On December 2, I read “Imagine A World Where Aspergers Was The Norm“. I really enjoyed viewing the things that are often referred to as Aspie struggles from a different point of view.
I especially liked, “Teens who live for the mall are not as cool as those who read, write, draw, invent and play instruments all day. People who feel the need to dress like others are conformist and unimaginative. Girls who spend hours a day straightening their hair are recommended for counseling. People who never rock or squeal in public are considered repressed. People who talk about what other people are up to are gossips, while those who monologue are fountains of knowledge to be shared by anyone who cares to listen.”
I was more in line with the Aspie teen then the NT teens when I was a teenager. It would be nice if people could see all of the wonderful talents and beautiful traits of the Aspies that I know instead of being distracted by “odd” behaviors. As I read this article, for a moment, I thought, “The world would be better place!”
I was so struck by this article that when my husband had our evening off together, I brought up the idea. Eventually, the conversation turned to talking about why in the NT world we think we need all the empty niceties.
“They aren’t empty niceties,” my husband said.
“Yes they are,” I contended, “I say, ‘how are you?’ and reply, ‘Fine’ to the same question without really meaning it or thinking about it.”
“But we, as humans, we have developed those social rituals through time as a way to enable us to connect and promote community and make us stronger, as a species. If we hadn’t learned to be superficially polite, we may never have bonded as well as we did and developed the strength we have through our communities today that allow us to think we don’t need empty niceties,” my husband explained.
I had to admit he had a point. We – Nuerotypicals – may not be as completely open in the NT world as in the Aspie world, but there is a purpose to those niceties. They are the way in which we meet the need in each of us to feel acknowledged when we connect with each other. We each need to feel that we matter and are needed.
So, “how are you?” – we extend the olive branch to another human. Even if we don’t really care, it is quicker then saying, “I acknowledge that you exist and matter and that interaction with you in this moment is some small way helpful to my survival.”
In response we say, “Fine, thanks.” – accepting that olive branch and opening the door to interact further. These Empty Niceties are not as empty as would first seem.
I am willing to acknowledge that sometimes we tend to think too highly of our social niceties, particularly when we are younger (middle school, high school). Unfortunately, we reject people who might have a lot to offer because of their disinterest in our game. I think we as humans have to remember that it is beneficial to take a second look even if a person is “awkward” because they probably have something amazing to offer.
In the meantime, I will coach my Aspie son on the social rules, not because his inability to pick up on them is a flaw or because playing by those rules is “better” but because I want people to give him a second look – to see the real him. I think it is important for Daniel to be bi-lingual – fluent in the Nuero-typical language too.