Love And (Self) Hate

July 19, 2011

Canadian author Hugh MacLennan once wrote (and Tragically Hip singer/the nation’s honourary weird uncle Gord Downie once partially sung) that “the human tragedy, or the human irony, consists in the necessity of living with the consequences of actions performed under the pressure of compulsions so obscure we do not and cannot understand them.”

Right now, my minor human tragedy consists in the necessity of living with the consequences of a flippant quote made under the pressure of compulsions so distracted and ill-conceived that I do not and cannot excuse them.

I had a lovely vacation. I spent a lot of time on the beach, under a sky that was only marred by enough clouds to keep me from diving headfirst into cranky overheating and sunstroke. I celebrated my anniversary by telling my husband, A, things that sounded nice in my mind but elicited some sort of self-deprecating laugh when they came out of my mouth, even though he insisted that he appreciated the sentiment (I also stuck my earbuds up my nose and blasted our first dance song out of my mouth when we went to visit the wedding site, because I am nothing if not a romantic). We went mini golfing in the darling hometown of a recent Stanley Cup winner. We ate dinner in a restaurant that had Lake Erie and shipwreck memorabilia plastered all over the walls and managed to be even more fantastic and in tune with all of my deepest nerdy desires than it was in my childhood. But I also gave into the urge to check my blog stats on A’s iPhone and discovered that I am the worst, most outdated gender stereotype-pedalling feminist and autism rights advocate imaginable.

I was already pretty embarrassed by my inarticulate, dumb-ass “weird emotional distance” line but now I feel downright miserable about the whole thing.

I said it. I can’t argue that I was misquoted or that it was taken out of context. I said “our weird emotional distance is kind of convenient for them” and I’m going to have to live with that stupid albatross around my neck for the rest of my life.

I’m sorry I said it, and not just because I’m upset that it makes me look dumb. I’m sorry because, when I really think about it, that one flippant comment flies in the face of so much of what I really wanted to say– and did say–  about Asperger’s and marriage in that interview.

I was really excited when I first read that someone from the Toronto Star was looking to talk to people about the topic. Having read my share of articles and advice columns that dealt with AS and relationships in a way that was absolutely foreign and often offensive to me, I was eager for an opportunity to bring a different experience to the discussion. So I contacted the reporter, we exchanged a few e-mails, and she decided that she’d like to speak to me. I sent her my number and told her to call whenever.

In retrospect, I wish that I had suggested that we schedule a specific time for the call. In all of my excitement to talk about the subject and my desire to be accommodating, I hadn’t taken into account that I’d be better prepared and focused for an interview if I had been able to properly integrate it into my carefully-drawn schedule.

I wouldn’t say that the call flustered me. I think that I spoke articulately enough, even if my answers came in the same kind of giddy, rapid-fire bursts that used to erupt from my mouth when someone wanted to talk about the Titanic, a pace too excited, too I-have-to-get-a-million-thoughts-out-before-someone-stops-listening for normal conversation. But there seemed to be conversational flow otherwise, and I was hitting a lot of my personal bullet points.

But I was also distracted. I had been on my way out of the door to run some important errands when the call came, and I found myself constantly trying to reschedule them as I was talking. It was also blisteringly hot in my apartment, and I had to dig a face cloth out of the linen closet and shove it into my bra, because my cleavage was quickly metamorphosing into Niagara Falls, and the unbearable feeling of rushing bodily fluids and the overwhelming desire to dam the flow of boob sweat before it could defile my big girl, appropriate for public shirt were starting to further erode my concentration.

So I wouldn’t say that I was on the top of my game as the interview drew to a close. With the formal questions out of the way, I tried my hand at a little reciprocal conversation, because I figured that’s what people are supposed to do, and I asked her a few conversational questions about the article, what had inspired her to do it and how she was faring in her search for couples for the piece.

She mentioned, offhand, that she had mostly been contacted by married women with Asperger’s. That was when I opened my big mouth and said that I suspected that women with AS might have a somewhat less difficult time in relationships than men with AS. She asked why, and I was caught off-guard by the question.

With everything else swirling around in my head, with my official interview personality powering down, and with so much else going on in my life that that my ability to formulate and articulate my thoughts in a clear, concise manner was already on the fritz, I found myself struggling to come up with a good explanation for my theory.

And what came out of my mouth was some dumb shit about “weird emotional distance.” It’s careless and not really what I wanted to say. I hate that I felt the need to make generalizations at all. I am not a fan of gender generalizations at all, and I certainly don’t believe that all men are heartless warrior bastards and all NT women are needy emotional basketcase princesses. I sure as hell don’t believe that people on the spectrum lack empathy or emotions, because I often suffer from an overabundance of both. I hate that I implied any of the above.

And I’m not even sure I should even have suggested, conversationally, that I might be “kind of low maintenance” because , upon further reflection, it’s not particularly true and maintenance levels are a weird way to gauge relationship suitability, anyway.

What really bothers me is that, in the back of my head, I knew it was a stupid thing to say. When the writer read the line back to me and asked me to confirm the statement, I hesitated. Then, with a nervous laugh, I ignored my gut and said “Yes, you can quote me on that.”

I don’t blame her for putting it in the story. She had no idea how conflicted I was about the idea and could never have guessed how mortified I’d be about it later. Nor was she furthering any agenda. She just heard what sounded like a good quote and used it. I’ve done the same thing countless times.

I just wish that I hadn’t said it. Or that I had taken it back, saying that I didn’t feel qualified to discuss such a concept without more careful thought. I wish I hadn’t made any broad strokes about Asperger’s as a whole. And I really wish that I’d stuck to my original point, which was this:

Asperger’s does not loom over my relationship. The only thing that looms over it is the same thing that looms over every long-term romantic pairing: the challenge to navigate, negotiate and understand two autonomous existences with individual minds, concepts, histories, perspectives and means of expression and work together to form a cohesive and healthy partnership.

My diagnosis was not a major event in my relationship. I think it has, indirectly, had some positive influence on us as a couple, though. I feel like I can bring more to the relationship now that I actually understand what makes me behave the way that I do and now that I’m working on some of my related issues and comorbidities with my therapist.  The diagnosis has also given me better tools to help explain my issues and efforts to A, and I think those things have been valuable for both of us.

We’ve always accepted each other with little to no fantasies of changing the other, so the diagnosis wasn’t that much more than putting a proper name to something that had always been a part of our life together. For me, personally, it was a relief. But as for us, I’d probably categorize it more as helpful than devastating or life-altering.

Yes, I was afraid that A would leave me for a while after it happened, but that was because I tortured myself with a bunch of awful advice columns in which people acted as if an AS diagnosis in of itself was a dealbreaker. And yes, I realize that this does happen in marriages, but the phenomenon baffles me. Finding out that your long-term partner has AS is only really a problem if you don’t love your partner for who they already are. If you’ve been spending all of those years together hoping that you would eventually be able to change your other half, then I can see how this might be upsetting.

But if you marry someone with the idea that you will eventually be able to change them, then you just might be the one with the marriage-ruining social disability.


One Response to “Love And (Self) Hate”

  1. Laurie Says:

    I don’t think you should feel bad about that quote at all! It rings so true to me. It’s why I looked up the blog.

    One aspect of my AS seems to be that I deal with everything at face value. One of the problems that I have is trying to recognize when someone is ‘playing’ me with a hidden agenda or manipulating a conversation.

    With my husband, this comes out as saying, “I’d like you to empty the dishwasher,” instead of some passive-aggressive crap. It does make it a lot easier for him and saves a lot of time and avoids misunderstandings.

    Or as an accountant colleague said about her marriage to an engineer, “Now we can both stop pretending to have human emotions.” ;-D

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