Autistic isolation: alone or lonely?
Like many Aspies, I love solitude and isolation. Even though I'm happily married (and assume Mrs EBG would say the same), I spend most of my time alone.
But unlike many — Aspie or otherwise — I’m never lonely.
In fact, loneliness is one of those emotions — like offence, guilt, and shame — I can't even begin to imagine because I've never felt them.
I know I'm somewhat unusual in this because a lot of Aspies and other autistics do crave the company of others but feel excluded because, frankly, socialising is hard work.
What neurotypicals take for granted — eye contact, and reading facial expressions and body language — is something your typical autistic has to do consciously.
We spend an awful lot of our time trying to piece together context from the raw materials around us, and that takes effort.
Lots of effort.
Lots and lots of effort.
So we often get to a certain point in our lives where we simply stop bothering and retreat inside ourselves.
And some find that hard, to the point it causes depression and anxiety.
I'm fortunate in that I'm happy being by myself for extended periods of time (to the extent where when Mrs EBG goes off on her travels to the UK, I can be alone here on the farm for weeks at a time and not speak to another human being beyond a grunt at the supermarket checkout, and that suits me just fine).
Aspies and relationships
Fact is, we find them difficult, because neurotypicals are such hard work. My fellow-Aspie friends are far easier to deal with. They say what they mean, we can follow each-other's trains of thought without effort, and it's all so low-maintenance.
On the other hand, neurotypicals seem to need so much hand-holding and explanation (and they're so damned quick to get offended and butthurt when we don't react appropriately to your indirect and ambiguous language).
Talk, talk, talk, talk.
That's all they want to do. It's like they're scared of silence because it means they have to look inward and risk confronting themselves.
Constant yak, yak, yak.
This is somewhat tongue in cheek, and perhaps I'm being insensitive because I know a lot of autistics are desperate for friendships and romantic relationships, but struggle to form or maintain them.
But here's something I think both sides of the neurological divide need to understand: we autistics cannot meet you in your world, but you can meet us in ours.
By this I mean we are never going to get those subtle hints and allusions you're so keen on, but you can choose to be direct. It's a matter of whether or not you're willing to make the effort.
Me, I'm sanguine about the whole thing. If you can't be bothered, then that's your choice and I'll just go happily about my day.
Other autistics see it differently, to the extent where some think having a romantic or sexual partner is a "neurotypical privilege" and "someone" should do "something" about it.
If you want a sexual partner it's incumbent on you to attract one. And that means behaving in a way he or she finds attractive. That's on you and it's not the remit of anyone else to make it happen for you (and there's nothing stopping you paying for it if all else fails).
Frankly, I can't even begin to get my bald head around that level of idiocy, so I think we'll leave it lying there in the loving arms of a big, fat "Nope".
As an aside...
Some Aspies can't have sex.
The mind, she doth boggle.
I swear I'm not making this up.
See, we tend to be sensitive to touch (all our senses are generally more sensitive than a neurotypical's). And some are so sensitive any kind of physical intimacy is effectively impossible.
And to anticipate your next question, the one you're dying to ask but are probably too polite to voice (as only an NT can be)...
... I'm not one of them.
I don't like physical contact from strangers, to be sure (so the overly-friendly arm-around-shoulders of many an American is objectionable in the extreme to me), but it's fine with people I know.
As for sex, I love it (secret: we Aspies tend to make great lovers because of our objectivity and attention to detail. Your body and how you react to our touch is like playing a musical instrument to us).
Whatever... I guarantee I'm not going to lie on my death bed and say, "You know... I wish I'd had less sex and spent more time arguing with strangers on the Internet".
As far as I'm concerned sex is like money and Häagen-Dazs Pralines & Cream Ice Cream: how much you have and what you do with it is no one else's business...
... and there's no such thing as too much of it.
Sex is quite possibly the best invention ever, and it's no coincidence religion seeks to control when, how, and with whom we have it.
After all, if people are in a state of constant sexual exhaustion — shag-happy, if you like — then it's damned hard to control them or rouse them to glassy-eyed fervour.
And you can make of that what you will.
Jon McCulloch, The Evil Bald Genius
Author, speaker, business owner, and autism advocate