While browsing through recent blogs on Asperger’s, I came across a review of the novel, The Rosie Project, about a man on the autistic spectrum who creates a list of criteria for a spouse and sets out to find that woman. The reviewer felt the social aspects of the novel rang false, and said, “Asperger’s is a disorder. . . An inability to connect emotionally with others means that Asperger’s sufferers . . . are not nice to have around.”
Moment of stunned silence. WHAT?!? I raced down to the comments, ready to defend the Asperger’s community against such a cold-hearted statement. Not nice to have around? How mean can you get? The comments had been closed. No chance to respond.
My world is filled with people who have Asperger’s and this statement seemed so heartless and so cruel and, as I thought about it further, so true, in many sad ways.
Fiction wants happy endings. I’m a huge fan of “The Big Bang Theory,” and of Amy, in particular. Though everyone talks about Sheldon being a classic Aspie, Amy is a classic female Aspie, with some of the significant – and occasionally tragic – differences that occur in women.
Amy is very aware of social norms, yet rarely experiences them. She’s with Sheldon because she genuinely likes him, but also desperately wishes he was more “normal” at times. She has misunderstood her level of friendship with Penny on numerous occasions, most notably in the episode where she commissioned that huge, awful portrait of the two of them.
The episode that stands out to me, though, was the one where Penny and Bernadette went shopping for bridesmaid dresses – without Amy. She found out, and was crushed. This is where the “(Aspies) are not nice to have around” comment comes in. Amy wasn’t welcome. She was deliberately left out. In the show, Penny and Bernadette apologize and draw Amy back into the group, but in the real world, in a world not controlled by comedy writers and actor’s contracts, that wouldn’t happen.
More likely Amy would have discovered the rejection, sadly accepted it, and left the group entirely.
So, my heartless blogger was correct, in a grain-of-truth sort of way. People with Asperger’s experience a great deal of rejection due to their quirks, because other people don’t want them around. I counted the birthday invitations that didn’t come through, the dates that never happened – and how many Aspies ever attend their high school prom? These are direct rejections by peers, and they hurt.
However, Aspies CAN have successful friendships! They can get married. I know of one couple closing in on 50 years, and another going 24 years. They can have long-term friendships. In fact, to have an Aspie friend is to have a loyal, die-hard friend who will do almost anything for you – as long as you are clear on what you need. Aspies do not see friendship as disposable, because friends are precious and rare.
If people can get past the “not nice to be around” concept, past the quirks and oddities that pop up, especially as young Aspies are learning to navigate the world of friendship, people can find companions who will stick with them through the most difficult of times, who offer genuine friendships. So maybe the idea of a happy ending isn’t so far-fetched after all.