Autistic or Asshole

TT
he possibility first occurred to me a couple years ago. It was a look in the mirror, big piece of spinach in your teeth type of moment. Except the big piece of spinach is lifelong crippling social awkwardness.

I remember when the thought first entered my mind. My wife-like creature and I were discussing a mutual friend. Someone clearly affected by Asperger syndrome (a disorder on the autistic spectrum). Sadly he and his family seemed completely unaware of it even though it was clear to everyone else. Going over the traits of this disorder, I joked about just how similar they were to my own personality: Introversion, zero social grace and an affinity for detail, complexity and an ability to focus on tasks for prolonged periods of time… I looked up at Wife who tilted her head at me like a parent sympathetic yet relieved to see that her little boy was finally realizing that Santa Clause wasn’t real. She told me then, cautiously and honestly, that for a long time she’d suspected I was indeed on that spectrum myself.

The possibility was both devastating and a total relief. I never thought of myself as someone who might be clinically abnormal. But at the same time it would explain a hell of a lot. My pursuit of grandiose endeavours and my historically insensitive, judgmental and generally assoholic social behaviour for starters– It’s not that I’m some cantankerous, slovenly malcontent. Or detached idiot savant – not even close on that front. I simply lack key social instincts, though objectively I am aware of their existence. (I couldn’t write as well as I do if I were not.) None the less, learning to fake it is a continuous work in progress. Maybe the writing helps that, I don’t know.

I read David Mamet’s Bambi vs. Godzilla years ago. The closest thing to a book on screenwriting or show business that I’ve ever read. In it he wrote that the American film industry was founded by filmmakers who seemed to share a predisposition to autism; Ashkenazi Jews. This detail from Mamet’s book suddenly came rushing back to mind. Not being of that lineage myself, at the very least I could feel I was in good company. That perhaps, if nothing else, my career path wasn’t completely off base.

But Mamet’s not a psychologist. Neither am I. So I decided to take it to the professionals. Or… At least… To the internet. An online test. Sounds promising right? For what it’s worth the AQ (Autism-Spectrum Quotient) test was put together by the Cambridge Autism Research Centre. So not too shabby.

I came within one point of where 80% of people with autism score.

Like licking the spinach off my teeth and confidently turning away from the mirror unaware that there’s toilet paper stuck to the sole of my shoe, I walked away facing a new possibility: The old possibility…

That I’m not autistic at all, that I am just an asshole.

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