When I was seven or eight years old I recognized that other people’s brains operated differently than mine. I knew I was unusually intelligent, but this was not just a difference of intelligence. It was a mechanical difference (difference in kind versus difference in degree). When I learned of Autism, I felt I was somehow connected. Years later, I learned about Asperger’s syndrome, a mild Autism spectrum disorder. I was married then; my wife read a list of symptoms and instantly concluded that I had it. The main symptoms are social difficulties, such as avoiding eye-contact, or not picking up on non-verbal communication. Others include fascination or obsession with complex topics, and often an above-average aptitude for mechanical and mathematical things. The symptoms are most pronounced in children and diminish into adulthood.
People with Asperger’s are said to lack empathy, but I don’t really agree with this. Sociopaths lack empathy, and aspies are not, as a rule, sociopaths. I think people with AS are more inside themselves and preoccupied with their own world than a typical person. Thus, they care less about what’s going on with other people. Lacking ability to pick up on non-verbal cues, they are often oblivious to other people’s feelings/emotions. However, when they do recognize suffering or realize that they’ve hurt someone they will certainly feel bad about it.
For men, this social inability creates extra difficulty in having relationships with women. I can’t say much about women with AS, because I don’t know of any. In the West, women have developed an expectation that men behave as women when it comes to showing emotion, sharing feelings, and reading minds. The stems from the erroneous belief that men and women are the same. A man with AS is even more different and un-woman-like in this way. In a sense, AS men might be viewed as being extra-masculine. They tend not to be the most successful with women, but social skills (game) can be learned. AS people are difficult to read, and can appear cold, robot-like, emotionally dead, creepy, or mysterious. They may be very shy, but they can also be overly outgoing.
Recently, someone on OKCupid’s Dating Advice forum explained that she had begun seeing an AS guy and was looking for advice. She did not identify any specific problem; she was just looking for general advice. The first person to reply said, “Have you really sunk so low you’re dating retards now?” Later in the thread some expressed skepticism about the disorder. To some, it’s a made up disorder that people use as an excuse for being assholes. Autism is real and appears to result from abnormal brain development. It is not difficult to imagine that this abnormality can vary greatly in severity. Autism is not disease like Down’s syndrome that one either has or doesn’t have.
Once again, I’ve never been diagnosed with AS, and I think it’s very likely that I would not be if I went to specialist. However, every time I read about the disorder, I identify with it. Many of the symptoms are effectively gone, as some of them were basically just delayed development, but I still feel different and have my AS moments. Whenever someone asks me how it’s going or how I’m doing, I want to answer them honestly, but I know I’m supposed to just say “good”, “well”, or respond with a greeting of my own. Still, if I’m in a shitty or normal mood, I feel uncomfortable lying about it. I also know that when I run into people I know, I’m supposed to be happy to see them, but I rarely ever am. People sometimes ask me what’s wrong when nothing is, and once someone asked what I was so happy about when I would swear that I wasn’t. I am normally in a normal mood, not good or bad. It takes a lot to get me excited.
About a week ago, I was sitting at the bar in a near empty place when bartender pointed to one of the TVs. He recognized some video of a motorcycle rider crashing and getting run over by a car. This video was apparently amazing to him and he wanted to share this amazing-ness with the nearest human, which happened to be me. I wasn’t amazed. I smiled, pretending to be impressed, but I’m sure I appeared emotion-less. I disappointed him. It’s a little thing, but these little things happen a lot, particularly with people who I don’t know/like and/or are of limited intelligence. Not laughing at jokes is common. I have a sense of humor, but a lot of shit just isn’t funny.
In the last few years, I’ve taken up drinking. Alcohol makes me feel human. It animates me. When I’m drunk, I actually do get excited to see the same boring people I always see, and people seem to find me much more interesting. Recently, I’ve developed a beer belly and weigh more than ever before. If anyone has any suggestions for a new drug, I’m all ears. Pot is out of the question. It just makes me tired.