What’s Love Got to Do with It? A Girl’s Perspective on Relationships and Autism!

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The following post is written by our female aspie blogger Kirsten Lindsmith:

It’s that time again, folks! Another rambling blog post! Today’s topic will be one I see discussed quite often on WP: dating. I want to begin by stating that no, I am not Alex’s “new girlfriend”—and is that a question that would ever be asked of a male blogger?—I am just a person. I’m writing this blog because I work with Alex, and I like writing. I’ve also been told that I give good advice, though I don’t know if this is true of if people are just being polite. Anyway, onwards to the topic we all know and love…

As I a child I just assumed relationships were something that just happened. As I got older and was enticed with fantasies of entering the dating scene, I discovered a seemingly essential piece to the puzzle that I had absolutely no idea how to master: flirting. Brainwashed by childhood that “liking” someone was a teasable offense, I was incredibly uncomfortable with the idea of making any sort of moves on my targets. This is an area where girls have the advantage over guys. I had no idea how to flirt or show interest, so I was often overlooked. it finally came down to it, I wasn’t expected to make a chase. In the end, all I really had to do was wait.

When I was finally asked out at the age 15 (by fellow socially awkward nerd who I had a thing for) I had no idea how to react. After an uncomfortably long silence, I think I said something along the lines of, “I don’t know, I’m really busy, I don’t know if I have time. I’ll get back to you.” I eventually got back to him via the classic aspie socialization assistant, AOL Instant Messenger. We went on exactly one date. We met for lunch at a local ice cream parlor and ordered sandwiches. I had brought a book (always prepared!) and we read it together, our thighs touching. All the while my anxiety was mounting: “oh no, these people know we like each other.” Ridiculous. Though we “dated” for about five months, we never went out on a one-on-one date again. And all the while, he had to ask permission to hug me, and some times I didn’t let him. Looking back on it, I’m surprised that I was the one to break up with him. He was quite the trooper, to deal with my issues.

My next “serious” boyfriend was totally out of left field. He was like an alien to me. He was charismatic and popular; everyone knew his name. He was famous purely because he was so nice, and he was a friend to everyone and anyone. We met because he had to stay back a year after spending a semester in Kenya teaching English (yes, really), and a friend decided to play matchmaker, over AIM no less. He was everything I am not. I learned so much in that year simply from being around him. We would talk to homeless people sitting on the sidewalk outside Subway, and learn their life stories. We hung out with the local schizophrenic while he cleaned the streets to make the town clean enough to entice celebrities to visit. Wherever we would go, people would recognize him, and I was forced into a world of interaction.

He noticed my difficulties, and in a valiant effort, attempted to fix them. I learned that the proper response to, “How are you?” isn’t just, “Good,” it’s, “Good, how are you?”—or some variation. I learned to monitor my facial expression, and posture. I’d never even noticed that I spoke with a monotone until he pointed out that I needed to use “inflection,” whatever that was. I morphed from an autistic anime nerd into a normal girl. The only problem was, I felt like I was broken. This was pre-diagnosis, and I knew nothing about autism, and I only knew that we would have disastrous arguments because I couldn’t analyze my own emotions and opinions. In the end, all the struggles are what taught my to express myself.

I’m incredibly grateful to what I learned from Mr. Perfect-Neurotypical, even if our relationship didn’t work out in the end. I learned to present myself to the world, which was something I had no idea about before. I didn’t have to flirt, but I did have to grow out my hair and stop wearing rainbows after I learned all the boys thought I was a lesbian. Women are expected to be the bait, the object that gets picked up. Over the years I’ve improved my grooming abilities, and I think I look pretty normal these days. I still don’t have the sexy posture, or the come-hither eyes, but that’s not really my thing. My current boyfriend is the other co-host on Autism Talk TV, Jack. We met in a sort of complicated way. We went to the same high school, but by the time we met, I was a senior and he had already dropped out. He was a friend of my charismatic boyfriend (who wasn’t?), and we hung out often. I knew he had “Asperger’s”, but I had no idea what that really meant. He seemed perfectly normal, and by that I mean just like me. We had all the same interests, we shared a sort of odd (autistic?) sense of humor, and we even had many of the same quirks and oddities, like facial expressions. We could ramble on and on to the other about special interests like science or politics. When my ex and I had our falling out, things sort of clicked, as silly as that sounds. At the time I felt I’d found my soul mate. I know now that our astounding similarities are due in part to the fact that we both have autism. But I still don’t regret my decision.

It’s not quite right to say that dating has always come easily to me, but I certainly haven’t had to face the hardships that many others on the spectrum encounter. I think this was due to the fact that I was always able to maintain a stable group of friends, some of whom were male. I would make a friend, and if we were both attracted to each other, we would eventually wind up dating somehow. Again, I don’t deny that this is a place where female aspies have an advantage. In our culture, males are supposed to take the position of hunter. If you’re a socially awkward male who’s shy talking to girls, it’s far less likely that the girl will choose to ask you out, saving you the trouble. Despite my awkwardness, I was always the recipient of propositions, meaning that I didn’t have to learn “game” or anything. I wish girls felt more comfortable asking guys out. Most girls I talk to worry that it’s too forward, and the guy won’t like it. But my male friends say it would be heaven if girls asked them out instead of them having to make the first move. Such is the perplexing position gender roles put us in.

I spent my high school years giving dating advice to my more socially successful friends, and I’ve built up a good mental database of dating knowledge. I don’t use it myself, and I’m not sure if I ever want to (being picked up in a bar isn’t really my thing). Though I think the most universal piece of advice I can give is to just be yourself. I know that sounds cliché, but if you try to act like someone you’re not, you’re never going to be able to have a decent relationship. That doesn’t mean do whatever you want, just don’t pretend to like some stupid band if you don’t, or wear your hair some crazy way because you think it’ll help you “get girls.” If a person doesn’t like you when you act naturally, they’re not someone you want to date anyway.

My friends and associates have always been people who like listening to rambling stories about surgery, or the spread of some horrific disease. They’re people who share my interests and passions, and I expect the same from my mate.

One thought on “What’s Love Got to Do with It? A Girl’s Perspective on Relationships and Autism!”

    Comments

    • dontASPme on February 13, 2016

      Hi Kirsten,

      I’m impressed by your recount of your school flirting days – lol

      In particular regarding the recognition of a ‘game’ and the awareness of rules etc.

      For my part, during those early years I found that I would be routinely infatuated with some very pretty girl for ages, with no means of connection apparent, and would make no attempt to connect out of shyness, while at the same time talking easily and engaging with girls I shared some interest with like the guitar club the school orchestra etc, not even being aware that I was 50% already there for developing a relationship with.

      And even now I look back and think I may have got my priorities back to front, and If I could pass on some wisdom to younger people it would be to look at everyone you know and give them some thought and get to know them as much as possible in a way that’s comfortable to both, and not be a slave to your libido as friendship is the best relationship in the world.

      dontASPme

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