Aspergers Syndrome - Living as an Adult Aspie, Social Life

Aspies and a Social Life

Aspergers Syndrome is connected to social problems, problems with social interaction, but what is often misunderstood is that Aspies actually crave the interaction, they just can't seem to get it right. In trying to mix and fit in, to socialise, they will simply crash and burn and then feel inadequate or be seen as strange by others when they're trying to have a conversation. Aspies don't do chit-chat.

Aspies just don’t fit into social settings comfortably, on the other hand they tend not to care or notice, or they refuse to. I've spent many an uncomfortable time out, in the company of others, just gritting my teeth and counting down the minutes until I can escape, yet knowing I have to be out there because that's what we're told to do to make friends. Get out and make friends. The getting out bit can be done, it's the making friends part that's so hard for an Aspie.

In these situations, because of the problems with environment, noise or light, I've also sometimes just completely gone into my own world, resurfacing occasionally to look up and smile (because we're supposed to!). But not being or feeling a part of the environment at all. It's like your own bubble you lock down into, listening to your own thoughts or focussing on some small detail; sometimes I will trace a carpet pattern carefully, or be completely absorbed with the face that a curtain corner is turned. Usually fighting an inner urge to straighten some things up - in a pub I would want to make sure that everybody has a beer mat and they're using them and that they're all turned the same way round, or lined up with the table edge. I will lock down into noticing the tiniest of details, the way the wax has burnt in the candle, how untidy the menus are in the holder - and I'll occupy myself with straightening them. I'll literally be in my own world, noticing tiny details while those around me chit-chat together, I just can't.

While they are chit-chatting I will be aware that I have nothing to contribute. One of three things can happen... if I am asked a direct question I might answer inappropriately, I might launch into a 10-minute non-stop dull and very detailed answer or I will just offend the people by staring blankly at them and saying I don't know in what can be perceived as a negative fashion.


Inappropriate Responses from Aspies

It's often remarked that Aspies respond in an inappropriate manner, but what does that actually mean? How? Do I suddenly shout "F*** off" at the vicar? No, it's more that I am likely to offend somebody by declaring what seems like a strong opinion that is anti anything they stand for. e.g. if a parent shows me a baby picture and says "Isn't he lovely?", I'm most likely to say "He's like all babies, crikey he looks like Orville the Duck doesn't he. Babies are ugly aren't they". Crash and burn. Everybody now hates you.

The trouble is, Aspies can't lie if asked a direct question.  "Does my bum look big in this?" "Yes, it does", or "no more than usual".  It can be perceived as being harsh or nasty, but it's a simple answer to the question asked.

The trouble with an Aspie is, they have no social skills - and suffer from complete honesty. So, when asked a direct question they will answer truthfully. I can't pretend your baby is cute/gorgeous/lovely ... he looks like Orville the Duck and so I say so. It's not meant to offend, it does that by default.

On the other hand, if the direct question was "Do you have any children?", that is an open question (never ask an Aspie an open question) and therefore will result in a 10-minute long answer. Because the question is open, the Aspie doesn't understand or know the framework within which to answer, so they have to therefore answer with every answer they would have that would fit every response that was required. Do you have any children is an answer that might require going back over the last 20 years of my life, every situation, every thought, every opinion, every experience of it. Yes, you get treated to the lot. Now, you all hate me ... crashed and burned again. Everybody will go quiet, nod knowingly between each other (the Aspie won't spot this) as the Aspie goes on and on ... and on ... Then somebody brave will change the subject and you'll get the cold shoulder for the rest of the night. No, longer. This one social faux pas has now terminally tainted any future friendship or relationship you can ever have with anybody that was present. In a club/social situation, this means that you might never feel able to meet with these people again because for some reason they didn't seem to like you (after your long, unwanted, answer, they will have been a little hostile for the rest of the night, or taken the opportunity to shuffle away.

So there you stand, everybody's shuffled off, you're in the corner counting the ceiling tiles and you think "B*gger it" and slip out the back door.


Aspies Don't Like Goodbyes, We're Just Useless at Them

Saying goodbye is another thing that's difficult for Aspies. That departure time, how do you do it. Most Aspies will simply spot an opportunity and run. If they can't handle a "Hello, how are you?" there's no chance of doing the whole big goodbye routine. So avoidance of the end bit is inevitable. The alternative to slipping away unnoticed is to be the last to go. Neither is good. Slip away unnoticed and maybe people think you are rude or don't like them (I've no idea). Maybe this is the bit where people arrange to do the keeping in touch thing, I've no friends so not sure about how keeping in touch works (another thing I am rubbish at that I will cover in a bit). So, the alternative is to sit it out. So you sit there all alone, speaking when spoken to, but you can't initiate a conversation. If sonebody initiates it, you can't take it forward. Their questions are answered either with one word replies, or volumes.


What is Asperger's Syndrome?

Aspergers Syndrome was first written about within the medical community (in a German publication) in 1944 by Hans Asperger. It took a further 30 years or so until it started to creep into actual diagnosis and formal recognition.

There is talk of there being no Aspie adults - we exist, we were pre-recognition. There is also talk of there being many more male Aspies than female Aspies, this is actually because men and women behave differently, so it can be more obvious in a man. Nobody knows what causes somebody to be an Aspie, there are theories though. Most research strongly points to it being genetic, so if you have an Aspie child, one of the parents (or grandparents) was probably also an Aspie, but entirely undiagnosed. Parents having their awkward child diagnosed formally will suddenly recognise themselves.

You probably know an Aspie, but they and you just don't know it. There are a lot of phrases I've heard throughout my life that I now know are people picking up on me being an Aspie, but neither of us had a word for it. A common one is being told "You're weird" when you voice your opinions. To be told this it's usually by somebody you have befriended and yet in that one statement there's a clear wedge driven through that. Without knowing why you're thinking and behaving like you do, you will find a lifelong problem in that your opinions and responses are varying massively to other people's. That makes you "not like them" in their eyes and people are friends with people who are just like them. Aspies have usually tried REALLY hard to do what any advice column would have them do, but without realising they are an Aspie they've probably had a lifetime of rejection, a lifetime of trying, a lifetime of crash and burn. Picking themselves up and starting again all the time becomes part of what you are and what you do... although ultimately one day you stop because it's easier to stop than to keep beating yourself up about it. Advice columns will tell the friendless "Join a club", well we know how that would go.


The Geek Syndrome, or Little Professor

Aspergers Syndrome is quite often referred to as the Geek Syndrome; Aspies can be referred to as Little Professors. Aspies are often drawn towards technological or scientific subjects, subjects based on logic or numbers. They won't be stood around a coffee machine at work chatting, nor round a jukbox chatting in a pub. In fact, I find standing in a group anywhere a most uncomfortable experience, a seat is preferred, with a wall behind in (corners are great), so I'd most likely be sat in the corner, alone, while everybody stood in a group chatting.

At work, Aspies are unlikely to small-talk with their co-workers, they're there to work so they do. They might chat if appropriate, but they have an overly-keen sense of work ethic and feel awkward at social chit-chat in the company's time - and guilty if any boss were anywhere near to see it.

Aspies rarely go to parties and gatherings unless it's with family members or people they knnow well, in a place they know; it's nice to know ahead who will be there, what will go on, until what time, what's the layout of the place, how/where will we all sit. Aspies also tend to not belong to groups, clubs, or organizations.


Hypersensitivity to Lights and Sound. Sensory Overload and Super-Awareness

One of the problems with an Aspie is that Aspergers Syndrome quite often brings with it a hypersensitivity to lights, crowds, noise, and activity or movement.

Being in a brightly lit room, that's noisy, where people are moving about a lot can negatively affect their moods. If I were to sit in a modern coffee shop, with machines squirting out their steam without warning, a high level of chatter noise and people moving to and fro I'd become very agitated and twitchy. I'd no longer be able to hear the conversation at my own table and would become super-aware of every individual noise and movement in the room.

An Aspie simply can't block out the unwanted noises. Many Aspies will find living alone and working alone suits them well. Being in control of my environment is important. It is possible for an Aspie to suddenly become over-whelmed if they feel they're trapped; this might be in a long dull meeting, or having to stand in a crowded pub, or being in a busy supermarket. At this point all the Aspie intuitions are telling them to get out immediately. Right now. You have to leave. Sometimes this feeling is just a strong desire to get out of the envrionment, which might be for a minute, so you can pretend you have to go to the lavatory and escape there (where it's quiet and cool), sometimes it's like a sudden overwhleming hot flush and you have to physically get outside of the building - in this case, if possible, you might say you're off to the lavatory, but actually go out the back door and sit down for 2 minutes. That tiny break can bring down those feelings pretty immediately. In a pub situation I will go and stand out the front for 2 minutes, I will just say I'm feeling hot and need to cool down, without any further explanation being needed. Sometimes though, if in a restaurant or bar, if it's that time when people are thinking about leaving then I will just have to go. Right now. I am leaving. This instant. And I wait outside while everybody else takes their time, slowly moving towards the door while chatting. It's black and white: I have to be in or out of a place. I don't like a slow chatty amble. If I think you're going to do a slow chatty amble I'll rush ahead of you and get out first and wait. I'm happy doing that, just don't think I'm weird!

This article is one part of a series. Check out my profile for the rest.

Thanks for reading.

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Comments 28 comments

Eve 7 years ago

Fantastic personal description of Aspie. I never knew anything about it until a relative passed away. Thank you.


nat 7 years ago

great description, would also add that for some bizarre reason no one seems to have the same sense of humour as me, and that my laughing seems inappropiate at times, and for some reason people won't lighten up, why are people so serious all the time? we're all human aren't we?


hubby7 profile image

hubby7 6 years ago from Chicago

Thanks for sharing. I will read more of your hubs!


secretidentity 6 years ago

this has definitely opened my eyes again to what i have

i thought that i had maybe started to 'grow' out of it because people can never tell that there is really anything different. When i first tell people they don't even know what aspergers is and always say that 'you don't seem like that'

however i do still feel like there is a difference in me and so maybe it is not something you 'grow' out of...just cope with better


MPG Narratives profile image

MPG Narratives 6 years ago from Sydney, Australia

Thank you for sharing. I know two people who have aspergers and their traits are similar to what you explain. Now that I know what aspergers is I understand my friends so much more and our relationships have blossomed because of that understanding.

I feel the more people know about the struggles people like you go through the better things will be.


Sheila Wilson profile image

Sheila Wilson 6 years ago from Pennsylvania

Very interesting hub. My daughter is an Aspie. The sitting in corners thing- what is that about? She's always had to be in a corner, like at a restaurant, or she'd refuse to sit down. Also, she won't eat from plates, only bowls. It was very difficult to understand many of the things that she does, but I've learned to grin and nod, just accepting that I won't understand. She's the female teenage equivalent of House (from the TV show). Sarcastic, condescending humor and rather brutal honesty.. But, like you mention, she has always loved science and is extremely sensitive to noise, smell, and light. Very informative hub.


Petal 6 years ago

Apart from one or two items, this fits me perfectly. I have learned so much. Including not presenting a different viewpoint as its seen as disagreeing and not being like them. Wow, thank you.


TM 6 years ago

It's good to see that not everyone in this world is just a bunch of assholes. I'm not sensitive to lights or noises, but I most certainly struggle with having any form of a social life. I usually just make people laugh just as a way to hide the fact that I don't have anything worth saying to people


jaycee 6 years ago

Thank you so much for writing this. I live in a world of Aspies, Husband, children, grandchildren and I suffer from all kinds of unfulfilled needs, because its always about what they need, and never about me!! So please understand that although life is very difficult for you, many so called neuro-normals get caught up in your world and suffer in a different way. We are the ones who have the break-downs, because we carry too large a load, and we find ourselves socially outcast because of the strange behaviour of our families. Please try to understand why I am writing this. What you are doing is very very useful, please don't stop, but also see that your problem is carried by others around you. We too, need understanding!!!!!!!!!!!!!


kit haas 6 years ago

I am a mother to an Aspie so I understand EXACTLY what Jaycee is saying. I have endured numerous scenes and meltdowns and socially awkward situations. BUT she is just WRONG. It is not an Aspies fault that other people are rude and can't handle someone different. Also I have NEVER met anyone I would call neuro-normal. they don't exist.


nlowman profile image

nlowman 6 years ago from Connecticut

My brother is an Aspie, so I have always wondered how he feels. He's only eleven, which makes it even more difficult for him to express himself. He definitely has a different sense of humor, like Nat mentioned, and has sensitivity to sounds for sure. Thanks for helping me understand a bit more.

And kit is right, no one is neuro-normal. Ha!


Baileybear 6 years ago

yes, I've crashed and burned many times!


Jaggedfrost profile image

Jaggedfrost 6 years ago

lol Sometimes I feel like I come here just to crash and burn so that I don't have nearly so much to say when I am in public. I am not sure that it always works but hey a guy can dream. I always felt that the corner sitting was a self defense mechanism that is also observed by criminals and other people with highly developed senses of danger. If I am in a corner then I don't have to watch my back. What I don't have to watch I don't have to sensory pay attention to. Well She explained the sensory logic very well.


Natalie Green 5 years ago

Thank you for sharing. We suspect very strongly that our daughter has AS. Not sure but are in the process of getting her diagnosed. So it is a real eye-opener to read personal experiences and helps us understand her a little more. Thanks!


Maddox 5 years ago

Perhaps most Aspies want to socialize and make friends. But not all. I'm both an Aspie and a loner which makes things much easier to cope with since i don't feel i would miss anything.


RodRuby 5 years ago

I have mild AS and I can read social cues efficiently, even though I'm lonely I understand emotions and sarcasm perfectly, however emotions isn't fully necessary for me as I'm not social.


Chris 5 years ago

This is such an accurate description of how I perform in social settings. I am 40, an I have been diagnosed for less than a year. On one hand finding out about my aspperger's was a relief. I finally understood why I was so different. The problem I am having now is that I can't change it. I can't wire myself to function socially. It's difficult.


Maren 5 years ago

Hi have had a copy of this article since January because it is so good, but I have finally managed to give it to my mother to read after she she said that what she didn't understand about my social interaction difficulties was why I didn't even try, eg I didn't even go out and try to meet people.

I had such a difficulty trying to explain to her why I wasn't just going to magically make friends one day by just trying because I had been doing this for years at school and it never got me anywhere. The only thing it achieved was making me feel worse about myself and beating myself up about it constantly, until I developed depression.

After that I stopped trying so hard and therefore stopped beating myself up about it. My mother obviously interperates it as giving up, but without it I would be a mental wreck.

I had no choice but to stop trying so hard and not to worry so much about what everyone else is doing, and what I cant.

This is the only article on the internet that talks about Aspies giving up in order to not beat themselves up about their lack of social skills. And that going out does not necessarily mean you will make friends. Even when I do make friends with someone somewhere I will usually find it difficult to keep in contact and keep that friendship going beyond the place that I originally met them in. Usually I will never see or hear from them again after they leave. I have enough trouble trying to ask someone for their number.

So I hope this helps. I always have a lot of trouble explaining things like this to my parents, who really dont get it a lot of the time.


earner profile image

earner 5 years ago from United Kingdom Author

Hi Maren

I'm glad it helped you. It's tough being an adult aspie. Normal people just don't get it... their normal responses and 'advice' just don't work - and then they too are annoyed at us/ignore us because they think we're "not trying" or are negative.

Being perceived as negative is a major issue in my aspie life. I nearly got into an argument with somebody the other day on a workshop. We were asked for feedback, then the instruction "no negative feedback" - so I had to point out that saying that was negative - and if they're seeing my experience/realism as negativity then they have the problem - and that means we're all really in the workshop just to come out with the pre-conceived results they wanted us to come up with.

And my point was that the workshop was flawed, that they were never going to achieve what they thought because they had already decided on the solution - and the solution was flawed.

I was perceived as negative, given the cold shoulder and actually told "well, if you don't like it you can leave". Oh no I can't. Now I'm going to be obstinate, I could cry later :)

It took about 4 days to get over the feelings of utter uselessness I felt after that experience. Interaction with others just makes you feel awful if they are being bl00dy minded or blinkered.

:)

Being an adult aspie in social situations is rubbish... and in a way any training course, or workshop, counts as a social situation as you're expected to "work as a team" - except, of course, when you're not coming up with the results they want to hear. It's not teamwork, it's oppression.


Nick 5 years ago

I have to disagree about aspies being unable to tell a lie. I started out that way, but once I became aware that people want to hear a lie rather than the truth, I started saying what I thought they might want to hear.

It makes me uncomfortable and I'm not a very good liar. I'm not sure what to say at the best of times, but a friend helped me come up with some generic things to say when a person asks questions like "Does this make my butt look big?" Regardless of whether it does or not, I say my little phrase and they seem satisfied.


lerue62 5 years ago

wow!!!! i always thought i was the only one who felt like that.


Ash 4 years ago

I agree wholeheartedly with the party comment. I love hosting parties as I can control everything and as I find out ahead of time what music everyone likes etc I can cater to their specific tastes. It also means you can invite people who value conversation over getting drunk and causing trouble. I'm hosting a new years eve party soon and can't wait! :-D


B. Leekley profile image

B. Leekley 4 years ago from Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA

Up, Useful, Interesting, and shared with followers and on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

I read this well-written, autobiographical hub article with much interest. After comparing your experiences with my own, I think that on a continuum line with institutionalized autism at one end and perfectly normal at the other end, I think I fit in the pass as normal but far from perfectly normal portion of the line. The loneliest time of the week for me is coffee hour at church, because at 70 years old I have still not learned the knack of initiating, joining, or sustaining a small talk conversation.

One of my hubs is a book review of the novel MAPPING CHARLIE. The main character, like the author, Jane Meyerding, is both high level functioning autistic (an Aspie?) and faceblind. Here is Jane's webpage:

http://www.planetautism.com/jane/

There you will find links to essays with titles like "On Finding Myself Differently Brained" and "Why Are We so Unfriendly?" You mentioned the phrase Little Professor, and coincidently when Jane was a little girl, her older siblings called her The Little Professor.


Giselle Maine 4 years ago

Fascinating! B. Leekley shared this hub so this is how I came to read it.

May I please ask how being an adult aspie is different from being an adult autistic? I know there are differences in their psychological profiles, intellect, abilities, etc etc but in terms of the everyday world, what would an autistic do differently in those social situations than what you would?


B. Leekley profile image

B. Leekley 4 years ago from Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA

Giselle, what little I know about the topic is just what I've gleaned from a few online articles and essays. See for instance:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asperger_syndrome

and

http://sfari.org/news-and-opinion/viewpoint/2011/w...

for arguments that Aspergers Syndrome is not a distinctly different disorder from autism but that they are on the same continuum or spectrum, differing in degree of severity. I have not yet seen arguments taking the contrary position.


jennajen26 profile image

jennajen26 3 years ago from Halifax, NS

love this!!


schoolgirlforreal profile image

schoolgirlforreal 2 years ago from USA

Nice article. I know my dad had it. Growing up, I never felt I fit in at school. I am very social though when I know people well and feel accepted with them. But I definitely left in a hurry the other day, and I know I've always felt I cannot control my lack of social skills. Lol...It's great to know about this. So glad I clicked on it. Thanks


Nicole24 2 years ago

I lie all the time. I lie to avoid uncomfortable awareness of the other person. I lie to seem normal and appear considerate and nice. I tell them what they want hear. It is easier and less stressful for me this way. But I avoid social occasions as much as possible. I rely on my husband and children all the time to avoid doing things socially alone.

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