One of the ways Aspies often describe ourselves is as a aliens, strangers in a strange land, or simply “Oops, wrong planet!” It’s an attempt to describe how we have a lot of problems fitting into a non-autistic world. I’ve seen a t-shirt on Cafe Press that declares, “Spock was not a Vulcan. He was autistic, with pointy ears.” A book for women married to Aspie men is called Loving Mr. Spock.
I think the problem is that I am actually not an alien. Or, if I am, I am an alien who looks exactly like everyone else. I don’t have pointy ears. I don’t have green skin. It’s as if I’ve landed on a planet where I look and, mostly, sound the same as everyone else, and no one can tell I’m an alien. Most people expect me to act like they do, and they don’t understand why I don’t. They don’t know that I’m on the wrong planet.
It doesn’t take long for people to realize that I’m different. “Hey,” they think, “this woman isn’t quite like me. In fact, she’s not quite like anyone I know.” Sometimes I think it’s that “not quiteness” that bothers people. Maybe if I were completely and totally different from other people, then they wouldn’t expect me to act like everyone else and be so caught off-guard when I don’t. I don’t get their jokes. Maybe I don’t even realize that they are meant to be jokes. Someone asks me how I am, and I answer, “Fine,” but I forget to ask, “And how are you?” in return. The clothes I’m wearing were chosen not because they’re fashionable, but because they’re comfortable. I don’t want to talk about the Kardashian sisters or the Real Housewives or who was voted off what reality show. But if you want to talk about Star Trek…. Unfortunately, not very many people do, unless you’re at a science fiction convention or have the good fortune to work with a lot of geeks. (And where you find geeks, you’ll probably find Aspies.)
When I was going to college a few years ago, two of my closest friends were from Japan and Korea. They didn’t have any preconceived notions of how Canadians were supposed to act. I imagine that to them, anyone not from their home country was “different.” I was no more different than anyone else. Kumiko and Yun Ji were more accepting of me than many of my fellow Canadians have been.
An Aspie friend of mine told me that he had a similar experience when he spent a few years teaching school on a First Nations reserve. Being white, he was automatically considered to be “different.” He wasn’t a native; therefore, he was different. While he was there, he had the freedom to be himself, because he didn’t have to try to pretend that he wasn’t different.
This is why Asperger social groups are important. When I’m at my Aspie group, I can be myself without worrying that I’m saying the wrong thing, using the wrong fork, asking the wrong question or not asking the right question. It doesn’t matter if my hair is a mess or I have a food stain on my shirt. I don’t have to worry that I’ve taken something literally that is not meant to be taken that way, because with Aspies, what other way is there to take something?
When I am with my fellow Aspies, it’s like I’ve finally landed on the right planet. Don’t beam me up, Mr. Scott; I like it down here.