying such a thing was insulting.
Why not just call a spade a spade?
I still don’t understand why I am at fault for believing that there was something special there, and then being seen further at fault for being absolutely heartbroken at his insistence that it all meant nothing.
But that isn’t what this post was supposed to be about.
The point of this post is that women, unlike men, are social creatures, even those of us who are deemed not normal.
In trying to figure out what Asperger’s and Autism means to me, I kept reading about how difficult it is to detect in women because we mimic other’s behavior and take on other personalities in order to blend in. There are some men who do it, too, but women need to be accepted socially on some sort of basic level, so we mask our autistic symptoms, which as it stands, are mostly related to social interaction. We tend to do it naturally.
I know I did.
I made all these excuses up in my head for why I did it before I knew about Asperger’s or understood what Autism actually was. I’d tell myself it’s because I am adopted and don’t look like my family, so I would use my personality to fit in by mimicking people.
And I’m so good at it, that now it’s hard to not do it when I meet new people. The exceptions are when I’m anxious (like meeting last week’s Face-eating date), or when I’ve made a very conscious choice to be myself, and even then I sometimes catch myself falling into the old routine of being ingenuine through mimicry.
Do I think those little girls at the table were autistic because they were deeply engaged in a social activity with their mother? Absolutely not. But, I will say that since I’ve gotten my diagnosis, I feel like I see traits in places that I wouldn’t have even thought to look at before.
For instance, a friend of mine asked me about her daughter twirling her hair. She thought maybe it was a stim. The girl is really young, and she’ll twirl it into total knots, apparently. I haven’t witnessed this behavior. In fact, the little girl is completely neurotypical, as far as I can tell: She’s very social and curious and has a full range of facial expressions.
Her mother (my friend), however, doesn’t. Her intonation is rather measured, like I notice mine is sometimes when I’m too tired to wear my mask, and she’s excruciatingly blunt!
She once accused me of being confrontational because she would interrupt me to tell me what I was doing instead of letting me say my thought in it’s full syllogistic format, and my response was to get frustrated with her. She said she could see that I didn’t want to hear what she had to say because I was getting mad. I informed her, that no I was frustrated because she wouldn’t let me finish my thought and she seemed to be very condescending in the way she was talking to me as she was telling me what I was thinking.
A few minutes after I left (angry because I’d never been allowed to complete my thought), she called and texted to explain to me that her husband sometimes says she is rude to him, too. That, I can relate to, and suddenly her interest in Asperger’s made more sense to me.
When I’m frustrated or too tired to keep trying to fit in, sometimes people tell me I’m rude or stand offish. In fact, one of the reasons I’d started hanging out with my Geek group less (a long while ago) was because the one person who I really considered a good friend in that group told me that I had been scaring people off by being standoffish.
We were at a trivia event, and several of the people were not paying attention to the trivia. Not only were they not paying attention to the trivia, but they were disrupting other patrons of the bar we were in. This upset me plenty, but I knew it would be considered rude to say something, so I let it go (as best I could).
But then some of them would joke with me when I didn’t know them. I didn’t know how to react to them, so they got my stone face, and it apparently offended them.
This was also before I got my diagnosis. I wanted to be social, but I was frustrated with the people, and I didn’t know them. That event became less and less comfortable for me. The less comfortable I was, the more withdrawn I became, but because certain members of the group knew me when I was at my fun, fully interactive self, the way they interacted with me gave the rude people whom I didn’t know the idea that they could act similarly, and it wasn’t okay for me.
If I’m honest, that was the last time I was truly comfortable with that group, with a few obvious exceptions. One guy in particular has been a pretty constant friend throughout it all, but I think that time is done, too.
So what is the point? I think the point is that if I’d been a guy, while, yeah, some people would have seen the behavior as odd, it still wouldn’t have been seen as such a horrible thing. I wanted to play trivia, and I didn’t like that people who didn’t know me were joking with me in a way I was uncomfortable with, but because I was a girl who had a reputation of being warm and welcoming, suddenly I was being chastised for being standoffish.
Whereas, had I been a guy, simply not laughing at a joke I didn’t think was funny wouldn’t be considered standoffish. And the guys in the group that suffer from social anxiety are never told to interact or smile more…
Because girls are social creatures who hide our differences as best we can to fit in, it sometimes means that people don’t see our struggles. Worse, it means that when we do let our struggles show, we’re chastised for it, or treated like we’ve done something wrong for finally being ourselves.
I don’t think that’s where I was originally going with this post, but that doesn’t make it any less true.