Over the weekend, I finished The Rosie Project, a fun, light, romantic comedy of a book. If you’re looking for a palate cleanser, and I was, it’s a good choice. It’s the story of a rigid professor, who you suspect suffers from Asperger’s, and his carefully calibrated search for a wife. It’s not that it’s ground-breaking fiction— I figured out most of the twists well before they were actually announced, but it is very likeable. Knowing how the central questions were likely to work out didn’t diminish my enjoyment of the getting there.
But, maybe it’s that I’m a bit of a hypochondriac, these days, I started to wonder if I didn’t have some Aspie tendencies, myself. I mean, I am struggling, socially, at the new gig. I feel like I’m not improving, on further acquaintance, given that I keep uncovering unpleasant realities, as I do my job. And it’s been awhile since I’ve met someone new, romantically. Granted, I’ve kept myself off the market, and when I do make an effort, it’s normally with moderate success, but let me tell you, that was hard-won. It took me the better part of five years of applied work and longer if you count the time I just tried to wait it out, to get out of my own way, with men. Plus, mom regularly calls me “businesslike,” which means unemotional, cold, and unfeeling.
At the end of The Rosie Project, the author provides a variety of resources about Asperger’s, including a quiz to see if you’re on the autism spectrum. I took the quiz and am very neuro-typical, which indicates that autism is probably not my issue, to the extent that I have one.
When I’m less stressed, I remember that I started out a wildly emotional kid— my eldest brother could tell me something stupid, like that my favorite show was going to be cancelled, and I’d sob, heartbroken, for literally an hour. I am not naturally unemotional. When “Family Ties” ended, I was a sobbing mess. When planes crashed I was devastated for the families. Not afraid that I’d die in a plane crash and not afraid that planes would start falling out of the sky, but so moved by the idea that these people got on a plane, maybe excited to get where they were going, with no idea that they were in the last moments of their life. Their families waiting— it was brutal. But over the years, I learned to rein it in, a little. I don’t want to cry every time someone raises their voice, the way I used to. It doesn’t serve me particularly well in the workplace, for me to be so emotional. So I’ve consciously strengthened my analytical and logical skills. I’ve put many of my emotional reactions on time-delay, so that I take a deep breath and react according to my head, first, in things that need split-second reactions, and I figure out my emotions when I have a safe space and time in which to explore them. When my guard is down, I walk around as a beating heart, but when I’m with people I don’t know, or at work, or in other places, I have some basic protective gear I wear around my emotions.
And as far as my mom goes, it’s not that she’s not a safe person for me to be around, because in many ways, she is. But she is not above being emotionally manipulative, and since she’s come back to live here, I don’t give her much ground on that score. Her calling me cold is partially sour grapes and partially an attempt to get me to drop my guard so that she’s got more to work with. And if I’m honest with myself, she also criticizes me for taking things too personally and the way that I give too much of myself away to causes and my animals and work and things.
It’s just interesting, to see the things I’ll torture myself over.