A couple weeks ago I wrote about "The Wall" which I used an example of what happened at a golf course. A few weeks after that I played golf again and once again I was forced to pair up with someone I didn't know.
Going into it I was fully aware of the challenges but I didn't want to experience this wall, and yet I did. As usual the other golfer asked question after question about me and I simply answered the questions without a return volley. On the 7th hole he finally asked me what I do for a living and I kept my answer brief by saying I was an author and speaker. In the right arena I'll expand on this question with glee, but if I state what it is in this environment I have no idea how the person will react. All that was moot because he inquired, "What do you write and speak about?"
When he asked the question I had to explain, so I did, and at the end I said I was able to do this because I do have the diagnosis myself. He was in such a state of shock he dropped his club and said, "I never would have suspected because you seem like a nice enough guy."
I didn't know how to take that comment and this is why there's been a delay on writing about it. I don't know if I should take this as a compliment in that I blend in well, or if the stereotype is that Asperger's equals people who are mean.
This person I was golfing with was an engineer of some sort and he kept asking what the challenges are because he kept saying that I appeared nice enough. He wasn't trying to insult me because he really wanted to understand how there could be any challenges at all and finally, at the 15th hole, I said, "How many questions have I asked of you? Have I made eye contact? Have I interacted with you at all that you didn't initiate?" Like a person who is watching a mystery movie and right at the surprise plot twist ending there's that expression of "I get it" and at that moment he got it.
This guy was sharp and said this was something he had not noted. With this information he understood and used almost my exact words to describe the difficulties I have outside an environment of a game.
So again, I don't know how I should take his comment. I'm sure it was a compliment but I don't feel proud of it. Okay, yes, sure, I know how to blend in silently and this is something I aspire to, but is it this line, is this concept of since I "appear normal" and "appear a nice enough of a guy" that those like me can run into issues? Since I "appear" normal does this minimize sympathy when I make a social error since everything "appeared" to be normal? And referencing yesterday's post, is this the reason why those with Asperger's can struggle in school, or rather have no support because everything "appears" to be normal?
If anything this example just points to the needed increase in the understanding of Asperger's. Was that golfer's frame of reference that, if anything, there is a high prejudice against a person with Asperger's? He also said he couldn't "see anything different" in me.
At the end of the round he thanked me for a great conversation and that was it. Per the norm I didn't ask a single question about him. The "wall" struck again and while I probably increased his understanding of Asperger's to a degree that is unmeasurable I left feeling hollow. Connections are so difficult for me to make even though, as he said, "I'm a nice enough guy." That being so things should just work, right? Things should just be easy, right? Only if that were true. Only if what appeared to be was. Only if how I seemed was the truth. And, above all else, only if all those around me could experience the social fear and the amount on analyzing I do on every situation. So in the end I don't know whether to be proud or sad of that line.