Thursday, April 19, 2007

Friends

Over the last few months, I've been asked several times about friends. More precisely, the question has been if I have any.

When I read online comments from "ASD" individuals, many are upset that they have no friends and seem to do everything "wrong" in a relationship. I think this is more a situation of being human than being someone with a disorder... humanity struggles to maintain connections. Yes, I do everything wrong and seem disinterested even when I am not. That certainly does upset me when I do care about someone. But is this due to "autism" or simply poor social skills?

People I have truly cared about needed me to "appear more interested" in their lives. I was interested, judging by my notes and journal entries. But, I wasn't able to signal how interested I was. Instead, I came across as self-absorbed. One even described me as "calculating" — and indeed, I was "calculating" in the sense that I was trying to behave according to a decision tree model. If she said X, I should answer Y.

It is also hard for people to believe you tell the truth, which starts to sound to others like a calculated lie, based on what I have experienced. Just try to explain you get physically ill when you try to create stories about yourself. But most people understate and overstate for social reasons.

So, I've lost some people from my life I wish I hadn't.

I realize one of two people might list me as a friend, but the real qualifier is if I have talked to the person in the last six months or more. Is there anyone I talk to, chat with online, or write via e-mail? Is there anyone whose "company I enjoy" on a semi-regular basis?

The answer, as for many other Americans, is no.

Beyond my wife, I don't really recall anyone from the past that well, either. Since I don't even recall names of people I am in class with currently, this isn't much of a surprise. Still, I do wonder if there are people I should recall because they were my friends.

Going through yearbooks, the letters I have saved, photos, and other memorabilia, I can develop a list of names. But, I don't know much beyond what I have from the past. I suppose that should be frustrating, but it's more a curiosity.

If people didn't ask me about friends, I suppose I wouldn't ponder why I don't have any. It's not something I ponder when I'm sitting at home among the cats and the books. Most of the time, I'm rather content to sit and read or write. I'm not sure what I would do with a friend... other than bore the person or offend the person with my personality.

Do I wish I had friends? Yes. But no idea why. At least I have the one friend who counts most: a wife I would do anything for, including struggle through a doctoral program.

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