A blog advocating autism through my own personal experiences and insights.

Archive for the ‘Literal/Logical Thinking’ Category

A New Strategy of Coping with Uncertainty

Life is full of surprises. It’s an old saying, but rings true regardless. Sometimes these surprises are pleasant, sometimes not so. When unpleasant events occur, especially when they were unexpected, it can lead to worry and havoc. This is again another example of how my black-and-white autistic mind naturally works. It has a difficult time coping with uncertainty because of this. If say a term at university doesn’t go well for me or at least not as well as I had expected, then I begin to worry and think about all the possible negative consequences that could arise from this.

But the future can hold anything. There is no way to absolutely guarantee that a desired outcome will occur. A lot of these factors are just outside your control. Examples would be which university accepts you into a given program and what kinds of relationships you form and how well you integrate with the people in your community. As someone who has a tendency to want things to be certain, I can certainly have a hard time accepting such things and often waste time worrying about what the future holds for me and how many of my current problems will end up being solved and if so in what time frame (days, weeks, months, even years).

I have heard of other strategies of coping with this. Some people trust in a higher power. They also comfort themselves that whatever happens, happens for a reason and you have to make the best of it. While this does help for me, I find that I need something extra. I also think I know what that extra piece of strategy is. It comes down to my love of writing fiction and my love of stories. Because that’s basically what my life is: a story with me as the protagonist (as well as a whole cast of colourful supporting secondary characters haha). But if this is the case, then why would I need to know what’s going to happen in my life tomorrow, next week, or a few years down the road? Why would I want to know? Knowing ahead of time will only kill the suspense! This is how I combat my feelings of need to hold on to some kind of certainty. I combat this by pointing out to myself how boring my story would be if I knew for certain what was going to happen!

Viewing my life in such a way, helps me calm down and relax and not worry about what’s going to happen. It also releases stress from areas that aren’t going nearly as well. Again, to be a good story my life has to have a lot of conflict in it and conflict of all varieties. At the end of the day, you can only do what you can do to help increase your odds to strive for your goals and solve your problems and let the world do the rest and create your story.

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Training My Mind

I have learned a new technique to dealing with being a perfectionist and in general to dealing with the kind of black/white mind my autism has given me. It is a very effective mental technique that helps my mind adapt to the world around it. It is simply training my mind. I have to train my mind to not have the automatic thoughts that are associated when something goes less than perfect in my life. Let me give probably the biggest example of this.

I hate being criticised. When someone criticises me, the thoughts that grow through my mind are “You didn’t reach your full potential” or “There is someone better than you”. Such thoughts can be very detrimental, especially since my mind in its natural state has trouble seeing subjectivity and see something as correct or incorrect. Sometimes when I’m criticised, I can even freeze up and can’t do anything productive for an hour or two (such times only happen now and then fortunately). I have, however, just recently talked with a friend who has perfectionistic tendencies herself and she has used the technique of training her mind out of these automatic thoughts and found it very effective. This weekend, I tried doing the same, and I’m finding it with a big relief that it works.

Whenever I’m in an imperfect situation and let my mind wander where it wants to, it will inevitably go to the ‘negative’ of the situation, the characteristic(s) that are making the situation imperfect. What I do here is shift my thoughts out of the ‘negative’. This is by no means something that comes natural to me and it requires persistence and perseverance to get right. With a little effort, however, I find that it can be done. It requires getting rid of some previous thoughts like there is something ‘bad’ about being criticised and replacing it with thoughts like “I will allow the world to criticise me, regardless if how much or how little the criticism is justified and how harsh the criticism sounds”. After all, people respond in speech on impulses and emotional cues, so if they have a reaction (positive or negative) to something you have done or said, it may not be completely justified or at least not phrased in the most appropriate way. For example, when I’m criticised, sometimes it can sound like the criticizer is being very harsh when they do not mean to sound that harsh and are only offering the criticism as a way to help me improve (and they certainly don’t want me to freeze up for a couple of hours and having me feel stupid).

It’s training my mind to get rid of these automatic thoughts and to replace these with other thoughts that is helping my black/white mind appreciate the shades of grey there are in the world, especially dealing with such things as subjectivity and emotion. And as I continue to adapting, the more human I’m feeling.

Choices regarding Sexual Frustration

As I grow older, the more I’m finding out about the world around me. I’ve had very inaccurate conceptions of what the world is and in this post I would like to share an example of just that. Of course, this isn’t the first time in this blog that I’ve done so, but this one is certainly major and I believe it deserves attention to.

It all began four years ago when I was about to turn twenty. As I’ve told about in previous posts like any guy my age I had and continue to have a lot of sexual frustration. Four years ago this all came to a head and something happened. I started doing (gasp!) the following activity: looking at pornography.

I can hear the peanut gallery now. So what? What young boy in this age hasn’t seen pornography??

But that’s the point I’m making here. I didn’t know guys my age were into this stuff. Sure I heard about it like on TV shows and such, but the concept of pornography was always treated with such negativity (at least that’s what it seemed to me) that I had automatically dumped it into the ‘bad’ category and really thought nothing of it. It’s just another example of how my autistic mind works and comes with my perfectionistic traits. Everything is either good or bad with no in between. Well, perhaps I did have some notion of shades of grey, but it wasn’t as deep as I thought it was. That is, until four years ago when I started looking at porn myself. I thus started to freak out.

I knew porn was accessible on the internet. When my sexual frustration had reached a peak four years ago, I started to rationalise why I would look at it. Why not? No one would know. No one has access to my laptop except me so just as long as I kept it a secret, it wouldn’t matter. Afterwards, however, as I said I started to freak out and my black/white mind had trouble reconciling this behaviour with the good person I was. I thus went to see a counsellor about it and lo behold it didn’t turn out to be as big a deal as I thought it was and I walked out totally as peace myself. I continued to watch porn, but I don’t much anymore because it got boring and clichéd after a while and it’s never interfered with my life since that session with the counsellor.

A related example of how my black/white mind operates happened a year later. I met a girl who was a student at Acadia like me. I forget how it happened exactly, but we started talking about relationships and sex. She revealed to me how she had a boyfriend and broke up after having sex with him and then went on to say how a lot of teenagers have sex. This was news to me. I knew that the subject of sex was appearing everywhere and anywhere in the adolescent world, but I never figured that I was in the minority as being a virgin. I then confirmed all this information with another counsellor who informed me that young people having sex was indeed the norm and not only that, but a lot of them weren’t even in long-term relationships, but did one-night stands, friends with benefits, and engaged in sex with multiple partners. I remember being shocked in hearing this and started questioning her whether I could do the same. After all, why not? I bet it would take away a lot of my sexual frustration to which she replied absolutely and that my body was my body and I was free to choose to do what I wanted with it, regardless of what anyone thought.

While I knew at a subconscious level that I would never partake in this, I really couldn’t help but feel tempted. But at the end of the day, I knew I wouldn’t do it and would save it for the right girl whenever she comes along. I’m certainly in the minority when it comes to living my life this way, but I’m in the minority on a lot of things so as far as I was concerned I’m only concerned about what’s right for me.

I’ve made my choices. What are yours?

Combining My Autistic Advocacy and Writing

As a writer, deciding what to write can be difficult at times. Whether I’m wondering what to put in a blog post such as this, writing a poem, or writing a novel, it can indeed be quite challenging. When writing a novel, for example, the writer has to begin with some idea, whether it be from personal experience, a newspaper story, another story he/she’s read, etc. I certainly can find it somewhat challenging. Yet an idea has been steadily growing in my head that could indeed become useful in my fiction writing (after I finish my series of young adult mystery novels that will probably be finished in a couple of years, regardless if they get published or not).

The title of this post pretty much says it. I plan to write novels about autism (as well as math and philosophy that I elaborated on in a previous post). Writing a novel about autism is certainly something that I’ve been playing with in my head for several years. Several plot ideas came and went as to how I would go about this and as life continued, there were new experiences which were deeply impacted by my having autism. In the beginning, I was probably influenced by the novel The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon, which has an autistic protagonist who was in some ways similar to me, in other ways different.

So I wanted to write a novel with an autistic protagonist. Someone who has gone through similar experiences to me. I played around in my head with what the plot should be and how it should or shouldn’t reflect upon my own experiences. I first contemplated writing a somewhat autobiographical novel, but soon my imagination toyed with how different the plot could be from my life yet still hold the themes that I wanted the work to tell.

Of course, while all this was going on, I was still working on my young adult mystery series that I want to finish up before starting something like this. While finishing the mystery series seems to be taking a bit more time than I anticipated, in truth given all that I’ve experienced I don’t think I want to write a novel about autism right away. There are several reasons for this, but the main reason is that I’d like to interact with other autistic individuals first. I’m certainly not going to write a novel based solely on my own experiences. I’d feel vain doing so and I’d like the novel to address some of the concerns of autistics at large. I’ve also gained new insights from my experiences with autism and I’d like to see if life can tell me anymore (which it probably will) about living with autism, which is party why I created this blog.

But now I have an idea that’s been brewing in my head. What if the roles were reversed? All my previous ideas involved taking place on Earth where the autistics are in the minority. What if it took place in some kind of parallel world where the autistics were in the majority and those who weren’t were in the minority?

Basically what I’m talking about here is what if there was a world, say Planet X, that was inherited by people who would be diagnosed as autistic on Earth? On Planet X being autistic wouldn’t be considered a disability. It would be considered normal (which might be a bad word here since you really can’t define normal, but you get the point). Those who wouldn’t be diagnosed as autistic on Earth would be diagnosed as disabled on Planet X.

It’s a crazy idea, but I think it’s a good one as well. It can also spin off in several directions. Questions abound immediately. What would such a world be like? Would it be better, worse, or about the same than Earth? Another question that we need to ask has to do with how the diagnosis of disabled works on Planet X. Given that autism takes in a whole range of behaviours and it’s really hard to define which behaviours constitute being autistic or not, this could be harder than it looks. While high-functioning autistic behaviours such as needing routine, structure, and literal translation can be considered normal on Planet X, what about low-functioning autistic behaviours? For example, how would Planet X distinguish between the autistic savants and those who have mental retardation? This will certainly be a problem that will have to be worked out.

While I really don’t have an answer as of yet to the second problem, I think I have a bit of an idea of the first. I’ve actually speculated about such a world in one of my earliest posts It’s All a Matter of Strengths and Weaknesses where I elaborate on the philosophy that autism is just a unique combination of strengths and weaknesses, which is no reason for thinking that autistics are any more deficient than the rest of the population.

I can already start to picture what a world would look like. Conversations would have more logic and have no figurative or double meanings. They would also go about three times as slow. People would be more honest and would almost always (if not always) have their actions and words match up. There would be no social games that you’d need to “play” in order to be friends with someone or had a crush on someone and wanted to date them. Unusual (unusual that is on Earth) body movements such as hand-flapping, rocking, finger-snapping would be in the norm. There would also be a lot less noise and crowds. People might find ways to make heavy machinery a lot less quiet and to have order (although by how much, I’m not quite sure) in large gatherings so they don’t overwhelm themselves (large gatherings would only occur if absolutely necessary to boot).

While such a world might be utopia for the autistic, it would be less suited to those who weren’t. They’d probably get in trouble a lot. They would have a weird sixth sense for body language and be noticeable for lying (when in fact they were using a double meaning). They might even be considered a “danger” to a “carefully constructed society”, especially by those who were ignorant of their condition. In fact, I think it’s quite possible that people who weren’t autistic on Planet X would have just as much a hard time as autistics on Earth and that not every autistic on Planet X would be willing to help them or understand them. Many would want to “cure” them. Such ideas may come into play for the various conflicts that’ll occur in a piece of fiction that portrays Planet X.

I’ve also tried looking up to see if any novel or story does indeed portray such a world, but I’ve yet to find one that does. If you know of any, I’d love to hear about them. Any story that portrays such a world is bound to be an interesting read.

A Need for Structure

If there’s one thing that I would like more of in my life then it would be to have closer friends. This probably won’t come to any surprise to anyone who has been reading this blog and/or has known me for at least the past year or two if not more. My efforts to get closer and to interact more with people have been both unsuccessful and successful. I’ve gotten involved with various clubs, for example, and I have even hung out with people more in an unofficial setting. Both of these are certainly true for the last four years I have been at my undergraduate university Acadia in Nova Scotia. It seems like only yesterday when I was that quiet shy junior high school student whose only solid interaction with his peers was in the classroom, and I applaud myself on how far I’ve come since then on my pursuit for social interaction.

But in the past couple of weeks I have asked myself what more I could do and have engaged in some serious self-reflection. And what I have concluded can be answered in four words: a need for structure. Structure for me is good. Structure for me is what comes natural to me. I’m good at navigating myself around a highly-structured system. If something goes wrong, I can easily see why or at least have clear decisive steps at my disposal to correct the problem. This is why I’m very good at math and logic. These subjects rely heavily on structure. If I’m given a math or logic problem, I can rationally figure out how to do it. I might make a mistake or two along the way to obtaining the solution, but if I do, I can figure out why the mistake was a mistake and how to correct it.

So what does this have to do with my weaknesses in social interaction and making friends? The answer is almost too obvious. Because the making of friendships don’t occur in highly-structured systems. Most situations of social interactions aren’t structured (at least not to a degree I find satisfactory).

I will illustrate with an example to help explain the degree of ‘structuredness’ that I desire. The example is math club in high school. The point that I want to make has nothing to do with the fact that the club solved math problems to competed in regional and provincial math leagues. The point I want to make is that the organization itself of the club was highly structured. We all divided up into groups of four and spent a specific amount of time trying to solve each problem (I think it was five minutes). We then did relays where each group of four would line themselves up in a line and each would work on an individual problem that would depend on the answer(s) to the problems that the others in front of them in the line would have. As soon as the last person in the line was done and everything would be answered, he or she would pass the answer sheet to the proctor. If it was correct, the relay was finished, and if at least one of the answers was wrong, then the proctor would simply pass it back, not saying what the answer was. And if one of the individuals in the relay thought one the previous answers was wrong, he would pass it forward.

What do I like about this arrangement? The structure. The activities done here are highly-structuralized. Now I’m not saying that I’d desire if all communication was done this way. All I’m saying is that the communication in these activities was simple and straightforward and there was no degree of uncertainty or subjectivity of what someone was trying to communicate.

In the real world, however, the opposite is true. There’s a lot of subjectivity, vagueness, and a lot of ways to interpret something, whether it be literally or figuratively. And there’s social conventions as well. I just see a big mess. When I try to figure out how conversing works and how people end up becoming friends as a result, I see very little structure. I’ve already illustrated this point in a couple of previous posts, namely Figuring Out the Dating Game Part 1(https://acceptingdifferences.wordpress.com/2011/08/02/figuring-out-the-dating-game-part-1/) and Figuring Out the Dating Game Part 2 (https://acceptingdifferences.wordpress.com/2011/08/05/figuring-out-the-dating-game-part-2/) where I describe how over a period of years I tried to apply my logical mind to figure out how dating relationships work and how I then listed everything I found out in terms of logical rules.

As another example, I would like to take the character of Sheldon Cooper off of the T.V. show The Big Bang Theory. In an episode in season 2, Sheldon wanted to make friends with his unlikeable colleague Kripke at the university he was working at. While his reason for doing so had nothing to do with wanting to have more friends (I think it was only because he thought that Kripke only allowed his ‘friends’ to use a computer lab or something), how he went about trying to be friends with Kripke is completely illustrative of how I think. He looked at a child’s storybook in a bookstore and managed to deduce from it the rules of making friends that the storybook was conveying. He then drew those rules into a big flow chart into how he could become friends with Kripke. What ultimately happened was that he ended doing indoor rock-climbing with Kripke, though it ended up freaking him out (rock-climbing was really only the least objectionable activity that Sheldon agreed to do with Kripke).

As yet another example, I attended something of a social get-together for young people with disabilities in Waterloo. I saw a poster for it at the university, though it had nothing to do with the university itself. I contacted one of the leaders about it. While she was very pleased that I had shown interest, she warned me that since I was high-functioning autistic that the event probably wouldn’t be highly-structured. I was very touched that she had replied like this (I think it was the catalyst of me recognizing just how much I relied on structure), but agreed to go anyway since it couldn’t hurt. I envisioned a group having conversations that I would fall behind in because no rules would be in play (a situation I’ve been in many times before). As it turned out, the group was structured to my liking. Instead of random conversations happening all over the place, what happened was that we played a couple of games that made us get to know each other more. We each took turns in naming three things about ourselves where two of them would be true and the other false and we had to guess what the false one was. The other game was taking random questions out of a hat and answering them. It was through structured games like these that I was able to interact and enjoy being there.

Even in my facebook texting I show some of my love for structure. If someone’s online that I think I’d like to talk to, I just message them, saying, ‘Hi (name inserted here)’. They then greet me back and I say, “How’s it going?” unless I have something specific on my mind I want to talk about. And after texting for a while and I don’t want to anymore, I usually say, “Well, I’ll let you go now”, maybe adding a reason such as wanting to write my novel or go to bed. I’ll then wait for them respond, and then we say our goodbyes.

In my last post I discussed a lot about accommodating myself, though I’m still trying to come up with ways to accommodate myself for this need for structure. I will, however, be pursuing social interactions regardless (of course). One guarantee that this recognition for a need for structure has done for me, however, is that it has led to far more self-appreciation than I ever felt. Now that I’m aware of what my main obstacle is when it comes to social interactions and it’s really built into me by the way I’m designed as an autistic individual, I no longer feel all that depressed of not having that many close friends. Instead, I love myself for wanting to have closer friends and doing the absolute best that I can do to try to obtain them. I feel more complete. And I think feeling more complete and self-appreciation is indeed a firm step forward in obtaining friends to begin with. In order to love others, you must love yourself.

Figurative Interpretation

My parents were driving me up to grad school to the University of Waterloo in Waterloo, Ontario a few days ago. Besides being excited at being a graduate student in mathematics at one of the best (if not the best) university for math in Canada, I would like mention an incident that happened on our way up. It was a long drive (I’m from Nova Scotia) and we stopped at two places on the way up. On our second day, we were stuck in the car for twelve hours going from Fredericton, New Brunswick all the way to Brockville, Ontario! Anyway, we were on the highway and at some point we got behind a big line up of vehicles that were going slower than they should’ve been, and Dad made the comment that there was probably some clown at the very front of the parade of vehicles that had decided to go slow and was holding up the traffic.

At this point, I just felt like laughing out, but did my best to keep it under control. I do realise that traffic situations like these can have bad consequences (someone could do something silly) and aren’t exactly laughing matters. Nevertheless, I found Dad’s comment hilarious because of how I interpreted his comment. While I realise that the person in front of the huge lineup probably wasn’t literally a clown, the way I interpret figurative language first involves picturing the literal meaning of the statement in question and then applying it to the situation. So here, for example, when Dad said ‘some clown’ was holding up the traffic, I first pictured a clown at the front of the line who had decided to go slow. I pictured the clown as being dressed in colourful clothing and having the white makeup over his face as well as coloured make up around his mouth. I pictured him without a care in the world (certainly not caring about holding up traffic) and it was this picture that mainly gave me the desire to laugh.

When someone uses figurative language like this (even if I know what they’re saying isn’t to be taken literally), I do picture it in my mind when comparing it to the situation at hand. In the above example with the clown, once I have the literal image of a clown, it is easy to make the comparison between it and a person who makes a senseless decision.

Another example I’ll use is the old expression, “It’s raining cats and dogs.” First I picture cats and dogs falling out of the sky. And then a split-second later, I picture the combined mass of all those cats and dogs being converted into rain drops and I can tell that the rain is extremely heavy! When I was very young (less than five years old), I remember thinking that the statement meant it was raining on cats and dogs. I think this was because since my mind has a tendency to take things literally, the only realistic scenario involving both animals and rain was that it was raining on the animals. Later on I found out this wasn’t the case though.

The same goes with other common expressions such as “barked up the wrong tree” and “take a hike”. Sometimes I even forget what the figurative context means (why I just looked up both of these expressions on the internet just now to remind myself!). I have a precise and logical mind, which is why it’s easier to picture the literal meaning first and then compare it to the figurative meaning second (even if these steps happen each in only a split second).

Just like how I analyze the social conventions of the society that I happen to live in with rigor (which I’ve done many times in this blog), it’s how my brain works.

Figuring Out the Dating Game Part 2

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:

  1. If you develop a crush on a girl, get to know her more first.
  2. Ask her to go on a date. If she says yes, great. If she says no, move on.
  3. Go out on more dates and let the relationship develop at its own pace.
  4. 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”.