Social or anti-social?

This is a bit like asking, milk and sugar? You can't just say, yes, please; you need to be more specific.

Aspergers is the social form of autism - I feel like smacking whoever says that. I've often said it myself, in fact, when trying to explain to people:

1. Why my son can have aspergers and still want to be friends with their child
2. How being sociable can be expressed by climbing the wall and falling on the group of children you want to be friends with.

(I exaggerate slightly there, he missed them by inches).

Sociability, in the normal world, can be something like a James Bond movie, all glitz, glamour, attractive people and plenty of allure. Or it can be the sweet little girl-child who brings you a daisy-chain and says she made it for you. It can be the little old ladies at the checkout, making best friends with the shop assistant, or the college kids, making best friends for life with everyone they meet in their first week.

Sociability has many faces, even in a normal world, but there are still acceptable rules. It's these rules which can confuse the aspie, child or adult, often because they aren't obvious, or written down anywhere.

I remember poring over the pages of my girl's magazines, looking for the secret of success, in life, relationships, boys, fashion, you name it. I didn't really find it. What I did find was a lot of confusing information.

Like with boys, (cringeing here, sorry various girl's magazines, but really?), you always have to look your best when you go out, but you also have to be yourself and be natural. Boys know when you're being fake. As well as that, you don't want to wear too much make up, but here's the make up you need if you want to look like you're not wearing any (what??).

For relationships, the advice is much the same: you need to talk and be completely honest with each other, but you also need to have some mystery (as I'm a mystery even to myself I never had any trouble with this one). You need to work as a team, but keep separate interests (some of the happiest couples I know do everything together).

And so on. Advice, advice, advice. This is what confused me most. Those unwritten rules of social interaction, they were written, weren't they, in girl's and women's magazines? I took that to mean they were true. After all, they were written by people in the know and the pages smelled nice, so it must be true.

I sometimes reflect on the advice about looking your best as I'm dragging my sorry self round Tesco, trying to remember if the part of my leg that's visible looks like it belongs to a wolf-woman. I'll eventually peek to see if it does and then, sometimes, I shrug and just buy my milk. Life somehow gets in the way of effortless make up and glamorous clothes.

I also shrink from all the social advice on how to deal with other people. For years I soaked it up, trying to work out what I could do to make it all better. I wanted to learn, so that I could manage others, and maybe enjoy them too. I did enjoy my friends, that was a blast and was easy. I just couldn't understand why I was okay with them but not with humanity at large.

I finally realised the secret of this a few months ago. It's because your friends care about you, so you feel safe. After growing up in the modern world and trying to forge a life in an alien environment, it soon becomes clear that a lot of the people you meet do not care about you, so you don't feel safe. It is simple really.

By feeling safe, you are yourself and can enjoy the company of others. It's a liberating concept and one that has put to rest many years of feeling those magazines had got the better of me and left me in a barren landscape of no social skills and hairy legs.

I can now say, with certainty, that I don't really give a fig for the unwritten rules of social conduct. Those rules can go climb their own wall. I'm sticking with the people who are still pleased to see me when I'm not looking my best and who don't mind if I forget to ask them if they want milk and sugar. They're the ones who prove that aspergers is the sociable form of autism, simply because with friends, anyone can be sociable because they feel safe.


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