Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Social Rules

So, the other day I posted a link with a forum discussing "social rules" as those on the spectrum (that's the autism spectrum) see it. It was a poignant, funny and almost spot-on observation of those they call "NTs" or "neurotypicals" (for a lot of us, that's you and me)

It got me thinking about the social games we play. Personally, I've never been a social butterfly--I find a lot of the games people play to be inane and not worth my time. And no, I'm not on the spectrum, I just don't like people. I believe the term is misanthrope. Day to day interactions with people make me want to punch them in the face. Read the works of Jonathan Swift and you'll see where I'm coming from.

But I also recognize that humans are a social animals, and our need to be recognized and to recognize is strong. Before marrying, I was a bit of a barfly(shocking, I know)--did a lot of my writing tucked away in the corner of my favorite bar, sipping girly drinks and writing blather. Even though I wasn't always engaging folks, I still felt a need to be among people and watch their silly antics. (actually, I did a lot of character sketches there--making up stories for the people I watched. Good practice for any writer IMHO.) I remember once a philosophy professor said in class that if we went through life not being acknowledged or recognized by other humans, we would go insane. Now, I could have lived without being recognized by some of the sausages that frequent that bar, but then who would I fantasize about punching?

I suppose I've always envied the person who could walk into a room and control it with a smile and witty statement. They are the masters of all these social rules. I've got a couple of these rules down--I've been known to be charming when I want to be--but I don't think I could master them all. For one thing, that would mean being nice to people I really find irritating. For another, it would require more alcohol.

As I read through these rules, Some of them really spoke to me--made me stop and think about how observant and true they really are.

#3. How are you isn't literal, you are supposed to say "fine" then "How are you?" back.

It makes me think--should we even be asking this if we don't want to hear the truth? Or would we be annoyed that someone did not inquire over our health? Honesty--REAL honesty, has a bite that we might not be ready for in our social society. I mean, do I tell the clerk at Ralph's, when she asks, that I am constipated? Or that I am having the kind of day that makes we want to get into my truck and drive away from this life? Or that I constantly cheat on my "diet" so that I never lose any weight, which leads to feeling of guilt, which leads to more cheating? Am I ready to hear that she is being harassed by her boss, or that she has a new corn and her feet hurt? So we just smile at one another and say "fine", or maybe a little "a little tired, but ok", and we go about our day knowing that all is right in the world, if not in need of a beer or two.

And knowing we all lie about that answer, don't we all look askance at the person who answers with a resounding "GREAT! COULDN'T BE BETTER!" I don't know about you, but my first thought is usually--huh. Wonder where he hid the body?

#5. If someone asks you what you did over the weekend, and in honest, you stayed at home and enjoyed your special interest alone all weekend... DON'T tell them. Lie and say you hung out with friends.

Is it such a sin to say I laid around in my PJ's all weekend ? That I never left the house? When did it become a social problem to enjoy a little relaxation? It seems we all want to hear that we were swept away to a luxurious spa where we were waited on hand and foot by lovely men who rubbed our feet and did our laundry. OR that we drove two hours to get to the beach, dug out a little patch of sand, sweated in the hot sun, got a headache and then got sand all over the car when we got back in, only to drive two hours back. Call me anti-social, but I'll stick to my usual plans of lounging about reading bad fiction and convincing my husband to order in.

#8. If you hear one of your friends lie or embellish the truth to impress a guy/girl; don't point it out in front of said guy/girl.

Well, I guess I kinda agree on that one. Unless of course it involves removing a wedding ring or hiding the fact they drive a mini van with three carseats.

28. At all times, pretend like you know what you are doing. Other people are predisposed to believe you.

I'll say I learned this one in the classroom. If you are standing in a room of 30+ teenagers, and you look the least bit hesitant--they will pounce on you like hyenas at a kill. And laugh just as much. But I suppose it does fall into other realms as well. I mean, we are attracted to confidence. Who out there wants to have a drink with a spineless person who can't even decide if they want a martini or a manhattan?

42. if someone asks what you think about the work they have done, they do not want to know what you think. 

As far as I can tell they want: 
a) comment about a feature of the work to show understanding 
b) compliment their brilliance 
c) pretend you don't understand a second part so they get to explain

Um--I think we'd better own up to this one. I mean, how often do you really want to hear how something you have created needs more work? I wonder--do people on the spectrum take criticism better? (experiences I've had--I doubt it.) As good as it is for one's writing, I have ALWAYS dreaded the crit. Who wants to hear that your character development is shallow, or that the story line is cliché and not worth reading? (and yes--these are criticisms I have heard, and I still hate those people…)

That first choice--that one really rang out to me, because in essence we just want to be understood. I wrote a short story once for a creative writing class that I thought was brilliant. Actually it was crap--but at the time... During the crit, my "peers" (I use that term loosely since none of them could drink me under the table) questioned my villain's motives and methods. I had decided to use a woman instead of a man in a traditional killing role, and they raked me over the coals for it. And it wasn't that they attacked my method that irked me, it was that they didn't understand what I was trying to do. All I wanted to hear was

a) wow, using a woman in that role is new and exciting!
b) I only wish I could write dialogue like you do! (that one I did hear--what an observant fellow!)
c) why didn't she just have a drink?

When really, the issue was that I didn't write it in a way that made them understand. It wasn't their ignorance, it was mine. But who wants to admit they're a dumbass?

Rule # 58 - Do not run from police officers because you want to avoid social interaction.

Well, you'd THINK this one is obvious. Then you turn on the TV and watch a slow speed chase--that actually goes though your neighborhood, only to end badly just up the street. At 3am. Seriously--do people actually get away?

67. Truth is NOT important in most conversation beside serious academic discussions. Exaggerations can smooth or even make the conversation more funny 

My blog is evidence of this. I mean, if I drank half as much as I write about, I'd be sauced right now. Or would I? This might require a few tests...

btw--here's the link to that page: