Saturday, 26 March 2016

Passion and Tedium

As part of my reevaluation of myself, I have been thinking about what I enjoy. I have a tendency either to suppress them or at least discussion of them. They are niche interests, and society looks down on them. For most of my life it has not been practical (or even possible) to go about seeking like-minded people. For instance, while there must be wargamers hereabouts, as the newsagent in town stocks WI, MW&BG, Soldiers and Strategy and White Dwarf, there are some big obstacles to actually meeting them.

I'm a naturally retiring person, so I don't really want to go and meet new people. I am very sensitive to odours, and I am in person polite (though you might not infer that from the bluntness with which I write), so if any were to turn out to be smokers, I would simultaneously be in discomfort from the physical pain they would be causing me and unable to ask them to take steps to mitigate the problem. I used to go out to clubs with friends back before the smoking ban, and after being in a noxious environment for a while, my throat and nasal passages felt for the next 12-24 hours as though they had been sandpapered. Importantly, autistic people also lack cognitive empathy, so we're easily exploited by those who gain our trust. This has happened to me rather too often, and, like the brokenhearted, it becomes easier not to put oneself in that position again. In case you haven't clicked that link, don't mistakenly assume that autistic people don't feel for other beings; if you try to hurt my brother or my rabbit, I will break your arm if that's the way to stop you.

Aside from practical considerations about actually doing things, even discussing interests is something I have often avoided, suppressed or diminished. Partly that is politeness, but I wonder if it is also perilously inauthentic. That sentence reads oddly, so here is what I mean. If I am not telling you about what I like, and am instead nodding along as you burble merrily about football, have you actually met me? Are you just interacting with a facsimile of a human I have crafted to protect my true self? If that's the case, as that article notes people like me wonder, would you even like me? Then, of course, one wonders if people who do like you actually do or just the shell. It's a surprisingly thoughtful article for Cracked, that one.

It only misses the part where I feel I have changed who I am repeatedly through life as a survival mechanism or response to trauma. Play the part long enough, and you may become the character, for good or ill. So now I am wondering whether I am that version of me any more or a different one? After all, I have found myself considerably more boring when doing fewer things I am interested in. Whither with that, though? It is hardly as though one can go up to random people in a bar, and introduce oneself with, "Hey, I'm making a pretty nifty scale ravine for wargaming purposes. How about you?" I don't understand much about social conventions, but I know for a fact you're not allowed to be interested in oddities.

Of course, the last time I did strike up a conversation with a lady in a bar, it was the other way round. The conversation trailed off as she bored the pants off me by a) refusing to discuss what she did, declaring it boring, b) not having any literary topics to discuss, and c) listing as possible topics soap operas and football. In the unlikely event you're reading this, Scooby, your job doing something in an office for the council involving tarmac repairs for roads, while not terribly interesting, was head and shoulders above those two options. She did excellent work on being memorable, though, having that nickname, and wearing a brilliant lime green t-shirt, evoking the imagery of Shaggy from Scooby Doo. That was either attention to detail of the first water or a baffling coincidence.

So this boils down to two things. Who am I? To what extent can I be myself (whoever that is) while acquiring/having friends? This is going to take me a while to figure out.

P.S. I have often made use of having a wide range of possible topics of conversation, from my enjoyment of classic pin-ups to what may seem my bewildering support for contemporary feminism, but some just don't get the airing they deserve.

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