Brief summary

I worked as a massage therapist until 2009, when a car accident left me with long term whiplash and effectively ended my career. Round about that time, I found out that I'd had Asperger's Syndrome my entire life - a discovery that explained a lot of the earlier difficulties and challenges I'd had. Since then... well, that's what this blog is exploring.

Saturday 23 August 2014

Understanding social cues

In the last few days, I've felt increasingly troubled by my poor grasp of some pretty basic social cues.  I had four guests - two sets of French people.  A young couple who took the spare bedroom.  And two sisters who had the sitting room until last night.

Most of the problem, as usual, was my fault.  I spent the weekend at my cousin's place, having finally patched things up with him.  That meant sleeping on the couch, that created some shoulder tension that travelled into my neck and that brought on a migraine.  So, on Tuesday evening, when I got back home, I wasn't at my best.

At first, it was a lot of fun.  We played a game I've been developing, and that got to be pretty lively.  But then, later in the evening, the fourth wave of the migraine washed over me.  I took painkillers and only had a pretty mild headache, but my thinking became cloudy, my vision got pretty weird and I drifted out of the conversation for a while.  When I drifted back in again, everybody was chatting away in French.  I couldn't see an opening for me - not without forcing everyone back into English.  And doing that just felt like it would be arrogant.  One person dictating a conversation that five people were involved in.  So I went to bed.

They'd all been very polite.  They'd repeatedly translated things they'd said to each other and they'd definitely tried to involve me, more than once.  But they were still just translations of snippets of a conversation that I wasn't really a part of, any more.

There were moments throughout the week where we all seemed to have a lot of fun.  But there were also moments where it was a lot clumsier.  Repeatedly, my guests had brought in some beers or some food.  On the first night I had no problem drinking, because I supplied a few beers of my own, but then I ran out of money.  After that, I didn't join in with the drinking or eating, because I couldn't really contribute anything to the meals or buy drinks back.  If I'm eating someone's food or drinking someone's beer, I really like to be able to share.  If not now, then definitely sometime in the near future.

This week, I made an exception to that rule in the mornings, when coffee was offered.  And on the games night, I made a further exception, because I'd made a very slight contribution to the food.  But I didn't drink, because I felt like I'd shamed myself.  Everybody had pooled in some money to contribute to the beer, and my own contribution had been laughably poor; I added less than £2.  I tried to make a joke about how pathetic it was, but it still felt pretty cringeworthy.  A bit too true for it to be funny.  So I decided that if I didn't drink any of it, I didn't need to feel bad about how little I added to the kitty.

At first I made vague excuses when I was asked if I wanted a beer, but I soon realised that excuses weren't necessary.  All I had to say was "no thank you" and the subject was dropped.  That was pretty refreshing, since I didn't need to continually explain myself.  It's amazing how difficult it is to persuade people, sometimes, about the sharing logic.  They usually try to overturn the reasoning with a bit of fresh logic of their own and that just turns into a debate that usually concludes with me becoming a lot less polite.  Not actively rude, but definitely insistent that I'm just not going to take a beer.  I'm told I'm too rigid, sometimes.

So that was another barrier to the socialising.

Then, on Friday we all went out for a few hours.  We'd been planning this for a couple of days, so I'd been looking forward to it.  But then I accidentally got separated from everybody.  I'd got into conversation with a couple of girls who were promoting a play and staging a demonstration.  They were deliberately dressed provocatively and standing out from the crowd - pointing out that the way a woman dresses is not an invitation to sexual assault.  I told them that their message was one that would go down well at Crew.  I asked them for a poster and some flyers, then took those to Crew and suggested they might like to go to the show.  I didn't realise at first that my guests hadn't joined me when I went to Crew, but even then I wasn't initially concerned.  Two of them knew where the place was, and I assumed that were going to follow me there, in a few minutes.  When they didn't, I walked back to where I'd last seen them, but couldn't find them.

Now, that seemed to solve one problem - I was able to go home and get something to eat without having to make excuses when the time came for everybody to stop at a cafe or something.  I was disappointed at losing everybody, but at least I was able to get some toast.  And I figured that they'd get in touch later and we could arrange to meet up somewhere and start again.  But then, when the day went on and on and everybody stayed out, I started to wonder if I'd somehow caused offence.

And then I started replaying that conversation with the two performers.  I started wondering how that might have appeared to my guests.  Only being partially aware of what I do at Crew, they might have interpreted this random conversation with those girls as being a bit sleazy or creepy.  They might have been very offended by it and might have felt a lot more comfortable when I was no longer a part of their group.

Or, as I also suspected, it might have been a lot less awkward and tiring for them to have to continually translate things to the only person in the group who didn't speak French.

Later, when they finally did get back, they reminded me that I could have called one of them on her mobile 'phone.  This had completely slipped my mind.  Probably a good thing, because it was an international number.

And it was about then, that one of my suspicions was confirmed.  One of the girls made a passing reference to being tired out by speaking so much English.  I was amused, rather than offended by her slip, but she was mortified.  I said I was going to go to bed, so they could all relax.  She tried to stop me, and insisted I stay and talk to them, but I insisted that everybody would relax much more easily if they didn't have to accommodate me so much.  I remembered how tiring it was for me, when I was staying with family in Germany.  It was almost physically exhausting.  So I insisted that I wasn't offended and that I completely understood her comment and agreed with it, and I insisted that I was completely happy to leave everybody in peace.

Three of the guests actually came through to my room, shortly after that, and tried very hard to get me to come back and rejoin the conversation.  But I was fully aware by then, of how it would go.  They were naturally going to talk in the language that they were most comfortable with.  And if I was there, they were going to have to constantly translate.  And as we all got more and more tired, the translations were going to become more infrequent and sporadic.

The couple left early on Saturday morning.  And when I got up with the remaining two, I went to Gorgie City Farm with them.  I saw them getting ready to go out and they made a reference to the farm, so I said I'd join them and they agreed.  It was only later, that I got concerned about the fact that I'd just invited myself along.  I had completely barged in on their activity.  By the time that occurred to me, though, it was too late and I couldn't think of a way to back out again, gracefully.  So I got dressed and we all went out.

It was fun, though.  We didn't need to speak a lot.  We were too busy playing with the animals and making jokes to each other.  True - jokes rely on communication.  But the language barrier didn't seem like as much of a restriction this time.

We went back to the flat and I settled in for the next few hours, while the girls went back out again.  I had an art class in the afternoon, and we made arrangements to meet up at it.  I made sure they had the address and knew what time to get there.  Then I settled down and tried to kill a couple of hours.  It occurred to me that if I kept an eye on the time and if I carried the sketchpads with me, I could have gone into town with the girls.  But I didn't want to invade their plans a second time, so I held back from suggesting that.

Later, I got to the venue and set up.  Then, just when I was expecting the girls to arrive, I got a 'phone call from them.  I missed it and tried calling them back and then - after a couple of disconnected and aborted attempts, they finally got through to me.  I didn't get the details clearly, but I understood the gist, which was that they weren't going to make it to the class.  This wouldn't normally have been a big deal, but it was very disappointing, this time.  I knew someone else in Edinburgh who wanted to come to this class, but I hadn't been able to invite her, because two extra people was already pushing the limits.  Now, with those two having dropped out, I tried to get in touch with the other girl, but just couldn't manage it.  It was a very disappointing missed opportunity.

I wrapped up the class, then went home to shower and drop off the sketchpads.  Then I tried calling the girls again.  I figured that since it was their last night in town, then perhaps we could hook up somewhere.  I still wanted to show them round the city a bit, which was something we'd all been planning since the very beginning.  Even if all we did was watch the Festival fireworks and go home again.  They tried calling me once and I tried calling them four times over about four hours.  I got their answering machine twice, the 'phone rang out without being answered once and then I got the answering machine a third time.  At around 9PM, I completely gave up.

They got back shortly after 9PM, but conversation was clearly not comfortable at that point.  They told me they'd seen a comedy show and watched the fireworks and that they'd had a good time.  We didn't talk about the fact that I'd tried calling them.  I was too embarrassed to admit to being so pushy.  And I'm guessing they were too polite to make any kind of reference to it.  I went to my room and left them to pack their things in peace.

And even more disappointingly - if I hadn't tried so hard to join the two girls today, I could have done something else just as fun.  Crew had a barbecue this afternoon.  I missed the first two hours of that, because of the job I had to do, but I could have still turned up at the tail end of it.  If I'd just accepted that I wasn't going to salvage anything with my guests, I could have still had a bit of fun.  I wouldn't have inadvertently created a frosty atmosphere with my guests and there might even have been some food left.

The guests have all been very nice.  They've been very cool people.  And I might have got on with them a lot better, if I hadn't tried so hard to be part of their company.


  1. There is no such thing as "asperger's". Psychiatry itself is a bogus science. The following articles and essays explain this:

    12 Part essay that exposes psychiatry as a bogus science

    Inventor of ADHD: “ADHD is a fictitious disease”

    Co-Founder of DSM admits there is no way to scientifically prove that mentall illness is real

    One year old babies and younger being put on psychiatric drugs

    Psychiatric Drugs Shorten Life Span by 15 years on average

    Psychiatry is based on lies and falsehoods

    Psychiatry is a fake science

    Every human emotion is now a "mental illness"

    Ten Myths about Psychiatric Drugs

    Studies show psychiatric drugs have no benefits and are dangerous

    Psychiatry is now giving 3 year old children drugs

    Psychiatric drugs make you sicker

    A few free eBooks talking about how psychiatry is a massive hoax

    A list of THOUSANDS of psychiatrists who have committed crimes against their patients

    1. Sorry that it took so long to respond. And thank you for all the links. I'm sure I'll get round to reading some of them, sooner or later.

      I've read a bit, myself. And while it's true that psychiatry and psychology can be misused - and can even be dangerous if handled irresponsibly - it's not true that they can be summarily dismissed as a "bogus science".

      And having grown up with autism, I can tell you, quite categorically, that the condition definitely does exist. I've experienced it my entire life.

  2. Omg I am SO sorry some crazy jack ass left that shitty comment! Delete it, it's horrible!

    I just spent about 20 minutes writing a comment that some how got deleted before I could post it. Argh! It's after 11 already so it's a bit too late to start again (I'm on the iPad) so I will try again tomorrow. But I just wanted to say that I enjoyed your post. I am NT, my son is aspie. And even though I am Nt, I def can relate to overthinking social situations. I am better now that I am 38, but I can still feel uncomfortable at times. The best thing for was to change my thinking. I chose to believe I was just as worthy of friendship and interaction and BEER hat was offered to me, instead of feeling too uncomfortable (or unworthy). You are just as worthy, too, my friend. Very worthy of friendships and all the things that friendship has to offer. If a friend offers a drink or a meal, say thank you and feel proud. That's just what I think you should feel. I know it's easy to say, though.

    I hope you are well and that your art is great. Please delete that terrible post. And please post again soon! I'm a follower now!

    1. Hello

      Thanks for replying to the posting. I thought about deleting the previous comment, but I prefer not to do that. It's more interesting to acknowledge and respond to what another person has said, even if it's meant to be inflammatory.


  3. Sorry for typos!! I forgot to proof before I posted! Gah