When I was a child, my parents told me I could be anything I wanted to be. And I wasn’t clever enough to say I wanted to be a tall black man. Or a Sherman tank. And my parents didn’t know I had Asperger’s Syndrome— I wasn’t even diagnosed until after my father’s death.
Aspies tend to be intelligent people. Sometimes we can harness the power of our Special Interests to acquire knowledge and skills that would be highly valuable in the workplace. Yet 80% of people with Asperger’s Syndrome are unemployed.
Sometimes they lose jobs or can’t get hired because of things that wouldn’t apply to me. I could make it through a job interview without having a ‘meltdown’ or behaving in wildly unacceptable ways. But I don’t make eye contact correctly and so people probably think of me as shifty and probably dishonest. Once hired I would have difficulty with some tasks, such as answering phones— I just can’t manage phone conversations with strangers. And I’m not an organized person— People with Asperger’s usually have executive function deficit, which is kind of like having AD/HD as well.
Another thing I can’t do is have friends. I had one best friend in 1st and 2nd grade, and then my family moved out of state. Every friend I had in school and college was a person who would not have considered me a friend but an acquaintance. In the years after college, I had not one friend and the only people who spoke to me were my parents. When I got online, after a few years I discovered a few people I consider friends. At least they sometimes comment on my Facebook posts.
It’s just that I don’t know what to do to signal to people that I want to be their friend. Oh, I’ve had people give me advice (or orders) as to what I had to do to have friends. But all this advice might as well have been given in Chinese. People might say, just be friendly, talk to people. But how do you do that when you are not able to gauge which ‘friendly’ actions are just the right degree of friendly? Wrong actions might make you seem disinterested in friendship, or, worse, creepy and intrusive.
And the worst thing is that sometimes it seems the world around me wants me to spend less time on the things I can do that give me happiness and spend all my time working on somehow developing the skills I don’t have and have not yet been able to learn and perhaps cannot learn. It’s as if they want me to stop being an Aspie, and to become normal at the sound of the magical incantation ‘Behave yourself!’ Moreover, when it comes to family members, they don’t want me to become just ANY normal person. They have a specific person in mind. She’s thinner than me, dresses in pant suits in pastel colors, goes to social occasions chosen by family members willingly, and says all the right things, never mentioning anything a family member would need to correct in mid-sentence. Never being interesting, just obedient. I call this false person ‘Suzette.’ She is not like me. She couldn’t assist a ewe in giving birth to a lamb in the middle of the night with a dying flashlight. She wouldn’t be caught dead in some farmer’s field, inspecting the ‘important parts’ of a breeding ram she was considering buying. I really don’t like Suzette much.
But I do like ME. Sometimes, anyway. And I guess I’m going to keep doing the things I do, like blogging and writing, until I’m too old and feeble to do anything and the government either puts me in a shoddy nursing home or gives me a poison shot. And even in my extreme old age I hope I shall be able to scream an angry haiku and pee on them.
Poem of the Day
still life with autism spectrum disorder
and then there is the
social problem of those
who have selfishly failed
to grow wings
and then they ask
on the ground floor
which they do not in fact need.
all that they need
to grow wings.
Nissa Annakindt, (c) 2011
Included in my poetry chapbook ‘surly petunia.’
Amazon (99 cents): http://www.amazon.com/Surly-Petunia-Nissa-Annakindt-ebook/dp/B00NZ96EYE
Smashwords (free): https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/480237
This expresses the frustration of a person with a ‘invisible’ disability in the situation where the authority figures expect him to do the impossible (‘grow wings’) in order to be allowed to ‘fit in.’
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