Imagining a World with Friends: My Introverted Aspie Dilemma
I’ve always wanted a best friend. The kind I see on my favorite Disney Channel shows. Someone I am completely comfortable around and who accepts my need for alone time. A lot of alone time. Fortunately, I found a husband who, more or less, grants me a fair amount of solitude, and for a time I thought it was romantic to consider him my best friend. But a husband-friend isn’t quite what I had in mind.
Growing up, there were a few girls whom I called best friends, but it was in title only. They were really no more than playmates with a status slightly above acquaintance. For me, however, anything more than acquaintanceship was a big deal. Frequent moves and loss of contact (pre-internet days, you know) prevented any potential best friendship from developing further than that. I’m not entirely sure that frequent moving was the real problem though. I don’t know how to make friends. It would have required the efforts of the other party to force me into a friendship despite lack of effort on my part. I like the idea of having friends, I just don’t like the work it takes to make and keep them. The social obligations are a source of terrible anxiety.
After high school, and especially after my first four years of college, potential friends no longer fell into easy reach. Without group projects and forced encounters with people my age on a daily basis, even my acquaintances began to dwindle in number. I am in graduate school now, but I don’t have much in common with my cohorts, mostly because they are so much younger than me. People my own age are becoming mothers, I am not. That too makes things awkward. There is little common ground on which to mingle.
Recently, I have been making a fair effort to get out more. I am usually happy being alone, being left alone, tending to my own hobbies by myself, but sometimes I get to feeling the lack of people in my life. It’s a strange feeling – wanting to have people in my life but feeling crazy drained and stressed when I go looking for them. I had a good thing going on as a kid, living with my siblings and parents. There was activity around me, people to hang out with (despite the bickering and inevitable family drama) and I miss that. I miss knowing that there are people around should I need them, but being able to keep to myself most of the time. I don’t want kids of my own. I don’t want to be responsible for people. I just want to know that there are people around.
I went to a local Witches meet-up yesterday night. The conversation was lively and the people were friendly. But I don’t know them. I don’t know how to get to know them. I am terrible at keeping a conversation going and even worse at small talk. There wasn’t much room for individual socialization during the meet-up itself since it was a focused-topic conversation, but people gathered to converse post-meet-up and I don’t know how to do that. It is discouraging for me to consider how much small talk I would have to suffer in order to come across one of “my people.” Sure, a group of Witches is a start. We have at least one thing in common. But that isn’t enough. Just one night out for me takes a huge toll on my mental well-being. It would take an eternity to form a bond of substance by this method, considering how much down time I need in between events.
Going out for me isn’t like it is (or seems to be) for the average neurotypical extrovert. I don’t just think, “hey I’m bored, I think I’ll go out tonight.” No, it’s not like that at all. Going out is a painstakingly planned event. I need at least a few days notice. I need to prepare myself mentally, to consider all the possible sources of stress at the particular location to which I am going and to prepare accordingly.
Once I’m at my destination, I have fun. It’s not like the entire process is a chore. It’s the before and after that cause issue. When I get home from any social event (ranging from a small few-person event to a crowded dance club), I get the same sense of relief that I do taking off high heels or a corset. I get home and feel like I can breath again.
I’ve heard rumor that Aspies are not necessarily introverts. I wonder what it’s like for an extroverted Aspie. Is their situation more or less stressful than mine? I imagine they are the sort who socialize without abandon, not caring if the other person is interested. Or maybe that’s not how it is. I don’t really know. I just know that I am introverted and autistic, which makes a poor combination for making friends.
Although the odds are against me, I’m trying my best to be a part of the world. Even if I never form any real friendships, at least I won’t look back on my life with regret for not trying.