Have you ever been in one of those never ending conversations? The ones where the speaker goes on and on for ages about a topic that you do not understand and could care even less about? Have you ever felt like a joke went straight over your head or that you were missing something as you struggled to find the context in a conversation? That is an everyday occurrence for people like me, affectionately called Aspies: people who have what is known as Asperger’s Syndrome. Since being diagnosed with this, everyone who has been aware of it has felt the need to make some sort of accommodation for my ‘disability.
’ A diagnosis that society feels I need because I think differently than the rest. How does society define you? I have spent my entire life trying to prove that our labels do not matter in comparison to our contributions to society. Aspies are very socially awkward. We cannot read non-verbal cues, societal niceties are often thought strange and hard to grasp, and we tend to be more than a little introverted. I have a very ‘mild’ case. No, I cannot read social cues. Yes, society’s unwritten rules drive me crazy.
Absolutely, I would prefer to be alone or with a small select group of people. However, none of these characteristics define me. One characteristic of Aspies is that we often have a specialized and intense interest in something. My obsession is Star Trek, particularly the alternate reality movie series starring Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Simon Pegg, and Karl Urban. I once heard someone equate people with Asperger’s to the Vulcan race from Star Trek. It is quite a fitting description.
Vulcans are typically calm, rational, and even keeled people, but lord help you if you manage to anger one. They do not like to be touched and have a ‘muted’ sense of their own, and others, emotions (although in truth both are so sensitive that we have to shut off our empathy in order to function). Spock, the most commonly known Vulcan, exhibits this range of emotions in the JJ Abrams 2009 Star Trek remake movie. He is coolly rational, even as his planet is destroyed, but becomes near homicidal after Kirk starts throwing disparaging comments about his mother.
Even so Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock are two-thirds of a trio that has gone down in pop culture legend along with the ever snarky Dr. McCoy. The Freudian trio that everyone so loves shows that there needs to be a balance of personalities which in the case of Star Trek, as in so many others, is the cold and logical (Spock), the emotional and humanistic (McCoy), and the rational and intuitive (Kirk). There are so many labels that get thrown on people throughout their lifetime; jarhead, slut, and geek just to name a few.
Not many people strictly fit in to just the one singular box to which society relegates us. Really, who wants to fit in just one category? Every person is, as my friend Marilyn would say, a unique and beautiful snowflake. Having Asperger’s certainly qualifies me as a ‘special snowflake’, but there are some drawbacks. One of those is that we find it incredibly difficult to discuss our personal lives and often the only people who are aware of our personal thoughts and feelings are those who are in our close inner circle. One of my inner circle in high school was a girl named Jules.
She was, without a doubt, the poster child for the school. She was beautiful, the head cheerleader who competed in beauty pageants and was the prom princess. It would have been so easy for her to have been content with being well loved by the community just because she was pretty and popular. Jules was not like that though. She was the vice president of our class three years running. She graduated a mere . 0002 from being the salutatorian. She was involved in the student community service club and the school’s religious advocacy team.
Jules could have been content with her place as a cheerleader in the status quo, but she chose to defy society’s expectations of her. Within those societal labels is one of the most interesting phenomena; the labels are so generalized. Take for instance the geek or nerd box. It is a label that I accept as one of the closest fit for identifying me because I love to read, can quote passages of Harry Potter on a whim, and spend entirely too much of my time on FanFiction, just to name of few of my personal quirks. There are so many different ways that people are relegated to this outlier corner.
Trekkies, Whovians, people who like anime and manga, movie nerds, and people who love working with technology are just small portion of the different kinds of people that are defined as a nerd. The labels that limit us so much do not even completely define us. They do not fully describe who we are as people or give full insight into our personalities. In my lifetime some of the most extroverted, party-hard people were nerds and some of the quietest and shy were cheerleaders. Bringing us full circle, I am an Aspie. However, I have gotten better with time and a little coaching at understanding social cues.
I understand that the rant that I have been going on for the last three pages probably does not interest you. You have done the exact same things before. You have gone on and on about something that you are passionate about without regard for the interest level of those around you. I could go on for hours, yet sometimes being concise is better. I doubt there are many people who have not at least heard of The Breakfast Club. Its last remarks so poignantly drives the concept home: Brian Johnson: You see us as you want to see us… In the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions.
But what we found out is that each one of us is a brain… Andrew Clark: … and an athlete… Allison Reynolds: … and a basket case… Claire Standish: … a princess… John Bender: … and a criminal… Brian Johnson: Does that answer your question?… Sincerely yours, the Breakfast Club. To you, who, whatever box you may have been stuck in or maybe even embraced all on your own, remember labels are just for cans of soup. The Breakfast Club. Dir. John Hughes. Perf. Emilio Estevez, Judd Nelson, Molly Ringwald. 1985. Universal, 2003. DVD.