Little Red Nerding Hood

Two of my best friends threw me a surprise party for my seventeenth birthday.

It was a hell of a surprise. As a homeschooled, bullied and socially awkward kid with only three friends in the entire world – only two of whom actually knew each other – I wasn’t exactly expecting anything. I hadn’t really considered any parties, seeing as how I didn’t know enough people to populate such a thing.

Undeterred by those sorry logistics, M and N set about planning an event. They recruited C, a friend of theirs who had met me a few times and seemed to tolerate me, to be my honorary buddy for the night. Then they got in touch with parents to secure an appropriate date on my barren schedule, and arranged for them to get me to M’s house on some pretense or other.

When Mom, Dad and I got there on the big night, M invited the three of us in to watch a video. N and C were waiting inside with a cake and a tiny but impassioned “Surprise!”

I was genuinely touched by the whole thing. Touched by the fact that I had two friends who cared enough about me to put something like that together. Touched by C’s participation, even though we’d only met twice before and I’d probably made a typically Sarah impression on her. Overwhelmed by the gifts and the cards packed with heartfelt messages and the handmade and decorated cake that was soon consumed in its entirety.

But I was equally mortified. Being on the edge of seventeen, which is a pretty melodramatic age at the best of times, and being greeted by three whole people at your surprise party was the worst “This Is Your Life” setup that I could imagine.

According to a lot of people, high school is the best time of your life. I always kind of knew that it wouldn’t work out that way for me. Part of my reasoning was that I hated the notion that things might peak so early, and I was determined to have a life worth living after nineteen.  But the other part was that I always kind of figured that, if elementary school was anything to go by, high school and its culture were not going to be particularly kind to me.

Even so, I’d kind of assumed that I’d find a small group of outsiders to bond with and that we’d get into our own adventures, maybe start a Redd Kross tribute band or something. I didn’t think that I’d spend so much time sitting at my bedroom window, enviously watching the packs of kids who would pour into the park at the end of my street every summer weekend, wishing that, just once, I could be invited to something, or anything. Wishing that I wasn’t leading an existence so completely on the periphery of what everyone else seemed to be doing.

And, even though M and N were worth dozens of fairweather friends who might take me to a good bush party or two, I really did assume that I’d have more to show for seventeen years on the planet than a rent-a-buddy to fill out of my still-small celebrations, a personality apparently more effective than any chastity belt, and a life that could have been ripped from a Todd Solondz film.

So when M declared that we were going out on the town to have dinner and shoot some pool, I somehow got it into my head that I was being given the perfect chance to turn everything around.

Pool was really M’s thing (my only discernible hobbies at that point were watching Ingmar Bergman films in my room and buying the occasional pair of baggy raver pants, so it’s not like they could have selected a truly “me” activity for the night) , but I always enjoyed tagging along when she’d take me to random halls across Niagara.  I was miserable at the actual game , but I appreciated the opportunity to hang out in public with other people my age, which was something I rarely had the chance to do. It seemed like all of the pieces were there for a life-changing night: I was seventeen! The dancing queen’s age! I was going to Rack’N’Roll, an establishment crawling with lonely and horny young men! Surely even I couldn’t fuck this one up!

At some point during a long, drawn-out game in which neither N nor I could manage to do much more than send the cue ball careening in the general direction of our targets, what I thought might be my moment presented itself:  a boy came over and started to watch us. He seemed friendly enough, even though our utter lack of skill was driving him crazy, and he eventually started to talk.

“Hey,” he said, pointing to the crimson-coloured hoodie that I was wearing. “You’re wearing a red shirt.”

I was thrilled by this turn of events. This was it! I was going to flirt with the nice guy who was watching us play pool and knew his primary colours! I was totally going to redeem myself for the R fiasco of the previous summer! I was going to get laid! Or at least fondled!

So I bent over the table, lining up a shot in my best approximation of “sexy,” and… pretty much made the exact same mistake.

“Well, you know what Freud said about red,” I said.

The boy looked at me, blank-faced, and backed off as N erupted into hysterical laughter.

And that was the end of my big campaign to change my life.

Yeah, I just wrote almost a thousand words to get to that. But now that you know how anticlimactic it was to read that, imagine how anticlimactic it felt to live it.

But even though the night wasn’t the life-altering event that I’d hoped it would be, two lessons I learned that night were enough to get my through the next two and half years of unwitting and unwilling chastity:

1. Freud and red. Bertolucci and butter. It’s all the same to most teenage boys. If you want to seduce one, you’re probably better off just saying that you want to have sex with them. Save the allusions for university.

2. These interactions are a two-way street. N wasn’t just laughing at me for my misguided seduction efforts, she was also laughing at him for not getting it, because the whole situation was absurd. Trying to hit on a boy in a pool hall by mentioning Freud isn’t really the best course of action. But it’s just as ill-advised to try to pick up a nerdy girl when you have never heard of the psychologist she’s talking about. We were equally at fault for not getting into each other’s pants.

In the end, I was able to appreciate that it wasn’t All My Fault. It wasn’t necessarily the wrong line. N and M thought that it was funny. He was just the wrong guy for my purposes. And, if I’d managed to find a couple of friends who got the joke – and me –  surely there was at least one romantic prospect out there who might do the same.

Some day.


Talk About Timing

July 9, 2011

I’m going on vacation.

It’s not you. I promise. I’ve been giddily glued to this blog’s stats since the Toronto Star article on Asperger’s and marriage started sending all of you fine people and curious throngs to me. And what I’ve love, more than almost anything, is to keep a percentage of you coming back for more with regular updates full of the kind of pithy commentary and emo insights that you’ve come to curiously tolerate. But, as Blue Rodeo says…

It’s just bad timing, that’s all.

I’ll be at my family’s cottage, far from the reaches of any remotely civilized internet connection, until July 16. There, I will celebrate my first anniversary with my husband who didn’t dump me for having Asperger’s, read some books, force myself to jump in the lake even though it will be freezing cold, get some writing done, and not force myself to make any eye contact for a whole week.

I’m really looking forward to it. I’ve been pushing myself quite a bit with my fitness work lately, and I can feel the mental exhaustion setting in. My carefully cultivated social skills have been slipping. It’s getting harder and harder to keep things like eye contact, tone of voice and body language in mind and utilize them appropriately in my day to day life and work. And my writing has suffered. I don’t feel like I’ve been able to communicate with a satisfactory level of clarity in quite some time.

But while I am excited about the break, I am also sad to be leaving you just as we’ve found each other, and I do hope that anyone who’s interested in the life of a young-ish woman with Asperger’s, chronically low self-esteem and an undying belief that she looks like Odo will stick around. I’ll be working on entries while I’m away, and you should expect to see more about my opinions on Asperger’s and love, a bit about my childhood obsession with Dune, and the next installment of Boys I Have Tried And Failed To Seduce in the days after my return.

In the meantime, here are a few from the archives to keep you going:

My Definition Of A Boombastic Neurodevelopmental Disorder– in which I explain the reasoning behind the name of this blog. And reference The Dream Warriors, because I’m cool like that.

“If It’s So Serious, Why Don’t They Call It Meningitis?”– a not-so-brief introduction

The Dork Passenger– about special interests

and An Open Letter to Katy Perry

Enjoy! (Or don’t, it is your prerogative.) I hope to see at least some of you back next week.


Captain Awesometism

p.s. And to the person who posted “I think there are a lot of people with low self confidence that mistake themselves for having aspergers!” on my About page last night: I thank you for your insight, but I think I’m going to stick with my expert therapist’s opinion. He diagnosed me after an official testing process; you did after reading my “About” page.


July 8, 2011

My page views sure have increased since Francine Kopun’s Toronto Star article on Asperger’s and marriage went up yesterday. Tens and tens of new readers have been flocking to the site to read more from the woman who gave them such deep insight with quotes like “Our weird sense of emotional distance is kind of convenient for them.”

I feel like I should explain myself.

Talking is not really my forte. Talking on the phone is even worse. So what probably sounded like a good idea in my head, and might have come out well after a couple of drafts, turned into ““Our weird sense of emotional distance is kind of convenient for them.”

Here’s what I was trying to say: In my experience, women with Asperger’s (or, at the very least, this woman with Asperger’s) have emotional needs and expressions that veer a little closer to stereotypical male traits than female ones. It’s not that I’m a robot or such a perfectly self-actualized individual that I’m never needy – and I made sure to specify that I’m “sort of” low-maintenance because I sure have my moments –  but the way I think about my relationship and I want out of it is quite different than most of my neurotypical female friends. I suspect, in an overly simplistic, “Men Are From Mars, Aspies Are From Some Imaginary Planet That We’ll Pretend Is In Between Mars and Venus But Not Earth” way, that women with AS and NT men have a decent shot of getting along well because, on a spectrum of emotions, they might be a little closer than NT men and women are. Or, you know, ““Our weird sense of emotional distance is kind of convenient for them.”

At least that’s one of my theories on the success of my marriage. It’s sure not my suave conversational skills that are keeping us together.

Is just like Sartre’s hell: other people.

Look, I don’t like being ostracized. I don’t like banging my head against the wall because all other attempts at expressing myself have failed and I feel like there’s nothing left. I don’t like how difficult basic socialization and function can be for me sometimes.

But none of these problems exist in a vacuum. None of them would be nearly as severe if neurotypicals worked even half as hard to understand me as I work to exist with them.