Aspergirls: Empowering Females with Asperger Syndrome by Rudy Simone
My rating: 4 of 5 stars ★★★★
Thoughts inspired by the book ‘Aspergirls’
Recently I read ‘Aspergirls‘ by Rudy Simone. None of the topics in the book were new to me, but I liked the coherence, overview and memoir/research interview/self-help format, and it left a strong impression.
Comfort zone addiction
I like that Simone both advocates self-acceptance and the need to leave one’s comfort zone (in small, gradual steps) to conquer the life zones that are usually* vital for a fulfilling life, ‘aspergirl’ or not. These include having friends, a partner, and a proper income.
It is easy to see that my comfort zone is at home. I feel good here (mostly); I feel safe, I am familiar with everything. I have fun with my husband and the dogs, daily routines, my laptop and Internet connection, our yard, wilderness nearby, and other things that allow me to stay engaged in meaningful pursuits. I have all I need.
However, the consequences of staying in the comfort zone and neglecting the need to perform to society’s expectations are unbearable. My unemployment (or patchy projects) undermines the material fundament for our lives and causes daily strain & stress, fear of bills, fear of accidents, and failure to meet others and our own expectations and desires. Financial strain is a constant threat, worry & obstacle to carrying things out.
Worst of all: my husband is forced to push aside his priorities to work more to pay (almost) all our bills. That is unfair. It is not that I want it to be this way. It is just so damn hard to get, maintain and thrive in a job and I am extremely prone to loosing my time in fascination and communication with no relevance to earning a living**.
Most ‘aspergirls’ prefer to stay at home most of the time and have few or no friends. About 85% of persons with Asperger’s Syndrome are unemployed or underemployed (employed below their qualifications)***.
Simone envisions a gloomy old age for ‘Aspergirls’ who can’t bridge their deficiencies well enough to secure those vital few relationships, proper self-care and financial security. Poverty, poor health and loneliness equals powerlessness.
Take good care of your health starting now because you will only get more vulnerable as you get older. […]
Do avoid the tendency to become a total recluse. […]
Start looking at ways to dramatically increase your income if you haven’t already. You’ll want and need a specific sort of environment with control over it as you get older.
‘Aspergirls’ by Rudy Simone [p. 210]
(Simone’s book has a positive tone overall, I focus on the dystopic vision here because it reminds me to keep trying to improve).
Simone describes her Asperger diagnosis as a ‘new lens to look through’ in which she reviewed her life and could finally make sense of her difficulties.
I can relate to that, but I’ll add a personal note here: I don’t declare to ‘have’ Asperger’s Syndrome as such / clinically, and this post is no discussion of that question (I just say this to prevent assumptions).
What is valuable for me about knowing Asperger’s Syndrome is its categories for certain sets of traits, sensitivities & tendencies, and its power to explain a ‘gravity’ towards isolation, off everybody else’s planet so to say.
Its ‘lens’ helps to observe & analyse the odd interactions between people that is defined as normal social behaviour.
It gives a sense of relief, because there is order. There is a system to categorise things into; and amazingly, all together the messy life pieces form a picture that is logical, coherent and meaningful (albeit problematic).
And despair. Unsettling memory fragments from my strange, alienated youth promenaded through my head while I read ‘Aspergirls’****. I think of ways the pressure could have been lessened, major break-downs prevented, their aftermaths turned around, and years of dysfunction avoided (maybe) if I’d been in a calm, stable, disciplined small group environment without all the noise, confusion and social stress.
Given the way it was, I think my deroute was inevitable. Like an invisible gravity leading into a black hole; an automatic programme ensuring that any sequence of events led to the same hopeless outcome.
I suppose every life makes its own meaning in some strange way precisely the way it is, that there is no real waste of time. At least it makes me feel better to think that way.
To summarise: how researching Asperger’s Syndrome has helped me
I have searched information about Asperger’s Syndrome over the course of 1-2 years, mostly online through articles, forums, blogs and YouTube videos e.t.c. The insights I gained have helped me to:
Name and connect areas of difficulty and address the ones I can change systematically, while not beating myself up about inevitable failures (e.g. family dinners, parties, chatty people).
Acknowledge my strengths and see them as a fair trade off. Stop feeling guilty about spending so much time on my computer but also realising that there is a price to pay for prioritising alone-time over people, and if it gets too expensive then I may loose those who are essential to me… it is a delicate balance.
Make sense of my youth’s dysfunction. It is a long story, but the important part is that I have forgiven myself for failing so miserably at being young. I also forgive (largely) all those who ignored me, cut me off and considered me generally irrelevant, because that’s how the social world works and keeps itself relatively unburdened.
Study ‘normality’ objectively and systematically rather than in panic. To view group dynamics, social behavioural rules, non-verbal communication, sensory perception differences and society’s social expectations through a pragmatic lens that allows me to learn to know what to do rather than worry that I should have known it by default.
Ps. Thanks to ‘Aspergirl Maybe‘ for inspiring to read the book.
*Except for genuinely 100% solitaire persons.
**That is of course no valid excuse…
***The number vary depending who you ask, but it is always very high
****The reference to my youth may be a bit confusing since I haven’t actually written down my history on the blog.