Dating

I have not dated very much lately, I’ve had 3 dates in the last 10 years. I keep telling myself that I will start dating once I figure out my life and get more stable, but that is something that will never happen either. I dated some in high school, but those all ended badly too, for reasons I will not go into yet. I have been told that dating me was like ‘dating a wall’, or that I never kissed back in the right way, or that I never initiated anything, or that I took too long to reply. After a fair amount of failures, I think it’s pretty safe to give up on something like dating. Plus, there are so many things to do that are more interesting than dating.

I recently decided to, as the old saying goes, “put myself out there” and try dating someone. I finally feel like my life is stable and ready enough to try and be in a relationship. Or, more truthfully, I realized that things will never be fully ready as much as I would like them to be. So I am wasting my time by waiting for things to be perfect, that will never happen. I also am tired of seeing everyone else around me be happy and surrounded by people they love. I feel sick and awful when I am alone now, which is something that is really new. I used to love being alone with my thoughts, but now I can’t stand that feeling. I genuinely want to be around people, at least people that I respect and enjoy. That is a strange new feeling for me.

So for those reasons, I decided to try and find a date. I was surprised that within a day, I had started up a conversation with someone and they seemed awesome! I was so excited and nervous to meet them finally. I set up our first date a few days later and then realized that I was so totally not ready for this. I was so nervous the day of the date that I was close to calling it off. I felt that there was no way they would possibly be able to like me, I mean most of the time I can barely tolerate myself, so the thought of someone else choosing to and enjoying being around me is still surprising. But I persevered and went to the first date.

It went very well, I am proud to say. I had a great time, which surprised me. I realized that like most of the problems I face, it was all in my head. Once I get out there and do something, I do it well.

I made the difficult decision that I needed to tell this person about my autism. I have made a lot of mistakes in the past while dating, and I can ascribe almost every single one of them to my autism. So, I thought that maybe by telling them, they would be patient with me and maybe understand. I told them, and they said they knew nothing about it but that they would look it up. I don’t think they have yet.

A few days later, we met up again, and they were unhappy with me for not replying to their texts fast enough. I had to work really hard not to start yelling. First of all, it should never matter if someone replies to a text ‘fast enough’, that is such an asinine millennial comment. I prefer to, you know, live my life and do things, rather than spend my time staring at a plastic screen waiting for people to send me messages. Which rules out about ¾ of the dating pool it seems, because everyone seems to be controlled by their phones.

Instead of giving that rant, I explained that the way my brain works is to focus on what I am doing. If I am focused on something, I can’t very well pick up my phone and suddenly reply to a random text about something else, and then switch back my previous task. I have learned that I am very bad at multitasking. Especially if I am working around children, and the distraction is something lewd and not child-friendly, then things do not go well. So I tried to reason that, but got nowhere. They were oblivious still.

As I got to know this person more, I got less interested in them. All they seemed to do was go to work and then go home to watch Netflix. They had no real hobbies, or interests, or passions, or cares. I have no respect for people like that, and quite frankly, see no reason to waste my time with them. I feel that as a human, we have a strong need to be three-dimensional. By that I mean that we need to have things that we do, things that excite us, things that we enjoy, things that make us learn and grow. If we are not doing those things, then we are not living well. I can’t tolerate people who don’t find and seek out those things, people who just meek out an existence and survive. That is not interesting to me at all, because I don’t believe that is the way we are meant to live.

So, I got less interested in my ‘date’, and eventually reached the point where I realized I didn’t care about them at all. I was terrified to break up with them though, because I felt that they were a good match for me. I am a difficult person, and they were able and willing to put up with that. Furthermore, they liked me a lot and appreciated most of my quirks. I had a few days where I thought about ‘settling’ and dealing with a relationship where I didn’t respect the other person. That was a weird feeling that I have no logical explanation for. Still not quite sure where that came from, but luckily it went away.  I ended the relationship because I realized that it had been two weeks since I saw them, and had no desire to do so. In a rare moment of clarity, I had the courage to call it off.

I learned a lot from that relationship, about myself and about dating. I learned that honesty is always the best thing to do. Not that I didn’t know that before, but I reaffirmed it. I know that telling them about myself was the right thing to do, and I will do that next time (if there is one).

More importantly, I learned that I am, in fact, capable of dating. Which is surprising to me too. I also learned that I can end a relationship on my own. That was the first time that I have ever broken up with someone, and it didn’t destroy me like I thought it would. I don’t really have any regrets from that experience, I am glad that I tried dating. Maybe I will try it again someday.

 

 

Eye Contact

I think that looking into someone’s eyes is creepy. I tend to distrust people who look into my eyes too much. If eyes are the window to your soul, as the old saying goes, then why should others be expected to look into your window? What if I want to put up some blinds? What if there are some areas of my soul that I don’t want someone else to see right away?

I feel that looking someone directly in the eyes is overpowering. There is a lot of ‘energy’ that gets sent back and forth when making eye contact with someone. I don’t really know how to describe it, I am trying my best, but a lot of these things are just so fundamental there that they are impossible to describe. It feels like if I asked you to describe what the word ‘what’ means, or asked you to describe the feeling of your ring finger as compared to the feeling of your middle finger.

I have a really hard time making eye contact for a sustained time. Sure, I can force myself to do it when I know that I am supposed. But you can force yourself to do anything for a short amount of time. Those who have met me have probably noticed that I am not very good at eye contact. I can do the whole handshake with direct eye contact thing, mainly because I know it is an old tradition. Beyond that, I don’t like it and I usually avoid it.

I have learned that you are supposed to maintain eye contact while having a conversation, so I typically try to avoid those sorts of conversations. I usually try to have conversations while doing some activity, because then there are no expectations about eye position. If I am talking to someone while working on a project, then suddenly I can focus on the conversation rather than on trying to maintain an appropriate amount of eye contact. I know that doesn’t make much sense, because usually doing something would distract you from the conversation. But I have the opposite problem. If I am sitting and staring at someone and trying to have a conversation, then I am hopelessly distracted. I have to then focus on looking at them the acceptable amount of time, on not making weird facial expressions randomly (which is alarmingly difficult for some reason), on not fidgeting too much, and I have to focus a lot on making sure that I do not appear to be doing any of those things. You have to make it look natural and easy otherwise people think you don’t like to talk to them.

I also have noticed that when talking to other people on the spectrum, there is none of that pressure. They also do not like eye contact, and I have had entire conversations without any eye contact. Those have been some of the most beautiful conversations ever. Without eye contact, I feel free to actually say things and express things.

I like to have conversations in groups because then I can switch my eyes around and not get distracted, and it also means that I have more time to process what everyone is saying. That extra processing time is hugely important, because then I don’t say stupid things at the wrong time and sound like an idiot.

A few months ago, I went to a weekend training for work. We were in a very small group the whole weekend, so we got to spend a lot of time together. The man leading the training was interesting, a very old-fashioned kind of guy. He made direct and constant eye contact the entire time and it was horrible. I was so distracted by his intense eye contact that I could not listen to a word he said. I kept looking away from him just so that I could breathe and stay alive. It felt as though he was a monster who was draining my soul away by looking in my eyes. He was a very amiable man, but this eye contact was killing me. At the end of the weekend, he took us aside individually for a feedback session. He told me that I needed to work on focusing more and maintaining better eye contact. He said that I seemed to be bored and looked untrustworthy. I was so close to screaming and punching my way into a jail cell, I could not believe that he was going to call me out on that shit. Who does he think he is? He was not there to talk about that kind of thing at all, he was there to train us on kayak safety. I managed to leave calmly, but it took a lot of effort.

I read that not making eye contact is one of the diagnostic criteria used, and that they have studied very young kids and monitored their eye movements while showing them pictures of people. Typically, the children will gravitate quickly towards the eyes. Kids with autism will instead wander around the face, pausing at random features, and maybe eventually get to the eyes. That was one of the most painful articles I have ever read because it is depressingly accurate. Anytime that I see a picture or a movie, I do that exact same thing. I will stare at their hair, their teeth, their eyebrows, pretty much anything other than the eyes. I often look at their mouths, which is apparently also very common. I don’t really know why this one feature upsets me so much, but it does. Maybe it is because I watch a lot of TV and movies and I catch myself doing it constantly, so it serves as a constant reminder that I am different. It is enough to take me out of whatever I was watching and make me feel really sad and awful about myself. It’s probably also because I think way too much about it and that stresses me out too.

Apologies for the darker ending there. I am not really sure of any good advice to give out on this topic. Eye contact is weird and I think it is a terrible social custom that we should get rid of. I think many people on the spectrum will agree with me on that account.

Holidays are the Worst

I have not made a post for a while on here. I am not abandoning the site, I just haven’t had the time or energy to write very much lately. I have a lot of half-baked ideas that I hope to finish soon and get out in a few weeks when I have some free time again. I am also planning to turn this into a book sometime later. I have always wanted to write a book, and feel like an autobiography would be perfect, since most people don’t like to hear my stories now they can read them! (Today’s dark sarcasm is brought to you by a lack of sleep)

But, this post was seasonal, so I needed to get it out in time.

Holidays are the worst. I have never liked any of the holidays. I have spent years trying to think of why exactly I can’t stand them, and have gotten nowhere. My family is very strange, and I am not very close to them at all. But both of those are fairly standard for a lot of other families. Why do I have such a strong aversion to holidays?

Ever since I can remember, I have begged my mom to skip out on holidays and family gatherings. I would pretend to be sick, or get sick intentionally to avoid them. I would come up with any and every excuse imaginable to get out of going. I still do that today too. I have a habit of trying to plan my vacations to conveniently avoid holidays.

I know from experience that holidays are not that bad, but it doesn’t matter. I hate them so much. My family is rude and loud and offensive, but I am too so that doesn’t bother me. They are usually fairly nice, I think they like me too. The conversations aren’t usually that awkward, sometimes I even have a good time. And yet, I dread the mere thought of going there so much that it keeps me from sleeping the day before.

After much more introspection, I think this is a trapezium-related thing too. I feel like I should be close to my family, but I am not. I am close to my mom, dad, and my grandmother. The rest of my family doesn’t even know what I do for a job. I see them a few times a year, and they almost never ask me questions about myself. Every time I am around them I feel like an awkward outsider who is supposed to be in the click but isn’t. I think this might be some of the reason why I don’t like holidays. I see them all laughing and sharing stories and having fun, but I don’t really understand how to participate in that, nor do I really want to. My family is not the best of role models, and I have very little respect for most of them. They are not particularly bright people, they are not very courageous, they do not do great things with their careers, and they simply eke out an average to below average way of life. And that bores me to tears. I see no reason why I would be friends with them or have any particular reason to talk to them, other than the random fact that we happen to share genetic material.

I know that family is supposed to be hugely important, but they just aren’t to me. They are just people who happened to come from the same spawn point. There is not really anything that should make you have a strong loving connection with them. My love and loyalty are to those who have supported me and raised me, which is not my relationship with most of my family. So they seem like weirdly distant people that are somehow supposed to be close.

I try again and again to be close to them and to get a stronger relationship, but I fail at it every time. And I know that they see me failing at that as well. I don’t know how to rectify that, and I kind of don’t feel like trying. At one point, a few years ago, I had a master plan that I was going to move to a new place far away and start a new life there. If I lived far away, then I would never have to worry about being awkward or having to show up on the holidays. I almost went through with that plan, but I am so terrified of moving that I dropped it.

Furthermore, holidays themselves are really dumb and that annoys me a lot. Easter is supposed to be the day that Jesus returned from the dead (yay Zombie Savior!) and that is great and all. But do you really have to be reminded of that every year? It seems to me that if you have a modicum of faith in God, then you should remember his awesome works for longer than a year. I say this as a Christian myself, but I just despise holidays. They seem to be geared towards people with short term memory loss, which I do not have. I don’t need to reminded of things over and over, and in fact that makes me irrationally angry.

On top of that, Easter has some of the dumbest traditions of all. Jesus is back from the dead, so let’s celebrate by having a bunny hide eggs filled with candy?? Seriously? There are so many things wrong with that picture. Bunnies don’t lay eggs, eggs aren’t filled with candy, and neither of those have anything to do with Jesus. The date of Easter every year is set based on a pagan calendar, which is ridiculous in itself. The Christians came over and killed a large number of the pagans and then stole their traditions and their holiday planning schedule. What the hell guys?

As a side note, this kind of thing is why I am great to have at parties. I talk like this a lot in real life, and for some reason people seem to get angry with me. (That was sarcasm). I am aware that things like that make me an ‘asshole’ and I have learned not to share them with most people. But, you are not most people, so I can share anything I want.

Wearing Masks

I have been doing a lot of thinking lately about how to interact with people. I have noticed that I have a lot of unique tendencies when it comes to this kind of thing, which is not really surprising. One of the first ones I started to notice that I do constantly is wearing ‘masks’.

I don’t like masks, but I think they are a necessity for surviving in a society of other people. When I was young, I heard the saying that “A wise man adapts himself for the situation” or something like that. It made sense. I could tell that the way you were supposed to act around teachers and the way you acted around your friends were supposed to be different. I also noticed pretty early that the way I wanted to act was not the correct way to act according to other people. So I needed to come up with some way to rectify that.

I started thinking in terms in masks. If I am going to school, I can put on the school mask. The school mask is a way to remind me of what is allowed and what is not allowed and it somewhat controls my actions. I don’t really visualize this as a mask or anything physical, but more like a feature that I add on myself. Because, as a side note, I mostly think of myself as a thought that has a loose connection to some weird physical body. This is why I hate pictures of myself and looking at mirrors, it never matches who I think I am or what I think I look like. So anyways, the masks are like a filter that I push everything I do through.

Over the years I have developed many more masks that I change throughout the day or depending on the setting. Often, putting on the appropriate mask for the day is the hardest part of the day.

Most of the time, I use the ‘child mask’ because I work with children. The ‘child mask’ has some pretty strict rules on it, obviously. There is no cussing, no inappropriate conversation, no weird comments (that one I need refine a little bit), and so on. It also dictates behavioral things like don’t touch the kid, don’t stare at them for too long and that sort of thing that most everyone else just kind of does naturally. But for me, I have to have a reminder.

I also have the ‘adult mask’ which is used when I am around adults and not children. This one allows for cussing, but only in strongly emotional situations or as part of a joke. This mask allows for some inappropriate conversation, but not much.

There is the ‘friend mask’ which is used for general friends. This mask allows for things like sarcasm (the intentional kind), teasing, more jokes that sort of thing. It also allows for more deep conversations and some topics that are previously forbidden.

Then I have the ‘close friend’ mask which is only really shared with a few select people. This mask allows basically anything. With this mask on, I am completely open and free and will talk about anything. I don’t think I have ever worn this mask while in public. It seems way to scary, kind of like going to the store naked. I can’t be that exposed.

I also have the ‘public mask’ which I use anytime I go into public. This one limits cussing, stops personal conversations, limits sarcasm and dark comments, controls somewhat for anger and sadness, and stops me from doing too much stimming (most of the time at least).

But these masks are also more than just a list of protocols that I need to follow. These masks serve as a defense to protect me from the harshness of the world. The world is a pretty awful place out there, and I very rarely feel safe or at rest in it. But if I can hide behind a mask, then I can pretend to feel safe.

I use masks a lot of the time to project how I am ‘supposed’ to be feeling or acting at times when I cannot genuinely feel that way. I use it as a way to compensate for my shortcomings. For example, if I have to do something totally new to me or something that I have no idea how to do (which still happens daily), then I can put on a mask that lets me pretend that I know exactly what I am doing. I can convince other people of that much more easily than I can convince myself.

One of my greatest fears is that all of the mask process is destroying who I really am. I spend all of my time hiding behind a mask out of necessity and not knowing any other way to get by in the ‘real world’. I hate that it feels dishonest, because I think that dishonesty is one of the worst things that we can do as people. I spend so much time with a mask on, that I don’t really even remember what it is like to not wear one. I feel sometimes like I have lost who I am underneath all the masks, or sometimes that I have never discovered who I really am.

Over the past few years, I have been making an effort to wear fewer masks. Maybe it is because I have done a lot of growing up and maturing, maybe it is because I have stopped caring as much what people think about me, or maybe it’s because I am closer to who I am meant to be, I don’t really know. But I have stopped trying to hide myself. I have allowed myself to be much more vulnerable and much more honest with those around me. And that has been one of the best feelings I can imagine. It has also led me to completely change where I thought my life was heading and the path that I was trying to follow, but I can honestly say that I am so much better off now for that change. I love the person that I have become with fewer masks, and I think that I can show the ‘real’ me more often.

I still use the ‘masks’ today, but not as often. Most of the problems and things that I felt I had to hide away are now the things that I use to reach out and connect with other people.

Friendship is the Most Confusing Gift

Friends are a very complicated thing to talk about. I like friends, I like having friends and hanging out with them and I really do enjoy conversations. But enjoying something does not mean that you are good at it, or that it comes easily.

Over the years, I have gained and lost many friends. I am very good at making friends and being social as long as there is an activity to do. As long as we have something else in front of us that we can focus on occasionally, I can talk and make friends all day long. That built in distraction takes away most of the social pressure that talking to people creates. Most of my friends have come from this way, we have some activity that we did together, and we keep doing that activity. This doesn’t really create good friendships though, because it simply creates a unilateral relationship (there’s the math reference for the day). Take for example my gaming friends. We get together to play games, we have a really good time and get along well. I have known them for almost 2 years now, and we have never once talked about our jobs, our families, or other things we enjoy outside of games. Our relationship is based only on that one shared activity. And that’s fun and all, but what if I really want to share some exciting news, or what if I want to talk about something that’s bothering me. I can’t do that with those friends because they don’t care.

When talking to most people, I get the feeling of a lead weight tied to me. It holds me down to the Earth and forces me to act in certain ways, it limits the things I can do and the amount of fun that I can have. If the person is new, then there is a much heavier weight attached. The weight tells me that I have to remember to look them in the eyes, to nod my head occasionally, to listen to what they say and ignore everything else, to pay attention to the conversation, and think of things that I can contribute to the conversation. All of that stress takes away most of the positive sides to having a conversation. Suddenly, it is not very fun at all.

Sometimes though, when I meet someone I feel them remove that weight. There are some people I have met that allow me to be free around them, and those are the people I want to spend my time around, those are the people who I try to become friends with. I know that this ‘weight’ is not something caused by them, but rather a skewed perception in my own brain. A construct made by my lack of understanding of social settings and all that which causes me to stress far too much about small things.

I have been told that I am very difficult to be friends with, and I guess I would somewhat agree. I have a strong tendency to back out of plans at the last minute because I suddenly can’t handle the stress of being around people anymore. I have a tendency to ignore text messages (sometimes for days) until I have the mental stamina to reply. I have a penchant for being too honest with people and telling them that they are doing something stupid, because I think they need to know and because I would want to know if I was doing something stupid. I have a strong tendency to get upset at random things that no one else seems to notice. I have a very hard time being around people that I have no respect for, and I have been told that it’s obvious.

But I also can be a good friend at times, hopefully most of the time. I am always willing to help a friend with whatever they need (except money). I am a good listener (I have been told) and good at giving people advice when they ask for it (and even when they don’t ask for it). I will do anything to protect those that I care about deeply. I am very loyal to my friends, and very forgiving if they are rude. I also love to do things for my friends, like giving them food or something I know they will like.

I have a limited amount of energy every day, as I think most people do even if they don’t realize it. I tend to focus that energy on my work, because it is something very important to me and I think it deserves my full focus. After I am done working for the day, I have some energy left and I pour most of that into my hobbies. Then I have to spend energy to do routine things like cleaning and housework and cooking. By the time all of that is done, I am pretty much always spent for the day. I have no energy left to do anything else. So that means that talking to friends or hanging out is out of the question. There’s just not enough fuel in the tank to do that. So I put it off till the next day.

The problem is that the next day, the exact same thing happens again. I have no energy left to make the effort to hang out with people and I forget about them. It’s not that I never think about them, I think about my friends a lot. But it takes more energy than I can muster to start a conversation with them.

So months and months of that kind of thing go by, and pretty much universally, the friend forgets about me too. I have lost most all of my friends that way. Often times, I will reach out to them, and try to plan something in advance. I know that if I can schedule something for a week or two ahead then I can deal with it and be able to hang out and have fun. But, unfortunately most of the time the other person is not up for that. They almost always have ‘other plans’ for that day, or ignore me completely. So I have learned over the years to mostly give up on that sort of thing. I am not very good at planning things with my friends and so I don’t.

I owe most, if not all, of my social success (whatever that means) to my Sunday School Class. I joined because an old friend recommended it to me, I went because the leaders hosted it at their house and gave a free lunch. I am the kind of person who will join any group in order to get free food. I once spent an entire year going to a Mormon bible study in the morning because they had free donuts and kolaches, and I am definitely not Mormon (nothing against them, they are great people, but I love coffee and tattoos). Anyways, I joined this college age Sunday School group and immediately loved it. The people were very nice and welcoming. They were very honest and open, and treated everyone with respect, but still managed to have a lot of fun. Every Sunday they would have the group over for lunch and then a discussion, and then afterwards there was all kinds of activities to do. We would play board games, build random things, go to concerts or festivals, basically normal people stuff I guess. But it was the first time in my life that I had experienced that sort of thing. My friends from high school had never really done that stuff, or at least they didn’t invite me to it.

I loved this group so much. They were honest enough to tell me when I was being stupid, and to call me out when I would get really angry at random things. I appreciate and need that from people. It taught me to be more self-aware of the way that I acted and how it affected others.

I think the main reason I was able to be a part of this group was the regularity of it. I knew that every Sunday I could go over there and hang out with who ever showed up that week. I could skip a few weeks, and no one cared. I could leave whenever I wanted to, and show up late for any reason. There was such a level of trust and familiarity that allowed me the space to be as ‘trapezium’ as I could be. I truly don’t think that I would who I am today if not for that group, they took me in and accepted me and gave me a place to be weird but also a place to learn how to get along with other people. They gave me the chance to observe and participate in things the way everyone else does. I don’t think I could ever thank them enough for that.