Extemporary Sanity

“In individuals, insanity is rare; but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule.” ― Friedrich Nietzsche

How to Be Socially Awkward or What I Learned In Social Skills Class

Over the years many people have “explained” the autism spectrum to me for which I owe them a debt of gratitude.  Without their thoughtful help I would never have guessed that I was cognitively impaired and lacked empathy.  Who knew that I would never grasp the subtleties of language or concepts, like irony, sarcasm or satire?

More than anything, though, I deeply appreciate how their expertise helped to blend in flawlessly in social situations. Rather than just staying at home and doing things that make me happy, like reading or writing about subjects I like, (being socially isolated and fixated on obsessive interests), I can instead engage in meaningless conversation with people who I don’t know well or like very much (socialize appropriately).   I have a whole list of conversation starters in my pocket and I’m ready to mingle baby!

There’s only one snag that I have run into so far, the fact that apart from other Autistic people, nobody else has had social skills training. Time and again I seem to encounter people who have not learned that when I approach them, (with a smile and good eye contact, making sure that my body is facing them and I am standing at an appropriate distance), that they are supposed to turn toward me and pause their conversation so that I can use one of the “openings” that I diligently practiced.  They also don’t know that they are supposed to warmly welcome me when I toss out, (in a carefully slowed down and not overly-loud voice),  my “Hey guys” or “What are you guys doing?”  Amazingly enough, some of them even seem to find this type of thing a little awkward, or even creepy, coming from a complete stranger.

I’m sure that it has nothing at all to do with anything like the realistic quality of the scripted conversations that I memorized.  After all, they were created by  experts who clearly must have known a great deal about the dynamics of social interaction – especially back when I was a teen attempting to interact with other teens and those experts were so much older and wiser.  I suppose I’ll just have to chalk it up to coincidence.  It’s not that I have been systematically taught to be even more socially awkward than I already was, it’s simply that everyone who I have ever approached and been rejected by has been an undiagnosed autistic person in need of appropriate social skills training.

The Inspirational Meme: How to Disrespect Disabled People From the Comfort of Home

How can you disrespect disabled individuals, misquote historical figures and show cute pictures of puppies and kitties all at the same time? By creating an inspirational meme of course!  After all, what are disabled people and kitties for if not to inspire able-bodied individuals to get up off their asses and achieve?

Do you have a bad attitude?  Well, rather than sitting down and seriously contemplating how you could find more meaning in your existence,  just check out a picture of a cute kid with Down Syndrome. Wouldn’t it suck to be her? And look – she’s so happy!  So what’s wrong with you?  It doesn’t matter that it doesn’t really suck to be a person with Down Syndrome at all, or that her role in life is not to make sure that you get up off the couch and make it to the gym today.   All that matters is the INSPIRATION that it brings you.

Today I saw possibly the best example of this phenomenon to date.  It was a a meme with a quote by Helen Keller.  Helen Keller, as most know, was a woman worthy of respect, an intelligent woman, a writer, an educator in her own right.  The quote was thoughtful and relevant at her own time and in our own.  The tag line accompanying this quote?  “If Helen Keller could “see” this – nobody else has a good excuse not to.”   Allow me to paraphrase – Dude, this chick was BLIND and DEAF and even SHE knew this.  WTF man?!  The brilliance of it – actually using a historical figure who was disabled to devalue disabled people – is unmatched.  Of course the creator erred in that she accurately quoted Ms. Keller, but that’s easily correctable.   I think that if they can just find a good picture of her holding a puppy it will be absolutely perfect.

So, how can you too inspire others while patronizing disabled people? Start by finding a person with an obvious disability.  None of that “hidden disability” crap unless it’s somebody famous.  The more disabled the better.  Then make sure not to mention their name so that you can assure that people only see the disability and not the individual.  Then point out that if someone like this can actually get through life everyday, and possibly even achieve something, then somebody “normal” should certainly be able to.  Simple.  And don’t forget – work the puppy in somehow.