I try to stay positive in life and in this blog, but there are certain things which continually frustrate me. I’m sure these all have something to do with having Asperger Syndrome and not appreciating the subtleties of interpersonal communication. As a result, much of what follows is my own speculation on how my own perceptions differ from what others may perceive . It’s my feeling that there’s a great deal of information processing in social situations that simply doesn’t happen for me. In understanding people and relationships, it often feels like I’m trying to guess at a connect the dots picture. I see some things, but I’m lacking too much information to correctly interpret what I’m seeing. As a child, I was woefully bad at these guesses, and my social difficulties were one result of this. As an adult, I’ve gotten much better, but it’s still complicated and taxing. Much of socializing seems, from my perspective, to be needlessly complicated. People seem to take what ought to be simple and straightforward and turn it into a complex dance. One of the most complicated concepts I’ve encountered is what I can only call an acceptable deception equation. Stated simply, it’s very hard for me to determine how much deception is acceptable in what situations.
It may seem strange to describe something like this as an “equation”, but this is often how I understand such things. In some situations, we’re expected to be honest. We’re taught as children to tell the truth when we break a window or get in a fight at school. Seemed simple enough, but as I got older, I started to notice people deceiving each other in many ways. There were outright lies, but also lies of omission, and these were as bad as outright lies in some cases, but accepted in others. Then there was the concept of “spin”, selling, making a good impression, and all those other ways in which we attempt to influence other people to do what we want. Whether it’s in getting a job, or getting a date, or selling a product, it seems the simple truth isn’t always the primary concern. It’s a gray area, and it’s very difficult for me to navigate.
I have a mental illness. This is in addition to Asperger’s, which is actually a developmental disorder. This is an important part of who I am. It affects me every single day. It imposes limitations on me which are very real. I will always have it. I cannot choose to ignore it or act as if it doesn’t exist. Yet, I’m supposed to conceal this fact in all sorts of situations. Job interviews were always a serious problem for me. I never quite understood the concept of “selling myself”. It would seem the most efficient arrangement for all concerned would be for both interviewer and interviewed to be as honest as possible about strengths and weaknesses and job requirements and all such things as possible. It may not be immediately relevant, but as my current employer will tell you, it most definitely is relevant over the long-term. People embellish, fudge, and outright lie to get hired and then hope they can cut it when the actual job starts. Sometimes they do, and sometimes not, but when they don’t, a lot of time and money has been wasted. The entire concept of the interview seems somewhat suspect to me. Even I can ‘fake it’ for a couple of hours and convincingly pretend to be a completely normal person with no mental issues, but sooner or later, the truth is going to come out, and the results are often unhappy for everyone. Either way, I can’t help but think we’d all be better off with a little more honesty, and a lot more tolerance in this situation. Indeed, the only way I was able to gain employment was through the vocational rehab program which finds jobs for persons with various physical and mental disabilities. The employers know in advance the person has some condition. I consider myself fortunate, and blessed to be in the position I am. I know many aren’t as fortunate.
In dating as well, this has proved difficult. One doesn’t necessarily volunteer all one’s faults up front. It’s generally accepted that we dress up, spend more than we probably otherwise would, and make every effort to keep the prospective partner in the dark about whatever personal problems we have until we’re well into the process. It’s well-known that many men engage in all sorts of outright lying and scheming to get a girl. I don’t know how many lion tamers, or astronauts, or pro athletes there are in the world, but it’s probably a tiny fraction of men that have claimed to be such. Even decent people seem to paint a deliberately rosier picture than what really is. It strikes me as more like playing a card game than attempting to start a serious relationship. You play some cards and hold others, like you’re playing some silly child’s game. The ‘game’ seems to be more about getting the other person to like you enough to go out again rather than actually getting to know the person. Whether the goal is marriage, or companionship, or just getting laid, people seem to go to great lengths to pretend to be things they aren’t to accomplish it. The predictable result is a whole lot of really bad relationships, unhappy marriages, divorces, and breakups. At least this is how it appears to me. From my perspective, it seems like we could all use a healthy dose of honesty.
I was going to write a paragraph about politicians and how they manipulate the truth to suit them, but there are some things so obvious that it seems superfluous to actually write them down.
But, lest I sound too high and mighty, I use deception quite often and quite effectively if I may say so. I’ve learned (often the hard way) that I’m different, and I’ve also learned (mostly the hard way) that most people don’t like different. It’s a lot easier for me to play normal for a little while than it is to explain everything about me to everyone I meet. Most of the interactions I engage in are with people I won’t ever see again, or at least not often enough for them to get past my act. There are a lot of people who get on my nerves and that I’d rather not engage in any conversation with. It’s a lot easier to figure out some innocuous way to get them to stop talking to me rather than state it directly. Whether it’s rambling about some uninteresting topic or suddenly having some pressing business to attend to, I’m well versed in the art of not talking to people any more than I have to. This is my deception, and these are the lessons experience has taught me. People are not difficult to manipulate in this way. It’s quick, easy, and usually nobody knows I’m doing it but me. I take no pride in my ability to say almost anything with a straight face. It was simply something I have deemed necessary in order for me to get along in the world. I suppose in that way, I’m not all that different from everyone else. I use different logic, but eventually arrive at much the same answer.
For me, things just are. They are bad or they are good, but they are, whether I like it or not. What’s true today was true yesterday and will still be true tomorrow. I see no point in the amount and types of deception we engage in. I’d rather people just stated the simple truth all the time. I’d rather we were all more like Horton the Elephant who ‘meant what he said and said what he meant’. Still, I’ve always been one to try to accept the world as it is, and part of that is accepting society for what it is and people for who they are. So I try to strike a balance between trying to be what everyone else expects me (and everyone else) to be, and using my own personal brutally honest style. What situations call for what amount of deception and what truths should be omitted when. It seems like a dynamic at least as complicated as the weather or the Internet, but most people just seem to ‘get it’ without ever having been taught it, or even being able to stated it in words. Perhaps it’s like that nonsensical saying, “if you have to ask, you’ll never know”.