Autism Awareness Month, Day 20: Aspie Dating 101


I mean,  I am the guy who writes down things to remember to say when there is a party. And then when he finally gets there he winds up alone, in the corner, trying to look… comfortable examining a potted plant.

You’re just shy.
Sounds as if it’s nothing serious, doesn’t it?
~ from Star Trek: The Next Generation, “Hollow Pursuits”

Reg Barclay, dreamboat (?)

I hope by now my readers are not getting sick and tired of my Autism Awareness-related posts as well as my endless references to Reg Barclay. I promise that Autism Awareness Month will be over in ten days, and at that time, we’ll go back to our usual random pop culture madness at P&Q. Until then, well, you’re stuck with me, and if you’re still reading, I assume you want to hear what I have to say.

I’m probably the last person who should be writing a post about dating. I’ll be honest; it’s been about six years since I’ve even *been* on a date. There have been times when I’ve questioned my very urge to date at all, whether I wasn’t secretly an android (or a Vulcan) whose sexual desires were either nonexistent or deeply latent. Sorry for the continuous Star Trek refs, but it’s the best comparison I have.

One of the most lingering myths (and perhaps harmful ones) about people on the spectrum is that they are a bunch of asexual, aloof freaks, or else helplessly esoteric or perverted in their tastes. While I have to say I know examples of each type, it is certainly not the norm. Aspies, like most of humanity, usually want a life-long partner with whom they can laugh, cry, pay bills, and share life’s ups and downs with. That’s about as normal as it comes, right?

One alpha male, one not so much

If I had to guess, I’d say that the world of dating and romance is so rocky for Aspies for two main reasons. First and foremost is that so much of courtship is very subtle. For example, the entire act of “flirting,” seen as essential to starting a conversation with a stranger, is lost on many Aspies. Think about the winks, the nods, the words that are not said in this elaborate dance. Since many Aspies cannot read body language well, if at all, it is damn near impossible. I am one of those who cannot tell if someone is interested in me or not. Believe me, it’s caused a lot of headaches, and heartaches, over the years.

The other difficulty lies in the concept of gender roles. When I attended John Elder Robison’s presentation in Nashville a couple weeks ago, he discussed this phenomenon in some depth. Aspie men may expect to be chosen, as it is traditional in most Western cultures for women to choose men. Because so many male Aspies are either shy (like Reg Barclay) or completely unaware of boundaries, they get lost in the dating shuffle. As to Aspie women like myself? We do too, for different reasons. Most of the “Aspergirls” I’ve met (a word coined by the wonderful Rudy Simone) are straightforward and non-girly. Some think more like men. Like the men, we don’t fit any pre-conceived notions.

Deanna, I love you, but I feel like I'm gonna faint

Now, I’ve written at least a half-dozen posts on how I hope to find true love (the kind they showed in The Princess Bride, natch). I’m not sure if I still do. I’ve spent my entire independent adult life living alone, and I’m used to it. Would I really want to fight over toilet seats, taking out the garbage, and whose turn it is to cook dinner? Not to mention the prospect of kids. I won’t even go there for now. Suffice it to say, true love is a lot like unicorns for me. I really, really like the idea of it, but it’s pretty much an out-of-reach fantasy.

If and when I do start dating again, I have some idea as to where to look. The bar/club/Speed Dating scene is no place for a tenderhearted, shy Aspie, and I’d hesitate to say it’s for anyone. Nor is the match.com or eHarmony scene for me. They say Internet dating is every Aspie’s best friend. Me, I’ve only discovered how much I can get lied to. That guy whom I thought was never married has two small kids. The NS/ND guy is a heavy smoker. Mr. Svelte is a fat slob. And so on and so forth.

Personally I’ve found the very best places to meet like minds, including other Aspies, is places where they naturally congregate. Think sci-fi conventions, physics lectures, astronomy parties, Renaissance festivals, zombie walks. In other words, places where being different and weird is not only accepted, but EXPECTED. Forget social clubs and places of worship, where everyone puts on a good (but false) show. Go to where the nerds are and you shall find what you seek.

And hey, if you’re going to date, at least be honest. Nobody is perfect and everyone has downsides. I’d much rather date someone who was honest to a fault than a deceiver who was rich, handsome, and successful. Call it the Murdock over Face syndrome, for those of you who know The A-Team. I myself am too tall, perpetually geeky, and certainly not model-gorgeous. I’d much rather be admired for my mind than my body…because, sooner or later, everyone gets old and wrinkly.

I guess what I’m trying to say to my fellow Aspies is to pursue love if it’s something they really want. There have been plenty of unlikely love stories in the world and there always will be. If you’re not a relationship sort of person, but still want to be loved, try adopting a shelter pet. The nice thing about animals is that they’re not as hung up on trivial things than people.

And if you do wind up finding your life partner, won’t you be so kind as to tell me your story? I might even use you in a future edition of P&Q.

And they lived happily virtually ever after

Thanks for all the continued support this month. Coming tomorrow: AS and the early years of sch0ol. Be sure to click “Like” if you enjoyed this post!

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~ by Howlin' Mad Heather on April 20, 2011.

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