Spoiler alert: I am a walking stereotype. All the As: autistic, asexual, aromantic (and mostly agender although that’s not strictly relevant here). My autism and orientation can’t be separated due to the huge overlap. These facts combine to make me (and the many others like me) remarkably oblivious.
There are actually two stages to this. The first part is the not having a clue what’s going on stage. It might be the only time in life where I enjoy being completely in the dark.
The second part is the slow realisation and subsequent personal crisis. Not quite as much fun. Taking a while to understand what people are getting at is a bit like wearing long socks that are gradually slipping down during your commute (bear with me, this isn’t exactly a subject that easily lends itself to analogy).
Maybe you’re aware that something isn’t quite right. Not wrong exactly, just… off. The longer you think about it (or have it rattling around your subconscious) the more pieces begin to fit together. And then the dreaded question pops into your head.
Wait, were they flirting?
I will concede that this hasn’t always been a terrible thing. As a kid I did quite well out when two of my classmates had a year-long battle for my attention. Neither of them had any chance but I didn’t mind the free chocolates.
As a not-quite adult I got a free book because the cashier was hitting on me (thanks mum for blocking my chances of more freebies). I was only pleased because books are sacred and that shopping trip introduced me to my all-time favourite (Catch 22 by James Heller if you’re interested).
As an actual adult a fellow concert-goer who bought us a pitcher of cocktails to share. Having found drinks I actually like the taste of, I have begun a slow descent into alcoholism. Or at least I would have if I actually had money.
Every other incident has been horrifying, even if I later conclude that they were just being friendly. Fortunately, several of the people that fall into this category are now in relationships with other people I know. The rest seem to have got the message that I’m really not interested. That’s one of the upshots of autism — I’m really good at sending out “you need to stay 9400 ft away from me” vibes.
Autism gives me enough trouble dealing with people as it is. Being so drastically touch averse also means that I will most likely have a meltdown the second anybody invades my extensive personal space. I sincerely hope that the majority of these cases are just an overreaction because I have no desire for either a relationship or having to come out to avoid one. (Coming out in itself requires a lengthy vocab lesson and people still don’t understand.)
What’s the take home message here?
Don’t flirt with me*. It’ll just be awkward for both of us.
*I will however accept books/food/alcohol if you then promise to leave me alone for the rest of eternity.