When I was growing up, like in elementary and middle school, I really did have very few friends. After that, though, I learned that plenty of people don’t fit in for one reason or another. It became pretty easy to find people who accept me. And when I spend time with those people, I have a lot of fun.
Sometimes, though, I have managed to make friends with the cool kids. I have gone to the *right* places.
And yes, those are fun too.
It’s an amazing feeling when you’re in with people you know are selective. Especially when other people you know are ~out.~ If you’re out about 95% of the time it feels downright magical. Going somewhere exclusive turns me into a giddy freaking toddler. And I’m 28.
But sometimes it makes me a hypocrite. As people on the spectrum, we should be sympathetic to others who have trouble socially. Especially if they’re worse off than us. Shunning more awkward people doesn’t make us any less awkward ourselves either.
I used to play poker with some people at a dive bar. They were great people, but there was this one guy no one liked (let’s call him Tim) because he was an aggressive player. Tim had always had trouble with people, but he was good at poker and proud of it. I dated him briefly after a guy in the group, Toby, broke up with me (more or less because he couldn’t deal with my Asperger’s).
Anyway, everyone was sitting around the table trashing Tim, and Toby glared at me like “aren’t you going to defend him?”
I did. But not as vehemently as I should have. I was so glad that people were not only not trashing me, but letting me in on the trashing that I lost my sense of honor.
Three years later, guess who’s the only person I still keep in touch with from that bar?
Life can be very hard for those of us who are just close enough to normal to get a taste of what it’s like. Because we know we can’t stay there. Out of the 10 years I’ve been an adult I’d say I spent about three of them with socially accepted people. Then for whatever reason: my social anxiety, me saying something offensive and not realizing it, people finally deciding I’m just too awkward to hang- it always imploded.
One of my tics is repeating myself. A lot. Other awkward people generally accept things like that. A guy in my support group has a special interest in movies. Every conversation we have with him eventually winds back around to movies. He checks movie schedules on his phone at dinner, ignoring the conversation. We’re all used to it.
But the average person wouldn’t invite him to dinner again after that.
I’ve sometimes treated my friends horribly because I felt stuck with them. Once I called them a bunch of fucking losers right to their faces. I’m lucky they still talked to me after that.
In the meantime, I pedestalized my popular friends, telling them I was soooooo lucky I found them because they were soooooo much better than the people I usually end up with.
That didn’t impress my popular friends one bit by the way. It just made me a bad person.
I’ve gotten less bitter over time. But I still struggle with intense feelings of inferiority, especially since I moved to New York. Because here you *have* to be friends with the right people in order to get anywhere. Sometimes I go around thinking I don’t have any friends. But I do. I have a decent number of friends here.
I’m just not friends with the cool kids.
Working on my social anxiety is one way I can help myself. So is figuring out what career I can actually sustain. I’ve considered getting services, but I want to see how I can handle things on my own first.
And of course, accepting myself is the most important step of all.
And honestly, if society tells me that having genuine fun talking through action movies with other unemployed autistic people on a Tuesday night is lame, fuck that. If society tells me the only valid audience for my art is people who do faux-sanctimonious interviews with New York Magazine about how they’re trying to curb their partying, fuck that too. That’s society’s problem, not mine.
I might not be friends with insiders, but my friends and I are comfortable with each other. My writing may never be valued by the most coveted audience, but I hope I can use my words to help people who need it. And that’s more than enough.
(Btw I got the Mean Girls pic from a fun but unfortunately no longer updated fashion blog called The Ruby Lotus.)