“EYE CONTACT?! Forget about it.”
In my teen years I read all the 17 Magazine articles on How to Let Him Know He’s The One, Flirting: 101, and How to Catch His Eye - to no avail. No matter how hard I’d try to make that initial eye contact, smile, or toss my head back when laughing – it was an epic failure every time.
The day after I had put my toys away and ceased barking like a dog at school (see previous blog, Unleash the Hounds), my life changed. Like canines, dinosaurs, The USS Kitty Hawk naval aircraft carrier, and any other special interests I had conjured up in my young life, a new special interest appeared and in human form. He was tall, thin with dark hair and dark eyes. He was in my Homeroom class. His name was Bobby.
I’m learning that “special interests” are an integral part of the Aspergian nature. Some might define them as obsessions, some hobbies, but whatever the definition is for others, I see them as a means for expertise and mastery. I can only speak for myself, and my pattern is as follows:
- Find something that strikes my interest.
- Research online all I can find on the subject (Wikipedia is a good place to start).
- Buy or borrow every book I can find on the subject.
- Do nothing but read those books (anything or anyone else gets in the way, unless they too want to discuss the subject).
- Bring this subject up in just about every conversation I have with others (which others love . . . not).
- Visit locations where I am able to gather more data.
- Find something else that strikes my interest.
- Repeat the cycle.
I found an insightful blog which goes into detail on the special interests of those with Asperger’s, and you can find it here: Life with Asperger's: The Dreaded Special Interest
“Where was he born?” “What is his birth date?” “What is his astrological sign?” “Are our signs compatible?” “What is his nationality?” “What type of music does he like?” “What are his hobbies?” “Where does he live?”
The questions multiplied. There were so many questions that I began to list them on paper, hoping one day I’d have the courage to ask. Day after day I would walk into class and see him sitting at his desk, three rows up and to my right. I would turn a deep red, feel heat pour over my body, and was sure my forehead displayed in blinking neon the word “crush”. I thought I could hide under my long, blond bangs, doodle on my “Pee Chee” folder, or pretend to read and maybe, just maybe, he wouldn’t notice.
One day he started laughing, and took his school book up to our teacher, Ms. Juarez, pointing at something in the book. They then both started giggling. He then pointed to me and said “this picture looks just like you!” Kids began jumping out of their chairs to look as I sat frozen, mute, and blushing. I felt like I was going to melt into a puddle of lava. I was wishing I WOULD melt into a puddle of lava and just be done with it all. I’d rather face a horrible, grueling death than to look this boy in the eyes, much less bat my eyelashes at him like the articles said. The bell rang, and I ran my sweaty little armpits out of there.
At some point I ended up with Bobby’s phone number. I’m sure a friend gave it to me, for other girls seemed to have no problem speaking to him in person. So I would call. And we’d talk. And I’d ask my questions. And I’d see him at school - and would avoid him like the plague, behaving as if he didn’t exist. I did this for years. Now that I am aware of the characteristics of Asperger’s, I believe I was perfectly satisfied knowing the information of Bobby, not Bobby the human, not Bobby the soul, not Bobby - the clueless teenaged skater boy in physical form. I had become an expert . . . , which eventually gave me the space to discover another special interest: theology.
I never did learn to flirt and still don’t understand the concept. I’ve learned that if you are interested in someone, just say it – no games. In my adult life, I’ve only had two serious relationships, but my method seems successful as I am now engaged to be married to the most amazing human being I’ve ever met, and maintain a great friendship with my previous beau.
I did learn, as I grew older, that seeking a person’s “data” is not nearly as satisfying as actually having a relationship with them. Though it may be difficult at times, it sure is comforting to know someone is in your corner and on your team.
Years later: While visiting London in 2003, out of the blue I received an email from Bobby. He had tracked me down through the high school reunion website. Though I admit the eye contact was minimal, together as friends, we attended our ten-year high school reunion. Isn’t life amazing? Not bad for a timid, Aspergian girl. ;0)