I will now continue the discussion from my last post, that is, how my autism has impacted my ability to date and find romance. I ended by admitting my ignorance of such matters when I was in junior high and how I didn’t really know what to do when I started developing crushes on girls. Moreover, I wasn’t sure how to react with my classmates finding out I had a crush on a particular girl and how some of the little advice I got from them was next to useless. I wasn’t about to ask for clarification from anyone either. This idea may have been somewhere in the back of my mind, but I never really seriously considered it. If you’ve read my first post Settling For What I Had you know that I found it (and maybe still do to a certain extent) extremely difficult to confide in anyone, especially my peers, about what I actually thought and to try to become closer friends with them.
I was also a little bit frustrated with what I was learning in school at the time in health class about relationships and sexuality. While I do think that when kids reach their teen years, they should be taught how one should know of all the risks and STIs that are out there when two people are trying to decide if they should have sex, you should know how one gets into a relationship to begin with. I remember touching on the various levels of seriousness that relationship can be, but I don’t think there were any specific instructions on how to achieve any one of those levels. I have a very structured and logical mind and love things to be precise. Yet what I learned about relationships in class was far from this. As well, while math class was enjoyable, it also frustrated me that I had to listen to stuff that I had already learned on my own. Why did things I already know have to be reiterated to me, while certain things I didn’t know, simply weren’t taught in the classroom?
Now, to be fair, I liked all my teachers and I’m sure they were following the curriculum. Also, I think I was the about the only one in class who was autistic and had these kinds of difficulties with relationships and friendships in general. So who knows? Maybe my kind of specific instructions on how to get into relationships would’ve bored the rest of the class much like math class was for me! Again, it all comes down to us all having unique strengths and weakness and how a utopian world where everyone could be accommodated 100% isn’t exactly applicable.
Everything came to a hit in my life when that crush I had on that girl that everyone found out about grew even deeper to the point when I actually started calling her from my house. This was after classmates had encouraged me to ask her to a couple of dances, which I did, though she couldn’t because she had other plans. It broke my heart after all this when I discovered she already had a boyfriend for almost as long as I had known her. Though I had considered this possibility before, I was so sure that my classmates’ encouragement made this seem rather unlikely and it came as a sort of blow. From this experience, I derived two new rules for dating:
Rule #2: In junior high at least, even if classmates encourage you to approach someone you have a crush on, even if they are your crush’s friends, does not make it any more likely that your crush is single.
Rule #3: It is perfectly permissible, in junior at least, for a boy and girl to go to a school dance together as prom dates, but for the girl to have a boyfriend who’s not the boy she’s going with to the dance.
Even though the girl never went to the dances with me, she wasn’t sure at first so I know there was still the possibility of her going with me so it’s for that reason that Rule #3 was still obvious to me.
Along the way, another rule that became evident to me was the following. It wasn’t evident to me until the end of junior high. The reasons for this aren’t exactly clear in my head, but involved some reflecting on my experience in junior high, reading a YA novel that portrayed dating, and my crush on that girl developing so rapidly, I was willing to try anything.
Rule #4: In order to get a girl to be your girlfriend, you had to ask her out.
I wished I had known this rule for when I first met the girl. If I had, there might’ve been a chance I could’ve had a relationship with her before her boyfriend did. But while this new piece of information could be put to use, it led to an error in thinking about relationships, particularly where I have a precise black/white logical mind. It led me to the erroneous notion that relationships were basically like an on/off switch. You want a particular girl to be your girlfriend? Okay, go ask her out. That’s all there was to it.
Which I perfectly well know today is pretty far from the truth when it comes to relationships and only started becoming evident to me when I looked up dating in my high school library and actually read a little more about it. Right before then, however, I actually asked out a lot of girls whom I had become acquaintances with and got all negative replies for reasons ranging from ‘already have a boyfriend’ to ‘simply not interested’. I’m also not exactly proud of the fact that my ‘on/off switch’ thinking actually got me to ask out one or two girls whom I had hardly talked to at all beforehand. While they simply rejected me, I’m glad there were no further consequences to this mistake. Hence when I looked up dating in high school library I learned another rule:
Rule #5: In order to ask you a girl you have a crush on, get to know them more than a little bit first.
A sixth rule that I learned about dating is the following:
Rule #6: Two people who are dating usually do not tell each other “I love you” unless their relationship has reached a certain level of seriousness.
You’ll laugh the way I figured out this rule. It partially came from a book publisher. Let me explain. When I had written my first novel, I was actually lucky enough to meet a publisher face-to-face three summers ago when I was doing some labor work in a town. He agreed to look at my manuscript and several weeks later, he returned it saying I was very talented writer, but couldn’t publish the book because of a few things he thought were wrong with it. The book featured two teenagers who while trying to find out a connection between their families fall in love and end up dating. The publisher thought the relationship developed too fast and that he doubted even tweens would say ‘I love you’ before holding hands. Then the message finally clicked in when I was watching The Big Bang Theory over a year ago and I was watching an episode where Penny was making a big deal about Leonard telling her “I love you”. I then revised my novel so that the relationship in it developed at a slower pace.
So what have all these years of trial and error taught me about dating relationships? Here’s a list:
- If you develop a crush on a girl, get to know her more first.
- Ask her to go on a date. If she says yes, great. If she says no, move on.
- Go out on more dates and let the relationship develop at its own pace.
- Never tell your partner an “I love you” until you are very emotionally intimate.
It has been a kind of adventure in a way and it’s certainly not at its end. While I do wish I could’ve learned some of this in a classroom-like setting instead of bumping my way around in the dark, I’ve actually come to like the adventure and in the meantime be happy with myself as a single person. I’ve made a few mistakes and I expect I’ll make more in the future. After all, it’s like what Thomas Edison said: “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work”.