For those of you unfamiliar with the term ‘NT’ it means ‘neurotypical’, and refers to “normal” people, people not on the spectrum. As a consistent observer of daily NT behaviour, I have come to the conclusion that NTs can say some pretty odd things, things that rival even the weird stuff aspies come up with. These are the top five that I’ve taken note of.
1. “You take things way too literally.”
No I don’t, has it ever occurred to you that you take things way too figuratively? How do people manage to make the huge cognitive leap from hearing, “they were thick as thieves” to understanding, “they spent a lot of time together”? It’s not even a matter of rote memorisation, because NTs seem to instinctively know the meaning of idioms they’ve never heard before without having to ask about them. I find this a fascinating trait.
2. “How are you?”
I’m fine. Exactly the same as when you asked me yesterday… or this morning… or twenty minutes ago. The NT fascination with knowing precisely how someone is doing at any given moment is quite curious, though not as curious as the NT fascination with asking how people are, and then expecting that they receive a rote non-answer such as, “Fine.” It doesn’t matter if a meteor crashed through your roof last night, when people ask how you are, they expect you to say you’re fine, even if they happen to know that said meteor crashed through your roof, and that logically speaking, you should not be fine. I’ve learned to blend in and give the expected response, though the ritualistic requirements of this repeated nonsensical social exchange border on autistic repetitiveness and obsession with asking the same question over and over and over, if you want to know the truth. Similarly redundant statements include, “How was your day?”, “What’s new?” and “It’s nice to meet you.” (Even if it wasn’t, I have to say it was, thereby making the statement meaningless.)
3. “I like you” when I don’t
I have recently learned from my sophomore-in-high-school sister that there are social protocols whereby you pretend to like people you hate so they don’t get mad at you and back-stab you for threatening their popularity. I went through four years at two different high schools, and was never once aware of this protocol. I find it intriguing to watch my sister approach someone she knows from school with a big smile and a, “How are you?” only to turn around as soon as the person leaves and say, “I really don’t like her.” Apparently if she were to ignore the person, this would be an even bigger threat to said person’s popularity, and could, I understand, incite a war.
This is not just an adolescent phenomenon. I have been around many people who pretend to be nice to someone right up until they leave, or, equally strangely, say things about their friends they would never say to their faces. This practise makes me very wary of the sorts of things my friends say about me when I’m not around.
4. Anything but “I like you” when I do
This occurrence is equally curious; people have elaborate “mating rituals” whereby they do and say things that express their affection, in the hope that the object of those affections notices their display. My sister says it’s because just saying, “I like you” is too blunt, and frankly, uncool. Unfortunately for the socially impaired, and those who want to court them, such abstract roundabout advances often go unnoticed, or unrecognised for what they are. Case in point: I have recently been informed that my friend, my friend’s mother, and my friend’s friend were all blatantly aware of a boy who had been sending “peacock vibes” my way for a considerable period. Guess who was the only person who missed it? Yeah…. So, long story short, sometimes to get what you want, you have to be a little more bat-to-the-head about it, especially when dealing with your average aspie.
5. “Oh, autism, yeah I’ve heard of that, so what are you, like, Rainman or something?”
Um, no. Just… no. First off, Rainman was based on an intellectually disabled savant who didn’t even have autism, second, the majority of autistics are way higher functioning than that. Third, I just told you, with my own words, that I’m autistic, ergo I am not like the virtually nonverbal Rainman, thank you. For the sake of the autistic community, that film needs to just go away. That is all.
So, a few things worth pondering; turns out straight-forward language isn’t so straight-forward after all.
*Thanks to my dad for helping me come up with this topic 🙂