Over the past few months, I’ve frequently gotten the impression that the mental health services in Winnipeg are set-up in ways to discourage people from using them. Going to an open house at the Anxiety Disorders Association of Manitoba (ADAM) is as easy as showing up to one of two monthly sessions (which is a […]
I really felt like shit about myself last week. Despite knowing better, I was judging myself rather harshly for not being able to take care of myself properly on my own. And then you all stepped in and set me straight. An acquaintance responded to the status update about last week’s blog post on my Facebook […]
It’s never worth getting laughs when it comes at the cost of your soul
Writing stand-up comedy jokes is extremely difficult. It is much easier to write whole chapters than a thirty second joke. That could be, because after you have been doing comedy for a while your inner editor papoos any joke you think of as not as funny as the last one. When I was starting out, I found writing jokes super easily. Whether that was because I had years of insight built up just waiting to be written down on a page and then told in front of a live audience that is one possibility. The other possibility is that, when you are first starting out, you don’t know what a funny joke is. Therefore, anything that remotely tickles your funny bone must be absolutely hilarious. The truth is, none of these original insights are really that funny. It takes a bit of time, before you learn how to tell the difference between a good joke and something that is only funny if the other person was there at the time. Therefore, many comedian’s first jokes are inside jokes that you have to have been there to understand why it was funny. You have to have shared the experiences. After all, these jokes are what got us our laughs before we started doing stand-up comedy. In addition, the first shows are mostly for our family and friends and we don’t have a chance to go up to complete strangers and hear what they thought of the joke. We are too busy celebrating.
Once family and friends stopped coming, however, then you have to perform for a room of strangers some of which are other comedians who will be bored out of their minds if we try and tell inside jokes. This is when we start developing our inner editor and start learning how to tell the difference between a rubbish joke and one that is actually really funny. Once that inner editor begins to grow inside of us there is a trade-off. We start telling quality jokes that are universally funny, but, at the same time the quantity of jokes greatly decreases. Therefore, we start repeating old jokes over and over again, praying for anything to tickle our funny bone so we have something new to tell on stage. At this stage, we are usually sick of our jokes, but, we are also addicted to the rush that we get from performing and having an audience laugh.
The laugh becomes the ultimate high. You will do anything for that laugh. Even cross lines that you would never have considered crossing before. For the most part I started off as a good person. At least I like to think I was. Maybe, the pain from frustration at social attempts started to make me more bitter. Therefore, I started justifying things that I shouldn’t have. When someone explained to me that being asexual means that you can still have sex, you just are not interested in it, I thought that was hilarious. After all, to me it sounded like the complaint that all the comedians were making about their wives.
Therefore, I thought, ha being asexual isn’t something unique, it is something all middle-age married women go through. Therefore I wrote out a joke that I planned on telling on stage. In my mind, it was the only really funny joke that I had written in weeks. I knew it was going to get me the laughs. That rush of ecstasy. The drug that I am most addicted to. One of the other comedians begged me not to tell it knowing that by telling it, I would be crossing a line that I could never come back from. I would be joining the dark side with all the other asshole comics throughout history. There is no talking a drug addict out of taking that hit, however. They know that it might hurt people and they regret it, but, they need their high more than they need anything else. Drugs have destroyed families, ruined friendships, destroyed promising careers and yet, an addict is an addict.
Therefore, I went on stage. I started with my old standby starting joke of telling the audience that I have Aspergers and that I am better than them which got me less laughs than I was used to. I told my new tags for one of my old jokes about how two girls came up to me at the bar this one time and asked if I really had Aspergers because I wasn’t like one of their cousins. I then told a few other jokes and didn’t get my fill of laughter. Therefore, I told my new joke about asexual people. It got me the laughs I so desperately craved. Yet, when I got off stage and went to talk to one of the other comedians he was like “well was it worth it?” I wasn’t going to admit that I had crossed a line. I was high on laughter after all so I wasn’t going to let him ruin it for me. He was just jealous. When I saw how upset the comic who had begged me not to tell the joke was, I was like whatever. One of the other comedians has a joke about Autism. No one gives him shit about it. I am supposed to just laugh it off, so it’s okay to make fun of Autistic people but not asexual people screw that! Also, how many times do I need to pretend that I am okay when someone who isn’t Jewish makes an anti-semitic joke. Everyone is just chasing that high.
After the high started wearing off, however, and I was looking for anyone to justify my behaviour I had to come to the stone cold conclusion. I had crossed that line and that there was no coming back from it. I had sold my soul for laughs and it totally wasn’t worthwhile. The other comedians were going to look at me different from now on, and I might have cost myself a friendship and what had I got out of it? A few laughs at an open mic, which will never lead to anything bigger.
I can’t really take steps in going backwards after all, what can you do? You can’t really apologize after all it’s easy to apologize if it’s an accident. This was no accident, since he had already told me not to tell the joke. You also can’t pretend that in a do-over you would have done anything differently. After all, a drug addict is a drug addict and they will do anything to get their fix no matter who it hurts. All you can really do, is move forward and realize that it’s not worthwhile. Try and maintain what self-respect you have, after all it can’t all disappear after telling one joke. I didn’t murder anybody. If that person wants to forgive you and move forward you do that. Otherwise, you accept that they have made their choice and still move forward.
Tags: Aspergers, Comedy, Neurotypicals, satire, the gym, weightlifters
The gym is often an Aspies biggest nightmare. There are always so many people there, so many machines going, and so many distractions. It really is just a matter of time, before something gives an Aspie sensory overload. Whether it’s watching the weights go up and down on the machines or the grunts from the serious weight lifters who are really doing much more weight than they should be doing, in my opinion. If you can’t do it quietly, without all the noise, then you are doing too much weight and you should tone it down a little. I am also trying to get my own exercise here, at the gym, without having to focus on what other people are doing.
Then there are the weight lifters themselves. When the world can feel completely unpredictable to you, because of all the chaos waiting to happen, it can be a scary place. People often don’t follow the rules. I don’t mean the rules that are posted, but, the rules of logical interactions which Aspies are all aware of, but that many other people don’t seem to know of or at least ever follow. For instance, when talking to someone, unless you two are hugging, you should always maintain body space of at least three meters. With all the chaos behind ever corner, weight lifters, these behemoths of men and women who don’t seem to have any fat to them, or cuddly bits, as I like to think of it, are extremely scary looking. You know that those muscles on the weightlifters have absolutely no practical application in today’s modern world and that they are just there to cause pain if they snap. Really, someone should restrain these “athletes” before it gets to this point, and explain to them that they are big enough, and getting any bigger really is an unfriendly, aggressive thing to do. Instead, we have to watch these people out of the corner of our eye at all times, while we try to lift our reasonable amount of weight.
Then there is just the pure number of people at the gym that is threatening. Look, I get that they also need to exercise and are just doing their thing. I understand that, but, as an Aspie I don’t like large crowds at the best of times, unless, it’s from the safety of the stage, and there is a pretty large distance between me and them. There is just so much potential for things to go wrong, when it comes to large groups. There is potential for all of their interactions to cause me sensory-overload or turn into a large mob and do something unreasonable, like keeping American Idol on television for so many years. Without large mobs, Paris Hilton’s music career would not have been a thing. People are infinitely more reasonable as individuals and they’ll assure you that there is nothing to like about her music, but, as soon as they turn into a large group, her music thrives; it is mind-boggling.
That is why I am going to keep to jogging outside, where it is quiet enough to listen to my own thoughts over the roar of traffic.
My struggles with my dating life have been well-documented in this blog. Nonetheless, I have been extremely passive when it comes to changing anything. Therefore, I have decided to challenge myself to change that. I am going to try joining popular dating websites such as Tinder, Plenty of Fish; find a match maker in the city; as well as take other steps that I am not aware of at this point to find someone who is willing to date me. I am going to try and update this blog with how my journey is going every 2-3 days, therefore, it will not be as finely polished as my Winnipeg Jewish Post articles or my book.
The first day of this challenge I went through my various pictures on Facebook and asked for people’s opinions which ones to post on my Tinder account that I am going to create. I received lots of positive feedback about the pictures that I had selected so I was going to use the ones I had posted on Facebook yesterday. The only problem is that my apple account has seemed to lock me out and not let me add any new apps to my phone. When I tried to join Tinder on a pc computer it took me to a porn site when I logged in which I quickly logged out of realizing that was not what I was looking for. Therefore, I have been foiled by Tinder and will focus on Plenty of Fish right now. Why did I choose to use this website? Mostly because it is free. When I joined eharmony and another paid dating website it did not get me anymore success than I did with the free dating website, therefore, at this point I am going to stick with the free ones and if this is unsuccessful after trying for a few days I will switch to a paid dating website for a month. I am sceptical about my future success on a dating website as these are all about creating great first impressions which is something that people on the Autism spectrum have difficulties with.
Nonetheless, my dating success in general is limited and I have to start somewhere. I work in a tiny office and only with five people, therefore, asking someone out in the workplace would make my life extremely difficult whether she accepted or not. I also know I have to start somewhere so that is where I am starting. I am also out of school, not that I ever had any success asking any girl from my class out, but still that is one way people meet others. I may take a writing course or two in the spring time.
People with Aspergers are never a woman’s first choice. We often come across as socially awkward and inappropriate. We may not pick up on cues as to when to change conversations, or when to end one. We have a hard time making eye contact, which is an extremely important quality in a potential mate. But from our point of view, neurotypical people often have their values messed up when it comes to dating. For example, males will often choose women based on physical qualities that make them look young, an innate pedophilic tendency. Additionally, they place too much emphasis on boobs, which are essentially just fat, and ass which I am not sure how anyone can objectify and sexualize. Gross! Often placing a higher value on personality traits than on physical traits, Aspies don’t discriminate by age. What we find really sexy is a woman who is tolerant, warm, patient, compassionate and funny, which is, granted, much harder to find among Neurotypicals than a pretty face and a tiny waist.
Unlike Neurotypical males who can find females attractive purely on physical qualities, Neurotypical women judge mates differently. They are more likely to judge guys by the way they are dressed, whether they are well groomed or whether their clothes suggest they have money which in turn suggests that they would make a “good mate”. No matter how much of a feminist they are, Neurotypical women in my experience have generally been taken in more by outer signs of success than by inner qualities. They generally want a guy who will make lots of money, and will overlook the guy who will treat them with kindness every day that they are together. Sad but true. Women with Asperger’s are more likely to look for more important qualities such as whether someone treats them with respect. Though what do I know, I have been unable to connect romantically with any of the women with Aspergers I’ve met.
Women are also more likely to find a man doing certain activities such as fixing a car, showing off athletic prowess or doing a bunch of other sexy activities, like getting a really great tax return. These activities that make a man sexier to women are areas that I will never excel at because of my Aspergers. That doesn’t mean that people with Aspergers don’t have their own good qualities. We are extremely loyal, kind and caring. I am the first person to make sure that everyone engaging in an activity gets to participate if they want to. I would go through hell and back for my friends. We are also very close with our families and value them more because we know that they have got us through many difficult times.
These qualities generally, however, won’t get us picked over a guy who is charismatic, good looking, or wealthy or a combination of these characteristics. Do not get me wrong. Neurotypical men also have their values messed up when it comes to the other gender, which I have already mentioned such as placing too high of value on butts and boobs.
Therefore, I was amazed when Alizza agreed to go out with me. It had only taken 28 years to find a woman who was willing to give me a chance. I just hoped that it wouldn’t take another 28 years before I finally convinced a girl to kiss me. I met Alizza and her friend Karen at an open mic at a local bar. I hadn’t had high hopes going into the show as it is generally not the best-run open mic in the city and I pretty much used it as a venue to test out jokes. That way, if the joke fell flat on its face I would not lose as much face, in terms of my reputation as a solid comedian.
I first noticed Karen after my set as they were only sitting two rows behind me. Three comedians later, it was Alizza’s turn to perform. I am not one of those people who argue that women are not funny. I know that there are many funny women out there, like Jen Grant, Elivira Kurt, Chantal Marostica and Tina Fey. I have noticed, however, that some women stand-up comics, when they first start out feel the need to show that they can be just as vulgar as any of the men who perform. Therefore, while Alizza was kind of funny, her set had more vulgarity than I would have normally preferred.
Therefore, after my set, as a way of striking up a conversation with the two of them, I went back to congratulate Alizza on her set. As soon as I started talking, however, Alizza told me how much she really enjoyed my set and offered me a hug. The physical contact made me feel all warm and gooey inside. Aspies appreciate the small things. After talking with her and her friend awhile, I went home and Facebooked Alizza, to ask her to go to Rumor’s Comedy Club, which is Winnipeg’s premiere, and admittedly only, comedy club in the city. I figured that I had nothing to lose. After all, what was the worst thing that could happen? That she said no? Who cares, after all, she didn’t mean anything to me at that point, she was just a pretty girl. I definitely did not think she was going to accept because I am very insecure when it comes to women. Therefore, it was a huge surprise to me when Alizza did accept. We had a pretty good night together, starting with me picking her up from her rehearsal for the musical theatre show that she was doing at the time. When we started talking and I found out her life story, I was amazed to find out that not only was she older than me, much older, but she had been previously divorced. It made me look at divorced women in a whole new way.
I realize that I am not most women’s first choice, simply because they don’t have their priorities straight. Therefore, I figured the best thing a woman can do to give me the best chance of success is to be previously married. See, if a woman marries her ideal mate who is charismatic and charming and finds out that he is also in fact, quite flawed, then she may look for other characteristics in a man. Especially if her ex’s flaw is that he is a cheater or a narcissist as some Neurotypicals are. After all, not everything that glitters is gold. Substance over style. Neurotypical people have a million and one metaphors about looking past charisma and looks, because, quite frankly, they often don’t.
Do not get me wrong, as I have been stressing, there are some good neurotypical men and women out there; they are just a tiny minority and are as hard to find as a needle in a haystack. A bad divorce also means that a woman may move more slowly before jumping into the next relationship, and may take her time with the next guy before she’s ready to develop romantic feelings. This lines up nicely with the interests of people with Aspergers, because we don’t always make the most favourable first impression. But I am pretty confident that, given enough time, we can find room in any woman’s heart through our positive characteristics. Still, I had the same challenges reading her as with any woman.
Nevertheless, I thought that I had done enough to warrant a second date with Alizza and that we had as much of a real connection as I have ever had with another person. But that second date never happened. She told me that she didn’t date other performers. But then she began seeing another guy, a younger comedian, and that was beginning to blossom into a romantic relationship. At the time I felt absolutely devastated. I also felt that Alizza had led me on, by letting me buy the tickets and think it was a date. She assured me it was a date and she had been genuinely interested, just not as interested as she was with the other guy, Kevin, who was probably rich, charismatic, or good looking.
I eventually recovered and became friends with her, even though nothing romantic or physical ever happened. I thought that we had a real connection. That led me to postulate that I had a lot to be excited about as I got older, and that I would have more success with divorced women than with women who had never been married and had traumatic experiences. I am not saying that all divorces are traumatic; I am saying that the more traumatic and horrible the ex-husband was, the better chance I have with these ladies. Also, that many neurotypical men are awful.
I don’t think anyone can really cherish compassion in another person until they have known what it is like to be with someone who only thinks about themselves. In my opinion, this is the only way that many males with Aspergers stand a chance when it comes to dating. Therefore, it is not unusual for them to begin having relationships later in life. Having them when we’re young adults is another societal landmark that we will miss completely. In fact that expectation is completely inappropriate when it comes to us.
This can be annoying as there are lots of messages suggesting one should be finding your soul mate while you are still quite young. After all, all of the Disney Princesses married at the height of their beauty and youth. Many movie characters marry their high school sweethearts or meet in university. In The Other Woman, Cameron Diaz says that by the early thirties, there are no longer any great eligible bachelors to date and dating goes downhill after that. Ironically, Cameron Diaz was in her early forties when she filmed that line, an age in Hollywood most women are considered repulsive, unless you are Judy Dench, Meryl Streep or Julianne Moore. What Diaz says is true, only if you define a great eligible bachelor as charismatic and dreamy and are unable to have the maturity to realize the number of great guys who are now in front of you.
In addition, some people, scratch that, most people, don’t learn their lesson and will continue to go for the jerks just because they are charismatic, good looking and rich, or a combination of the three. There is no guarantee they will change. I know one girl who went out for several years with this guy who cheated on her, when she was out of town. She was heartbroken; nevertheless, the guy was such a charmer that even though he had had unprotected sex with another woman, and had possibly given her an STI when she got back into town, she eventually got back together with him. Their mutual friends, however, were not even loyal enough to tell her anything until she had already slept with the guy and he had already broken up with her. This guy being as self-centered as he was, after getting a second chance, then proceeded to waste his money on a drug habit. Not only that, but he was also extremely selfish when it came to the bedroom, something no Aspie has ever been accused of, partly because none of us has ever made it that far. I am not judging him or her as I don’t know what was going on in their lives that made them go down the paths that they did. What I am saying, however, is that she had her values out of whack and if, instead of going for the charismatic guy, she had dated a guy with Aspergers, she would have been much better off, because we are more loyal to anyone who shows us kindness. Guess what? She would still rather date another guy who was more like her ex, who had treated her so badly, than give a guy with Aspergers a chance. Because some people never change. No matter how many times they get burnt they will still be drawn to the hot flame. There really is no helping these people, which is just a sad fact of life after all she had many great qualities going for her other than her taste in men, since she was smart and funny and had a great laugh.
The fact that we have to wait until a girl gets her heart ripped out of her chest and stomped on before she will consider giving us a chance can be very hard on the ego of someone with Aspergers. I mean it is hard to stay positive, and do everything that you need to do to take care of yourself, to be able to take advantage of opportunities, if and when they present themselves to you later in life. It is very hard to see all of your friends in relationships or hooking up with sexy girls, and to continue smiling and believing that you too will one day find love.
It is very easy to try to compensate for these hurt feelings by turning to food and trying to eat away the pain. After all, these feelings are saying to you, “if no one is going to want to love you one way or another why prevent yourself from eating another chocolate, when food and your taste buds never chose your friend over you?” You never pursue chocolate actively, only to find out that there was information that you didn’t pick up on because of your Aspergers, that led you on to believe you had a chance, only to reject you in the end because of your flaws. If you listen to this voice, however, you end up losing because you are not able to take advantage of romantic opportunities as they present themselves. There is no reason why you can’t have the same joy you see your friends having with someone they really connect with, if you’re patient enough and let the divorce process and bitter breakups do the work for you. You can still have the romantic picnics in the park or hold hands with a girl in the movie theatre, you’ll just do it at age 33 (or in Cameron Diaz’s version in your early 40s) instead of 15, like other people around you will do. Do not get me wrong, I am not saying that this has to be the process for all men with Aspergers. I can only speak to my own experience which has been especially soul crushing. I still have not yet found the right girl.
I know one guy, Steven, Moshe’s uncle, who doesn’t have Aspergers, but who only settled down and got married in his forties. If he had given up on himself it is unlikely that he would ever have been able to stay positive and make this relationship work. He is now super happy with his new wife. Even though society said that Steven should have settled down earlier and married long ago, and that if it hadn’t already happened by the time he was twenty-five he might as well resign himself to being a bachelor forever, his story had a happy outcome. He did not follow the norm when it came to relationships the way they’re portrayed in romantic movies. But there is no reason we need to believe that they represent the only kind of happy relationships possible, or that we need to follow their rules, or we won’t find someone with the right values when it comes to romantic relationships. So, now I wait for Cameron Diaz.
Recently many people got stung by hackers releasing the list of users from Adultery website Ashley Madison. I bet their partners aren’t feeling great right now. Truth is fidelity is one of the perks of dating someone on the Autism Spectrum, because like Penguins we mate for life, also because we look great in tuxedos. There is also the fact that we will have had fewer partners than our Neurotypical counterparts. Having Autism means that we don’t form instant connections but having romantic relationships with someone is the end result of lots and lots of work and effort. It is also the result of lots of convincing, and, or, begging. Truthfully we will never have an affair because we don’t have the interest, patience or time to convince a second person to have a romantic relationship with us therefore we are going to do everything humanly possible to make that relationship with the first person great. This, inability to form instant connections, does not bode well if we get divorced late in life but at the same time we are going to be a much better partner than 98% of the other people out there. So now these significant others, of those on the infamous list, have two choices they can try and work things out never really knowing if they can trust their partner ever again or they can get a new partner. I hope you take this article into account the next time you pick your partner in crime. That ultimately, you can choose that charming charismatic prince, who may or may not cheat on you, or you can pick the partner who’s the diamond in the rough who will treat you the queen or king you are.
Adam Schwartz is a stand-up comedian, an Aspie, an Autist, and author of soon to be released book, I have Aspergers so I’m better than you.
There is an excellent Ted talk about making failure your friend and why you shouldn’t be afraid of a failure by Aisha Alfa, and it’s absolutely true. Having Aspergers it often feels like there are few areas where I have as much success as I do in stand-up comedy. My friends sometimes seem to drift away from me based on what it is going on in their lives. In addition, I often feel unable to connect with women and I have been feeling extra lonely lately with one of my best friends getting married two weeks ago, one already married and another one getting married next month. Therefore, the success from stand-up comedy can sometimes go to my head. Sometimes as an Aspie I have a hard time being realistic and I live in my imagination thinking something is a lot worse or better than it is in reality. When it does I lose all sense of relativity and get upset when I don’t get put on shows someone is producing or when someone tries to cut my stage time for arriving late. Really, the only reason why a regular to an open mics time should be cut is if he or she is failing to connect with the audience. After doing well in a few shows I think I am a comedy God.
This head space is never a good place to be. No one should think they are a comedy God, NEVER, no exceptions. Thinking you are a comedy god leads you to be lazy when it comes to writing and going up with half formed ideas because you think anything will work. You also lose all sense of humility. So what is the answer to stop success from going to your head? Failure. Failure makes you work harder, respect other comedians as well as the audience as well as the form of itself. Failure is your friend who tells you it tells you “I am glad you are making strides in your improvement, but you still have a long way to go. What do you think you’re Russell Peters. “You’re not ready to headline a comedy club, but you might be one day!” People shouldn’t fear failure they should embrace it because only be failing can you continue to grow. Failure tests how serious you really are about comedy and separates the people who love it from those who will quit at the first sign of struggle. Failure is also one friend who will never leave you or have less time for you just because it got married. Therefore, I say go out and fail and have a ball of it. It is going to happen whether you like it or not, may as well embrace it.
In other news I will be turning this blog over to David Perlmutter and Annette DimWitte as I focus first on my Fringe Festival show in Toronto July 2-12, (tell all your friends and family) and then on my book I hope to have finished before December (cross your fingers).
Out of Sync Annette DeWit
Some one asked, “How does my Aspergers affect me? What does it mean to me?
When I was a kid we had a set of Encyclopedias in which the ‘human body’ section had several layers of transparencies detailing the different body systems. As the sheets were layered onto each other a complete diagram of a person was revealed. I found that fascinating, and spent hours lifting and lowering the different sheets to compare the resulting pictures. What I noticed then was that until the layers were flat and smoothly together the diagrams didn’t work. They would not come into focus and make a complete picture.
Do you remember setting the station on the car radio by turning a dial? And how sometimes you just couldn’t get it to tune right, and there was always just a little bit of static, no matter how you twiddled with it? The signal was always just a little bit fuzzy.
In hind sight, those two sensations, of blurred incompletion, and fuzzy partial communication, were fairly central to my perception of reality. I often quote “normal is what you live in/with” or “…what you are used to.” While both of those statements are in a way true, I was also always conscious of a sense of abnormal. I have always been aware of being different.
I would comment at times that I ‘didn’t get’ my classmates. Or that I wasn’t the same kind of person. That I wasn’t part of the group they made, ‘not one of the girls’. As I grew, I phrased it as ‘being tuned to a different wavelength, not speaking the same language,’ or ‘looking at [life] from the wrong angle.’
There were times when I embraced these differences. I could read faster, retain more, memorize more. I didn’t get into silly immature scrapes, didn’t have crushes that left me in tears over being “dumped”, didn’t get bored, wasn’t interested/obsessed with silly things like makeup.
I could build entire worlds in my imagination, populate them with characters drawn from any story I knew, and play with them in any way I chose. I told and wrote stories. Easily, even obsessively. I wrote and like poetry, and recited it on stage. I wasn’t chicken about being in front of an audience. I took care of animals, and gardened. And I looked things up.
But I hated parties, girl talk, very confusing boy talk, people whose minds didn’t match mine, teachers who “were dumber than me” (arrogant little me), rules for no reason, homework when I already knew the material, homework that was work, scheduled demands on me… Also, I was weird, and bullied. More than I understood at the time, actually, for which I am grateful. I wasn’t the nicest of kids either. A fast mind, large vocabulary and over-strong contempt leads to some very mean things said.
Mostly though, I just didn’t fit. And I knew it. And it hurt. I believed I would never have real friends, never understand people, what they say, what they mean, how they think and feel. I believed I would never be a whole person, that I was somehow lacking, or defective, because I didn’t really care most of the time. Most of the time, I didn’t even really want all the things I was ‘lacking’ in. I usually preferred to be left alone.
But I still said “I would trade ¾ of my brain power just to be normal.” My understanding of myself was profoundly negative, despite a superiority complex. I am edging on genius range after all. (In a few areas) [that’s mostly sarcastic]
No one knew I truly wasn’t normal. I was just weird. Finally, people, except for an amazing few, did leave me alone; they mostly ignored me, and I mostly ignored everyone else. It worked, after a fashion. Eventually, I got through. I got through several years of work, and then tried a year boarding and attending university. I crashed. It was disastrous. I was completely unprepared and totally convinced I was no good. I questioned my faith; accused God of screwing up my design. I begged Him to just let me die already, since I wasn’t any use or value.
With time and anti-depressants I recovered, (mostly). I worked more, attended college, gained a diploma… Then I couldn’t hold down a job since I couldn’t recognize poor work situations, and suffered repeated communication failures. I crashed again and more or less gave up.
Then, a profession development series about students with disabilities undertaken by my mother, who is teacher, led to some serious conversations around the table, and the Question.
“Have you ever considered you may have Aspergers?”
I was diagnosed at age 26. No one knew. No one saw. I was just normal enough that no one even thought to look. Not anyone’s fault, just the way it was.
It was a huge relief. I got some counseling, religious and secular and learned some coping strategies and better ways to think. I learned to be conscious of my mind, self aware in a way I had never been; to monitor my emotions and thoughts. It helped.
I still struggle. It’s only been four years. I take my pills. I have a steady job. Not my dream job, but I have worked there for three years and counting. I am good at it. And I can hope again. I dream. I can rest safely in the knowledge that God has a plan for me, just as I am. Because I am not broken, or defective, or uncaring or lazy, or even (especially?) wrongly made. Just a little out of sync with the others.
Sadly, my story isn’t all that atypical. Until very recently, no one had ever heard of Aspergers and Autism meant idiot’s savant, or screaming non-communicating savages. The sort-of-normal fell through the cracks, functioned just well enough in school that they never received extra help, and struggled horribly in the unscheduled, unprotected real world.
Thank God, things are looking up. Those diagnosed today look for a better tomorrow.
Be unfair to a woman that’s sexist, discriminate against someone of another colour and that’s racist, put people with Autism at a disadvantage… that is acceptable. Let’s be honest no one can discriminate against someone based on sexuality, gender, race, age or religion and still consider themselves a good person. Nevertheless, if two straight white males interview for a job the one who is more charismatic and likeable is going to get the job. Of course likeability in a job interview is based on picking up on non-verbal cues, as well as a bunch of other factors such as how you dress and present yourself, but you really wouldn’t be able to pick up on that if you aren’t reading what the people around you are telling you with their body language, and sending back the right ones yourself. An employer simply has to say that the, person without Autism has better “people skills” or “soft skills”. People skills are something that a person can work on and improve dramatically. What people don’t tell you, however, is that no matter how much you improve or work your ass off at it, the people skills of a Neurotypical person are generally going to be a 100 times better even if they never make an effort. Just the way our brains are wired. After all why wouldn’t you hire the person who is going to fit better in the work environment and you can see yourself being friends with. At least that is the way that the interviewer must see it.
Here is what is wrong with that. One could argue that, that life is unfair and there is no discrimination involved because they are unaware that one of the candidates is on the Autism spectrum, even if they were aware the other candidate is just better for the job. This is not always the case, however. If the job is sales or working in a tiny cramped room with someone else than of course take the person who is better able to make a first impression, however, the job being interviewed may have nothing to do with first impressions or even face-to-face interaction where body language comes into play. Working in a library, archives or even as part of an auto mechanic team making great first impression shouldn’t be as important as other skills. People with Autism are loyal, hard-working, dedicated and honest to a point where you may have to ask them to keep their opinions to themselves. That honesty, however, can save a project that was doomed for failure if no one spoke up but had been more worried with currying favor with the superior. I would much rather have a heart surgeon who was competent, hard-working and knowledgeable in their field which are characteristics people on the spectrum have in abundance, but comes off awkward when I first meet him. Other jobs like telemarketing don’t require being able to read body language as all the work takes place over the phone and they may have little interaction with their co-workers. Yet, in all of these jobs no one has taken out the bias towards people who are charismatic and make great first impressions but may turn out to be dishonest and lazy. Therefore, once again the person with Autism is going to go home without the job.
Though, there is really nothing you can do about this anymore than you can pass rules about who someone needs to be friends with or date. That is one of the really annoying parts is that there is no one to blame as the bias is deeply buried in the interview system. If a woman gets discriminated against when it comes to getting a job, she can tell everyone and they can agree that the guilty party is a misogynistic pig. People will actually join her in their hatred of that person and they will share her story with other people. There may even be an inquiry into the situation. If someone with Autism gets passed up for a job, while what are we really going to do?
As a stand-up comedian it can be quite detrimental to my career. Let’s say I do as well as anyone else, which is very subjective and I am firmly on team Schwartz here, when it comes to open mics which is like the never-ending audition for who the more successful comedians take with them on the road when they get a paying gig. The thing is that I am still unlikely to get picked and given the opportunity, because the comedian who got the gig in the first place is likely to want to take someone that they feel like they really connect with, again with the nonverbal cues and reciprocity, as they are going to have to spend at least four hours in the car with them. It is not like there is any kind of appeal process it simply is what it is. It is not like I can even get upset with who gets the opportunities because they totally deserve them as they also work hard, spending the time writing and coming out to open mics and are very talented. I want the best for them as they are my friends. That is probably the most frustrating part because you really want an outside party to rally against and say all kinds of nasty things about, because it’s unfair, but what can you really say it’s nobody’s fault.
This discreet discrimination also impacts our social life. For example, if a group of co-workers are getting together after work for a pint if everyone is invited except for Tom, because he’s gay that’s homophobic. If everyone is getting together but they don’t invite the guy with Autism, while that’s fine he probably wouldn’t have had that nice of a time anyway because he wouldn’t have anyone to talk to so it’s for the best. This is an experience that is common for many people on the Autism spectrum. Therefore, levelling the playing field for people Autism because we lack “soft skills” is going to be much harder struggle than it is for most other groups.