Should I Date A Person With Allism?

I’ve been in a happy relationship with an allistic (non-autistic) woman for nearly five years.  Whenever someone finds out my partner is allistic, they always ask the same questions.  Don’t you struggle to communicate?  Why would you put yourself through that?  Allistics just don’t understand how normal people work.  What about sex?  (That last question comes up a lot!)  I understand why people ask this.  Dating a person with allism can be very challenging, but if you’re willing to take the time to understand them and meet them on their own level, it can also be one of the most fulfilling experiences of your life.  So, as someone who loves a person with allism, I’m here to offer answers to these questions for anyone who is considering dating a person with allism.

 

Please note before continuing that most people with allism prefer person first language – that is, “person with allism” rather than “allistic person”.  For clarity’s sake, I will be using a combination of the two, but it’s always better to use person first language unless told otherwise.  Remember, people with allism are more than just their allism!

 

The most obvious challenge about interacting with allistic people, whether you’re dating, friends, or colleagues, is that their communication style is incredibly complicated.  Something as simple as a greeting can carry multiple meanings to an allistic person – or no meaning at all!  For example, when an allistic person asks you how you are, they may not be at all interested in the answer – or they may even expect an inaccurate answer, such as “good, thanks”.

 

When you are first getting to know an allistic person, it’s best to keep things simple so as not to confuse them.  Assume they either do not want an answer to their question, or want a very simple answer.  If you attempt to give a detailed answer to questions such as “how are you”, as you would when asked by anyone else, you risk sending an allistic person into what is called input overload.

 

Input overload usually happens because allistics ask questions to which they do not desire an answer.  No one is quite sure what causes overload.  It’s something that seems to occur only among allistics.  The experts’ best guess is that the allistic brain interprets question-and-answer interactions as formulaic, rather than having a logical goal, and attempts to mimic this interaction without fully understanding its import.  When they attempt to imitate this formula, they find themselves overwhelmed with information they did not want.  This is input overload.

 

When I was first seeing my partner, I made this very mistake.  On our first date, she asked me to explain the book I was writing at the time.  Half an hour later, she faked a family emergency to get away from me.  It wasn’t until a mutual friend explained my mistake to me that I even realised I’d made one.  I initially assumed she was just a rude person.  Naturally, once I understood, I apologised to her, and I will be forever grateful that she gave me a second chance.  (And by the fourth date, she actually meant it when she asked about my book.)

 

Unfortunately, what happened to us is a common experience.  Because most allistics often aren’t aware they’re experiencing overload until after the fact, their friends and family may have trouble spotting it.  Many allistics complain about input overload and blame others for “causing” it, or for “being insensitive”.  After all, overload is stressful, and makes them want to lash out.  But while allistic brains are obviously not able to absorb as much information as regular brains – through no fault of their own! – if they hadn’t asked for the information in the first place, they would not now be dealing with overload.

 

If your allistic friend or partner is blaming you for their overload, try and be patient.  When they have calmed down, you can try explaining why it happened and work on creating a way of communicating that works for you both.  Try not to blame them for the way their brain is wired.  Remember, they can’t help it.  All they can do is try and make the best of it – and you can help with that!

 

Most importantly, do not attempt to engage with them in these repetitive formulas.   Encouraging the use of formulas only leads to misunderstandings and stress over the long term.  The best solution is to gently teach your partner to break their formulaic communication style in favour of one that is more logical.

 

A second confusing aspect of allistic communication is that they use a tonal language.  That is, they interpret things differently depending on the tone used.  For most of us, language means precisely what it means, regardless of the tone in which it is spoken.  Allistics, however, will read emotional content over the top of each sentence, and even over individual words.  More astonishing, they will usually assume this tonal interpretation is factual, whether it is or not.  Some allistics will refuse to let go of their initial interpretation, even if they are explicitly told they are wrong.  They may base decisions on the perceived emotional content of another person’s words, even if that perceived content goes against the literal meaning.  And, vice versa, they will assume they have portrayed a particular message through tone, even if they have not expressed this through language.

 

My partner and I still struggle with this, especially when we’re arguing.  (Yes, even happy couples still argue!)  The worst miscommunication happened two years ago, and almost ended our relationship.  Like most people, I have days where I am not highly verbal, and my speech is even more monotone than usual.  On one of these days, I mentioned to my partner that we had run out of coffee as I left for work, since she worked near a supermarket and could get some more.  She believed my tone indicated that I was angry with her for our coffee-less state, even though my words as I walked out the door were: “please get some more coffee before you come home”.  She dwelled on her misinterpretation all day, which resulted not only in a refusal to purchase the required coffee, but with her shouting at me as soon as I returned home.  It took nearly a week for us to move past that argument, all because she listened to the tone of my words, rather than the actual words.

 

At this point, it might seem that maintaining a relationship under these circumstances would be impossible, or at the very least, not worth the effort.  For some people, that may very well be the case.  If you’re not up for a challenge, dating an allistic person probably isn’t for you.  But, just as with input overload, it is possible to work with your partner on these difficulties.  Before I talk about how to do that, however, there is one other aspect of allistic communication that we need to address.

 

Allistic people will often actively avoid vocalising what they want and/or need, regardless of whether it will be damaging to either themselves or their partners.  This can be seen in something as simple as a compliment.  It took me a long time to realise that my partner often offers a compliment she does not genuinely mean, simply so she can receive a compliment back.  Even after so long with me, she will still sometimes tell me how much of a “mess” she is, not because she believes it, but because she wants me to contradict her.  This is obviously very unhelpful – not to mention confusing!  Many allistics call it modest to refuse to acknowledge what one likes about oneself, but it is important not to engage in this allistic discourse.  As my partner herself will tell you, it is not modest, it is dishonest.

 

Sometimes this not-saying can be explained by an almost staggering adherence to formulaic communication patterns that allistic activists often refer to as “manners” or “politeness” (modesty is considered the height of “good manners”), but there is no objective reason behind it.  Some studies have suggested allistic people fear rejection or humiliation if they vocalise their needs.  Some others (which I feel should be taken with a pinch of pepper) assert that this failure to communicate stems from an innate respect for others.  Whatever the reason, however, the result is the same.  Communication is nigh impossible when one party actively refuses to participate.

 

With both tonal interpretation and manners, it is important to have a conversation with your partner very early in your relationship, and establish an understanding about your expectations of each other.  Don’t be afraid to call your partner out.  Set guidelines, and be clear about the expectation that literal communication is your baseline, and all other forms are unhelpful.  It will be difficult for both you and your partner at times.  The argument I mentioned before took a long time to resolve because my partner was unwilling to admit that she was at fault.  She thought I should accommodate her tonal interpretations, even though they were objectively wrong.  Naturally, I refused – and in the end, she took responsibility for her mistake and has since worked hard on improving her communication.  Be respectful when you confront these issues.  Remember they cannot help it.  If you love a person with allism, you need to be prepared for these challenges.

 

The final thing to remember is that allistics have difficulty with nuance.  They look at life through binaries – male/female, black/white, young/old, and so on.  This is particularly important when it comes to sex and dating.  As most of us don’t tend to think this way, it can be a real shock when someone forms expectations about what genitals you may have, or what things you will like simply because of your gender or gender expression.  My partner was convinced for the longest time that I knew how to change a tyre just because I have a beard!

 

Part of the problem here is that allistics don’t consciously process social interactions or sensory input.  This goes a long way to explaining why they rely on formulas and binaries – they don’t have access to all the information we do, or the ability to process it.  While most of us consciously assess each message that comes into our brain, allistics don’t do this!  It sounds bizarre, I know.  But this is why they are able to tolerate loud, crowded environments, bright lights, strong smells, and other extreme sensory inputs that most of us find unbearable.  Their consciousness simply isn’t processing it.  

 

Of course, this makes it easier for them to tolerate certain environments or jobs, but it also makes it a lot harder for them to interact with people logically – and they miss out on a lot of wonderful parts of the world.  Next time you’re feeling frustrated with your allistic partner because they can’t communicate, or because they can’t smell what you smell, or they’re making assumptions about people because of how they look, remember: their brain is denying them opportunities you take for granted.  They’re doing the best they can.  We are lucky not to be allistic.  They have struggles we simply cannot understand, and they deserve our sympathy.

 

There are a hundred other things I could include in this blog, but as my partner loves to remind me, there are as many ways of being allistic as there are people with allism.  What I have covered today are merely those traits that are common to the vast majority of allistics.

 

There are those who claim it is anti-allistic to expect allistics to change their behaviour to suit non-allistics.  I don’t claim to have all the answers, of course, but I can tell you that I love allistic people.  If I could make the world easier for them tomorrow, I would.  But the truth is, when we don’t help allistic people to live more effectively in our world, they are the ones who suffer.

 

Remember: allistic people will not always tell you they are allistic.  Some even reject the label outright, claiming it’s limiting and offensive.  But most will be happy to answer your questions and help you understand where they’re coming from.  Remember to always respect the way they talk about themselves, and to use person first language wherever possible.  Allism isn’t all of who a person is!

PLEASE NOTE: This is satire. It is designed to poke fun at, and expose the problems with, articles written by non-autistic people about what it’s like to date autistic people. As an autistic person, I wanted to flip the script on these frankly awful “think pieces” and “advice columns”. It is not intended to be taken literally, but as a comment on the kind of ableism that autistic and neurodivergent people face on a daily basis.

All Rights Reserved to Cambrey Payne 2017

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Summer Storm

It’s a heavy day, the kind that hangs about one’s shoulders and crawls down one’s spine, an itchy kind of day. The clouds grumble to themselves overhead, threatening rain but never brave enough to follow through. Instead, they hold tight to their burden as they sink lower over the city, squeeeeeeeezing the air, down and down and down, the sky folding.

It’s a sharp kind of day, the air humming with static so that one almost crackles when one walks, waiting with tense shoulders and bated breath for the shock that never comes until one is almost ready… to… snap.

“You didn’t say anything.”

It’s not a shock, but another grumbling threat overhead. Not sharp, but low and ominous. Nauseous.

Xyr shoulders twitch.

“There’s no point with them.”

A lightning rod thrust into the lowering sky, tempting danger, a lone figure standing atop the tallest tower, watching the storm approach.

Her lips twist.

“What do you mean, there’s no point?”

Closer now, the sound rolling around the horizon, chasing the words, hunting them down.

Xyr stomach clenches.

“You know what I mean.”

When it hits, the storm is so loud it is silent. The thunder roars soundlessly overhead, the lightning throwing jagged shadows against the wall, the systematic demolition of that daring figure shown in stark relief, one frame at a time. The rain falls in a flat sheet. It assaults the earth below, washes away filth and top soil and new growth and next season’s seeds in a single second of silent, inevitable violence.

Her voice stops.

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Confessions

Neither of them expected it, yet it didn’t take them by surprise. It was one of those mild nights where the wind held off the frost, and the promise of spring was in their blood, making them feel wild and restless. They walked again, down her streets this time, the stars almost invisible above the orange glow of street lights. Xe wore her old leather jacket, the shoulders slightly too big, the arms slightly too long, the warmth smelling of her making it fit just right.

It was still early, the Market still humming with activity as they wandered from shop to shop, pausing to buy their favourite snacks, spending too much money on sweets. They meandered arm in arm up and down each long, brick-paved aisle, the sound of the other shoppers fading into insignificance compared to the warmth of the body next to them, the gentle bump of shoulder against shoulder, the squeeze of a hand as the crowd jostled against them.

They didn’t talk much. Words spun around them like a waft of perfume, the scent of a flowering daphne being warmed by the sun, hovering on the edge of the senses. If you chased it, it would be lost. You didn’t force it, you waited, let it come to you with the breeze. Xe bought her a baby mint plant in a pretty pot, and she bought xem their favourite hazelnut coffee. They debated over which stall sold the best fruit for the best price, and compromised by purchasing bananas at her favourite, and strawberries at xyrs.

When they emerged, the wind pushed them toward the river, the crowds thinning from the main streets, funneled into the clubs and pubs, or heading home with their late night shopping. They wandered, slowly, their destination only half formed in their minds, their purpose still unspoken. They ate the strawberries and shared one of the chocolate cakes she’d bought, licking the melted chocolate from their fingers, laughing at the icing sugar on her nose.

There were always people by the river, but their unspoken words wrapped them in a cocoon of quiet, the strangers passing no more than shadows, insignificant and irrelevant. The words were stronger now, their scent enveloping them, drawing them closer as they sat on the bank, their jeans damp from the grass.

The words would be said later. For now there was only fingers tangling, breath mingling, lips meeting. At last. At last. It wasn’t expected, but it wasn’t a surprise.

Text: All Rights Reserved to Cambrey Payne 2017

Image from: http://www.phuket.com/shopping/banzaan-market.htm

Like Rain

The cafe was stifling after the biting cold of a winter morning, the air thick with the scent of coffee and soup and baking bread and wet jackets. The tumbling wave of sound made of milk steamers and dishwashers and clattering plates, and of forty people all talking at once, hung thick in the air, as thick and warm as the odour of cooking. Xe threaded xyr way through the cluttered tables to their usual corner, miraculously empty, despite the hour. Xe shrugged out of xyr coat, hanging it on the back of xyr chair to dry, and glanced at xyr watch. Early, for once.

They had found this place together on a day like this, the kind of bitingly cold winter’s morning that pinched your cheeks until they glowed and ran icy fingers through your hair, the wind finding its way into every warm place and disregarding the sturdiest of coats. They had just been becoming friends then, and they sat and talked for hours, week after week, shamelessly sacrificing study time for this warm refuge that smelled of comfort. There had been no routine to it, no plan, just the slow tumbling into familiarity and intimacy that was so natural they hardly even noticed it. Xe had been in love with her after less than a month. To have the friendship, the trust, the affection, of someone so extraordinary still seemed to xem to be the greatest miracle life could offer.

She blew into the cafe like a gust of rain, moisture glistening in her hair, smelling of fresh, cold air. For a moment, xe could just watch her, this warm, bright light shining brighter than anything else in the room, everything fading into shades of grey around her. It had been the same every time since the first moment they had met. She had looked so different then, but her warmth, her smile, the way her eyes lit up whenever they encountered someone she knew, the way she stood so tall and proud, daring the world to judge her. Xe found xemself smiling before she even noticed xem.

Xe couldn’t help it. Xe loved her as easily as breathing, as unquestionably as the sun’s path from east to west. She was everything xe admired—kind and courageous, determined, strong, and soft. She was laughter and ridiculous conversations that no one could remember the start of. She was blunt honest, and blustery storms of fiery temper followed by the gentle rain of sorrow. She was a million things that would take a million years to list, tiny things, like the way her lip trembled when she watched a sad movie, the way she said “indubitably” far more often than necessary, the way she cosplayed white characters and made them better. She was a miracle.

She bent forward a little, leaning away from the other patrons so she could brush the rain from her hair, pushing the thick, kinky curls back from her face as she stood. One stubborn curl immediately fell back over her face, refusing, as usual, to be ordered around. Xe smiled again, imagining her “tsk” of annoyance, as she pulled the thin scarf from her neck and tied it around her hair. Only then did she look up, her face expectant as she scanned the array of grey, featureless nobodies. Her smile when she found xem was like sunshine.

Text: All Rights Reserved to Cambrey Payne 2017

Image from: https://www.theodysseyonline.com/the-best-things-rainy-day

The Beginnings of Joy

The coldest nights always showed the brightest stars, scattered across the arching sky like icing sugar carelessly dropped onto a slate tile. Galaxies swirled and danced above them, living creatures made of distant fire. He rarely saw them, living in the city, where light pollution blotted out all but the very brightest. He kept his eyes skyward, a half-smile permanently etched on his features. Here, the faintest lights still glimmered, dust-like, still visible behind their nearer companions. It was difficult to imagine the infinite stretches beyond those glittering crystalline lights, to imagine the lives that were lived around those stars, the other beings who, even now, might be looking up from their planets and wondering about them. And all that light, the seemed so fresh and cold and new, was aeons old before it even reached them. Many of those stars were long dead, along with whatever life had formed from them.
Xe huffed out a sigh, xyr breath fogging in the frigid air, barely visible in the dim lights that lined their path. Xe banished the gloomy philosophic thoughts. This was not the time and place for considering impossibly long-dead civilisations. Here, the air was still clear and fresh, smelling of damp and dead leaves and running water—full of life.
“This way,” xe said suddenly. Xe turned and scrambled up the hill, laughing as xyr feet slipped in the wet grass. Xe felt as though xe danced, although to the casual observer, xe had all the grace of a half-grown puppy, all long limbs and too-big feet, and the sense of always being just on the verge of falling.
“Where are we going?” he called, following more carefully, dignified as always. Xe grinned, invisible in the darkness.
“To get a better view.” Xe didn’t wait for him when xe reached xyr goal, but immediately grabbed hold of the closest bar of the climbing frame and swung xyrself up. The bars were damp and freezing, sending shocks into xyr fingers, but xe ignored the discomfort and concentrated on climbing as quickly as possible. It had been a while, and it took more effort than usual, xyr muscles protesting at such unreasonable treatment. Xe looked down as he reached the top of the hill and grinned again. It was rare that xe got to be taller than him. He examined the frame carefully, apparently not trusting xyr chosen path. He selected a rather more circuitous route to the top, climbing with the caution of one whose usual exercise involved a gym, or at the very least, a paved running circuit.
“Holy shit, these bars are freezing,” he muttered. “If I break anything falling out of this, you’re going to be the one looking after me.” Xe snorted.
“You could try not falling out of it,” xe suggested helpfully. He paused in his climb and xe knew he was sticking his tongue out at xem, even if xe couldn’t see his face. He finally reached xyr perch at the top of the climbing frame and hauled himself up next to xem, looking out over the lake that now spread out below them, the tiny lights that lined the path around its edge twinkling as they reflected off the rippling surface. They were just bright enough to show the edges of the mist rising from the water, the air already nearly cold enough to form frost where they sat. For a while, they sat without speaking, the only sound the muttering of waterfowl below, the chattering of the stream, and the hush of settling dew. The stars watched them.
“My arse is going numb,” he said eventually. “And I can’t feel my fingers. It’s bloody freezing up here.” Xe laughed and shuffled closer, taking his bare hands between xyr gloved ones and rubbing them gently.
“You poor delicate city-boy,” xe said. “A numb arse is all part of the experience.” Xe sensed him turn to look at xem, his expression intense, even in the darkness. There was a sharp intake of breath, then a sigh, then another deep breath.
“City-girl,” she said softly. “Not city-boy.” Xe scootched round to look more closely at her, but she’d dropped her eyes and was staring determinedly at the lake. Xe didn’t say anything, just wrapped xyr arms around her and laid xyr head on her shoulder. She sniffed loudly and swiped at her nose with one hand, the other sneaking around xyr waist. Another long quiet descended.
“Thanks for telling me,” xe said finally. A surprised laugh stuttered out of her mouth.
“I had a whole speech planned, you know,” she said. Xe grinned.
“You wanna give it now?” She leaned back and looked down at xem, smiling as though she would never stop.
“Why not,” she said.

All Rights Reserved to Cambrey Payne 2017. Acknowledge sources when sharing.

The Dangers of Internet Stalking

Written while listening to ‘Bad Liar’, by Selena Gomez. Because reasons.
There is a lot of sarcasm in this piece. I have marked it using / for those who struggle to identify it.

I didn’t plan any of it. I didn’t even want it. And yet, there I was, sending him a friend request, like a twit. /Of course it was because he probably posted interesting things, that I would be interested in, and not because I was being a creepy stalker. Of course./ I was angry with myself, even as I clicked on his name. For Hades’ sake, I barely knew the man. One semester in the same tutorial did not a friendship make, and yet here I was, apparently reverting to teenage behaviour. Thirty years apparently hadn’t taught me as much self-control as I would have hoped.

I’d been single for a while, and I liked it that way. Dating was a nightmare, people were generally awful, and I already had too many things to fill my time without having to worry about spending time with another human being. I wasn’t exactly swamped with offers—to be more accurate, I had precisely zero—but even if I had been, I would have been single by choice. /Which was, of course, why I was scrolling down his Timeline at 3pm on a Thursday afternoon, wondering if he was involved with any of the people in his profile picture./

“Oh for fuck’s sake,” I muttered to myself, turning off my phone with unwonted force. “Stop it.” The person sitting next to me on the bus looked at me strangely. I ran my hand through my hair, wincing as my fingers caught on the tangles, and nodded sharply to myself. That was it, I would let it drop. I was a mature adult.

I was not a mature adult. /When he accepted my friend request two minutes after I’d sent it, my stomach definitely hadn’t flipped itself over three times, and I definitely hadn’t smiled so broadly I felt like the top of my head would fall off. Definitely not. And I hadn’t dressed more carefully than usual the next day on the off chance that I’d see him on campus somewhere. Of course I hadn’t./

It’s situations like this that make self-awareness a thorough-going pain in the arse.

I firmly refused to scroll through his Timeline and see what he’d posted, or to check his relationship status. Instead, I pulled out my reader and forced myself to concentrate on Foucault’s thoughts on power all the way into uni, my highlighter squeaking in protest when I marked the important passages with more violence than was strictly necessary. I stubbornly opened the Action Music playlist on my phone as I walked to campus from the bus stop, not even looking at the Luuuurve playlist. I kept my eyes on the ground as I navigated my way through the people heading to work and school and shops, determined not to see him even if he did happen to walk by. /Which wasn’t why I kept my eyes down, of course, I wasn’t thinking about him at all, I was concentrating firmly on the panopticon and the ways in which it applied to feminist theory. Of course./

I couldn’t maintain that level of determined detachment forever, unfortunately, and I forgot myself so far as to start listening to Ed Sheeran on my way to lunch. I was feeling so good that I forgot I was supposed to be keeping my eyes down, and instead I strode along with my head up, observing the people flowing around me with a writer’s interest (although still avoiding eye contact at all costs).
The first time I saw him, I actually flinched. A second later, I realised it wasn’t him at all, just another tall guy with a neat beard. (/Curse him for having a currently popular hair-style./) I swore at myself under my breath, scaring the poor woman walking towards me as my usual /Resting Murder Face descended into Actual Murder Face/ due to my momentary irritation with myself. The second time I saw him, I managed not to react outwardly, and settled for being astonished that I could have mistaken someone with such bland eyes for him. By the fifth time, I had to physically restrain myself from slapping myself in the face. Fortunately for me, Resting Murder Face is a very good cover for this kind of nonsense.

I was definitely not a mature adult. But, by the time we were four weeks into semester, I got very good at faking it.

Well, I thought I was good at faking it.

I was wrong. All my friends noticed and laughed at me for it. I treated them to a dignified silence and determined not to look at his Timeline again. I reminded myself why I liked being single and wrote a blog post about why modern concepts of heteronormative romance were problematic.

At the beginning of week four, I found myself fighting temptation once again, seconded in a quiet corner of the library and trying to bully my brain into finishing an essay. It wasn’t a particularly scintillating topic, and 500 words in, I found myself searching for any distraction. As always, Facebook was attempting to come to my aid, and I was getting annoyed with myself about it. I managed to write two more sentences, both of which I immediately deleted, before I caved and opened my News Feed. I absolutely did not open his page. No, really! I scrolled down my News Feed, looking for his picture.

The moment I realised what I was doing I swore out loud and closed my browser.

“That bad, huh?”

I looked up into brown eyes and almost cursed again. This him was actually him.

“Maybe not that bad,” I said. By some miracle, I managed not to sound like I was being strangled.

“Mind if I join you?”

I really, really wasn’t a mature adult. It was okay, though. Turned out he wasn’t either.

Image and text: All Rights Reserved to Cambrey Payne 2017. Acknowledge sources when sharing and do not repost without original source.

Snapshot: Charger

The phone charger is humming again. I’ve given up mentioning it to Brian, since he never seems to hear it. Just like the toaster and the DVD player and the light in the laundry. Doc Green said not everyone notices things like that, which is why she can’t hear the clock in her office whining even though it feels like a needle digging into your tympanic membrane. At least she believes me when I tell her about it, and sticks it in her drawer so I don’t have to hear it so much.

If I pull Brian’s phone off the charger now, he’ll be pissed, so I have no choice but to go back to my room. Everyone says I spend too much time in there (well, not literally everyone, but most of the people I know), but if they didn’t insist on having every goddamn thing plugged in and playing all the goddamn time, I might spend more time out here. I mean, honestly, probably not, because they still all talk too loud and all at the same time, which makes it impossible to understand what anyone is saying, and Brian thinks dubstep is good music to play before 9am even though I think it was actually created by Satan. (Not really Satan, it’s a metaphor.) And Brian’s not so good at keeping up with the cleaning schedule, even though Katrina does her best to keep on top of things, so sometimes the kitchen smells kind of gross. I mostly just hold my breath and try to grab my food and get out before I have to take another breath. I’m getting pretty good at holding my breath, actually. Not in a creepy way, like Mum was worried about, because I used to hold my breath when I was two until I went blue, but just so I don’t have to smell the lentils that ended up going down the drain and are still festering in the bend in the pipe.

I wonder how long lentils take to stop smelling in a pipe. I wonder if I put vinegar and bicarb down there it would stop smelling. Monday is my turn for kitchen duty, so maybe I’ll try it.

As predicted, Brian has to knock on my door to ask if I’m going to spend all day in my room. I told him I’ll be out later. His phone only takes about two hours to fully charge, usually, so I should be safe to come out around lunch time. Doc Green says not everyone plans their day out like that, but I don’t really believe her. How does anyone ever get anything done, if they don’t plan it? I’m never quite sure how much I should believe of what Doc Green says. I know she means well, but some of the things she says don’t make sense at all. I can believe that not everyone hears the same noises. There are people who can’t hear at all, so logically, there should also be people who hear a lot more than others. But if nobody planned their days, they’d just be bumbling about, hoping for the best, completely at the mercy of circumstance. That sounds like a special brand of hell, like trying to walk across a crowded room with your eyes closed when you’re used to being able see, except there are bear traps on the floor (more metaphor, and maybe some simile). Although, having lived with Brian for a year, perhaps I should be more open to the idea. He seems to actually like ‘taking things as they come’, even though that means he never hands up his essays on time, and sometimes forgets to turn up to things, like parties and dates.

To be fair, I’d probably forget to turn up to a date if I could. Dating is terrible.

I’ve been trying to avoid thinking about the idea of dating all morning. Of course, I haven’t succeeded, even though I’m supposed to be writing an essay myself. Sometimes I can’t compartmentalise the way I like to, and this is one of those times. It’s very frustrating, because writing about the Industrial Revolution is in no way related to the various terrors of dating, and I’m finding it very hard to concentrate.

Maybe I should have said ‘no’, but Marie caught me by surprise, and if I’m honest, I had been thinking about maybe imagining dreaming about going on a date with her at some indeterminate point in the non-existent future where I’m not an actual human disaster. So instead of saying what I should have said if I’d thought about it for more than two seconds, which was “no thank you, I don’t date”, I mumbled something indecipherable that apparently meant “yes”, because now I’m supposed to be meeting her in five hours for coffee.

Why does everyone say coffee instead of beverage? I hate coffee, I never drink coffee, but even I say “we’re meeting for coffee”. Verbal conventions are very strange sometimes.

Rationally speaking, it’s quite ridiculous for me to be nervous about this at all. I’ve known Marie for six months, and we’ve sat in the same cafe and drunk beverages together quite comfortably before. Apparently labelling something a date assigns a significance to the event that warrants three days worth of obsessive worrying. This kind of illogical reasoning is precisely what I would change about my brain if I could. People always assume it’s the social awkwardness or the lack of eye contact (who would want to actually look other people in the eyes?!) or the sensory sensitivity, but I would be perfectly happy with all of these if they were accompanied by a more logical and rational thought process. Sadly, Doc Green tells me this isn’t possible, because I am still human. I think she thought I was half joking, which is why she didn’t take it very seriously. However, if I could find a way to rewire my brain to increase its logic circuitry (metaphor), I would do it in a heartbeat.

Why couldn’t we just keep having beverages in cafes without calling it a date? Ugh, human beings are infuriating. And I have an essay to write. I hope I can concentrate long enough to finish it.

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