Thursday, March 5, 2015

For Aspies, Friendships & Socializing SUCKS - Here's Why

Like many other Aspies, I struggle with friendships. As a child, I'm told and have vague memories of having friends over and ending up at some point reading books and not playing with my friends. I hated being prompted to go play with them, though no one really knew why. (I picture my mom like the mother of Jesus, just keeping these little things in her heart until she found a sensible answer - which she eventually did - even if no one else cared/believed it mattered.)
So, my sister would end up playing with my friends. Though she didn't seem to mind because she liked people. HAha! I don't know, I've never asked her. But she was always the "people person" one.
I would even avoid activities at other birthday parties. One party I specifically remember they were going to watch "Coneheads" - we couldn't have been 10 years old? I knew my mom didn't want me to watch it, and I didn't "get it" anyway, so I stayed in the other room and played Barbies. Quite happily, I'll add. (Sidenote: I have since twice tried to watch it, and I can't even fathom how it could be entertaining. Sidenote: Dan Aykroyd says he has Aspergers too, and it is often said that Aspie humor can be a little out there!)

Another time everyone was going to go snowmobiling, and I didn't want to go. We must have been like 6 or 7 I think? I think I was under the impression that some of the kids were driving snowmobile, and I didn't think it was a smart idea, so I just stayed back. I don't remember what I did, or even if anyone was with me! But I probably enjoyed the quiet! I may have a flash of visiting with an adult, another common thing for an Aspie kid to do. But I'm really not sure if that memory flash belongs in that particular story.

As a teen, I had a group of friends off and on, but twice the "leader" dropped me with no explanation or sensible reason. The first was one of those "about-face" situations that Aspies seem to find themselves in, where you are lead to believe one thing and then BOOM, they pull the run out from under you and turn on you after they just strung you along! The other I still, to this day, have no idea what happened or why. I sometimes struggle with thinking I have forgiven them both, because who cares anymore, but really, I wonder if I have if I can't forget that it happened, and wondering why. (Aspies end up dwelling on things, see? Does dwelling = unforgiveness?) But, moving on here...

As an adult, friendships are no more clear than they were as a kid. It is literally like everyone else got "the book", and I didn't. Believe me, if there was a book, and someone just handed it to me, I would have read it! Because I read books. However, there is a chance I wouldn't have been interested and still not read it, and it's too late now, I don't have time to read! 

Seriously. There are too many rules. And not all the rules apply to all friends all the time. They only apply sometimes. In my case, a lot of rules only apply if you live in a 5 mile vicinity, which no one does.

Listen, I don't think I am high maintenance. I don't need to 'hang out' or do stuff all the time. I don't want to be around people that badly that often. And yes, I get it when people don't have the ability/money to drive to my place,, and that the times I am where they are is usually never convenient, because we don't go out LOL. (Don't even get me started on the fact that you can't even make plans with people because they will NEVER say "Oh, great! I will put you on the schedule and not let anything interfere with this!" Most people will never, have never, unless you're the bestie.)

But still, even though I am not in need of frequent interaction, it is still nice to feel like you matter to people you consider your friends, right? Wouldn't it be nice if they could come through for you when you think they should come around? 

Which is what hit me tonight. These rules that I think apply to all friendships really don't. They must not apply to any friendships. Or only some of them, under some circumstances? I don't get it. I mean, as an Aspie, I am trying to take in information all the time to guide my social behavior, but when the rules don't apply, or only apply to certain people in certain situations, or only apply for certain people, or apply here, but not there, or for them but not me, I get so lost. I'm trying to make sense of the social world by taking in the information from what I see around me. I try to figure out how to act, socially, by seeing how others are acting. Then it goes into my mental "rule book". Of course, by the time I have to access that information to use it, it's no longer valid. Maybe because I'm with new people, or a new situation, or whatever. Still, if you are playing by a rule book that is constantly changing and never the same even with the same people, it can be confusing!

You might think maybe I should forget about the "rule book". You. Don't. Get. It.

Imagine you are on another planet. Literally. You don't speak the language, their mannerisms are strange to you, and you don't know what to do. Naturally, you start taking notes, either mentally or even on paper, about their interactions, any noises or "words" they use during certain interactions, and you start piecing together the puzzle of their language and interactions. However, you spend your entire life doing this, and you never seem to be able to pick out any pattern for any word, interaction or mannerism.

This is kinda like what it is like to be an Aspie in the social world. It's literally like living on the wrong planet. I'm taking notes, and trying to give myself safe guidelines to abide by when socializing, but none of the rules are ever the same! And you wonder why Aspies have to limit their social time. The first 75% of social time is spent decoding the language, mannerisms and social rules of the situation at hand, likely REWRITING the previous edition. This is all happening before we feel comfortable socializing. We probably spend this whole time sitting silently, or hovering over the food if there is any, or even on our phones or something (the perfect social anxiety tool!). 

The thinking is that people with Aspergers have the problem, but I don't agree with that (of course). I think YOU all have the problem! LOL! How can you do that? Make rules, only to break them, or ignore them and not use them? Or make them in one instance, and then break them in the next? What kind of crazy people are you? (Hahaha).

Anyway, I think it is dawning on me that each friendship is indeed unique and different, and when I'm measuring the rules of friendship from one person to another it really isn't fair, is it? However, I have a horrible time figuring out the world without my mental rules, so I'm still completely lost. Now not only do my rules mean nothing, but I have to keep rules individually for every person I know, and even if I do, those rules are bound to change. And those rules might not apply to me as their friend, but only someone else? So only someone else has this particular rule, but I'm off the hook? 

I haven't even begun to think about what this means or how it works. Again you might tell me to stop worrying about the "rule book". But YOU aren't an Aspie, are you? Until you are an Aspie, stop telling me what to do in my own head. Rules help me not end up being called a freak or something. If I throw them out, then I'm the weirdo friend that no one wants to be around because they are too weird and no one understands them. I want to be understood, and not have people ignore me because I'm too weird. I had enough of that as a kid. Which, maybe, is the reason I do all this "rule" crap? 

Like it or not, even NT people have unwritten, unspoken social rules. It's just that you understand what they are, for whom they apply, and when or if they can be broken. And you can probably keep track of different ones for different people. Aspies don't have that benefit of being able to determine all that stuff. So there.

 Maybe that is why I feel so connected to people who's friendship has maybe ran past its expiration date in my life. I miss people, just as intensely as I miss my current friends. Even people I haven't seen or talked to in over 10 years I still want to pop back into my life just like they've been here all along. I don't "get" this whole "friendship for a season" thing. I do understand when I have a disagreement and things get awkward, but I don't understand that some people are okay with that, and I'm the only one feeling awkward. 

Do you have any idea, right now, what it feels like to socialize with Aspergers?


  1. I too am always trying to come up with appropriate rules for various situations. But it sometimes seems like a Sisyphean feat. Social interactions are tough in general for Aspies, and friendships even more so. So many permutations! Lately I've been wondering if there's any hope of developing new deep, meaningful friendships. It's been years since I've had a truly close friend. But I'm also wondering if I even want to have a close friend. Maybe a wife and daughter and a handful of casual acquaintances is enough. The challenge, for me at least, is figuring out what I truly want. For so long I've focused on what I thought I was supposed to want, rather than what actually makes me happily. Now it's hard to distinguish between the two! Anyway, I really enjoyed your post.