Dating Is Fucking Hard

by dpreyde

Here’s an excerpt from the book I’m writing about how to survive high school with Asperger’s Syndrome. I got some fantastic feedback from an editor yesterday, who said it’s almost ready to send to a publisher. This excerpt is- as you can see from the title- about the challenges of dating.

Because of the developmental stage you’re in, your cheese has slipped off the cracker. You are not fully sane, and you won’t be until you’re at least twenty. Everyone in your dating pool is in the same situation. This by itself makes dating extraordinarily difficult.

So hey, why not compound that with the complications of having a cognitive disability? Relationships are all about communication. They’re about communicating your wants, needs, and desires, and listening to another person communicate the same stuff. Relationships are a collaborative endeavor in which you and your partner are working together to create a situation that you both find safe and stimulating.

Unfortunately, you have a communication disability, and the way you feel things is different than the way a lot of people feel things.

This doesn’t mean that you can’t or shouldn’t date. Just think of it as a fun challenge. After all, you’ve been through a lot of shit already, and at least going through this shit might lead somewhere nice.

When you’re dating someone, the most important thing you’ve got to remember is to try your best to communicate with them. If you don’t know how to get a particular thought across, tell them that, then try anyway. If you don’t understand something they tell you, tell them that. You’ll have to work hard, but if you find the right person, you won’t be working alone.

In high school, I was working alone.

At the start of grade eleven, I fell fast and hard for my good friend Skye. She was a goofy hippie, earnest and well-meaning. Skye wanted desperately to fit in and be popular, but was deeply eccentric in the best possible way. I saw that she’d never be able to fit in, and that if she did, she’d have to lose her essential Skyeness. This would have been a tragedy, but Skye didn’t realize that. She just wanted people to like her, and didn’t like all the wonderful parts of herself that other people couldn’t accept.

I don’t want it to sound like she was perfect. She was so afraid of rejection that she was overly defensive around people, and came off as cold and aloof. Skye also passionately believed in a wide range of bullshit conspiracy theories. She believed that man had never landed on the moon, that food companies were experimenting on their customers, that the United States was controlling the weather.

You can see what would have been lost if Skye had been able to compromise herself; the world needs people like her in order to be an interesting place. But that didn’t make her any easier to be around.

What really bothered me is that Skye was bothered by my eccentricities in addition to her own. She never accepted me for who I am.

She convinced me to get a new hairstyle, tried to change my wardrobe, and seemed uncomfortable and exasperated with some of my social challenges.

Both of us knew what we wanted in a relationship, but we were both truly terrible at communicating that. We were both so afraid of rejection that we felt we couldn’t express what we wanted. Because if the other person wanted something different, what would happen? Skye and I, like most people, wanted to belong with someone else. And we sacrificed everything else we wanted in order to get that.

In addition to all the other obstacles we encountered, I was experiencing some serious mental health problems at the time. I was struggling with undiagnosed P.T.S.D. (post-traumatic stress disorder; lots of panic attacks, guilt, shame, disturbing thoughts. Not recommended) as well as my first ever encounter with S.A.D. (seasonal affective disorder).

Seasonal affective disorder is not fun. It happens during the winter and makes you sad and lethargic. But I didn’t know what it was or that I had it, so all of a sudden everything seemed dank and grey and like the wattage of the sun had been cranked down and I had no idea what was happening.

Skye and I circled each other from October to November, and finally got around to dating in December. I remember a strange blend of feelings: fatigue, anxiety, hope, romantic attraction, happiness, fear, exasperation.

I remember going Christmas shopping with Skye on the Danforth and in downtown Toronto. I remember going to the Royal Ontario Museum with her, and her affectionately body slamming me into a wall.

The whole thing went south fast. It ended after five weeks, and for the last week she didn’t talk to me.

If we’d figured out how to talk to each other, I believe it could have worked. We’d at least have managed to remain friends.

But it’s hard to date someone if you don’t care for them, and it’s almost impossible to care for somebody else if you don’t like yourself. And it’s hard to date someone when you’re dealing with untreated mental problems.

It was always uphill for us, and we didn’t make it.

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