Tag Archives: insights

Social Chatter — Not Exactly Phatic

If we’re at all self-aware, we’ll gain new insights about our selves throughout our lives. I spent a good two years of deep self-analysis to determine whether I was or wasn’t on the spectrum, so it’s somewhat amazing how much I continue to discover about myself. Phatic communication, for instance. Long before I heard the term, I was aware that I sucked at the short, shallow responses to the short, shallow questions that are a part of being superficially social. It turned out, that like many on the spectrum, I relied (when I could remember them) on scripted resonses. I still stumble and mumble if the right script doesn’t pop into sight.

But it’s the bigger social thing — still mostly superficial, but seemingly a big part of normal life — that I can’t deal with unless it’s with a few people that I know very well, and can share at least a few things with in casual conversation. That insight was nowhere to be seen the day a Very Important meeting was declared for the volunteers of a charity thrift shop where I donated a few hours a week. The store was closed, and meeting time came, but instead of business, everyone was standing around, chatting. And chatting. And chatting.

So what did I do? I told the woman I worked with to give me the highlights of the meeting, and anything important, and went back to work. As it turned out, the meeting wasn’t about anything terribly important, and the necessary information could have been conveyed in less than five minutes. So why all the standing around and chatting? Today, I understand, but back then, I just saw it as a mysterious waste of time that I could be putting to better use. Today, I recognize it as a socially necessary waste of time that could be put to better use, and one that I still avoid.

Just like forum sections that are set aside for conversation about anything but the official purpose of the forum. Social lubrication, a way to avoid getting down to work, an amusing distraction — whatever. I avoid them like the plague.

And They Just Keep Coming

Insights, that is. After two or three years reading everything you can find about Asperger’s, and digging up the forgotten aspects of your life as you read, you’d think you know every relevant fact about your relationship with the spectrum. Then you realize, having it shoved in your face by a new source, that an essential part of yourself is so blatantly Aspergian you wonder how you could have overlooked it. Just didn’t make the connection because it didn’t seem that significant? A rampant case of denial?

I didn’t have any negative emotional reactions to discovering that I was on the spectrum. In fact, it was a relief to learn that there were valid reasons for the many ways in which I don’t function according to society’s expectations, so denial is pretty out of character. Most of my Asperger’s traits are more or less invisible, while this one, if you’d known me for a long time, would be clearly visible. But that’s the catch. There’s no one who’s known me for more than a few years, and the evidence is so spread out over the decades that you’d not only have to have known me for all that time, you’d almost have to be an aspie yourself to have noticed it.

So the insights keep coming, though I think some facets of my early life, the ones that would have been identifiers if diagnostic measures had been available at the time, are unrecoverable. It’s been a long time, and memories fade. I also believe that in some areas, I simply didn’t form memories. That made taking the online tests more difficult and added to the length of time it took to persuade myself that I was going about the process of self-diagnosis honestly. How can you answer  questions for which you have no answers? That might be something to take into account if any of those tests are ever revised. Allow for “I don’t know.” Because there’s a lot I don’t know, and I sometimes wish I did.

I’m about halfway through Neurotribes and wish I’d read it much earlier.