Friday, August 26, 2011

Autism, Empathy and “Reality” TV

For the life of me, I can’t understand the point of most so-called reality shows. Some of them, sure. I like So You Think You Can Dance. I used to like American Idol, before it became the same tired shit over and over again. What I hate and can’t wrap my mind around are the shows that seem to be all about people being awful to each other. You’ve got all the backstabbing and game playing on shows like The Bachelor and Survivor, which I can’t stand, but at least there’s an endgame. Those make a little bit of sense to me.

And then there are the others. Bad Girls Club, Jersey Shore, Real World, Real Housewives, Bridezillas, Toddlers and Tiaras, Dance Moms – the list goes on and on. When I watch these shows, I get so worked up and upset and I have never understood why I am so bothered by something that other people find entertaining. Upon learning about my place on the spectrum and the supposed lack of empathy the “experts” said I should feel, I was even more confused.

Guess what? I feel empathy. I feel it so strongly that it is overwhelming. The experts are wrong. (I’m not the only one who feels this way…visit to read about others like me.) Because of this, watching a television show that is driven by the fact that people can be completely evil to one another is painful for me. It hurts me. I’d much rather watch something like Extreme Makeover: Home Edition or My Fair Wedding. Show me people being kind. Show me there is good in the world. Show me that the human race isn’t doomed to destroy itself. Show me hope. Show me love.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

On Awareness and the Bliss of Ignorance

I have never been popular. When I was younger, I thought it was my religion, hobbies and intelligence people disliked. Now, as an adult, I recognize that I was an obnoxious little zealot, a weirdo and an insufferable know-it-all. Am I still unpopular? Yes. Am I still obnoxious, weird and pedantic? Sadly, yes. But now I understand why.

I am no longer religious, but growing up I was a self-righteous Bible thumper intent on “saving” everyone. Looking back, I see how I sought to find my place in the church. I was lonely and not well-liked, so I thought church was a safe haven. Surely the bullying I experienced at school would never happen with “Christians”. Poor little me. If only I could go back and warn my younger self that the bullying would be WORSE in church, I could have saved myself a lot of abuse.

Regardless of the bullying, I did my best to fit in and be the best little soldier for God I could be. But fitting in was not something I knew how to do. I tried to conform and be what I thought was expected of me. I preached at my schoolmates about Heaven and Hell and Salvation and Sin and all the other things they NEEDED to know. When reality set in and I saw the hypocrisy and hate flowing out of the church, I was repelled by it. When logic took over and I saw the flaws in “the word”, I saw the flaws in myself. To be honest, the only thing keeping me from fully embracing Atheism is a heavy dose of fundamentalist fear, hammered into my brain at an early age by Sunday school teachers and camp counselors.

As for my nit-picking, know-it-all ways, I apologize. I don’t mean to be rude. I like facts and I like them to be correct. When I hear an incorrect fact, it is nearly impossible for me to keep my mouth shut. I’m better about it than I used to be. There was a time when you could have created a drinking game based on the frequency with which I started sentences with “actually”.

These days I try to refrain. Sometimes I slip and blurt out a correction. Sometimes I feel it would be wrong of me not to. Really, if you’re walking around saying that the sky is green, I’d rather you be annoyed when I tell you in private as politely as I can (and please understand that politeness is challenging for Aspies) that it is blue, rather than wait for you to tell the wrong person about the green sky and have them embarrass you publicly.

I’m still a weirdo. I’m okay with it. I’ve embraced my weirdness. I watch cartoons. I have unusual taste in music. I don’t care about fashion. I enjoy spending time alone. I haven’t had a date in…well…let’s just say it’s been a while. I don’t make friends easily. I don’t know how to act with new people. I have a hard time dealing with social situations. I never understood these things when I was younger. I was different and I didn’t know why. Now I do. I’m Autistic. I’m an Aspie. I’m me. Ignorance is not so blissful, after all.