Now that things have settled down just a bit, perhaps I can get back to blogging.
My family and I traveled out of state to my father-in-law’s funeral during my last hiatus. I have posted before about the experience of attending a funeral from an aspie standpoint before, so I already knew I was in for a slightly uncomfortable time. However, I was also very aware that I was going to have a very important job at this funeral – my FIL’s death hit my wife pretty hard. She handled it surprisingly well, but she was still emotional. I was there to support her, because aspies are superheroes when it comes to lending support during emotional times.
Able to not understand what the big deal is in a single shrug.
There were times where I found myself standing around with nothing to do, so I started doing what I enjoy doing in these types of situations: I began to observe human behavior for interesting patterns. It didn’t take me too long to find one. I started noticing how people were standing and talking together. I noticed that when two people stood together, they almost never faced each other. They stood with their feet at an angle to the other person, like a conversation deflection of sorts – I’m not really interested in talking to you, but I don’t want to seem rude and ignore you, so I’ll meet you halfway. It was pretty consistent no matter the age or gender.
I decided that I needed to learn this move, post haste.
Even more interesting was how this dynamic applied when there were more than two people standing together. The “angled feet” behavior was still present, with each person angling themselves to avoid directly facing either of the other people. And as the group grew, the people adjusted their angles to fit the group’s size, often positioning themselves to form a social semicircle.
It was fascinating. Seriously. I felt like Pavlov, only my subjects weren’t drooling dogs.
And my beard wasn’t quite as bitchin’.
The most interesting thing happened when…
Wait a minute…
That’s totally Robert Duvall with a humongous beard!
Ok, where was I? Oh yeah…
The most interesting thing happened when two groups came together to form a large “supergroup” of sorts. Each group would open up slightly to accept the merging group, and after a moment or two of jostling, the people would fall perfectly into the angled feet position! The supergroup would often be a fairly large circle at this point, with nobody talking or looking directly at anyone else, yet they were all having a conversation with everyone at the same time.
From here, the supergroup would break up and the participants would float around the room until they joined up with others to form smaller group chains. And this dynamic happened over and over again. It was like watching so weird social cellular cosmos, with people aimlessly colliding with one another over and over again. It was cool to watch. It was even cooler not to join in. Instead, in between consoling hugs for my wife, I was able to let my mind wander onto other meaningless things. Such as….
See? Didn’t I tell you?
A good rule of thumb concerning my social interactions is to assume that everything is extremely awkward unless otherwise specified. Today is no different.
Today I nearly ran into a co-worker of mine in the supemarket. I say “nearly” because he was literally two feet away from me at one point, only I didn’t notice him because I was busy trying to corral my crazy children and prevent them from running around and making a total mess of the place.
Cleanup in aisle 4.
I honestly don’t know if he noticed me or not; I only realized it was him when he was walking away and facing the opposite direction. I considered myself lucky, though. I didn’t want to say hi anyway.
I hate that situation. I hate meeting someone that you know well from a certain setting, but meeting them in a completely different environment. It’s like running into someone from your church at the porno shop – it’s awkward, it’s strange, it doesn’t make any sense. For me, it’s escpecially difficult. As an Aspie, I find comfort in routines. This includes social interaction – I know what subjects I can talk about with certain people without seeming weird. When I’m at work with work people I can talk work things. But what do I talk about when I meet work people in the supermarket? Supermarket things?
“Did you see the endcap between aisles 6 and 7? Crazy deals, man.”
This gets even more difficult when I run into someone and I cannot remember where I know them from, even if my life depended on it. I end up trying to coax information out of them to figure out why the hell I know them. Meanwhile, they have a certain expectation of the conversation, which I am obviously and painfully failing to fill. Now you know why I consider myself lucky that I ducked my coworker.
I spent the rest of the shopping trip looking around nervously, hoping to avoid him. I didn’t want to bump into him without warning, but I also didn’t want to make accidental eye contact while trying to locate him. Thankfully, I was able to avoid him for the rest of the shopping trip.
Now, all I need to do is come up with some excuse why I didn’t say hi when I see him at work tomorrow.
Works for me.
As an aspie, I have some real difficulties hanging in on a conversation that I’ve lost interest in. I can stick it out for a while, but eventually I get to the point where I’m looking for the fastest way out of a conversation. So what happens when the conversation just keeps going deeper and deeper, and DEEPER with no end in sight?
I explode on the inside, that’s what happens.
Yup. That’s me.
One of my coworkers just absolutely cannot tell a simple straight story. Every conversation goes off on tangent after tangent, and sometimes on sub-tangents of those original tangents, etc. I’ve actually thought to myself, “How the fuck did we get here?” and I honestly can’t figure it out. Just the other day she went from getting a haircut to the Bachelor to visiting her mom to gaining weight from eating too much popcorn to… you know what, to be honest, I completely lost track after that. There was some discussion about a French Press coffee maker vs. a Keurig at some point, but everything else I zoned out on.
The hardest part about dealing with all of this is that eventually she goes backwards down the path and picks up where she left off before the tangents. Which means each time she switches subjects, the conversation is guaranteed to be longer and longer, and L O N G E R……
Other than this one thing, she’s very nice. I just get to the point where I want to stand up and say, “Ok, I’m done. I can’t take anymore. Let me know when you get back to the part about watching the Smurfs with your cousin.”
Hey, that reminds me of this video I saw on the RedTube…
I’m often seriously misunderstood. I’m not antisocial, it just seems like I am because I have Aspergers. I want to talk to people and be liked, but I’m deathly afraid of doing something weird and screwing up. So I avoid talking to people, but I hate the awkward silence that comes with it. And when I just can’t take the silence anymore, when I swallow my fear and reach out, I feel completely foolish.
I take my son to preschool almost every morning. Whenever I’m there, it seems like all the other parents are friendly, making small talk and what not. They’re doing basically all of the stuff I can’t do, which of course makes me feel inadequate and stupid. So I usually get him ready to go into class and rush out of there as soon as I can, which then makes me look antisocial and unfriendly. Which is wonderful, because the one thing I want above all else is to look like a total and complete dick to these people.
Today I tried something different. I was the first one there with my son today, and one of the other dad’s came in behind me with his daughter. The awkward silence was PAINFUL. So I started chatting. Yes, me. CHATTING. And it was as bad as you’d expect. I don’t even remember what I was talking about, but I kept getting those half-hearted laughs you give someone when you don’t want to hurt their feelings but you just want them to shut the fuck up so you can get back to living your life uninterrupted by the weirdo who won’t stop talking to you.
It sucks. I’m sure a lot of us Aspies are like this: desperate to reach out, yet unable to do so in a “normal” way. So we wall off. We hide. Until we find out that you’re interested in something – ANYTHING! – that we can talk about. That’s why Aspies will talk your head off; we don’t want to lose the feeling of connecting with people.