Sunday, August 12, 2007

Eccentric NT

The advantage of not being your stereotypical flaming neurotypical woman is that it's easier for me to appreciate the kind of love an AS boyfriend has to offer, without being repulsed by the quirks. I've sometimes wondered why my boyfriend, an obviously sweet and ethical guy, had so little luck with women.

The disadvantage is that I don't have very much in common with other NT women in relationships with AS men, so can't really establish rapport with them or help them easily.

I'd looked into participating in a local group for the NT romantic partners of AS adults. I was turned down for it because I didn't fit the typical demographic: I wasn't nearly as old or as experienced in my relationship as the others involved in the group. They were all married 50-somethings, and I'm a single 20-something.

But the leader of the group, a therapist who deals a lot with AS issues, also noted that I have a few things in common with Aspies. I'm not as "emotional" in relationships as your typical non-AS woman, I have certain limits to physical affection (didn't like hugs as a child, still don't like kisses, and can't hug or touch indefinitely without it feeling boring or like eating another spoonful of dessert after I'm stuffed - the pleasure wears off), and, well, I'm nerdy, to summarize the rest of it. :)

These things have always puzzled me myself. Why have I always felt like I'm kind of like people with social learning disabilities, yet never was diagnosable with anything but the ubiquitous ADD, which now I suspect may have been a mistake?

Rejecting my adolescent ADD diagnosis, and having been out of treatment for it for a few years before I decided that I probably never had ADD because I don't seem to struggle with the issues as such now (I struggle with "normal" issues), I could be one of the last remaining "eccentric normal people," a dying breed with the proliferation of neuropsychiatric "disorders." And even then, because I got that ADD diagnosis once, my status as a "normal" is not quite pure.

There was an advantage to the concept of "eccentric" that has been lost with the gain in knowledge of neurological differences and their various forms: the recognition and acceptance of these people as not necessarily abnormal, in the pejorative sense.

The concept of "normalcy" is often understood as a version of the general, trans-cultural category of "our own kind: the group of people we try to relate to as worthy to care about and understand and empathize with. " The more people we leave out of this category of basic humanity, the less we're practicing our potential for empathy and interpersonal creativity.
Ideally, it's important to understand the neurological diversities as a way of relating to the people who have them, yet at the same time, labeling them as "abnormal" is harmful. So if we label them as "normal" and ignore their differences, we invalidate them and fail to understand them; but if we label them as "abnormal" and try to fix them, we also invalidate them and fail to understand them. More people need to see beyond this polarity...and polarities in general, but I won't get into that.


abfh said...

Hi! Thanks for your post on my blog! It's good to see an ally venturing into the neurodiversity blogosphere, and I very much agree with your view that we need to reform our cultural ideas of "normal."

Unlike many autistic bloggers, I generally use the term "non-autistic" rather than "neurotypical" because I don't see the majority population as a monolithic group with near-identical brains. Rather, I believe that there's quite a lot of neurological variation among "normal" folks, too, but we don't see the differences because there is so much social pressure to hide anything that might be perceived as abnormal.

Andrea wrote a good post on this issue last year, Games People Play, in which she had this to say:

"Normal, average people are imaginary, because no-one is wholly average and normal. However, the imaginary-normal people are a very real majority group. They all pretend to be normal, and en masse they have majority power under that paradigm."

reform_normal said...

Hi ABFH! Thanks for posting on my blog. I've been a little paranoid about being flamed away by paranoid folks who are afraid that NTs speaking about neurodiversity issues will take the voices away from the neurodiverse.

I think I'm going to make a post on that.

Anyway: I use the term "neurotypical" for myself because (a) I have no undisputable DSM neurodifferences; (b) I want to be blunt and up-front about my neurological status, as I've had a few people on non-autism-related forums mistake me for autistic apparently because I'm interested in the subject (and also because my temperament is similar to that of stereotypical autistics); and (c) as my own way to challenge the myth of normalcy, by suggesting that I'm as "typical" as they get. NTs are not just shallow narcissists with no capacity for sustained logical or analytical thinking and no appreciation for different people. And NTs who know about autism are not all desperate curebie parents who have been tempted to "put their children out of their misery" or angry wives who doubt their husbands and autistics in general are capable of love. Not all people who have a brain have any true autistic traits.