Sunday, May 26, 2013

Aspergers: No Relation to Asparagus

Aloha, cyber vixens of uterine rage.

It is Memorial Day here in 'Murica, so you're supposed to be BBQing a wide variety of meats and hurling your post-winter body into some sort of body of water.  You know... to memorialize or some shit. (Settle down I have USAA, do the math). Seeing as how I have the body of someone who has spent the past ten winters in hybernation, and most days feeling like a sea of lard you may mistake for a mattress if it weren't for the two bug eyes at the tippity top, I will of course be celebrating with the grilled meats part and skipping the swim part.  (Though I am looking into finding old fashioned 20s swimsuits for Mr. T and I to wear, hopefully with matching floral swim caps and nose plugs,  to appease our mutual body dysmorphic disorders when they finish building the pool in our gym... until then we will have our moist fun trying to make a cyclone in his super classy above ground swimming pool).

I'mma talk about my hubba, Bubba, today.

So after hitting 'publish' on my last entry, I realized that I slipped in rather casually that he has a touch of the ole' Aspergers.  Every couple of months I truly-by-accident stumble across an article about it, a blog entry where someone is genuinely concerned that their kid is/will be autistic, or heaven forbid some shiz on vaccines. So I'm gonna throw my own cookey experience in the ring in the event someone wants to read about it in a... less frightening way.

In case you don't know, Aspergers is a 'high-functioning' form of autism (there is so much stuff on the internet about it, some great some awful, so I'll just leave you with wikipedia out of sheer laziness). The super simplified jist is that you're a very smart, very focused, kinda clumsy socially awkward person who doesn't easily pick up on social cues.

So before I get into it, a few requisite disclaimers that will hopefully help weed out any yellers.  I can only speak to my experience being married to my husband, who happens to have Aspergers... I am by absolutely no means an expert, nor can I give an opinion or try to speak to anyone else's experience, that's not the idea.  This will just be one woman's experience with one man (that sounds like the tagline on an erotica bookcover).  And yes, I'm capable of taking things seriously but outside of a funeral home I try my best not to.  ::fart noise::

I am a handful.

Much like procreating, I don't think there's any formula to dating that 'works', I think some people just luck the fuck out.  I would, however, venture a guess to say that most people's love lives before they found 'the one' is a constant editing process. I met Bub when I was young (2 weeks shy of 22), but I had been around the block a few times... I sucked at dating and had a hell of an editing process.

I initially went out with super extroverted guys who were hilarious, because I'm pretty extroverted and though I'm chubby, bug-eyed, continuously perplexed by any form of technology and can clearly not bake you a cake, I'm good for a chuckle.  So I picked people like me.  What ends up happening there is that you're so concerned with one-upping the laugh, that it turns into a neverending stand-up comedy routine.  By the end of the date you're so exhausted that nobody is in the mood to do anything else.  Every extroverted-funny man I went out with, eventually I'd have to sit him down and tell him ever-so-politely that he felt more like my brother and I'd rather be friends. Lesson learned: can have funny/funnier/more extroverted friends, not what I need in the romantic department.

Then I switched to sensitive artsy-fartsy types.  This I sucked at even worse. Right or wrong, for whatever reason, if a person pouts at me for several hours I don't have the patience to 'guess' what is wrong with you or try to psychologically analyze your reasoning behind your emotions.  I am nice and squishy and will get on board with it once I'm in the know, but I need people to tell me.  I have on more than one occasion said "tell me what's wrong or quit letting it affect me".  Reason being, I don't have any 'subtext'.  Apart from a select few friends, I have never had an experience with anyone 'reading' a facial expression of mine and getting it right, and if I'm in a room with you I like you enough to just tell you what's on my mind.  Believe me when I say, I find a way of eventually saying it.

I had, on most occasions, run screeching away from the suggestion of a relationship because I was afraid I would get bored, be responsible for the overwhelming emotions of another person, or that they would attempt to stomp around in my head invitation or no.  If I am your friend I am your friend for life, but for some reason in the romantic department I had never been hit over the head with a frying pan of devoted-love.

Enter Bub.

I've been with him for almost 10 years, and we didn't have any idea what Aspergers was until a few years ago.  Honestly if you had asked either one of us what that word meant when we first met, we probably would've thought it was some form of down syndrome.

For me, my personal experience with falling in love with and living with someone with Aspergers... I'll give you the jist.

My husband is a fucking weirdo and so am I.  His just has a name.

Thankfully the first few times I talked to him it was via email... So I had no idea what volume level I was going to deal with.  Also thankfully, I'm an extrovert and he was hot - so the first times we talked I just yammered on and on until he finally felt comfortable (or drunk) enough to chime in.

In a matter of a few weeks, I went from being someone who was basically incapable of returning a date's phone call to someone who was full on, gaga, in love and living with someone.  He quiets my mind, I make his mouth a little louder.

After a few dates with him, it was apparent that we were pretty much the same person, just different volume levels (this is, to this day, how I 'explain' us). Any given situation you give us, we will inevitably see it the same way and have the same opinion (with the exception of Amanda Knox... we are divided). The only difference is that I'm loud and he's quiet, it just happens to be such an 'obvious' difference that people upon seeing us together tend to say to themselves "what the... how the hell did that happen?"

If you meet one of us first, the other will come as a shock to you.

I realized right away, obviously, that he was a shy person.  The first year we lived together I let it frustrate me, then I embraced it.  If you sit me down in front of anyone, I will talk to them like we're girlfriends right away - I have never met anyone I can't have a conversation with.  If you want me to be nervous about you, you're going to have to seriously go out of your way to prove to me there's something to be nervous about.  Bub is the opposite - he will automatically assume there's something to be nervous about until proven otherwise.

If you were to invite me plus one to a dinner party tomorrow, by the time it was over you would assume that Jenny was going through a midlife crisis and/or was very rich, as she clearly is dating some pouty model who does not like anything or anyone.  It would take a few dinner parties for that pouty model to talk and for you to realize that we are, completely, intellectually and spiritually made for each other.  If anything he got the shit end of the stick.

I should mention here that Bub has a handful of facial expressions, basically, most of which would typically be categorized under 'grumpy'.  I have always had a wild attraction to people doing that whole brooding James Dean thing.. Half the time if Bub is looking at me I can't tell if he wants to have sex with me or murder me, and I dig that.

I should also say that despite his shy under-the-radar nature, he's never really had a problem with me being me in any social situation.  My favorite facial expression of his is one I alone can produce, always after I say something ridiculous or funny in front of someone else.  It is a face that is 25% okay-level-of embarrassment and 75% unadulterated pride.

The only time our difference-in-social abilities ever gives me pause is say, in a situation like going to the RE's.  I'm slightly conscious of the fact that it may come across that I'm some harpie shrew that won't let him talk (which believe me.. is not the case).  But ultimately, I don't give a fuck.  We make sense, and whether or not anyone would believe it, I can't get him to shut up when it's just us.

He is also freakishly smart despite his usual protest to this description.  He is a professional computer nerd, doing things I will never understand (and could frankly fall asleep just thinking about).  He gets super duper hyper focused on things.  On a regular basis, he's gone into our backyard to work on his computer and I've had to come out six hours later and say "hey.. so.. have you noticed that the sun has gone down and you're covered in mosquitos?"

Now, if I was another person I may have noticed that he had Aspergers.  But, as we are as a couple, it makes no difference to me 99% of the time that he can't read social cues because I have no interest in giving them. I'm sure in previous relationships he's gotten in trouble for not being able to read facial expressions and implications, just as I've gotten in trouble for refusing to give 'cues' and just telling people what's going on like a robot.  An example of our general wheelings and dealings - if we had some big RE appointment tomorrow I would tell him 'hey, I'm probably going to be a little upset about it after so maybe hug me, be nice, and let's watch a movie or something' instead of just going, coming home, and sticking my lip out expecting him to blindly figure out how to get it to pop back in.

So up until a few years ago, we had no idea his particular brand of weirdness had a name. He was weird, I was weird, we both dug weird, off into the sunset we go.

Somehow, I don't remember how, he started reading about Aspergers and said to me "I totally have Aspergers".  To which I said "No you don't, you're just weirdly hyper focused on something.  Stop it". (The irony of this statement is not lost on me).

Eventually, to shut him up I got online and read up on it.  And.... it was like if I didn't realize my husband was black, and had found an article that appropriately described to me "Oh - you'll know because his skin will be dark".

It was all him.  All of it.  Lack of eye contact, freakishly smart, hyper focused, socially awkward, a hyper sensitivity to certain textures/sounds... And then once I got into the minutiae of it, it was so much like I had written it it was almost funny. (Not funny ha-ha, funny 'omg YES').

An example of minutiae, I read something written by a woman who was married to someone with Aspergers.  One of the things she mentioned was that her husband rarely, if ever, used her name.

I am in no way exaggerating - Bub uses my first name maybe 3 times a year.  It's turned into one of our ongoing jokes.  My favorite example - he was once in the shower, and I was across the house.  He was out of body wash and the newly purchased bottle was in our kitchen.  So how does he get my attention to bring it to him?  He just shouts "Heyyy.... HEYYYYYYY!" until I came into the bathroom (dissolving into giggles and telling him he's lucky the gardener wasn't out back).

He doesn't have as 'severe' a case of it as some people do.  He went through his life just 'shy' and a little fucking weird.  It was a strange, cathartic experience when we learned he had it reading about people who also had it.  We now have a name for it, a little helpful advice about it, and I'm almost jealous that I can't type in "bug eyed, funny, no-filter and no domestic abilities" into some database and have a name for myself.

When most people hear 'aspergers' they either hear 'asparagus', Temple Grandin, or some kind of violent grunting.  (PS - other famous people that have it/it's speculated had it:  Dan Akroyd, Einstein, Lincoln, Nietzche, Dickinson, Marilyn Monroe, Beethoven, Thomas Jefferson.. the list goes on and on).  Most unfortunately he does not communicate like Tarzan and when he thinks electronic looking graphs do not appear next to his head (I double checked with him to make sure he couldn't do this yesterday... damnit).

We both have chosen a partner who is a little weird.  Yesterday I was laying on him, and told him if I die first I want him to leave instructions that when he dies they are to dig me up and hurl him on top of me... Believe me when I say, whatever diagnosed weirdness he has, I match it in my own way.

I've been in the Bub-whispering business long before he had any kind of diagnosis.  I know if we have some kind of emotional confrontation (which is rare, but it happens) to leave him alone for awhile because an immediate heartfelt response is not his thing.  I know that he inhales about 30 seconds before he's going to say something.  I know that he's great in bed and makes me laugh and that certainly outweighs that he's never going to be a chatty cathy at a party.  I know that he's not comfortable in situations but is freakishly good at making me feel comfy in the situations I'm uncomfortable in (which usually tend to be private and emotional). I know that I have to be/and am privileged to be his safe place.  I know that sometimes there's just going to be a thin line between Aspergers and Asshole.

I also know that I was not built for someone 'uncomplicated' or particularly emotional.  I know that I have to find words for what I'm feeling because I can't stand giving or getting 'cues'.  I know that I am a chatty cathy in most social situations.  I know that I can be Queen Asshole, Ruler of All Asshole People.  I'm freakishly good at making people comfortable, and the strength I need from my husband doesn't have anything to do with social situations.  He pushes me to find words for my feelings, which is the only time I've ever felt compelled to do so with a person.  And I know that I love being the Bub Whisperer, and likewise, he's a pretty good Jenny Whisperer.

My husband is fucking weird.  So am I.  Who isn't?


  1. We're all a little weird :)

    I liked reading about the dynamics of your relationship too, it's sort of a balancing act.

    That's the way I see mine anyway, we both have some dysfunctions (socially awkward, I have depression, he has an anxiety disorder) but it works for us. I'm a little more outgoing than him though, so at RE visits or elsewhere, I always do all the talking while he looks angry/ambivalent. I realize the impression it leaves (like I don't let him talk or he's a grump) but it's unavoidable.

    I'm a little familiar with aspergers, my best friend's daughter has a mild case. Most people don't realize it, but there are little cues that someone who knows her well can pick up on. A lot of people do hear about it and they jump to conclusions, but hopefully as more awareness forms about it people will understand it better.

  2. This post is so sweet!

    I'm all for introvert-extrovert pairings (my husband is the extrovert in our case), even though it ends up being the source of half of our conflicts. (The other half are due to my unwillingness/inability to keep things secret. Weird trait for an introvert, I know.)

    Love the wedding pics too!

  3. My Beloved has a mild form of Aspergers too. His mom always suspected but never did anything about it. He's socially awkward, freakishly smart (his penchant is for numbers... he can add up our groceries as I shop and be right on to the penny including tax and bottle deposits), has a few odd little tics, and is shy. Aspergers, pretty much right on the money.

    One thing I had never thought about until you mentioned it... he never uses my name. He calls me Love, but I don't think he's actually called me by name since our wedding. Interesting. He does call the wee-lings by name though. Hmmmmm.

  4. It sounds like you two were made for each other...

  5. So great you two found each other!

  6. I love how you guys compliment each other so well! A perfect match! And it's true, we all have our weird tendencies, so it doesn't matter if it has a name or not. I'm so happy you guys have each other!

  7. I love that quote, although I don't think it is actually from Dr. Seuss, it is actually by Robert Fulghum... but we used it as part of our wedding ceremony because I think it summed us up so well. Of course the officiant (who wanted us to use language like "your little boy and your little girl aren't so little anymore are they"(seriously?? to a plus sized bride and groom aged 38 and 43??)) did not like having to say such a thing in the middle of HIS wedding ceremony!

    But I digress... like you I am the extrovert and my wonderful husband is the introvert and to all outward eyes we are a strange match up... but he balances me and keeps me sane and I give him strength and comfort and it works in a wonderful wouldn't change it for anything kind of way.

    I am so happy every time I hear about someone who has found their perfect mate.

  8. What a great post. :)

    My husband and I are also an extrovert-introvert combo. We once saw a therapist (that we never went back to) who suggested that J has Asperger's. I laugh my ass off whenever I think about that. If anyone in our relationship falls in or near the Asperger's spectrum, it's me. I'm awkward and introverted, while J is gregarious to the extreme and has ADHD. I know that people look at us and think "This makes no sense." But we work well (most of the time). If I was with someone like me, nothing would ever get said. There would just be a lot of moping and unexpressed feelings festering under the surface. If he was with someone like him, it would probably end in a fiery crash of some sort.

    I definitely don't buy into this idea that you need to find someone like yourself to have a happy marriage, though of course you do need to share core values. I think some people just tend to fall so close to the extremes in certain areas that they need to find the opposite in a mate to help balance them out.

  9. Thanks for the insight! Our good friend has a sever case and its always good to learn more about it!

  10. Beautiful post Jenny!!! I love how much you love him, and he guys sounds pretty damn perfect for each other!!!!

  11. Oh, Bub-a-lub... he sounds like the awesomest of husbands, asparagus or not. I think as more people get diagnosed with this, and/or the spectrum widens even further, there will be a lot more understanding amongst the general population and a lot less fear around it.

    Also: '20s bathing suits -- go to; they are VERY flatting for curvy ladies!

  12. You guys sound like a perfect match. I think, for the most part, two quiet people or two really loud people don't always work. You need that balance. You are very lucky to have found each other.
    My husband is definitely the extroverted one. As you have discovered, I am super quiet in social situations but, like Bub, talk nonstop when I'm at home. What's weird is when I was a kid my report cards ALWAYS said I talked too much during class. Apparently, I was chatty cathy in school. I'm not sure what happened.

  13. I think it's super cool how you complement each other so well! I tend to be the more introverted one in our relationship...I send M over to bring the neighbours their Christmas cookies, and when we're at a party I rely on him to start up the new conversations with strangers. In exchange I feed and nag him. It's symmetry.

  14. This totally made me smile. And I love the pictures!

  15. This sounds like the makings of a perfect movie... the world's first chick flick/porn combo?!

    Seriously, though, how perfect! I love it!

  16. You had me at "cyber vixens of uterine rage"