Live Through This

The Champion of Who You Are

Having Asperger’s is more complex than it looks on television.

Illustration by Ruby A.

My brother got his diagnosis first. (I’m not going to talk about him very much, because he is intensely private and would kill me.) When I got my diagnosis five years later, in 2006, my psychiatrist was so excited she was practically salivating: “Asperger’s siblings!” I didn’t stay in therapy very long. It was boring, and I was uncomfortable being told that my personality was actually a categorical “disorder.”

Since then I’ve had a weird relationship with Asperger’s. I’ve been secretive about it, downplaying the role it might play in terms of my character. But at the same time, I feel this intense magnetism toward other so-called “Aspies,” wanting to befriend them and protect them and be their champion.

Asperger syndrome exists on the high-functioning end of the autism spectrum. It is characterized by broad social impairment. There are usually a lot of factors contributing to this impairment, which may include: difficulty interacting with others, lack of demonstrated empathy, difficulty interpreting social cues, and rigid habits/obsessive interests (often mistaken for obsessive-compulsive disorder). It can be difficult for people with Asperger’s to make friends, which is why Aspies are often mischaracterized as being antisocial. Many Aspies yearn deeply to have friends and only retreat into loneliness after repeated failures to connect with people.

There’s been a recent emergence of Aspie-types in the media, which tend to perpetuate the idea that all Aspies look like this:

Aspie characters—rarely diagnosed but strongly insinuated—are often dramatized as being sociopaths (the new Sherlock), humorous robots (Big Bang Theory’s Sheldon), or severely traumatized people (Lisbeth Salander in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo). Abed from Community is pretty cool, at least until season three when his character becomes ridiculous. The original Abed is a good example of a (possible) Aspie who is neither crippled by shyness nor obsessed with science, two qualities that are often associated with the syndrome.

One challenging aspect of understanding Asperger’s is that it hasn’t been studied much in females and is in fact believed to manifest itself differently in girls versus boys:

At first, the above passages, courtesy of a resource I like, may seem sexist, but from comparing my brother and myself, they also seem to be somewhat true. I do have a knack for imitating the behavior of people I find to be charming and effervescent. My brother, however, seems unable to do this. He is more limited by his extremely introverted personality. He is less able to be phony and flirtatious, less able to make others feel comfortable in his presence. He is fundamentally incapable of being fake. It’s a quality that I really admire in him, though not one that I envy. I think the inability to be fake can make life really scary. So much of daily life involves programmed, polite interactions: ordering a hamburger, making a phone call, being “likable.” Fakeness can protect you like a coat of armor—without it, you’ll be gutted every day. I don’t know why I have this armor and he doesn’t. I don’t like to think that girls are simply better at being fake, and so it follows that Aspie girls are better than their male counterparts at concealing their condition. But why, Asperger’s? WHY?

It really kills me to see other Aspies floundering in this world. There are so many social codes that penalize us in truly immeasurable ways. I’d like to share some stuff I’ve learned about Asperger’s, so that if you have an Aspie friend, you can reach out to them. And if you’re an Aspie yourself, maybe this will help you.

Being brave in social situations.

It’s true that many Aspies are terribly shy and anxious about socializing. When the psychiatrist told me she thought I had Asperger’s, I immediately said, “No way. I’m very nosy and bossy.” My psychiatrist replied that some Aspies, particularly girls, compensate for their social awkwardness by doing precisely that—being bossy and attempting to control social situations rather than simply participating in them. Well didn’t she just have an answer for everything!

That said, I think I have identified the secret to finessing social encounters without having anxiety or resorting to bossiness. It works for shy Aspies and non-Aspies who are shy, so I’m going to share it with you: ASK QUESTIONS. That’s all! Just ask a billion questions. Where did you get that scarf? What’s your middle name? Have you ever been to Africa? Most people are thrilled by the opportunity to blather on about themselves. And all you have to do is sit there and come up with more questions to ask. Beware the occasional person who will try to turn the questions back on you: “Have you ever been to Africa?” If you don’t want to answer, I suggest just saying whatever pops into your mind. (Many Aspies find it awkward to talk about themselves.) People may disagree, but I feel confident saying that minor lies here and there don’t really matter. Only on TV do people get all dramatic, like, “YOU LIED TO ME, YOU’VE NEVER BEEN TO AFRICA!” Of course, you can always be honest. Just say, “I don’t like talking about myself. I’d rather learn about you.” Even though that last part might be a lie—you’re not necessarily fascinated by this person, you’re just trying to survive the conversation—it’s still a good tactic.

I recommend forcing yourself to attend social gatherings. Then, if you’re not having a good time, leave. Attend, leave. Attend, leave. It’s all about practice. I know that one of the worst feelings is being trapped in a social situation with no idea how to extricate myself. But my reward for going to the party in the first place is that I allow myself to rudely leave whenever I feel like it. So just get up and walk away. Say, “Bye, I’m leaving. Thanks for inviting me.” If your friends are true friends, they will find your abrupt behavior endearing rather than rude. That said, you have to watch out for our common enemy: the person who says, “Awww, don’t go! Please stay!” This puts us, the Aspies, in the incredibly uncomfortable situation of having to insist that we’re leaving despite your protests. Non-Aspie readers, please never be this person at a party. I know you think you’re being nice, but actually, you’re torturing us. Aspies tend to flounder in conversations that serve no purpose other than to be “polite.”

Being comfortable.

A common Aspie trait is an extreme intolerance for attire that is encumbering, itchy, or binding in any way. My brother wears the same loose T-shirt, khaki pants, and Teva sandals all year round, even when it’s snowing. For me, it can be frustrating to look at pictures of Arabelle and Marlena. I envy their style and flair while knowing that I wouldn’t last an hour in most of their outfits. For an Aspie-friendly look, I recommend the bag-dress-plus-temporary-tattoo combination. The pleasing bag dress will hardly come into contact with your flesh, while the temporary tattoos express your tastes and save the ensemble from seeming unimaginative.

Finding a best friend.

I think it’s vitally important for everyone to have a best friend—one person with whom you’re NEVER fake, who totally gets you, and whose company you value completely. Groups of friends can be fun, but I fear they ultimately fall or drift apart, so it’s important that you and your best friend can stick together. Abed has Troy; you need someone, too. Just as there is a certain Aspie personality profile, I have identified and charted a complimentary Aspie BFF profile. (Note: because Troy is a he, and my own BFF is a he, I will be referring to the Aspie best friend using the pronoun “he.” I don’t intend this to be limiting to anyone else.) Here is how I believe the traits of the Aspie and the ideal Aspie BFF compare:

Ego: As with many Aspies, my ego is the size of a small planet. So I need a best friend who can absorb some of that ego. I don’t mean someone who has self-esteem issues. On the contrary, an Aspie’s best friend needs to be fairly resilient and steady, or else we might inadvertently crush him with our lack of sensitivity. What I mean by a smaller ego is someone more tolerant and easygoing than me, and who is willing to go along with my particular ways.

Analytical tendencies: I love to analyze everything. I’ll analyze a hot dog stand or my landlord or a complete stranger. My best friend and I love going on ask.metafilter.com to read about the juicy problems of strangers and then spend a whole evening analyzing them. As an Aspie, I need someone who is as analytical as I am, and who can hold up his end of the discussion, or else the friendship will start to feel unfulfilling. This is true for every analytical person, not just Aspies. It may feel novel and refreshing to be around people who don’t feel compelled to deconstruct things the way we do, but once the novelty wears off, we’ll be stuck with this person who just doesn’t get how fascinating ask.metafilter.com is.

Empathy: Aspies are often called out for being kind of careless with other people’s feelings. I had a friend in college who told me that he’d decided to stop confiding in me, because I always “lectured [him] like a teacher instead of listening like a friend.” I remember balking at him, like: “DON’T YOU WANT MY BRILLIANT ADVICE?!” That’s when my best friend stepped in and pointed out that I was treating my friend’s situation like a Dear Abby question, while also making it all about ME. So that’s why it’s useful for my best friend’s empathy level to be higher than mine, so he can explain why everyone is mad at me. But it shouldn’t be too high or I’d seem like a tyrant in comparison.

Judgement: Like many Aspies, I am very judgey. I even manage to be extra-judgey because of my particular upbringing: my dad is an actual judge, and my mom is a beautiful society lady who abides by every etiquette rule. As a result, I tend to think that everyone is weird or insane (Why is she wearing that? Why did he say that?). It can be exhausting. That’s why my best friend needs to provide a more open-minded, flexible dynamic. He teaches me new things, shows me new ways of life, and gently explains the perspectives of others. This way, people don’t seem as crazy and abhorrent, and life is better.

Life can be better, and I think that knowledge is the key—knowledge of who you are and the lifestyle that you require to be comfortable and happy. This goes for everyone, not just Aspies. Do you need a peaceful atmosphere? Go live in the Yukon with Sonja. Don’t feel peer-pressured to move to the city. Do you need routine? Surround yourself with people who respect that routine and who don’t make fun of you for being a stick-in-the-mud. This sounds really obvious, I know, but in practice it can be confusing, especially when the person you wish you were is completely different from the person you actually are. Serve the needs of the actual you, not the fantasy you. The fantasy me is a very outdoorsy girl who sleeps in a hammock and spontaneously frolics in the sun. Trying to be that person is just futile, though, because the actual me is an Aspie who needs routine and temperature control and a contoured sleeping mask. It was hard to let go of the fantasy me, but once I did, I was happier. Being fake with other people can be useful, but you should never be fake with yourself. What I really want to say is this: Aspie or not, it’s up to you to be the champion of who you are. ♦

87 Comments

  • rosiesayrelax June 8th, 2012 3:09 PM

    aspergers is really interesting. my friends brother has it and he’s so awkward but really sweet. this post was very absorbing.

    -rosie.

    Rosie Say Relax

  • Giulia Lain June 8th, 2012 3:13 PM

    Wow… I mean… WOW.

  • Flower June 8th, 2012 3:33 PM

    This is really interesting and absorbing. Thank you for writing it!
    x

    http://www.bobblyrainbowsocks.blogspot.com

  • chantal June 8th, 2012 3:35 PM

    I used to be so scared that I had Asperger’s until my psychologist told me it’s just social anxiety disorder. I am very uncomfortable in certain social situations which causes a lot of stress so I take it out by going to yoga. I really recommend it!

  • Juniper June 8th, 2012 3:35 PM

    This is so great! Maggie you’re just awesome.

  • TheAwesomePossum June 8th, 2012 3:39 PM

    This was a really good read :). I don’t have Asperger’s, but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told “Oh, it makes sense if you don’t think about it” after analyzing someone else’s comment.

    • Marguerite June 8th, 2012 4:01 PM

      I hate when i over think things, but i also love how i am sometimes able to analyze something until it makes complete sense, it makes me feel so smart!

  • Tyknos93 June 8th, 2012 3:44 PM

    Whoa one of my friends has Aspergers. I had no idea, but most people didn’t like to be around her because they thought she was being awkward or slightly “bitchy” on purpose. She’s brilliant and very talkative with me though. I’m trying to understand this more and she doesn’t like to talk about it at all. Thanks for this post!

    http://blazoningpens.blogspot.com/

  • cariange June 8th, 2012 3:46 PM

    Thank you so much for posting this. For many time I’ve believed I can be an Aspie, but I don’t know how to tell my parents… knowing my mom, she’ll think i’m exagerating or something, and she’ll say I’m just shy and there’s nothing wrong, but I know isn’t just that. How do I tell her? (also, excuse my english, isn’t my native language)

    • Maggie June 8th, 2012 4:15 PM

      My mom was the same way. For a long time she just thought my brother and I were really spoiled and being intentionally uncooperative. Then she started reading books about Asperger’s, and that’s what really helped her become open-minded about our behavior. Look for books by Tony Attwood- he’s considered the top Asperger’s psychologist. Perhaps you and your mom could read one of his books together and have a conversation. The first step is getting her to recognize that Asperger’s is A THING; the second step is getting her to recognize that you might be affected by it. BE BRAVE, CARIANGE!

  • KinuKinu June 8th, 2012 3:51 PM

    Wow……That was an amazing.Thank you for sharing.

  • starpower June 8th, 2012 3:58 PM

    interesting read, thank you!

  • Maddy June 8th, 2012 4:16 PM

    This was really great/interesting! I know, I know, lots of other people think they have it. I don’t but I definitely have some of the characteristics. Haha the ego, the mind, the judgey-ness (well, I kind of judge people for being judgey…paradox?), lack of empathy or knowing how to fake empathy. Thanks for sharing!

  • laurenniee June 8th, 2012 4:38 PM

    This was such an interesting article! I’m quite clued up on Aspergers (I am an Aspie BFF) and the chart you drew totally describes mine and my best friend’s relationship (although as I have BPD I’d say we’re both equally judgey).

    • Maggie June 8th, 2012 4:55 PM

      Thank GOD for Aspie BFF’s. The world needs more of you

  • soretudaaa June 8th, 2012 4:48 PM

    Guys I’m pretty sure my brother has Aspergers now 0___0

  • Margaret June 8th, 2012 4:48 PM

    Maggie,

    This is actually quite an appropriate article to end my day with! Since I’m a lazy, recent high school grad, I spend most of my days in bed watching movies and today I watched Adam (2009) and Mary and Max (2009). Both movies have characters in them who have Asperger’s Syndrome. Have you seen either movie? If so, what do you think of each portrayal of modern Aspies? My brother is an Aspie and I love him very much. I recognize some of the traits you described in him. My whole like I’ve described myself as introverted and socially awkward but I can identify with your descriptions of girl Aspies. I identify all the female Aspie traits you described quite strongly except the ‘comfort’ one. I tend to dress more like Marlena and Arabelle. :) Is it possible that I have Asperger’s? Is it more common for siblings to have it? Just really curious.

    Thanks

    • Maggie June 8th, 2012 5:57 PM

      Asperger’s is such a new diagnosis, and there are still many unknown factors. Many doctors believe it’s under-diagnosed; just as many believe it’s over-diagnosed. Maybe in 10 years we’ll know the answer. I can tell you that Asperger’s has indeed been shown to run in families. (I’m certain we got it from my Dad’s side of the family- we used to call it the “crazy side,” now we call it the “Aspie side”). I read something interesting once (on a random thread on an Aspie forum, NOT a verifiable source) about a girl who identified herself as “Aspie-Lite.” She’d grown up with an older brother who had very pronounced Asperger’s, and as a result she developed Aspie-like tendencies, just from being around him all the time…

      I tried to watch “Adam” once. There’s that scene at the beginning when he crosses his Dad’s name off the “chores” list on the refrigerator, and it was so sad I couldn’t bear to watch anymore. So I turned it off. Does it have a happy ending, I hope? The WORST “Aspie” movie is the one with Josh Hartnett, “Mozart and the Whale.” I HATE that movie. Haven’t heard of “Mary and Max,” but I’ll be sure to check it out.

      • Margaret June 8th, 2012 10:18 PM

        Maggie,

        Thanks for the quick reply! And thanks for your response. Its certainly something to think about.

        I found “Adam” both exceedingly accurate and inaccurate at times. However, not being expert and only being able to refer to Matthew, my brother, I couldn’t really judge. The 29-year-old Adam was accustomed to careful routine just like Matthew but he also spoke to Beth, the other prominent character, in almost a child-like manner and had quite a few tantrums, similar to Matthew’s when he was really young, throughout. He was also incapable of being self reliant in the beginning of the film. Overall, however, its pretty good. I’m always a fan of Hugh Dancy. :)

        After watching it I wondered if there are various levels or intensities of Asperger’s. Do you know? Perhaps that could explain the differences between Adam and Matthew.

        “Mary and Max” is really cute and I highly recommend it. Its an Australian claymation piece. Asperger’s is a little more on the back burner in this one in comparison to “Adam.” In “Adam,” I believe the goal was to educate the audience whereas in “Mary and Max” the relationship between the two characters takes center stage. Its both incredibly funny and heart-wrenchingly sad but overall a really good, endearing film.

        I haven’t heard of or seen “Mozart and the Whale” and I don’t think I will. If I do watch it though, I’ll keep your comment in mind. :)

        As always, thanks for the brilliant article and your response.

        -Margaret

  • GlitterKitty June 8th, 2012 5:15 PM

    Very interesting! I didn’t know much about Asperger’s before but this has really helped. Although I don’t have Asperger’s I definitely recognize some of these characteristics in myself. I’m so analytical. I think you may have just ruined my study schedule by giving me a link to ask.metafilter.com.

  • simon June 8th, 2012 5:21 PM

    Interesting that you should mention those exact characters, all of whom I find fascinating! There’s also Saga Lorén in “The Bridge” (Danish/Swedish)

    I’d never latched onto the “ask lots of questions” trick – I never do that, I expect people to say what they want about themselves – and as I’m not interested in the answers it would be fake to ask :)

  • Catelyn B. June 8th, 2012 5:48 PM

    I have a non verbal learning disorder. It’s hard for me to pick up social cues too. I might seem withdrawn around people which makes it hard to make friends.

  • simon June 8th, 2012 5:59 PM

    “A common Aspie trait is an extreme intolerance for attire that is encumbering, itchy, or binding in any way. ”

    really ?? I don’t think I’m Aspie, though I have many of the characteristics mentioned – and I do utterly hate restrictive clothing of any kind and wear shorts and a T shirt all year round :)

  • darksideoftherainbow June 8th, 2012 6:21 PM

    this is excellent. thank you so much!

  • Nurkle June 8th, 2012 6:46 PM

    Thanks for this article. I really suspect that I have mild Asperger’s. I have always been extremely awkward around people and there are only a few I have been able to really connect with. My teen years were horrible because of this and it landed me in a hospital with depression and an eating disorder. I’ve gotten “better” and learned a lot of social coping skills over the years, but a lot of times I’m still kind of the “odd” one in most social situations. I’ve kind of learned to embrace it a little (I freaking HATE being “fake”, although I realize it’s necessary sometimes) , and in truth, I don’t really want to find out if a doctor would diagnose me. I don’t want to be labelled, particularly with some of the stereotypes that exist for Asperger’s. Thanks for trying to tear those down a little with your article.

    • meghang June 9th, 2012 2:29 PM

      hey! i am the same way. though i’ve never thought of myself as having asperger’s i do struggle with social anxiety and also have a hard time “connecting” with people. i have also been hospitalized for an eating disorder and depression (recovered from my ed mostly, still working on the depression haha.) you’re totally not alone! love to you<3

  • lylsoy June 8th, 2012 7:31 PM

    Thanks for this article, Maggie!

  • diny June 8th, 2012 7:32 PM

    do you remember when Mia (Princess Diary) said to her mother, “Mom, I think I get Asperger.” that is what I think now (well, it also happen when you all talked about OCD).

  • sherbert June 8th, 2012 7:35 PM

    I really liked this, feel way better educated, and even though i don’t have Aspergers a lot of the social advice was weirdly relatable

  • Whatsername June 8th, 2012 7:53 PM

    My brother is a junior in high school and has struggled with Aspergers all his life. It took forever to find a diagnosis for him; they said it was ADHD, OCD, etc. when he was younger. Even though we know what it is now, figuring out how to handle him in certain situations is difficult. He’s at prom right now, and I desperately hope he feels comfortable there!
    Thank you sosososo much for writing this. I always like to learn a bit more about his issue to try and help him better.

  • puffytoad June 8th, 2012 8:30 PM

    I have social anxiety disorder, which means I exhibit some of the same traits as Aspies. I feel like I’m terrible at reading social cues, and of course I’m always ridiculously nervous in social situations. I wouldn’t make a very good Aspie best friend because i would be high on all four of those traits lol. Including empathy! But a lot of times that means just being obsessively worried about what other people think and if I am hurting their feelings.

  • marmella June 8th, 2012 8:40 PM

    I wonder if you’ve seen Parenthood? One of the children has Asperger’s and I think it’s a more realistic portrayal than the shows you’ve mentioned (and it’s a really good show too!). Thanks for sharing something so personal in order to educate people :)

  • SpencerBowie June 8th, 2012 8:43 PM

    THANK YOU FOR WRITEING THIS MAGGIE OMG OMG OMG!!!

    I have a very good friend who has Aspergers and this article cleared up many of his characteristics, and also gave me GREAT advice on how to be a better friend!

    So many times before my friend will just decide to leave a get-together early and I’ll be polite and beggy and tell him to stay later. This artical also pin pointed so many things about him! He’s OBSESSED with maps and can go on about them for days, but I always stay interested cause he’s my friend, not out of pitty, like I think others do. And on a funny note he, just like your brother, will wear the same track suit or polo year round! I sress crazy and I’m an aspiring fashion designer, (one day!), but I will never let it bother me!

    To sum it up Maggie, really, really thank you! You actually provided answers to questions I’ve had in the back of my mind but-would-never-ask for years! Thank you 10,000 times! :)

    Sincerely,
    A friend of Aspies

  • lyrarose June 8th, 2012 9:04 PM

    this is very helpful and informative. Last year, I remember being sent to a therapist (via my school’s instruction because they were convinced something was wrong with me and said I couldn’t come back to school otherwise…really dumb) who said they thought I had Asperger’s and to “go see a specialist.” No one ever explained what this was, but my parents were somewhat ok with this (“yeah, I guess that explains things”) so I didn’t think much of it.
    The specialist, a psychoanalyst whom I should mention did not strike me as an idiot (the school therapist before was very dumb. I’m not even exaggerating, it was the worst), promptly explained how that therapist was wrong. Their conclusion: high-functioning sociopath.

    *the Sherlock fangirl in me did everything to keep herself from laughing in this very serious situation.

    I guess the two get confused fairly often, so um, this felt relevant.

  • kittkiat June 8th, 2012 9:39 PM

    this came out at the perfect time for me i actually found out recently that i have a mild case of asperger’s which has definitely explained a lot of things (me being socially awkward around people, having very specific ritual type things) and these tips are really useful thanx so much ~^.^~

  • Janelle June 8th, 2012 10:38 PM

    The thing about diagnosing someone with something like Aspergers is the fact that this is just a way to describe a personality type in many regards, and seems kind of flimsy in my opinion… I mean, people act all sorts of different ways, and modern medicine and psychology for some reason, need to tell people that they are this or that, to what end? Should there be some sort of diagnosis for people who are intensely flamboyant and outward about everything they do?

    • Hanne June 9th, 2012 7:23 AM

      I’ve been reading a lot about aspergers lately, and I’ve always loved reading about psychology, and here’s the thing about diagnosises. My psychologist told me the same thing, and I think it’s an important thing to bear in mind when reflecting upon whether or not it’s “right” to have a diagnosis for everything and the possible inflation in diagnosing spesific “issues”, such as aspergers.

      A diagnosis is supposed to be a tool. A very helpful one at that. Most people that get any kind of diagnosis don’t do that for fun, they do it because they experience difficulties with certain things in life or because they really don’t feel well. They need help, and a diagnosis is just that, something helpful that can pinpoint the doctor or other supportive people involved to what can be done to improve this persons life quality.

      I’m not a shrink, but all this seems pretty logical to me. There are so many people that lead happy, well-functioning lives while exhibiting aspergers traits, and they may never need to get diagnosed. It would possibly be devastating and do more harm than good. But when someone go undiagnosed with any kind of troubling ailment (physical, mental) they suffer dire consequenses (I know this from personal experience), so I think it’s important that people who need help with their lives aren’t afraid to go get help! And the rest of you, no matter how flamboyant, introverted or anything inbetween you are, should live long and happy lives and not worry about diagnoses. You are who you are and that’s great, and if you are happy with that everything is how it should be.

    • Maggie June 9th, 2012 10:46 AM

      ha ha ha There is: it’s called Histrionic Personality disorder. But I definitely agree with you in a lot of ways. Sometimes it feels like doctors are just bored, and want to come up with a different “disorder” to categorize every single person on earth. I was resistant to Asperger’s for a long time for this very reason. What changed my mind somewhat was seeing how the Asperger’s label can give some much-needed confidence and sense of community for Aspies who perviously felt only alienated and uncomfortable. I guess I try to think of it less as being “categorized” and more like being on a team.

  • taste test June 8th, 2012 11:23 PM

    OH MY GOD. the clothes thing. I am a psycho about comfortable clothes. I’m also gifted, which I guess being driven up the wall by tight clothes and shoes that pinch and sock seams is a legit part of. your suggestion sounds quite excellent to me.

  • Franny Glass June 9th, 2012 12:03 AM

    This article made me think of the character of Max on the television show Parenthood… I am completely no expert but I feel like in comparison to how Aspergers is portrayed a lot of the time in the media it is very explanatory and more real to me than that weird almost jokey way you see practically aallll social disorders represented in the media.

  • Odilie June 9th, 2012 12:08 AM

    Thank you for writing this, Maggie, it is absolutely fascinating!

    I can actually identify with many of those characteristics, but I do know I’m not an Aspie; I’m deeply introverted. So while I so endure similar social anxiety to you, and have a deep fascination with specific topics (language and linguistics, in my case), and am fairly analytical (all Aspie traits you have listed), I do have higher empathy and a more pronounced filter (i.e., I’m less honest) than an Aspie.

    But all that leads me to this question: have you heard of/read about the psychological theory that, instead of placing intro- and extroversion on the same scale, put them on different spectra? In this theory, introversion is actually on one end of a scale with Autism Spectrum Disorder on the far end (the other end of the extroversion scale is Narcissistic Personality Disorder, which makes me laugh in an innapropriate and vindictive way…oh, extroverts, I love ya), which could explain why Aspies (and other ASDs) have so much in common; Asperger’s would probably fall closer to the middle of this scale. I haven’t researched the theory enough to have any actualy authority on it, but I’d be interested to hear if you (or anyone else) have, and what you think about it.

    On another note: I liked the movie Adam, but it doesn’t end on the highest of happy notes. It’s a bit melancholic, actually, though Adam is a very sweet character. If you found the dad scene sad (I did, too!), some of the other scenes might be too unhappy for you, although there’s some happy stuff in there, too.

    Thanks again!

  • Odilie June 9th, 2012 12:11 AM

    Oh goodness, I left so many mistakes in that post, I apologize! It’s late here.

    I’ve got to make one correction: I meant to say that this theory might explain with Aspies/ASDs have so much in common with neurotypical INTROVERTS, and not just leave it at “Aspies have things in common with ASDs”.

    Duh!

  • Natalie. June 9th, 2012 12:24 AM

    This is such a great article, I’m not an aspie but in the last few years have experienced a lot of social anxiety so I love the rule that if you make yourself go to a social event, you are allowed to leave whenever you like. I have started making that deal with myself too. I also love the idea of your fantasy self and your real self and keeping your real self happy. Before I experienced anxiety I loved to travel and was very spontaneous and I wish I still felt like that, but maybe for the moment it’s more important to feel happy and comfortable. :)
    Thanks!

  • saraeast June 9th, 2012 1:14 AM

    Thank you SO much for writing this post!!! It is very helpful because there are very few things actually written for teenage girls with aspergers. I’ve always had a hard time finding friends that last and your chart helped me understand why :)

  • HappyWandering June 9th, 2012 1:30 AM

    Hello!

    I love this article simply because I love reading anything about anything to do with personality, feelings, and the mind. I don’t think I have Aspergers (I think I’m pretty empathetic… at least, I want to be a therapist), but do have a lot of the same feelings about being in social situations. I think I have a few friends who may be on the Autism/Aspergers spectrum, so it is interesting to think about their personalities and feelings compared to what you describe. I think it’s interesting to think that we’re all on some sort of spectrum for everything (sexuality, different types of intelligence, ect.)… Also, I LOVE analyzing… thank you for the tip about http://ask.metafilter.com/.

  • marit June 9th, 2012 1:40 AM

    it’s so great you’re opening up about your condition! i learned a lot, and i’ll keep it in mind next time i meet someone with asperger’s.

    faux style.

  • Hanne June 9th, 2012 6:50 AM

    I’ve been thinking about rookiemag and aspergers for a while, and how good it would be to have someone write about it here. I’m not a teenager anymore, thank god (I’m 21), but this is possibly my favourite magazine ever!

    I may or may not get the diagnosis this summer. I’m waiting for this appointment with a neuropsychiatrist and then I will find out if aspergers is what’s been up with me all my life. I’ve always been “the weird one” and had to suffer a lot from peers, family etc. teasing me or not liking me for being the way I am. I really hope this aspergers-thing is right, I’ve been mentally ill for the last 7(boy oh boy how time flies!) years and they’ve never been able to get the diagnosis right.
    Maybe I’m just to strange to be properly labelled. It’s not that it affects my self-respect or anything, I am what I am and that IS FINE, it would be a useful tool when it comes to stuff like LIFE and school. I’ve never finished high school even though I’m a wiz at most subjects because of the social aspect. I just don’t get other teenagers, there’s so much drama and noise and I need it to be quiet for me to concentrate. I’ve always been told I seem to much older than what I really am, but living in a small village in Northern Norway none of these things were ever taken seriously. It makes me sad that my less-talented-at-for-example-writing classmates from elementary school now are at the university, where I dreamed about being ever since I was a little girl.

    Nevertheless, thanks for a good article! And sorry for the long ramble, once I get started it’s hard to stop, haha.

    • Oh the seas June 13th, 2012 10:02 AM

      Wait, are you me?!

      I just got my diagnosis this summer (two weeks ago, yikes) – I’m 22 and struggled so much in high school because of problems that arose from undiagnosed Aspergers that I had to drop out. I recognize these feelings you’re going through so well, my classmates from high school are now graduating from universities I dreamed of going to, while I’m still flailing around in the same spot without getting anywhere.

      The diagnosis in itself hasn’t erased all these years of mental illness, depressions and struggling, but it’s… Helping me to put it all into a context? Like, I can look back at where I failed and start to see how and why that happened, why I burnt out/got too stressed to cope/had a nervous breakdown, and it’s giving me a slice of hope. My psychiatrist started talking about it last year and while it hasn’t been a pain-free ride I have started to at least do something and go somewhere. At times, I even succeed.

      Just wanted to say, you’re not alone in your situation, and I relate so well to you that you have no idea.

  • MinaM8 June 9th, 2012 7:18 AM

    Very interesting, thanks for posting this! I’m kinda really awkward sometimes, although I don’t think I have Asperger’s, but this will probably help me when I’m feeling shy.

  • karastarr32 June 9th, 2012 8:29 AM

    Thanks so much for this article! My favorite cousin just got diagnosed with Asperger’s… apparently everyone had guessed already except for me. He’s a little genius, and he’s so adorable. This article really helped :)
    Plus I totally get what you mean about analyzing things, being the daughter of a ex-hypnotherapist and current industry analyst, and the sister of a.. shall we say.. a socialite/society lady (ya know, if she didn’t live in Hackney and think that she was gentryfying the area :) )

  • El1e June 9th, 2012 8:47 AM

    This piece was very thoughtful and well written. I really enjoyed reading it.

    I’m also a young person with a disability (multiple sclerosis), and I’ve found that one key to living more comfortably with my condition is developing the ability to talk about it candidly.

    I’ve found that my illness is less weird and scary to other people when I’m more matter of fact about it myself: Here’s what it is; here’s how it effects me; in all other respects, I’m still the same person I was before this diagnosis.

    I really applaud your courage in discussing your Aspergers diagnosis openly. You’re a role model for anyone trying to navigate something that makes her different. All best to you!

  • pusupulu June 9th, 2012 8:49 AM

    This was really interesting and I really enjoyed this article!

    I’m really fascinated by Asperger’s and autism and I don’t mean that in a bad way. The human mind just fascinates me. Have you ever read the book The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon? I really enjoyed it. I found it quite informative but also somewhat sad. If you’ve read it yourself, did you find it realistic?

    • Maggie June 9th, 2012 4:24 PM

      Yes, I love that book. It’s very sad in places, just as you say. I don’t read it as a depiction of Asperger’s or autism, because Mark Haddon has stated that he did NOT write the book with that intention. Christopher is just a character he invented- which makes both the author and the character far more interesting to me. I’d rather read about a real, imagined character like Christopher (“real, imagined” sounds really paradoxical, but hopefully you know what I mean) than some fake stock Aspie designed to convey a message about autism awareness or something.

      • pusupulu June 10th, 2012 3:06 PM

        Yup, I get what you mean :) Oh okay, I didn’t know any sidefacts about the book or the writer because our teacher recommended that book for us for our english lessons (finnish is my first language). I’m glad I read it because it was really well written and I enjoyed it from the beginning to the end. And you’re right about the fact that Christoper being an invented character makes both the author and the character more interesting!

  • weepygonzales June 9th, 2012 9:23 AM

    My boyfriend of 3 years has Asperger’s syndrome. It can be difficult at times, but he’s so brilliant and charming that it’s always worth the trouble.

  • thekidsarealright June 9th, 2012 12:35 PM

    Does anyone have any advice on how to romantically pursue someone with Asperger’s?

    • Maggie June 9th, 2012 1:39 PM

      This is such a good question, and the answer could probably comprise a whole separate article, titled like Pitching Woo to Aspie Cuties. Generally though, I’d say be prepared for a slow, “long con” courtship. I wouldn’t recommend declaring your love or doing anything dramatic that could make your Aspie crush feel backed into a corner. Be a friend, be really patient, let things evolve.

  • HarrietIsAPirate June 9th, 2012 1:20 PM

    Thank you so much for this. I was diagnosed with Asperger’s two and a half years ago when I was fifteen, and since then I have not read a lot of things regarding Asperger’s specifically directed at teenage girls. I can relate to a lot of this and the advice is very helpful so, once again, thank you.

    As well as having Asperger’s I also have an aspie best friend, which means our conversations about our special interests are very passionate and intense but our fights are similarly intense. I have a grand total of three friends (although this is a 300% increase from when I was in primary school) and I would like to make more or even get a girlfriend but I’m not sure I ever will because I’m so anxious and socially awkward all the damn time. I like your suggestion of asking people questions but I think it would be difficult for me to do that because I wouldn’t know what questions to ask and would probably feel way too uncomfortable to ask them anyway…

    I’ve kind of resigned myself to being forever alone, to be honest.

  • stellarbell June 9th, 2012 2:25 PM

    It was actually really great to read this article, and thanks for that :)
    I have Asperger’s and ADD that was diagnosed when I was 7, and I have never really understood it, but reading this article made me realize that despite my worrying, I’m actually doing fine. I even have a sort of Watson to my Sherlock.

    I’ve been reading Rookie for a while, but this prompted me to register just so I could say thanks

  • whodatgal June 9th, 2012 2:47 PM

    Jeysoo Christay, this was one of the most amazing posts I’ve ever read- so interesting and absorbing and different. This is why I love ROOKIE-mag! Maggie, you must be very strong to have the courage to speak out about this all! I have a friend who has aspergers. He’s my age, but does university level maths, doesn’t like to socialise AT ALL, but is very sweet and we’d always mix up salt and sugar in cups at resturants and look at what happened when we were little!

    I escpecially (how do you spell that?) loved the best friends graph and I think that’ll be so helpful to aspies and simply shy people :) By the way, has anyone read ‘The London Eye Mystery’- I think (if I can remember) it’s about a boy who has aspergers who solved a mystery to do with his cousin running away/going missing/getting kidnapped. It’s one of the best books I’ve ever read!

    So thoughtful and fascinating. Loved it Maggie!!!

    Ophelia xx

    http://www.opheliahorton.wordpress.com

  • Annabanana June 9th, 2012 3:24 PM

    This is such an interesting article! Im obsessed with science but only slightly introverted! Television is just a bundle of stereotypes :)

    I think a lot of people find it difficult to understand Aspergers – especially because they can interpret the lower empathy thing as unkindness- but we should ALL try to understand, you’re article is such an inspiration and a reminder to try and ACTUALLY be helpful- like we can make ourselves feel good by inviting people to things etc but if that’s going to make them feel uncomfortable we haven’t helped at all! We should really think about what would be a nice thing to do – not just what would appear to be nice.

    Thankyou so much for such an interesting article!!!

  • dustyrose June 9th, 2012 7:11 PM

    Thank you for this. My sister, who is just about the most important person in my life, is an aspie as well, and though she’s mostly gotten along in life really well (she was prom queen! she married her first boyfriend nine years after they started going out-in middle school!) she’s often found her life and the world scary and confusing. It’s awesome to hear about realistic aspies and great that you’re getting the awareness out there.

  • Anhelo June 9th, 2012 8:28 PM

    This is an awesome post. I’m not an Aspie, I am schizotypal, so we have a whole lot in common. I struggle a lot with telling new people in my life about the disorder, because I hate labels. Sometimes it’s helpful but I try not to sound too “justifying myself”. It’s hard. I wish I knew what being normal feels like, you know? Like, never worry about being awkward, or being cool with it.

    http://www.anheloescalante.net

    • dustyrose June 10th, 2012 12:37 AM

      I don’t think anyone out there is worry-free about being awkward. Like I said in my comment, my sister is aspie, I’m “neuro-typical” in regards to the spectrum, but I think I’ve had more socially awkward moments than she has! She doesn’t always understand social situations, but she’s always just her sweet self, whereas I understand but I panic and wind up retreating.
      Normal is whatever’s normal for you. If you’re comfy with who you are, I don’t think you should worry about being “normal.” None of us really is. :)

  • Asha June 10th, 2012 1:03 AM

    on the contrary there, Anhelo. I wish I have things to say that “justify myself” because sometimes I don’t know why I say or do things OR even why I don’t say or do things (that’s a lot of or-s). In my dictionary, nobody ever really knew if he/she is ‘normal’ because at some point in your life, you’re bound to say “I AM SO WEIRD. what’s wrong with me?”

  • marianna June 10th, 2012 9:51 AM

    My mother’s best friend has an aspie kid. She once told my mother that she thought I may have Aspergers. Her son is really aggressive and my mother and I couldn’t figure out how her friend thought I was like him. But now it all makes sense, your article was very enlightening, and I can relate to almost all the traits you described, except the one about comfort. I’m gonna show my mom this article and see what’s her opinion.
    Thank you so much for writing this.
    Also, sorry about my english, it’s not my native language

  • Anhelo June 10th, 2012 11:16 AM

    Thanks for your replies, @dustyrose and @asha. I suppose “normal” is not the proper word. I meant socially functional. Being weird can be a good thing, but being too self aware is painful. In order to be comfy with oneself, it takes habits, but if you are (I am) the kind that avoids social situations (because they’re too intense and the brain can’t make connections with people in large groups), creating this habit of being comfy takes more than good intentions. And here I am justifying myself. I suppose justifying yourself is not bad if you don’t get guilt out of it. :B

  • mollycecelia June 10th, 2012 6:19 PM

    This article was inspiring to an antisocial girl like myself! Thanks for the information! :]

  • ninamau5 June 10th, 2012 7:08 PM

    i cannot begin to explain how much this meant to me.

    the idea that someone with asperger’s can function as a normal member of society (with like, FRIENDS and everything) is something that my family can’t really accept.
    they just seem to think i’ll be stuck sorting books and living alone for the rest of my life.

    and for a long time, i believed them.

    but this, this was so informative empowering to read and i thank you.

  • Liv337 June 10th, 2012 9:13 PM

    Thank you SO much for this! This is actually one of the best/most useful articles I have read on Rookie, because I am actually in love with a guy who has Aspergers. He just doesn’t know it yet.. I’m also an Aspie BFF (to him) so this was really great to read.
    Do you think that I should tell him that I loveee him? and how?
    THANKS! :D

  • FlorenceEyre June 11th, 2012 2:26 PM

    Dear Maggie,

    I am really interested in this perfect-written post and in everything connected with Asperger´s, althouhg I am not an Aspie. This article has helped me to realize how Asperger´s REALLY is (not in that just theoretical way showed in books) and I really think, that I could be an Aspie BFF. The problem is, that I don´t know how to find Aspie friends, because in our country (=Slovakia) more than 90% of the total never heard about it (but that´s just my opinion). I have couple of questions. Are all Aspies afraid of meeting new people or not empathical? Are Aspies generally good in maths (I have heard something like it but I don´t know if it is true). And the last thing: Do you personally like that new Sherlock?

    Thanks, D.
    (I hope that my questions aren´t stupid, or affronting and that you will write some other posts about Asperger´s.)

    • Maggie June 11th, 2012 4:01 PM

      Hey FlorenceEyre! Your questions aren’t stupid or affronting at all. I love when people are curious and direct! First of all, it is absolutely a myth that all Aspies excel at math. I, for one, am abysmal at math. I flunked the same math class three years in a row.

      I would say that wariness of meeting new people is a common Aspie trait. I find a few people that I like, and I just want to hang out with them forever in a private bubble, NO INTRUDERS. A lot of it has to do with a strong resistance to change- we like things the way they are. But this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to befriend an Aspie- on the contrary, it just means you should try harder! Once we get used to you, YOU will become something we never wish to change! You will be our friend!

      Empathy is a tricky issue… It’s not necessarily that Aspies FEEL zero empathy, but that they tend to SHOW zero empathy. It’s certainly one of the more complex aspects of Asperger’s, and probably varies a lot between individuals.

      As for the new Sherlock series, I do like it… somewhat. I like the mysteries and Sherlock’s beautiful English suits. But the relationship between Sherlock and Watson bugs me. I think that Watson is way too judgey to be an ideal Aspie BFF. He’s always scoffing and sighing incredulously at Sherlock’s behavior. I find Watson’s “moral superiority” to be very annoying. Watson needs to accept Sherlock for who he is!

      • FlorenceEyre June 12th, 2012 4:25 AM

        OMG.
        Maggie,
        this reply was amazing! Thank You!! And thak you especially for contradicting the myths§

        I am going to do everything possible to be an Aspie BFF.

        I also think, that Sherlock´s John is really annoying and stupid when he is carping or whatever at Sherlock´s behaviour. Sherlock is Sherlock and John has no reason to change him (or to try to change). And John is not wearing so cool suits as Sherlock at all. So I completely agree with you.

        Please, write some more posts about Asperger´s or about everything, it is always perfect.

        Have a nice day, D.

  • brittanyanna June 11th, 2012 2:57 PM

    Does anyone else have a parent with Asperger’s? My dad was diagnosed when I was 10 or so and he was in his 40s and I’d be interested in reading an article about relating to a parent with Asperger’s. I’m 22 and it’s something I still struggle with from time to time but it was especially difficult when I was a teenager.

  • StinaStarStina June 11th, 2012 4:10 PM

    Hey Maggie,

    great article! Thanks so much for writing this, it is very important for others to understand the ‘aspie’ and you’ve done a fabulous job portraying this!

    I have to ask though, why do you hate Mozart and the Whale? I thought the characters were more ‘high functioning autism’ than particularly asperger’s in that movie, maybe that’s why you don’t like it?
    I personally have SPD and some more ‘regular’ autism characteristics, but on a very minimal level, but I thought the movie was really great!

    Also I have found that many of the young boys I work with (I am a music therapist) who are diagnosed with Asperger’s are exceedingly empathetic, nearly to a fault.

    Have you ever read anything by Donna Williams? I like what she says about those of us on the spectrum, ‘it seems like we don’t care about anyone, but really, we care about EVERYONE’ Its the oversensitivity that is so intense it looks like undersensitivity!

    Anyway, that is just my view of it. I could be missing some key distinctions there though..

    Thanks again for your article, and thanks ‘Rookie’ for being amazing, as always :)

  • Spunky June 12th, 2012 9:29 PM

    I’ve always wondered how an aspie would describe the syndrome…
    I find Asperberg interesting, and also ask my psychiatrist about it and if there was a chance of me having it because I’ve been socially awkard since I was born. Sadly, she told me that it was “too new” and she thougth it needed to be more studied to be considered something “real”, so she told me I have social fobia. I want to get another opinion but my dad thinks I’m just shy.
    Anyway, thanks again for this!
    (Sorry for my bad english)

  • Oh the seas June 13th, 2012 9:54 AM

    Thank you for this, it was wonderful to read.

  • KimDJ June 14th, 2012 12:51 AM

    I have a 10 year old son with Asperger’s and am so thrilled to have stumbled upon your articulate and funny essay about what it means to be an Aspie. One of the biggest fears I have as a mother is whether or not he will be “okay,” that the world will accept him for who he is, because I’m of the camp who doesn’t want to “cure” him; I want the world to figure out ways to empathize with him.

    I’m sure it’s weird to have someone so “old” on here, but I’ve been following the Rookie site for some time; much of what is here takes me back to my own experiences!

    Anyway, Maggie, I know that your brother is intensely private, but I do hope that he one day feels he can share his own thoughts on being an Aspie (here or elsewhere). I’m always looking forward to more of this, and considering how self-aware you are, I can imagine that he’s just as thoughtful (albeit probably more blunt, like my son) and articulate as you are.

  • Mello June 15th, 2012 3:29 PM

    Thankyou for this…as someone with asperger’s its nice to be able to talk about it openly with people who understand.

  • Lolly June 16th, 2012 2:19 PM

    I was an Aspie BFF. In this particular case, I became kind of a punching bag for all the stress and issues my BFF had. There was nothing reciprocal going on and it stopped being a proper friendship. It went on for ages and nearly ruined both of us until I set some boundaries. So now I guess I’m an Aspie F. There’s a bigger group of us now, and I think that works better.

  • A. June 18th, 2012 6:16 PM

    Maggie, I just want to thank you for writing this. After I randomly found this, I have spent about 24 hours of the last three days reading and watching youtube stuff on aspergers, and .. it explains EVERYTHING weird I have ever said or done or felt or whatever. I’ll have to have a serious talk with someone.. But thanks. If it wasn’t for this I would never have known about the “girl version” of aspies.

  • karastarr32 June 30th, 2012 3:00 AM

    I just decided to read this again a bit randomly and I was like.. Wait. Is Maggie describing me? I haven’t been diagnosed with anything… My mum’s not big on that sorta stuff, plus she thought I might get diagnosed with ADHD…. But yeah, everything that was just said was me, me, me.

  • pinkpal1992 July 3rd, 2012 4:52 PM

    this story is really good and i relate to it so much, my friend gave me the link to this

  • trickerie July 27th, 2012 8:29 AM

    thankyou so much. this means a lot to me! i, myself, don’t have aspergers syndrome but my younger brother does.

    he’s currently in seventh grade in high school (different schooling system from the u.s!). the transition from elementary to high school has been stressful for both my family and him. he is widely liked by his peers and teachers however his aspergers syndrome gets in the way of socially bonding with them. his friends from elementary are now distancing themselves from him because “he simply doesn’t talk to them”.

    they don’t understand his condition but i hope that his peers have an endless amount of determination and patience with him (though that’s a lot to expect from twelve-year olds). he spends his class time, recess and lunchtimes alone often retreating to the library. he is just overflowing with facts and queries about bizarre thoughtful things he would’ve read. my biggest fear is that he’ll get bullied as his time in high school wears on especially without a friend to support him.

    i don’t usually pour my heart out like this so i’m sorry if i sound so sappy! and over-sharing! i feel like i have no one to share this with because no one else other than family truly understands, or has the interest in understanding, his condition.

  • Margarite August 18th, 2012 5:29 AM

    I loved your piece and was not surprised, scrolling down to the photo, that it’s just like a dress I had and loved to shreds :)

    You’re spot on about the social mimicry, I mastered that eventually (making sure to take good role models, natch). I had to pretty much teach myself to be “human”, and am immensely proud of my achievement. The thing I feel guilty about though, is, my husband doesn’t know that I have Aspergers. Occasionally the syndrome has come up in conversation and I’ve wondered, is he waiting for me to come out with it? I don’t think he’d mind…it’s just that, like you said, I don’t want my personality to be thought of as a disorder.

    To every Aspie girl out there, hold your head high – I believe we have certain advantages <3

  • broderieanglais August 21st, 2012 9:05 AM

    My brother has aspergers and he is yet to find an aspie BFF which is sad for him and my family as he is lonely and doesn’t go out much. This article is very interesting and I just wish more people would try and understand aspies :)

  • gossamerquietthing June 6th, 2013 12:07 AM

    My dad and sister and the boy who boards with my family all have Aspergers, so I’ve grown up with various levels of Aspergers all around me. I like this article because I’m so close to my sister and this article, really, is her. Thank you :)