Thursday, October 18, 2012

"You Seem Like a Nice Enough Guy"

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.


  1. I think you were just you and gave t hat man a window into your world. As a mother of a son who has asperger's;who is constantly having to educate myself in the world of aspergers you have also given me a window into your world and that of my son. At the start of every school year I am having to watch my son struggle to be understood , I become the teacher to my sons teacher. this can be a painful and emotional process for all involved especially if the teacher is unable to empathic to his needs, thankfully we seem to get there. My son is eight now and my biggest fear is him starting secondary education at 11 and finding the right place for him to be. I just wanted you to know that your honesty and courage to share your experiences gives me hope for the future.

  2. Aaron, being your mother, this is one of those blogs that makes me hurt and feel sad as well.
    This is one of those times we parents want to fight, protect and hold onto our aspie even more. That being said, not much of what I can say will have much meaning to you because I can't FIX it. BUT,it and you don't need fixed, you are who you are and that is a very special child of God and I am so proud that you are on the battle ground of trying to make people understand who you are and that nothing needs fixed and you do not fit into a box. People and even teachers want us all to fit into a neat little box. Well none of us really fit into a box. I saw on the View yesterday an actress whos son is on the spectrum. She made one statement that really dug into my heart. When asked she said, "my son is getting well". What awful words of choice she used. He is not sick or deformed. I then saw on my favorite show last night, "Criminal Minds" how they were trying to get the word out. I have told youm Aaronm that the one chatacter on the show has reminded me of you so much. Last night they brought up in a matter of fact way the he is indeed an aupie, He is an FBI agent and is so loved by his team members and his help is beyond words. Sometimes he goes on and on in his "Kansas", of facts and knowledge of past cases and psychological traits of others. They have to gently cut him off. And just like you it does not seem to bother him. But the writers have done such a good job in giving him depth of character that he is WONDERFUL, just like he is. It may be an example of a good job of writing that may help parents see what their child could and might accomplish. However, I know this is tv and one has to take that into condideration. It is a positive picture of many on the autism spectrum. I imagine that golf partner just didnt know what to say to you, Even "non aspies" aren;'t always able to be socially kind or correct,

  3. If I were you on that spot, I will carefully go from very general questions then to the nitty gritty if you are interested to know more. This is my method when I encounter occupational therapy peers I haven't met before in person at occupational therapy conferences. Sometimes I do have the benefit of visual cues (as in walking by their presentation posters or seeing where they are from). My peers generally like it... as they use similar approaches when they ask about what I like to do in occupational therapy or more about my work. Give this method a try when you meet strangers and you want to strike conversations with them.