More Hank Than Max – Part 2: Do I Look Aspie to You?
Now, Sally has argued that I actually exhibit many more Aspie traits than I think I do. She is, as you may know, a professional observer of human beings, having spent most of her adult life as a talented and skilled therapist, so it has made sense to me to listen to her about this. And I will admit that, in the past two years, now that I’ve been looking, I have begun to notice for myself (and actually feel) the evidence for her argument, not only in my daily habits and current interactions with others, but in remembered moments from my past, as I’ve leafed through the pages of my own life story in search of myself.
Small bits of evidence are as immediate as this last weekend, when we took a short trip. I butted into a conversation between people I do not know because I overheard them talking and had a corrective piece of information I thought they needed to have. (No, I’m sorry, you’re wrong. Tim Curry is not dead. He just signed on as the Criminologist in the Rocky Horror remake!) I had to turn away and look mostly at Sally during much of the meeting we’d traveled to attend, because I found the eye contact with the man with whom we were meeting to be discomfiting and confusing. Before heading home, I said goodbye to Sally’s children with little more than a perfunctory, from a distance, remembered-at-the-last-second wave of the hand instead of the more appropriate and traditional hugs and handshakes. And it was only later, thinking upon these things, that I realized than any or all of these actions might have seemed rather odd, or worse, to the people with whom I was interacting.
And then there’s the fact that I’m largely estranged from my family of origin, including my own children. And there’s the way I acted out my unspeakable frustrations, for years, in that family system. And my predilection for researching, talking about, and writing about such “off the normal curve” special interests™ as the collapse of civilization, lost ancient societies, UFOs and aliens, paradoxes and paradigms, mind-challenging philosophies and deeply entrenched conspiracies. (And I suppose we can now add Asperger’s itself to that list.) And the fact that, on that rare occasion that I do attend some sort of social gathering (usually at Sally’s strong suggestion or invitation), unless I know the people well, (and there are only a few of them), I either say very little, find some place to hide, or speak mostly to the dogs and cats that live there. And the fact that, apart from Sally, I have almost no “close friends.”
But other than that, no, I don’t “look Aspie” at all.
Which is to say, perhaps, that, given the insanities of the world in which we live, and the current state of human beings living in the dim light cast by the last glowing embers of the Age of Exuberance, and the fact that I simply feel like “me,” and that “me” feels “right” and “normal,” none of these “outward signs,” in and of themselves, were enough to convince me.
Which is probably why the trail up the slope of Recognition and Resonance to the high ridge of Assessment and the peak of Diagnosis (from the Greek, meaning to know as apart from, to discern) took as long to traverse as it did. That and the fact that, until 1992, there was no such thing as an “Asperger’s Diagnosis” at all. And the fact that Asperger’s is a syndrome which lies on a spectrum, which means that “how it looks” will vary wildly from person to person, bringing the lie to any and all attempts to stereotype it.
Yet the stereotypes are out there, obscuring the subtleties and variations of truth and experience. Being “More Hank Than Max,” the truth of my own experience was more difficult for me to discern. And frankly, that difficulty was what I’d been trying to achieve. Though I was not aware of it at the time, in a very real way “Hank” was exactly who I’d created myself to be.