Unwritten Rules, Expectations, & Faux Pas [My Aspie Life]

Throughout most of my life, I’ve noticed that the way I go about living this life tends to annoy other people.  I might think I’m not doing anything wrong; I think I’m doing everything that’s expected of me, and in just the right way, even being sure to mind my own business and being sure not to harm, bother, or inconvenience anyone.

But it never fails: no matter what I do, it seems to be wrong.  I can’t get it quite right–even though I’m trying my best and putting forth all the effort I have to give.

For example, I might actually be talking with someone.  (That right there can be considered an accomplishment.)  I try so hard to be cognizant of my facial muscles and lighten them so that people don’t think I’m grouchy or scowling.  I try even harder to make eye contact, and even harder yet to keep track of what they’re saying, when it might be my turn to talk, and to remember not to over-share or go on for too long before pausing to let them speak again.

But there’s always something, some egregious gaffe or faux pas I commit, one that I didn’t know about beforehand, and about which I was clueless at the time.

Of course, nobody tells me these things in the moment.  That’s probably good, because I’d be horribly embarrassed.  But it’s also a bad thing, because if I don’t realize that I’m doing something wrong, then I don’t fix it….

…Instead, I keep doing it.

I often double-check my behavior and performance (especially during meetings), with my partner, with whom I work.

“How did I do?”  I ask brightly, feeling fairly confident that after almost four decades of life, I might have ironed out all of the bugs in my social skills and finally be getting the hang of things.

“Well, you need to end the conversation and let people go when they need to.”

What??

“I had no idea that they wanted to get going!  They never said anything!”  I protest.

“Well, they were inching toward the door and sort of shifting their feet a little…”

Well now, that’s not the same as saying something, is it?

“Why don’t people just say these things??”

“Because they’re being polite.  That’s not the kind of thing you say.”

First, why the hell not??  Telling someone you have to go or that you have somewhere to be in 20 minutes isn’t rude.  Tuning them out and starting to resent them because you’re too delicate or chicken-shizz to say what’s on your mind, however, is.

At least, that’s the way it is in my book.  But neurotypical society obviously didn’t use my book as a reference manual.  They (un)wrote their unwritten rules and…what, are we simply supposed to be born knowing them?  When are we supposed to learn these things?  How are we supposed to learn them??  How did I get through my upbringing and 20+ years of adult life oblivious to something that’s implied to be so basic and universal??

Second, the idea that “people don’t say that kind of thing” is BS, because I’ve heard it all the time, from all types of people.  So why didn’t somebody say something in this instance, for my benefit?  Who says you’re not supposed to say stuff like this?  Whoever came up with that section of unwritten neurotypical societal code should be notified that many people aren’t following it.  So is it actually a rule or not?  Some consistency would be nice, especially when neurotypical customs are not my native language.

Third, if someone is getting antsy to leave, and growing increasingly annoyed because I’m not picking up on some kind of subtle hint, then it’s their own damn fault for not speaking up.  They don’t get to seethe inside and then blame their situation on me.

Miffed and instantly overwhelmed (and all hopes of bright, sunny brain-skies dashed and dampened), I huff, “well, I thought I did OK.  The conversation seemed to be going well.  Nobody gave me any indication otherwise.  How could you even tell that they were annoyed??”

The reply?  “It’s just something you can tell.”

Oh yeah?  That’s amusing, because apparently my Asperger’s/Autistic Operating System didn’t come with an “I’m Psychic” app.  And tell me–are NT people, on average, really that much better at reading body language, or does my embarrassment happen to them, too?  Does it happen to them and they don’t realize it, or they forget about it fairly quickly?  Or do they agonize about it for the rest of the evening or even a week or a month like I do?

“Well obviously I can’t tell.  Not even by this point in my life.  So how am I supposed to learn??”

<Shrug> “I don’t know.”

Yeah…helpful.  But then, I can’t come down on him too hard.  After all, what was he supposed to say?  I don’t know if I could’ve done any better in his shoes.  Is there even a correct answer to that question?  Is there hope for me in situations like this, or will it always be like this, where I feel like I’m flying down a dark highway with no headlights and praying that I don’t  smack into a tree?

For the last several years, I’ve become (embarrassingly) aware that I’m impervious to body language.  It’s lost on me.  When actually conversing with someone, that in itself is a miracle that takes everything I have, using every ounce of brain system resources.  I don’t have anything left over with which to monitor incidentals like body language.

In my pre-Aspie-discovery days, I would call situations like this “tunnel vision”, a state during which I would be “in the zone”, ultra-focused on other important aspects of the situation such as the topic at hand and the person’s face.  I can’t tell if that pleasant smile I’m seeing is morphing into a forced, uncomfortable one.  Since I find it difficult to sustain eye contact, I wouldn’t know if their eyes are getting shifty, glancing at their escape route; I don’t look at their eyes often enough to be able to tell.  I can’t tell if they’re still tuned into the conversation and truly present, or if I’m beginning to lose them.

I never could tell.

I still can’t.

It’s possible that I never will.

No matter how many years of existence I log on this planet.

It doesn’t matter how much I practice, role play, or how many times I’ve been down this road before.  I get tunnel vision every time.  I end up in my zone every time.  I’m so busy trying to remember everything else that I forget to try and guess body language….every time.

I don’t see it changing, other than to add it to my mental checklist of NT Social Things To Keep Track Of and, like every other time, do my best.

It’s those Little Things that make life difficult for me (and probably many others on the Asperger’s/autism spectrum).  The problem is, Those Little things occur frequently, in common situations, and those situations might be integral to our survival.  I can’t avoid those situations and thus, I can’t avoid annoying other people by missing some crucial clue.  Especially if it’s a nonverbal one.  (I find the irony amusing: on one hand, I know that talk is cheap and action is everything.  But when it comes to interaction, I rely heavily on what’s being said, because I can’t always pick up on the nano-action.)

As tough as it is at (frequent) times, I do love being an Aspie/autistic person.  I know that it might sound a little hypocritical to lament about my challenges and then proclaim that I’m proud to be on the Asperger’s/autism spectrum.  It’s not necessarily the fact that I’m on the spectrum that makes life tough; it’s the fact that the rest of the world isn’t…and doesn’t yet know an Aspie/autistic person when they see one, so all they think of me is that I’m weird or awkward.

I’ll always be the way I am–someone who is tuned to an Asperger’s/autism spectrum key, trying to make sense of a neurotypical world.  That won’t change as long as I’m alive.

But what can–and should–change is not just mere “awareness” of Asperger’s/autism, but recognition and acceptance.

What kind of recognition?

Recognition of us as a separate, distinct, and valid neurological orientation.

Recognition of what one of us might look like “in the flesh”.

Recognition of our traits, including the unique strengths and positive characteristics, and how those traits might manifest in adults of all genders and mindsets.

Recognition, acceptance, and embrace of our differences….and at the same time, our common humanity.

Advertisements

24 Comments

    1. Aww, thank you, my lovely! I so, so appreciate this. I’m equally so, so sorry that you can relate in the first place 💐💞💞

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Oh lordy. People wonder why I don’t have any friends. It’s just the way I am unfortunately. I’m just a strange cookie by most standards. I can often come across as brash when I don’t mean to be when interacting with others. I’m sure it puts a lot of people off. Of course so does my fashion sense (if you could call it that) and that gets a lot of laughs from others.

    It happens, and it sucks.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I totally hear you! It’s like “no no no no, that’s not what I meant!” 😊. We Aspies/auties need to stick together (a few at a time, so as not to all overwhelm each other lol) 😉

      Like

    2. you may eventually notice youre “less strange”* than you thought. still one-in-a-hundred, maybe in more, though most of those like you spend a lot of time hiding.

      “I can often come across as brash when I don’t mean to be when interacting with others. I’m sure it puts a lot of people off. Of course so does my fashion sense” <- * like all of that, for example.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Totally! 😊😊. One thing I’ve welcomingly noticed is that by no means am I alone. Which is definitely cool! Quite validating and vindicating. ❤️. I might have to go other places (like online, etc) to find the other members of our tribe, but the important–and awesome–part is that they’re out there in the first place! All these years, I had never known. 🌺💚🌺

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Yes, indeed…though, I think I have trained myself somewhat, though it is mostly to go in expecting EVERYONE is annoyed with me…hence, I stay pretty quiet and try not to take up much of their time. Keeps me out of trouble but makes me appear pretty aloof, I am sure. lol. Now, hubby is much more the talker. I have had learn how to gently signal when to wrap up. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yep, the idea that I’m annoying is pretty much my default position, too 💞💞. I’m sure that racks up points in the Aloof Department, too lol. I’m slowly learning not to let it bother me, but I’m still in the stage of having to remind myself every day 😊. It’s a process ❤️❤️

      Liked by 2 people

        1. i know ❤ and one thought that makes me happy is the thought that theres someone out there who reminds me of you. even among "this lot" youre pretty unique and special, but youre also wonderful enough to raise someones level of what theyre willing to believe is possible. 🙂 also i adore you personally, whether i ever find that person or not.

          Liked by 1 person

      1. LOL. I understand! It’s not so much for me as for when we’re with strangers I can tell are ready to move on. I married him partially to have someone who could fill my empty ears. 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

  3. i will tell you everything i know (minus the details) about this thing youre talking about.

    i have all these experiences. sometimes i feel bad about them– other times, i try to explain (only to a few of my closest confidants– im in a closeted one of us after all) these things, but even most of those dont quite understand.

    note these are people who love me anyway, and only occasionally give me trouble about things i could barely hope to ever quite follow. its not black and white with me– the things you feel “clueless” of, im only 90-something-percent unable to notice. i “get” social hints the way you might “get” every 10th word from too far away. i mean visual cues and those special little nt secrets. you probably get a few yourself but only take the ones you miss to heart. (either way…)

    ive been trying to do this for a long time, and part of it is that im very outgoing. yes, social interaction is quite draining– but so is never doing it. i adore people, and when it doesnt clash with everything i stand for, i aim to please. with mixed results.

    some people are sweet. theres a person who works at the coffee place, she knows how much she reminds me of my wife in every single way, but she always waves and says hello when she sees me. this is not a person that has to talk to customers, its barely part of her job. i keep trying to crack the code of why shes nice to me (shes married. i dont know if shes just very sweet, or if i remind her of someone too, like a relative or close friend, or if she has a brother with asd or if she has some kind of asd-related thing herself.) the thing is, shes nicer to me than almost anyone i see regularly. does she know im like us? it doesnt really seem to matter– and i love people like that (it doesnt matter to sun-girl either. everyone she loves is “weird” in some way, so who cares if i am?)

    like ive said before, one of the best kinds of love is people who make you feel like you can be you. thats the basic message of that sentimental paragraph– and its a lot of the reason i love someone back– the more two people can care about and allow each other to be themselves, the more that interaction is worthy of being called “love.”

    nts can certainly love the neuro-*fabulous* (like vous et moi) but fewer can “get” and truly appreciate our quirks. they upset the natural flow of things per their own nt-shaped world. its important to remember that whats “natural” to an nt is partly cultural, and we can consider them at least in part, “intolerant” of our culture– but let me not put too fine a point on this:

    nts have their own struggles and weaknesses. when our personalities and weaknesses clash, it isnt just that they fail to appreciate us despite little differences (and lets face it– some of these “differences” should be smaller to them. its almost funny that we have to argue about them, except we will never be able to strive together otherwise)

    what i mean is, that nts “get along” like they do based on THEIR OWN strengths and weaknesses. just as they often fail to create a world (or situation) for us to strive in, we often fail them in a similar way. they struggle to have a conversation with us, not just the other way around.

    im not conflating everything– i know its bs when they say “we do that too.” (not exactly, no– not always.) but some of their frustrations are not really based entirely on the fact that we are different– theyre based on the fact that they cant keep up with us, or they have trouble/difficulty having a conversation/train of thought with the things we do (stimming or long breathless stretches of dialogue, or catalogs of data we effortlessly rattle off.)

    at a certain point, we overload them. think about that– we are overwhelemed by different things, we have more literal cues and our own strengths. when they get truly overwhelmed by things we have no trouble with, they have no more idea how to communicate with us than we do to read them. sometimes, its a 2-way misunderstanding.

    of course id like them to be more educated about us. we need better advocacy, and all that. and you should NEVER feel its all your fault. theyre “normal” and so used to their concept of what that means, we are the odd ones out (and bless them, some wont care that we are. treasure those people.)

    when youre frustrated, perhaps the first two words that come to mind are “WHY CANT…” well, they do that too. so its a recipe for misunderstanding each other. for not accepting each other, or the situation, or our own foibles. certainly we all have them– certainly a good many truly cant be helped. thats why you should love who you are, and not feel too guilty (if at all.) indeed love yourself.

    for all the understanding we want (and need, and deserve!) i urge you to give a little back. we will never perfectly understand each other, but we can try to put ourselves in their shoes sometimes. you never know, it might even make us slightly better at what we struggle to do every day– make it in a world full of “normal.”

    this is about much more than “passing” or conformity. i believe in diversity. room for diversity includes awareness of differences. i think the world of you always– just the way you (we) are. youre valid, and deserving of appreciation and understanding from other people. and i am biased, but youre wonderful regardless ❤

    there are only a few people in the world i get away with talking to this much. sun-girl is one. i spend over 90% of the time holding a river of words back from everyone. sometimes i get to right about here, and before i say anything else, i just run away– like talking to someone is going to get me if i dont escape. if i love them, i could talk to them forever.

    (when i met my wife, we talked to each other pretty much non-stop from early afternoon to about 11 pm. we got coffee, cuddled at my place, and ended up going to dinner and just hanging out a little more at my place. nothing hot or sexy, just an instant friendship leading to my first marriage.)

    "minus the details"– lol… ❤ the more i like a person, the harder it is to stop. and now i flee, before i make it "even worser" still 🙂 never hesitate to skim if you have to. i read as much as i write, but not many… *dash*

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Oh wow, I love your perspective and the way you flesh it out 😊. My partner and I began our relationship in much the same way, with a really long date, and it looks like the third date never ended (lol) 😊. I agree with you about NT people having their own sets of issues and impairments, too! 👏🏼👏🏼. That’s something I’ve noticed, first on a gut level so many years ago that I can’t remember when it first dawned on me, but I guess it had been growing gradually for a while. And then when I realized I’m an Aspie–poof!–the question was answered in full. 😊

      Diversity rocks! “Normal” is overrated lol 😉. In fact, over the past few years, leading up to my discovery last year, the phrase “Normal Sucks” became a stock phrase of mine lol 😂

      When it comes to misunderstanding, it definitely takes two to tango. Being a shy, self-doubting introvert all those years definitely didn’t help; I figured it was all my fault, and even when I was pretty sure it wasn’t, I backed down anyway, figuring it was better to do that than make waves. My how life has changed for me! 😈 Now I realize that they’re at least as much responsible! ❤️

      I think you’re right, too, in that *we* overload *them* sometimes. They react to it differently, and probably won’t admit it (and yet again, they’ll shift the blame back onto us by saying stuff like asking us a question but “could we give them just the short version” or “could we keep it basic this time?” Lol. How’s that for a double standard? We get criticized for getting overwhelmed (we’re “too sensitive”) but then when the tables are turned, it’s our fault again for “getting too bogged down in the details”. Can’t win lol 😉

      I love what you said about NOT socializing being able to be just as draining – so true! I do have to balance out my homebody-ness with the occasional venture out with one or two good friends 😊

      As always, thank you for sharing your amazing thoughts! 💜💙

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Here’s how I see it: it’s like living in a foreign country so long that you start to feel like you’re a native. Then something reminds you that you aren’t. You may learn the language and the customs, but there will always be little things that trip you up, like unspoken rules that come into play so seldom that you’ve never had an opportunity to learn them. Rules that aren’t really rules — depending. Sometimes you have to follow them, sometimes you can break them. It’s for a very good reason that my favorite book about women on the spectrum is titled Women from Another Planet.

    Even before I knew I was on the spectrum, I got tired of *trying.* As an introvert, I’ve always been more comfortable going my own way, so it was easy, over the years, to just retreat from all that *adapting* nonsense. I realize people who have to work for a living don’t have that luxury, but at least you should be able to let go of the notion that you’re always in the wrong.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Omg yes. This. All of this. You accurately and wonderfully expressed my entire social life just now 👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼💙💜

      Like

    2. That’s it exactly.
      Plus… I’m an aspie living in a foreign country, so there is always conveniently that aspect to pull in to un-validate my views and perceptions.

      I studied body language from books (Body Language by Julius Fast is old but good), and always use(d) that to troubleshoot people when listening or talking. Always. And it always feels or felt like speaking a foreign language, as opposed to for instance observing puppies. Not native in human body language, i wish i could put on a narration track with david attenborough on my headphones, narrating what humans do and what they really mean or really want to say when they say x.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. This is especially prevalent where I am in Washington State (eyerolls). But people have NO body language here at all; I’ve looked. I’ve observed countless times. I must have missed something. The subtlety is in the word choice, but again, no one actually wants to tell you that they’re tired of talking to you and need to go somewhere. They could just do that, and I’d go, “whoops! See you tomorrow then!” and we would both be comfortable.

    (FACEPALMS)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ugh yes! Like we’re supposed to be mind-readers or something. If I could do that, I’d be a lot more financially comfortable… 😉❤️

      Like

Please feel free to add your thoughts!

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s