It’s been almost a year since I stumbled upon the fact that I’m on the Asperger’s/autism spectrum. Right away, everything that I’d been wondering about, confused about, and beating myself up for was suddenly, simply, and neatly explained. And right away, it became easy–and necessary–to reframe my life through my newly focused lens.
But you knew that. 🙂
What you may or may not know is that 10.5 months later, I’m still reframing.
Over the past year, every significant day that has come to pass has been my “first” as a (known) Aspie/autistic person.
Valentine’s Day is no different.
And by “no different”, I mean a few things…
It’s “no different” from the other holidays I’ve encountered in which, as I mentioned, I’m still reframing.
It’s “no different” from any other day on the calendar. I’m hitched in every way possible (at least, that I can think of) – emotionally, logistically (we share an apartment and a business), financially, and legally. We’re also almost-assuredly connected karmically
Valentine’s Day shouldn’t be a reminder to be nice to each other.
When you’re hitched, every day should be a day in which you’re sweet, caring, considerate, and friendly toward each other. Every day should be one in which we’re “nice” to each other, saying nice things to and doing nice things for each other.
Valentine’s Day can also be divisive. It can inadvertently pit the single and taken culture segments against each other–usually not in a personal, individual way, but in a broad, general way. Its obsession with couple-hood can marginalize those who are single.
If you’re single, you either want to be, or you don’t.
If you’re single and happy being single, then (it goes without saying) you’re content being single. Your life is complete and satisfying as it is, and you don’t need the rest of the world implying that you’re “strange”, “cold”, “unloving”, or “weird” for being single. You don’t need the rest of the world telling you what to do and putting you in the possible position of feeling like you have to defend yourself or justify your choice. You don’t need everyone rubbing their coupledom in your face. And they shouldn’t be.
If you’re single and would prefer not to be, Valentine’s Day can be downright depressing. You don’t need the rest of the world reminding you what a “loser” (they imply) that you “are”. You don’t need to be reminded that you’re lonely. You don’t need to go grocery shopping or watch TV commercials and get bombarded with the message that “everybody’s doing it, so it must be a character flaw that you can’t”. You don’t need everyone rubbing it in your face. And they shouldn’t be.
Nobody needs any of that crap.
Adding salt to the wound is the fact that V-day wouldn’t get so much press if it didn’t have anything to sell. Its perceived importance is thrust upon the rest of us, who have no choice but to play the role of the sitting duck, unless we stay inside that day with the TV (and any other source of advertising) turned off. The importance is purely a commercial-social construct. Advertisers want to sell you chocolate, wine, and flowers that will die after a week. They want to sell you outlandish items that far outweigh the actual meaning of the day, like luxury cars and diamonds.
All of this V-day shizz is completely unnecessary. I think that people on the Asperger’s/autism spectrum inherently understand that. And relationships can be a thorn in our sides (whether we’re single or not) as it is – we don’t need to make a whole production out of it. We don’t need the fuss or the fanfare.
And I resent being sent the message by the mega-companies and their advertising firms that I’m a piece of crap if I don’t get my partner a Lexus for V-day, or that he’s a piece of crap if I don’t get one on V-day. And a person can only drink so much wine or eat so much chocolate (which is a borderline sacrilegious statement, I know). 🙂
As an Aspie, I’ve looked upon Valentine’s Day very pragmatically. OK, cool – a day of love. A day of celebrating partnership. That’s nice.
But, as an Aspie, relationships have given me plenty of headaches throughout my life. There’s the Headache of Misunderstanding. The Headache of (Inaccurate) Assumptions. The Headache of Accusations. The Headache of Betrayal/Dishonesty/Lies. The Headache of Absenteeism/Distance (usually from them, toward me). The Headache of Cluelessness. The Headache of Feeling Used. And so on, and on, and on…
And although I’ve been in my current partnership for almost 18 years, we don’t make a big production out of V-day, either. It’s another day. We’ve gotten each other gifts on the occasional V-day in the past and all that, but we go to work, do our thing, come home, feed the cats, watch TV, and go to bed. That’s about it. Nice, simple, routine. And for us, V-day is no different.
I’m diagnosed as Aspie/autistic, and I have a strong suspicion that my partner may be on the spectrum, too. So V-day is doubly-ordinary for us.
After all, how do you celebrate a day of partnership-flavored love when you already have a different approach to love?
By a “different approach” I mean that although I usually know if I love someone, I don’t always. I may not realize I love someone. I may not be able to identify or express what I’m actually thinking/feeling toward that person, and I may find tougher yet to be able to tell that it’s love.
By “different approach” I also mean that even in cases in which I can determine that I love someone, I might not be able to manage that feeling. I might loom over my head, out of control.
“Different approach” can also mean that I express that love differently. I might be quite fond of someone without spending much time with them. I don’t have to be in the same room with them. I can love someone from afar. I can hang out with them in my dreams. I can interact with them online. Even given the opportunity to physically spend time together, I might need to be given plenty of space, plenty of room to have regular doses of Alone Time.
My version of a “different approach” to love also involves different types of love. My partner is male, we’re conventionally married, and that partnership is a one-of-a-kind deal. I’m loyal to him; I have no other partnership of this kind with anyone else. But there are some types of love that I can only describe as not-partnership, but not-platonic, either. They go deeper than that. How deep do they go and where does it take me? I can’t always describe it. It’s innocent enough, sure; there’s nothing I feel for anyone else that could be considered adultery or cheating or anything. I think sometimes it’s a brain-crush. I think other times it’s an affectionate type of love (sometimes complete with physical touch), but without a single hint of anything sexual. And I think that sometimes it’s a feeling of sibling-hood, like spirit siblings.
For me, these could all be considered types of love. For me, gender does not matter; all types of non-partnership love is equal-opportunity. I’ve had brain-crushes on people of both genders, non-sexually affectionate relationships with both, and spirit-sibling feelings toward both.
A “different approach” can also pertain to how I relate to my partner. Although I’m a huggy person, I’ve been affectionately starved for so long that I’d long ago given up on the idea of getting hugged on a regular basis. It hurts sometimes, but there’s a callous there now instead of rawness. The partnership we have is pragmatic and familiar. The familiarity breeds a sort of soft comfort. Some might call it a rut. I’m not sure if it is or not; the verdict could change directions with the wind. Right now, I don’t think it’s too rutty, though.
I do know that we do deeply care for each other. We share unique characteristics and a common (to us but otherwise unusual) communication mode. I also know that we’re both perfectly happy doing our own thing by ourselves, coming together periodically to make contact at our convenience and whenever we feel like it. At least it’s not smothering. But I’d also long ago given up on asking myself how I feel about that arrangement and expecting myself to be able to answer.
All I can say is, I don’t know the answer, but at least I’m used to it. I’m OK with the way it is. I’ve learned to work with it, use it to my advantage, turn the sources of pain into parameters of opportunity. For example, if I wasn’t alone as much of the time as I am, I probably wouldn’t be able to blog or interact online as much as I do. So, instead of believing I’m being neglected, ignored, and left unloved, I might think of it as his giving me space to explore, connect, and be who I am. And he’s very gracious about the time I spend on the computer and my mobile. Maybe that’s just because he’s happy to have sole control over the TV, but the result is the same: I have some space and freedom. I get to be me.
I’m typically a romantic at heart, but the entire concept of romance has been lying dormant in the shadows for a long time. I’ve lost track of the length of time that has elapsed since I’ve adjusted.
Instead, I’ve gravitated toward information, projects, creating, and producing. Information doesn’t need to be impressed or convinced to stick around. Information doesn’t require anything from you; it just gives to you–what you want, when you want it, and however often. It’s not going to judge you for jumping up and down with glee when you find it. It doesn’t give you any stink-eyes or death-glares. It doesn’t misinterpret you or get all haughty by something you said. It’s just there–utilitarian, dependable, reliable, and constant. Projects don’t need constant attention. Creating doesn’t need endless reassurance. Which is…reassuring. It brings out the best–as opposed to the worst–in me. It lets me shine. My partner does, too, but my activities don’t require that I consider anyone else.
That probably sounds pretty selfish. Some would jump on the narcissism label. At least, they might dust off the Asperger’s/autism spectrum diagnostic criteria and pull the antisocial card. I can definitively state that I’m not narcissistic. I’ll give you selfish, although I must qualify that with the fact that I don’t think it’s an immaturity issue. Rather, it’s an anxiety or uneasiness feeling. Other people can be complicated and unpredictable, which can further clutter and overload my brain. I can’t predict what they’ll say or what they might think of me. Since I’ve stopped judging myself so much, I find that I’m a decent playmate…or at least a more content person.
One survival strategy I use that becomes especially applicable for me as an Aspie is to keep logic in the driver’s seat and emotions strapped down in a box. In the trunk. And slam the trunk lid down. It’s not so much that I stuff my emotions in order to look tough or anything; I simply keep them on the sidelines in favor of logic. If the emotions are standing on the sidelines, they don’t meddle in the game. Since I can’t identify them half the time anyway, I imagine that it would probably be useless to bring them out more often. They might just get in the way and muck things up, and likely for no solid reason.
I wonder if my clinging to logic and detachment is causing the expansive space in our relationship, or if has it formed as a result of it? Am I creating the situation, or adjusting to it? Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Ahh, so many questions.
And such is the life of love and relationships for many of us Asperger’s/autistic people. Love is a strong and enigmatic emotion. Sometimes it’s too strong, and we turn down its volume as a self-defense mechanism. Sometimes it hijacks the driver’s seat of our brain, forcing us to act in ways other than typical for our true selves. And sometimes the story is more nebulous than that–undefinable, like trying to divide a number by zero.
A day like V-day, well, can be tricky and awkward. It embodies all of those thoughts and emotions, wrapping them up into one bundle of hot mess. That’s probably why I’ve chosen to look at it as Just Another Day. My life is simpler that way. I like simple. I don’t dread it or get bummed about V-day, nor do I/we celebrate it. Our partnership is pretty good; but even so–and even if it wasn’t–V-day isn’t exactly a make-or-break kind of day for us/me. Popular culture sends the wrong message to practically everybody on/about V-day. It’s just yet one more artificial social construct, dreamed up by the neurotypical desire for social engineering, psychological manipulation, and commercialism at any cost. Even at the cost of our emotions. The insistence upon V-day as a big deal can ruin days or weeks of a large segment of people, primarily in the name of making a quick buck for a few select industries. Society is sociopathic that way.
My Aspie/autistic brain feels repelled toward these concepts, so why would I want to “give in” and “celebrate” a day that should be unlike any other (whether from a single or partnered perspective)?
It’s a farce and the public at large hasn’t gotten around to calling its bluff yet. Consider it called; I have an alternative idea…
We could call it Alternative Valentine’s Day. We could possibly hashtag it “#AltVal”, using it instead to express our “love” for, or our deep caring about, and/or our appreciation for each other, our genuine friends, and the cooler members of our families. We could get together with them instead, either online or offline (as applicable) and send each other cool digital art of hearts or whatever (however we choose to express ourselves). It’s commercialism-free, it costs nothing, it takes mere seconds, and it spreads our warm feelings and inter-connectedness toward wider boundaries, higher altitudes, and greater depths.
It’s much more inclusive, unifying, open-minded, and wholesome.
The conventional-shaped “couples” do not have a monopoly on a day of benevolence.
(Image Credit: Laura Iverson)