Friends on the Asperger’s / autism spectrum

Throughout my life, I’ve always had a hard time making friends.  I’ve always ever only had three good friends at most at any moment in time.  In a way, this was advantageous; my life was rather simple.  On the other hand, if they were busy, such as with their families or other friends, the landscape was desolate.

When my partner and I finally graduated from our last leg of school, we found ourselves at a crossroads…

We could stay in the town we were in (which was Dallas, Texas–not an option), or we can move anywhere.  Rarely, if ever, would we be able to afford to entertain this question again.  It was do or die.  We had one shot.

Where would we go?  We had our Short List of places, but we could never quite arrive at a final decision.  We battled, not so much with each other as ourselves, which Short List Town we would choose.  For a while, weighing the pros and cons of Small Town versus Big City was an everyday conversation topic.  Small Towns had the close-knit feel and friendliness and low-key-ness that we longed for.  But they hardly have any of the amenities we need.  Big Cities have those.  But they also have traffic and anonymity and higher crime rates.

What to do, what to do?  Decisions, decisions.  The nightmare of an Aspie/autistic person.

We finally decided on a Big Town, striking that sweet spot between Small Town and Big City.  It’s a Big City with few suburbs, one that thinks it’s a Small Town and doesn’t realize it’s actually a Big City.  A big metropolitan area with a lovable identity crisis.

What clinched the deal, however, was the people.  They were everything I had known about small towns: friendly, chill, low-key, and all the rest.  I had heard that it was particularly easy to make friends here.  Awesome.  Finally!

And yet, we have exactly three close friends here. 

In the seven years we’ve been here. 

Three friends in seven years in a town known for its ease-of-friend-making isn’t very encouraging.

What does that say about us?  Well, it screams “we don’t get out much”, and that’s usually a pretty crucial ingredient to making offline friends in the first place.  Sometimes you can get lucky online (which is, interestingly enough, how we met our Exact Three Friends), but that’s more the exception than the rule.

It seems strange to live in a town in which everyone has friends–everyone but you, that is.  One day, several years ago, long before I realized I had a spot waiting for me on the Asperger’s/autism spectrum, I contemplated…

Just exactly how did everyone else make friends?

Well, they make them at work.  That seems like a common meeting grounds.  Scratch that; we’re self-employed.  Our office is just my partner and me, and when we’re lucky, as assistant, and who wants to hang out with their “boss”?

Let’s see, where else?  Ah!  I hear about people meeting other parents.  Nope, scratch that, too; we don’t have any kids.

OK, what about a church?  This is a big church town.  Nope, not Christian.

Alrighty then, where else do people meet each other?  Hmmm, something about friends from college/university.  No Can Do; just graduated.  For the last time.

I’m not one for the bar scene.  I am one for the library, but you can’t talk in there; people don’t use it as a social gathering place, and even if someone did, the other people wouldn’t be too pleased.

I reached the conclusion that it’s god(dess)-awful difficult for me to make friends.  I didn’t know why; I had no clue that I was Aspergian/autistic.  I just felt like a leper all these years.  It seemed like I had some kind of anti-people, anti-friend-making disease, a bug in the Making Friends App of my personal OS.

Then I found out that surprise!–I’m on the Asperger’s/autism spectrum.  OK, consider myself debugged.  At least I now knew what was wrong up.  Except that there’s no “fix” (not that I’d even want one, except maybe in the Making Friends department.  There’s no App available for my version.  Good times).

Another FunFact I’ve always been aware of is my selectivity when it comes to choosing my friends.  They’re all carefully hand-picked, having passed several mental rounds of aptitude tests and safety screenings.  Here again, I didn’t know why.

Can they hack being friends with someone like me?  Can they even tolerate me for any substantial length of time?

Most of the world can’t.

I’m too straight up.

I’m too “out there”.

I’m too introverted.

I’m too distant.

I’m too confusing.

I’m too weird.

I’m not Mr Potato Head or a Build-a-Bear; I’ve never been able to design an Acceptable Me.  I’ve never been that charismatic person that commands a room, making heads turn, and gathering disciples like the Pied Piper.

And, to turn the tables a little, the rest of the world looks, to me, to be too boring, too petty, too shallow, too simplistic and yet, too complicated, all at the same time.

Since it takes a lot of energy to make and develop friendships in the first place, I had to ask myself if it would even be worth time time and energy?  Every time I did an instantaneous cost-benefit ratio in my gut, the scales came up short.

It’s a lose-lose scenario.  Game point, nobody wins.

Life goes on.

In the spirit of being straight up, I’ll make a juicy confession…

I like people who are like me.  I also like people who are different from me.  But I find that people like me are easier to relate to, because, well, to state the obvious, they’re like me.  If we already have a lot in common, it takes less energy to forge a bond.  The tricky part is, there are few of those people out there.  The circle is small.  The boundaries are simple.  Everything is manageable.  And the odds are, I’m not going to find too many in my neighborhood or happen upon many of them by chance. 

To my acquaintances, I’m the type of friend that might not say much; you might not hear much from me…until you fall on hard times.  I’m like the opposite of a fair weather friend.  I’ll be there, and someone you can go to, in times of crisis or need, and that’s when I’ll be there the most.

To my closest offline friends, I’ll be the one who dutifully calls them, usually right on the dot, although I may be up to five minutes late.  Or I might be up to five minutes early.  But you can probably set your watch by me; I’m going to be there, like a rock (or an anchor), without fail.

I’ll be the one who, despite life’s changes that inevitably come with the natural passage of time, retains a hint of childlike quality.  The one who wouldn’t think twice about asking–or being asked–the question “you seem pretty cool (and you’re safe); do you want to be friends?”

To me, that’s just effective communication.  It makes good sense.  The words exist and it makes a legitimate, understandable sentence.

And yet, nobody (at least, no NT) beyond the age of six or seven actually says that.

Why not?

Because we’re supposed to have learned the more complex social graces, the subtle social skills.  Or so we’ve been told (maybe).

Except that that’s where the process gets confusing.  What “other social graces”?  Isn’t “do you want to be friends?” graceful enough?  What’s so rude, weird, or off-putting about that?  Who made this stuff up, anyway?  Someone with too much spare time and a penchant for drama and misunderstanding, that’s who.  Someone who had a dark sense of humor and thought it’d be fun to amuse themselves at the expense of others.

I’ve come to the conclusion that “social graces” and “subtle unwritten rules” are simply peacock-posturing combined with butt-sniffing.  But that’s just me.

Unwritten rules like these alienate us.  (I’m supposed to do what, when?  Oh, but not in that situation?  Like when the wind blows from the East on Tuesday instead of the North or West.  Got it.  I think.)  But they remain a constant in the universe, and at least I’ve been able to build my life around them, even if a lonely one.

Until this year.  Unexpectedly, something unprecedented happened: both the quality and quantity of my friends went through the roof!

I was not prepared for that.  Nobody could have ever given me a heads up; I wouldn’t have believed them.  But I was incredibly, deliriously happy about it.

And I still am.  (I am indeed pruning the bushes a little lately, but that’s only so that my bonds with those who really matter can grow and flourish.  The pruning isn’t as drastic or fickle as it may sound, either; it’s just one of those Facts of Life.)

Actually, I’m ecstatic that anybody likes me at all (lol).  I’m (warmheartedly) amused that anyone actually thinks I’m cool (believe me, the feeling is mutual!  I think other bloggers and other people in the Asperger’s/autism spectrum community are absolutely amazing).

In fact, the much-treasured anomaly that I actually have friends is so incredibly surreal that I sometimes can’t help but engage in a little bit of mild self-deprecation–you know, the type in which you’re verbally pinching yourself to see if it’s a dream or if it’s real.

As if to ask “Are you sure you like me?  Before either of us get our hopes up, let me tell you all of the unlikable things about me…“, I start making off-color remarks like…

“I’m a total biochemistry nerd.”

Usually, they’ll say, “no problem.”

“I also lean semi-libertarian; a little more to the left or right, depending on the individual issue.”

Them: “That’s fine.”

“Oh, and I like ‘Family Guy’ (even if I don’t agree with 100% of it) and cable TV shows about human pathogenic parasites.”

Them: “…. OK.”

“And I’ve said the entire alphabet in one belch.”

Dude–if they don’t leave my side after that disclosure, they’re golden.

It’s like a non-manipulative, head-game-free test, to gauge their tolerance level, to make sure there won’t be a divorce between friends later.  I just get it all out in the open, up front, full (and I mean full) disclosure, just so that there’s nothing left to chance, no room for a misconception.

And the online aspect can be tricky sometimes.  Contrary to popular belief, many people on the Asperger’s/autism spectrum can indeed interpret facial expressions, usually somewhere within the ballpark.  Or we can pick up on tone of voice or other body language.  The translation may not be perfect, but we’re somewhere in the neighborhood.  But, for many of us, online interaction is easier.  Rather than hiding behind a moniker and persona, we can actually let our True Selves shine.  We can be the shiny happy people that we were meant to be.

My online social circle is definitely shining in the quantity department, but the cool part is that the quality pulls rank, soaring even higher than the quantity.  Not only did I find the rest of my tribe this last summer, but some of those bonds have formed into solid, unbending steel, establishing themselves cozily, melding in with the other aspects of my life. 

We talk about things like Chaos Theory and painting.  Or Pathophysiology and dark matter.  Or share a bathroom joke or two.  All while doing everyday stuff like working with power tools, chasing after children (for my friends who have them), or watching those human pathogenic parasite shows on TV. 

We compare notes and feel less alone.  Our What’s App conversations include such stock phrases such as, “me too!”, “same here”, or “OMG I didn’t think anyone else did that!”, followed by a string of 17 emojis.  It’s endearingly theatrical.

We check in on each other at our own convenience, coming and going as we can and please.  There’s no awkwardness, no (post-pruning) drama.

There’s only pure understanding.  And during the rare times in which we’re not sure, there’s no assumption, no inference, no reading into the situation; we seek clarification.  We don’t require Posturing or Butt-Snuffing Stages.

The way I roll, I’m open to anyone until proven otherwise.  So if I haven’t said anything to you (or acted overtly toward you) to the contrary, you’re probably golden.  There’s no guesswork there.  There are also no empty “maybe we should”s or “let’s get together sometime”s, not spouting socially-correct phrases simply because they’re expected, with no intention of follow-through.  I say what I mean, and so do most of the others on the spectrum.

If I’m too “weird”, “straight up”, “out there”, or “introverted”, it looks like I’ve got plenty of awesome company after all.  I just had to know what terms to internet-search for.  🙂

***

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23 Comments

  1. “I like people who are like me. I also like people who are different from me. But I find that people like me are easier to relate to, because, well, to state the obvious, they’re like me. If we already have a lot in common, it takes less energy to forge a bond. ”

    yes. also my two favorite people on earth are weirdos– one is most likely nt, but her weirdo-stealth is go so good that maybe i just cant tell. also she might not get a diagnosis till 30, but the surest sign is that we get along almost like twins. i havent even known her for a year! the other is the worlds most charming nd, whom i will gladly stick around for for the rest of my life. granted theres a bit of distance, but then what are online friends for? love and support sans frontieres…

    ive always liked weirdos (of many different kinds– hence why i insist on using the word. im not trying to say all nds are, but all my friends are.) but im very outgoing, and im sort of “used” to the reactions i get. as a result, ive made a lot of friends (for someone like me. theyre still relatively small in number, and close.)

    the truth is that im not really “good” at talking to anyone. not by conventional standards. but if youre determined enough (and willing to look like a fool and get used to shallow people while working your way towards the really good ones) i mean theres fishing and friending the way most people do it, and then theres this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d6D2o4IqaJc

    …im not saying i literally go up and grab people, but i try to “grab them” with being friendly, with some wit, and above all– without trying to be totally conventional about it. sometimes people like to be caught a little off guard– those are the people i want to know most. if a new friend flops around in agony while im talking to them, i throw that one back– its better for everyone involved.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Is there a secret WordPress Easter egg on the administrative end that lets the administrator auto-like every one of y’all’s posts? Because I would totally apply it to yours and several other people’s on here 😉😂🌺

      I love your “weirdo-stealth” term! Lol that one is just too awesome 😊 I know what you mean, too; my partner is that way – I literally can’t tell! Lol. This person must indeed be really cool 💝🌟

      Liked by 1 person

      1. hey, all i can tell you is that you dont have to click them all and i LOVE it every time you do. not everyone can click like and make it as thrilling as an unexpected kiss on the cheek. (but some people can…) if we are going to be friends for years and years, it will have to be ok that im smitten. 90+% of it is just being smitten like a cat has a favorite person– except in this case i will admit it. over and over again. if i really could just flop over and purrrrrr, i wouldnt have to use words. but you make me feel warm and fuzzy. im smitten pretty awful. im terrified of making someone feel sick. i try to send a little email instead, you know– that trick isnt working. but its alright ❤

        you have to understand how deep it goes. my favorite person in the world is the sort of person id run headlong into the street to push out of the way of an oncoming vehicle. she is the world, in a person. and you, wonderful "laina," are more like me than anyone i have ever known in my entire life. the phrase "love a person like you love yourself" is redundant here. it runs deep. i literally and actually live for the chance to meet people just like you. but i just know the one ❤ youre a extremely precious. and thats an understatement. i have to stop talking (right) now… but i will gladly talk to you about anything in the world, any time you like. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dvvJ7MYaK8o

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Friendship has long been the bane of my existence. I have had various periods of time when I was a person that was there in their midst, but very few times when I ever felt a true sense of closeness. Or, when I got close, that it was safe to stay close. That was big city. Now, I am in that small town place( miss my amenities! 😦 ) where everybody knew everybody since they were knee-high to grasshoppers. And then, there is me. Who has kids, yes, but not the kind of kids that inspire lots of socialization. And goes to church, but would rather fade into the pew than be noticed. There are those who are kind, but kind, for me, is far different than those you can be entirely yourself with. Only a select few have ever seen me completely myself…And most of them are online. 😉

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you for sharing your perspective! We all grow each time one of us shares something about ourselves. We learn about each other *and* another little bit about ourselves 😊👏🏼🌟💖

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Sheesh. That was all about me, wasn’t it? lol. Fully meant to also say I am happy to read you are adding friendships and figuring out what works for you. 🙂 ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Lol 😊❤️ That’s perfectly ok girl! That’s what I consider the comments section for, and it’s what I love about it – reading other people’s stories and thoughts. That’s so precious to me. Thank you for sharing them, and thank you for your support as well! 😘💞👍🏽✌🏼️👏🏼💝

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh honey, I’m so sorry you’re going through this. The loneliness is cold and empty. I hope it resolves or improves soon! Please imagine me sitting beside you, because the sentiment is there 💞🌟💞

      Like

    2. loneliness for me is not having anyone to share an experience with… no companionship yet I am married… my partner is most probably also an Aspie but doesn’t recognise it…

      Like you i feel alone when I attend a community situation at U3A … a community organisation that offers discussions /activities for older/retired people. I haven’t retired as “being a person” but feel as if that is so at the coffee break.

      Usually this feeling of accentuated and identified difference is stronger from females whilst males are more inclusive as they continue talking on topic.

      Not unusual for me to be accepted as ” one of the boys’ although that isn’t my gender, but self-consciousness descends when Im conscious that it isn’t really ” socially acceptable” to identify with the male group that take me seriously as a person. Transgress social taboo.

      My contributions on topic seems to alienate me from females. The exclusion by females is not new to me but I still I do feel alone.
      I see people primarily as individuals rather than male or female but society seems to do the reverse…. I don’t relate or see people in a sexual way unlike most NTs.

      Basically NTs can’t handle difference. I feel for you at the school gate experiencing this rejection and aloneness… especially as most people seem to form their friends via their children’s school mates.

      Hopefully other people at the school gate don’t treat you as ” different”, if that is so take strength from them just as I do from being accepted as a person by those who focus on the topic of discussion.

      Sounds silly but my life has been so since early childhood and yet this feeling of loneliness /alienation is one that being ok with being alone cannot dispel.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Thank you so much for commenting! 😊

        “Basically, NTs can’t handle difference” – yes, yes, yes!! Clapping wildly in my head ❤️

        Loneliness sucks and yep, I think I know what you mean. I can feel lonelier in a room full of people than I do when I’m by myself 🌺 Except that like you, I have also never been able to dispel it, no matter how old I get or how much life experience I gather. It forms a deep pit sometimes 💖

        Thank you very much for sharing 😘

        Autistic hugs to you 🐙 (Octopus emoji) 💐💞

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Sorry I’m still stuffing up my replies…. the above was in reply to Mummyhereandthere.

    my reply to the Friends on the Asperger’s/autism spectrum.

    Ditto re moving from a city to a small country town… close friends only a few and live far away…. no real friends here .. acquaintances some of whom are also ” different’ with only occasional catching up …. can’t handle full on expectations of ” normal” friendships….
    Online there are shared experiences with other Aspies/Auties however there is a gap, a difference that comes from a chronological discrepancy in experience /life circumstance etc…

    not many , possibly haven’t encountered , those late dx after 60 yrs living in a different time warp due to circumstance of health or lack thereof.

    Without online contact and also volunteer writing/ editing documents on autism for an institution I’d feel close to totally alone to point of lonely.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. No worries, my pretty! This is a strict Judgment-Free Zone 😊 I love all (friendly) replies ❤️ It doesn’t matter to me if they’re long, short, frequent, deeply personal or not, etc, or what they contain–thoughts about themselves, feelings, differing viewpoints, etc. Spelling and grammar aren’t judged, either; I strive to make this a place of safety and liberation 🌺💞

      I totally agree with you! Online connection has been a lifeline here, too. I don’t know where I’d be without it 😘💜

      Like

  5. My problem with “friendship” has been clarified after having gained what I believe to be a thorough understanding of the concept.
    As a result, I can boldly ascertain that I’ve never had friends, I don’t have friends, and I won’t be having friends in the generally accepted/understood meaning of the word.
    And before anyone jumps at questioning if I really do understand what friendship is, let me say what I do have; I’ve always have had very few acquaintances, mutually beneficial relationships based on respect. Also, before anyone asks, nope, I don’t develop ANY emotional bonds, besides instinctual family type attachments, which in the case of my children, diminish with progression into adulthood. I would use the word “unfortunately” only in this case, as I would truly value genuine emotions beyond this point, something deeper than a sense of profound responsibility.
    Being the child of parents probably both with Asperger’s, I have learned what they’ve done, but that didn’t trigger the development of emotional bonds commonly described as “love”. I can write treaties about what “love” is, but I feel like the coach of US swimming champion Mark Spitz, whom allegedly couldn’t himself swim…
    But I guess I’ve learned to live with that.
    Acquaintances therefore, and not friendships. What’s the difference? Oh, very easy that one: as acquaintances are relationships based on a mutuality of interests (and interests encompass an infinity of choices, including mutually beneficial cohabitation), they could be entered and exited as the result of intelectual/logical choices, without the emotional prequels and sequels…
    The only problem (for me…) with this, is a highly developed sense of JUSTICE, which oftentimes has nothing to do with arbitrarily imposed rules/laws, designed many of them with a complete disregard for individuals, on altars of hollow, greater causes/interests. But I’d rather stay out of political philosophy for now, except for saying that I am mostly on Ayn Rand’s side of objectivism…
    So with the above explanatory note, all the best my dear friends 🙂

    Like

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