Dating Issues of the Asperger Adult, by Simon Huebner.
Someone out there like you…Yeah, you.
Log off the internet. For Asperger Adults that’s my best dating advice. I was curious enough to Google JDate and Tinder, but not curious enough to sign up myself. Even if I replay moments in my head that I could have handled differently, there’s no substitute for a person-to-person meeting. I know it’s a minefield whether or not you have autistic or anything. A trusted friend once said to me, “The thing that makes dating tough is that people expect you to read a bunch of BS signs instead of saying what their intentions are.” If I had said this, Asperger’s would clearly be rearing its head. But trust me, my pal isn’t part of the Asperger’s club. He’s just a standup guy. It’s easy to see why we we’ve been friends since we were tiny and picked up right where we left off when we last met up.
When I decided to tell my stories publicly, I knew I had to be honest. But I also knew I had to face a plethora of uncomfortable stories because that true for Asperger Adults. This is a tricky subject. I’ve been in small groups when people start talking about sex, and I just keep my mouth shut. One of these times, several friends and I found an outcrop during field camp and relaxed in the shade. A couple classmates later admitted they could hear every word uttered by my friends during this break. The rock that surrounded us amplified the words shared by my buddies. I’m glad I didn’t say anything. It’s funny to me how people are adamant that what happens between two people in private is no one’s business, then turn around and tell everyone who will listen what happens between two people. As I refine my voice, I told myself that if you want to pay attention to a gangly Jew become known for projecting a wholesome image, then turn around and have a crass on-stage persona, shift your attention to Bob Saget, not me. I also felt that if you want to listen to a gangly Jew talk about sex and other related topics ad nauseum, I suggest you turn on Howard Stern’s show. I also try to speak as blunt as I can while trying to stay respectful and not name names whoever of my peers I am reminded of while sharing my stories.
I looked at my passport before a recent getaway trip. The picture was of me when I was 18. I thought the picture was very handsome. I don’t say that often about myself. Somehow, every time I looked in the mirror at that age, I always saw a pockmarked, gangly kid unsure of his surroundings and how to gain confidence even in things that came easily to me. I felt like there were subjects that if I studied them I would be extremely talented at yet bored stiff at the same time, such as sportswriting or literature. I wasn’t that far removed from being an unassuming teenager who looked around at other kids with grabby hands. It was hard to determine what was affection or harassment when they didn’t keep their hands to themselves. I still saw shadows of being an isolated toothpick who struggled at making friends. The first time one of my classmates gave me her phone number, I was surprised…Ok, I was ticked off at myself that I screwed up analyzing diagrams on a Driver’s Ed test. Flirting with a friendly girl took the edge off of overthinking and getting the only B in a class which should have been an easy A. I’m glad she made me less sullen, but I thought she was goofing around. I don’t call the number on the slip of paper she gave me. Not my best decision.
This was the first of many encounters with a nice girl, inside and out, where I doubted how interested she was in me. Replaying about a dozen shared memories, it’s difficult to determine if I’m stroking my own ego or if someone liked me. I’ve heard many friends discuss how frustrating relationships can get. Some of them had a significant other they really liked but weren’t ready for the commitment required. There are many people I’ve known who have talked about someone special who got away. I can relate most to the last part.
I was 18. I had a friend who was a wild child but has since settled down. He threw himself a birthday party on a school night. A girl, who I’m going to call Little Miss Kryptonite because, again, I dislike naming names, was hanging out across the hallway and stopped by for a minute. She had a book in her hand for school, and a megawatt smile despite being ready to go to sleep a little early to face the next day. So LMK wasn’t about to cut loose. I, on the other hand, probably should have to calm my nerves. I’m not saying get blitzed on a weeknight, but what I am saying is that if you know yourself, one, maybe two drinks shouldn’t be a big deal. Especially when you have a physics class the next day where the only thing that department seemed to give a flip about was whether the students in attendance just showed up to take the test. One cheat day won’t hurt anything. Getting motivated to face the next day, however, is a completely separate issue.
You might wonder why I compare one of my peers to kryptonite. It’s because of a series of related events that occurred after that party. Two weeks later, I do my laundry, and the same woman crosses paths with me as she meets up with some friends. There is a difference when someone powders her face before a night out despite the fact that she didn’t need to doll herself up. In the moment, my throat froze up when I wanted to speak. I look back at her face especially her eyes and smile. She initiates a conversation with me. This would be a common occurrence anytime I’d do my own laundry in this building that particular year. Every time, I’d see her, she was on the move, either on her cell phone or with a group of friends. Time felt like it sped up for me. The mix of surprise and the inability to devise a plan became a larger obstacle than it should have been. I chicken out repeatedly.
Several years later, I am in Target. I am finishing up grabbing last-minute items for a job I took which would take me out of state. (Unrelated note: Anyone looking for a geologist in the Atlanta area, I’ll take a look at coming home.) I spot someone’s familiar face, skin tone, hair, and even one of her ear piercings as her cell phone obscures her face. I dawdle and wait for this phone chat to end. I call out LMK’s real name. “Is that you?” I call out.
“Simon? You remember me?”
*Facepalm; sigh.* Sweetie, take three guesses. The first two don’t count.
I don’t have the answer for dating. It’s a hard job to get inside someone’s head and determine what makes then tick, and I’d rather do that in an in-person meeting. What I do know about is figuring out a way to dance around uncomfortable situations that can induce anxiety. Making a backup plan is one of the most important life skills you can learn, in any area. With that said, I do have a few suggestions for how to approach the latest apple of your eye.
Don’t overplay your hand. Chatting with someone else should be like a tennis match, not Rock’em Sock’em Robots. Ask yourself how much you really have to say in one moment. It might take a little extra time, but that’s ok.
Also, if you might happen to have a mutual friend or two, there’s no harm in asking that friend what your crush likes, . Maybe some of your interests will overlap. No matter where you live, whether in the city or country, there should be something that can provide a shared activity. If you are living in a city, there are all kinds of niches. You might like amusement games like go-karts, indoor rock climbing, and/or the arts. There’s an unlimited number of options, but let’s stick with the rule of three. If you are into the arts and entertainment, you might have your favorite preferences, but if you go to something like an open-mic night or a writers’ showcase, you can go somewhere with a smaller crowd that doesn’t hit your wallet at all and is a good way to meet some interesting characters too. You might want to get outdoors, in which case maybe go to a city park and rent a tandem bike or something. All you’re doing is one pedaling motion after another. If you want to get even more outdoorsy and aren’t much interested in what urban things offer you, there should be an abundance of nature trails and parks for hiking, mountain biking, and an unlimited amount of activities. In short, there should be something out there for pretty much anyone willing to take a first step.
A major sticking point people talk about when they discuss Asperger Adults making eye contact. For all intents and purposes, you should know that after childhood, this is one of the rare times you will have to look someone in the eye when you stand nearby them. If things go fine on a date, there’s a good chance you’ll see the other person’s eyes gleaming. If you don’t see that emotion, there’s a good chance they’re not right for you and move on. Just imagine that if you see it, your crush is opening a window into their soul and letting you peer inside. Maybe they’re every bit as nervous as you were when your meet-up started.
Life choices are easy until it’s you who is in your own driver’s seat. All I can say is that someone out there likes you even if you can’t see who it is. Now log off the internet and find out who that person might be. You might become pleasantly surprised.