Do you want to go with me to see Hostel? runs the tape inside my head. Do you want to go with me to see Hostel? Do you want to go with me to see Hostel? When my cousin answers the phone–“Hello?”–the words spill out my mouth.
“When?” she says.
Click, click, click, goes my tape. “Uhhh.”
“Do you want to look at the newspaper and call me back?”
I call back and dutifully recite the showtimes. “Okay, so what time?” she asks.
Her husband is annoyed with us, but she presses ahead. “How about Friday at one? We can have lunch at Culver’s beforehand.”
And I say: “Yeah.”
Social disabilities are part of my diagnosis in general, but they are really hard for me to notice in particular. I’ve always been well-liked, and frankly, I was much meaner to other children than they ever were to me. (Among other things, I was the poster child for this Shel Silverstein poem). Other children knew what I needed in ways adults didn’t. At lunch or recess, kids waited for me so we could walk together and I wouldn’t get lost. One friend spent many recesses teaching me how to play a clapping game. Another friend’s mom told me, years later, that her daughter “was always afraid you’d get hurt.”
In third and fourth grade, “friendship” suddenly shifted from “doing fun things together” to “sustaining a conversation for an extended period of time.” It was a very sudden shift, and I remember it as The Year Everyone Got Boring And Became Too Much Effort. Other kids still tried to include me, but I gave them nothing to work with and we all eventually gave up.
The friends I have, the friends I’ve always had, call me without waiting for me to call them. They talk to other people while I listen, and occasionally don’t mind sitting in silence. They gently help me some times, break out the invisible cattle-prod at others. (“You have to invite people to your birthday party, dude! You can’t just expect them to magically show up”).
As awesome as my friends are, and as much as I love them, the act of socializing is still effort for me. Plus, I’m lazy. Always when spending time with other people, it helps if there’s some non-social thing to center the gathering around. We watch movies; we all flock to someone’s dorm room on Wednesday nights because Dawson’s Creek and Felicity are on.
Getting together with other people for its own sake doesn’t motivate me. Calling someone on the phone takes a lot of motivation, usually of the “I absolutely need or REALLY want to do __ and can’t do it without someone else” variety. And when I’m tired or in a funk, finding this motivation is even harder.
I almost didn’t go to my friend’s bridal shower today. Don’t get me wrong–I’m thrilled she’s getting married. Was looking forward to the shower when I got the invitation, even. But the closer its date loomed, the more I realized that I’d be at a stranger’s house, in another state, surrounded by lots of people all talking together, quickly, back and forth and back and forth, who’d probably expect me to say something at some point.
I went to the shower because I thought it might be good for me to be in a group of people and soak up the ambience, whether or not I said anything. I also thought that, since the friend I was riding with was bringing her three-year-old daughter, Sissy, I wouldn’t be staying all that long anyway. I was right on both counts.
At the party, I got to watch television with the bride’s “cousin,” a shih tzu named Tito. I read Sissy a book at least ten times. (“Again!”) I ate shish kabobs, cupcakes, and some totally awesome spinach dip. And when someone went on a beer run, I kept her company and got to recuperate.
Accommodating other people while making social situations easier for myself is a difficult balance, one I’m always working on. But more often than not, I’m surprised at how well things turn out.