Saturday, January 31, 2009

Embarrassingly Hilarious!

Hello all. I decided it was time for another entry on Asperger's. I have been meaning to write about it, but with the beginning of la escuela, all my time has been devoured by the demands of stinkin' homework! Although, I have to say that I'm lovin' my class on Communication.

One of the chief issues of Asperger's is lack of social discretion. In fact, one might say this is the chief symptom of Asperger's. Often the reason for lack of social discretion stems from the person's inability to empathize. My relative, whom we will call Max, has no idea how to put himself in other people's shoes. The definition of empathy is: "Identification with and understanding of another's situation, feelings, and motives." If I am embarrassed about something and show clear signs of how I feel, such as covering my face with my hands, or cringing, or turning red, Max doesn't understand why I feel that way. Sometimes he doesn't even realize I'm embarrassed unless I say so. He often gets annoyed with me and tells me" Aw, come on Bethany! That's not embarrassing! You're too sensitive!" In reverse, if he does something embarrassing sometimes I'll say later, "Weren't you embarrassed?" His response is exactly the same as mentioned above. To illustrate the point, I will tell an embarrassingly hilarious, true story.

Max and his family attended a social get-together at their church a few years ago. Most of the people who attended knew Max. One of them was James who is an older, married guy, with kids. Max was used to seeing James on Sunday morning, not usually during the week. James always arrived on Sunday mornings with his hair neatly combed, wearing a crisp white shirt, black slacks, tie, and shining dress shoes. At the night of the get-together, James was an entirely different looking man. While his hair was still tidy, he wore a huge, baggy t-shirt, worn jeans, and comfortable shoes. Well, the baggy shirt emphasized his "fatherly figure". (He's not a slim Jim). Background: Most of Max's friends are the dads at his church. He has never had any close friends his own age. Well, all these dads have "fatherly figures" so Max now sees having a gut as a mark of manhood. It is hysterical to watch Max pull up his shirt and try to pinch his flat stomach as he loudly declares: "See! I have a gut. I'm getting a belly too!" The things he thinks of! Having the framework in place, here's what happened...

Max was chatting with everyone at the get-together and eventually started talking with James. I happened to be walking past during the conversation and overheard Max say, "Man James! Looks like your puttin' on some weight!" I cringed. James replied: "Oh, well THANKS Max!" He was obviously annoyed, but knew who he was dealing with. I was far enough away to pretend not to have heard it. Max, comprehending that somthing may have been amiss, put his arm around James and said comfortingly: "But don't worry James, I really like big, fat guys!" At that point James just cracked up and so did I.

Thankfully, James put up with Max's remarks and saw the humor in them. The reason why Max said what he did is because of his belief that having a gut is a mark of manhood. Hence from Max's perspective, he was paying James a big, heartfelt compliment. Max also had no comprehension of the feelings and emotions his comments may have stirred up. He is incapable of reading subtle body language. Also, Max himself has never experienced mortification or embarrassment. The thought or emtion of being embarrassed has never been part of his experience. It is impossible in these types of situations for Max to imagine the other person's point of view. There is a complete "short circuit" in this area of communication - a disconnect. It's rather baffling! But if you as the reader take a moment to empathize with Max it all starts making sense. Stop and imagine, if you can, what Max's world looks like. It is hard to picture, much less explain it. It is so much easier to gain understanding of this from observation. I find it difficult to fully illustrate this wacky characteristic of Asperger's.

Bye for now friends!

No comments: