(I’ve been off the page for a couple of months and feeling guilty, so I’ll try and make a bit more effort.)
Perhaps I should have called this Why I’m no good at friendship, but that would have a one word answer. And I have had friendships, but they ended usually with me knowing something went wrong, but unable to understand why it was such a terrible offence or what to do to apologise.
Social interaction is a minefield where I often don’t realise I’ve just been blown up, or if I do, I limp on, confused and anxious but with no idea how to turn things around. People get angry with me, or they misinterpret my intentions. Men in particular make statements like ‘you’re too complex’ or ‘you know about lots of things’ or ‘you do so much‘, and I know that they don’t mean it in a good way, but I don’t know why those things are bad things, or how to hide them if they are. And I don’t know why I should be expected to conceal them.
Thinking back over the conversations I’ve had over the last couple of weeks, the subjects have raged from Kant and deontology, the St Helens eruption, the edge of the universe (where time and space are created), Caravaggio, pain response in animals, particle physics, patriarchy and kyriarchy, DNA testing…. and that’s just the stuff I remember. Maybe it’s because, like many Auties, I view a conversation as an exchange of information. I like conversations where you talk about stuff. I don’t mind messing around with jokes and innuendo, or hearing about someone’s relationship issues, or last holiday, but I can’t have endless conversations about those things.
I like to know what the other person knows, if they have an interest I share, and if they know things I don’t. But I wish I had friends who were able to say enough, you’re on Autie overload, when I’m saying too much and they want me to stop. I wish they could understand that I don’t mean to bore and irritate them. I wish they could do this rather than waiting until I’ve annoyed them and then being angry with me, or avoiding me.
This is much more evident now I’m trying to settle in one place. I should have moved on two years ago; for the first time in my adult life I’m having to deal with people knowing me long enough to realise that the annoying things I do aren’t just slip-ups, they’re an integral part of who I am. I have had the chance to set up a house the way I want it, and it’s not what most people expect. I’m just as awkward socially as I was at the first Christmas party. I forget people’s names or fail to recognise them just as often as I did in my first months of working here.
On the up side, it’s easier to be alone in a rural area. That was brought home to me on my trip to Brisbane last weekend (to fail an exam). Walking past restaurants in the evening, full of couples, families and groups of friends, and knowing that’s a life I’ll never lead was a familiar feeling, but one I’d mostly forgotten about.
It’s easier to live life when you’re not constantly having your nose rubbed in that kind of thing.
Problem is, as a single woman of a certain age, slightly awkward and occasionally (!) socially clumsy, saying these things automatically labels you a sad spinster-type, desperately in need of a fuck. Women reassure you that the right person will come along one day, and men get a rabbit-in-headlights expression of oh, shit, she’s coming on to me. Every single time.
[With the exception of the men who assume that a couple of conversations in which they treat you like a human being means you are obliged to offer sex, because who are you to be picky?]
I’m trying to be open about being an Autie. I’m not sure what difference it makes, because if I tell people at the beginning they don’t believe me, and if I wait until I’ve messed up a few times they dismiss it as an excuse. But since my diagnosis I’ve had to accept that there are things I can’t do, things I will never understand, things that won’t improve. I have started to see how this makes a friendship with me more difficult than with a normal person, all the adjustments that someone has to make for me. And it’s a disability that’s extremely difficult to understand from the outside. Hell, many of us on the inside are still learning about it.
I don’t just have to ask someone to be a friend, I have to ask them to learn about the complexities of a neurodevelopmental condition. I have to ask them to help shield me from aspects of the world I don’t understand. They will end up having to explain me to other people, smooth over misunderstandings, respond to me in ways that seem illogical to them. I will have to trust that they care about me even when I am at my most distressed, that they want me to keep trying when it would be less effort to walk away, that they will never let me be pushed out by other, easier friendships.
And it’s too much to ask. Sooner or later it is always too much. Since I will inevitably end up back where I started, with an irritated or angry ex-friend walking away, is there any point in starting over?