Ooh! A person. (Yikes! A person.) Maybe they won’t see me. Oh shizz, they see me.
Please say hi to me. Please acknowledge me. Please, please don’t ignore me; I already feel so insignificant in this world.
Wait–scratch that–please, don’t say hi. If you do, then that means that I have to say hi back. And if I do, you might ask me how I am. And the truth is, I don’t know. I feel all these different things. I feel alone. I feel unappreciated. I feel different. I feel strange. I feel tired. I might be getting hungry, but I can’t tell.
If they say, “hi, how are you?” do I simply say “fine” because my life doesn’t totally suck and things could be a lot worse? If I say “I’m OK”, that would probably put them off right? “OK” isn’t the same as “fine”. “Fine” as acceptable; “OK” is considered mediocre in this world. “OK” means there’s actually something wrong but I’m being coy or distant or that I’m some kind of grump who can’t cheer up for one second. Never mind that I’m confused. Never mind that I may have answered this question with an embarrassingly complete rundown when a simple “fine” was all that was expected (wanted).
Oh god, a conversation got started. How did I get dragged into this? How do I get out?? What’s an acceptable excuse without coming across as rude?
Now they want to talk about the cedar and how it’s causing so many problems for people with allergies. I know of some good remedies for that! But if I share them, then that keeps the conversation going, which I REALLY don’t want to do. (I was looking for an out, remember?)
But if I hold back and NOT share the information, I feel like a jerk. I could have helped someone and decided not to, out of my own selfishness.
But then, if I do share my ideas with them, they might respond dismissively. They might not believe in it, which would be disheartening. And then I would feel compelled to convince them, extolling the virtues of science-based natural health. Or they might have already tried it and it didn’t work. I would’ve felt like a failure or mediocre (which, if you recall, isn’t acceptable in this world), which would only have reinforced my feelings of insignificance. Maybe I’m not so unique or special after all.
OK, back to square one. Where will the conversation go this time? I have to stay mentally on-guard. Must be prepared for anything.
Weather, yeah, I can do that. I haven’t been living under a rock or anything. I’ve looked out the window and I know the temperature has changed because I’ve had to alter my heating and air conditioning accordingly.
It also really helps if they have pets. Especially if they’re walking their dog, and especially if the dog is friendly and of manageable size. That would be a mutually shared interest. Bonus: the dog would give me a socially acceptable eye contact target that might let me off the hook for making eye contact with people. Yes, that could work; in fact, that would be great.
But even in the best of circumstances (like having the dog present as a focal point), I still wonder too much…
Are my jeans and shirt clean? Is there anything stuck in my teeth? Did I remember to brush? Do I smell funny? Am I standing too close? I’m getting hot out here. What’s up there in the sky? Where I spent my childhood, there was an old wives tale that you could count on – if you can see the backs of the leaves on the trees when the wind blows, then you know that rain is in the forecast; does that hold true here, too? Does the other person notice my recently-acquired belly fat? Does my chosen hair color clash with my skin tone? Do they think I’m staring too intently? Where should I focus? I can’t look at both of their eyes at once; yet they’re looking at me just fine. How do they do that?? How do I do that? I can’t seem to do it. So where should I look instead? (I found out the hard way that switching back and forth between both their eyes is NOT the answer.) So maybe I should look at their nose? The spot between their eyes? Maybe their forehead. Or maybe their lips. Do they know that I’m confused? For some reason, I’m drawn to their mouth. It’s not a sensual thing (not in the least!) but that’s where I find myself looking. Do they notice? Do they think that’s weird? Do I “pass”, or can they tell that I’m looking in a different spot? Damn, why do I use words like “pass”, anyway? If people can tell that I’m different, then does that mean I don’t “pass”? Does that mean I “fail”? Oh god, am I relating Asperger’s/autistic traits to “failure” now? That’s not healthy; does it mean I’m ableist after all?? Truth be told, I don’t (I repeat: I do not) see my Asperger’s as a problem, but what about the rest of the world? Do they? Should I just be “out and proud “? I rather like that idea, but I’m afraid I’ll be rejected; they want to talk about makeup or their kids or current events and I’m sitting here wanting to say, “for the record, I’m looking at your mouth instead of your eyes because I ‘have’ Asperger’s and I would rather not make eye contact, if that’s OK?” Jeez, why would I even have to say “if that’s OK”? What, am I asking for permission? Does the neurotypical world ever ask for ours? Am I being ableist again?
And I realize that a whole chunk of a Small Talk Conversation has transpired, and I was completely zoned out! Did they realize that I wasn’t paying attention? Do they think I’m rude now? Did I hurt their feelings? I really don’t want to be rude or hurt anyone’s feelings. Talk about a proverbial knife in the gut. Or, alternatively, do they think that I’m spacey or somehow “ditzy”? (Lord, I despise those terms. I always got accused of such things, and they’re an assault on females everywhere.)
What are we talking about now? Which way did the conversation turn? Can I catch up and tune in, kind of like I do when turning the TV on at night in the middle of a show? Yeah, I can do that. At least, I think so.
Where are we? They’re asking me where I work and what I do. Well, I do human biochemistry, research analysis, and internal medicine consultation – in that order. Yes, I’m a doctor. It seems too punctuated, too brief, like I’m playing games, but I want to be polite. Was that all the info they wanted? But I know what comes next! They’re going to ask me what specialty. Yep, I can answer that one, too. But fifteen minutes later, I realize that although I’ve been silent before, I’ve rambled on about how I decided to become a doctor, what kind of specialty training I’ve gone for afterward, how we started our practice, how scary it was, and basically my life story for the past fifteen years. Does that still fit the definition of small talk?? Did they want all that info? I feel apologetic for spilling verbal spew all over them. I’m pretty sure they were just being polite, nodding and making eye contact with me (or were they? If I’m the one doing the talking, I usually look away, and not at them, so for all I know, they could have been staring at their shoes and I wouldn’t have noticed). I’m sure I bored them and they’ll probably never want to talk with me again.
Oh well, Small Talk Problem solved.