Aspergers is ridiculous




Sometimes I think Aspergers is all about realising that difference is not a negative, it is just about being an individual. We are all individuals, every one of us, aspie or not, nice or not, funny or not, fierce or not. Every person is an individual, it is just that human beings have this tendency to cluster together.

Each family has its own routines and rituals, a way of doing things which is considered right. Sometimes the family is aware they are different from other families; more often it never occurs to them, as this is the way things have always been done.

Each society is like this too, a big family with a way of doing things. A set of behaviours that makes the society feel it is a whole entity, that each person within it belongs. From more obvious behaviours such as not slapping complete strangers to more subtle ones like knowing when to give up a seat on a bus.

If society as a whole states, outright or by implication, how we should behave, then so do our own families. This is what we do so this is what you do. This is how we do it. This is how we think therefore this is how you should think because this is the way to think.

But what if you can't think that way? Not because you are being rebellious or difficult or having a bad day, just because it doesn't work like that for you?

We come to the arguments then, the family traditions and societal norms pitted against the aspie need for security and understanding.

It is Aunt Elsie's birthday and we always go to her house, along with every other member of the family, and celebrate with her. It is what we do, it is the right thing to do, it is what you will do.

Except that today is a bad day and you don't want to go to Aunt Elsie's birthday. You don't want to be in a little room with all the other members of your family. You don't want to be in a little room with anyone! You just want to stay at home and be safe.

Now you're being ridiculous. What isn't safe about good old Aunt Elsie? What isn't safe about your own family? What isn't safe about something you have done every year for your whole life? Why is it any different today than the other days? Why are you being so utterly awkward now, when you are expected to be nice and kind and visit an old lady on her birthday?

Try it a different way. Translate it into something unrelated and see if it is still ridiculous.

Every year, on one particular day, your whole family gets together to paint blue fish. They have always done it, it's a family tradition and no one ever misses. You have always done it too.

You are used to turning up with your paint and brush and getting down on the floor with everyone else, to paint blue fish. Before you arrive, someone will have set out the paper and left spaces for you all to sit in while you paint. There is even spare paint in the corner, in case you run out. You wouldn't want to miss out any of your fish!

This year, it suddenly occurs to you that the last thing you want to do is go and paint blue fish. What is the point? Everyone else is going, let them paint the fish! You want to stay at home and read about yellow toads. Yellow toads are just as vital as blue fish - more so, perhaps, because anyone can paint a blue fish but not everyone knows about yellow toads.

You have a big argument about it. Why don't you want to paint blue fish? What's wrong with blue fish? They've always been good enough for you before! Why did you decide, today of all days, that it had to be yellow toads instead? Don't you know how difficult you are, wanting to read about yellow toads? No one needs to know about those! You should be painting blue fish!

The blue fish by themselves seem pretty much irrelevant to life, don't you think? They only become important because of the significance given to them. If they hadn't been bigged up all these years, do you think the whole family would get together to paint them? Do you think it would have continued? Or do you think only those people who really liked blue fish would paint them? And then they'd really enjoy it too, because they would be doing something special.

Those blue fish are only special if you like painting them, they are only significant if they actually mean something to you and you aren't painting them just because you have been trained to see them as important. If you take away this training, this insistence on doing what others do, then yellow toads rise up to the same level of importance as blue fish.

It is all about respecting differences and understanding that a lot of what we do, or are expected to do, is driven by what other people think of as important. I am not suggesting we neglect our elderly aunts or dismiss our responsibilities too lightly. But do we really have to do what is expected of us? Is it absolutely necessary for us to behave a certain way, just because?

Aspergers is ridiculous because denying the importance placed by others leaves us open to ridicule. We become an object of derision and contempt simply because we choose not to do what we are expected to do. We are ridiculous because we have different priorities and needs from people in our social group. And it is only by looking outside of this sphere of expectation that we gain some perspective on what is really important in our lives.

In my opinion, yellow toads win out any day over blue fish. Or pink hornets win over green bluebirds, if that's what applies to you. Being true to yourself is what really matters and making sure that if you have to do something difficult, it should be worthwhile and not just because.

Amanda




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