Conversation about conversation

It’s Monday, 4pm, I just came back from the radio and I’m feeling rather perplexed. I told you yesterday that I finally decided how to transfer my blog to the radio, didn’t I? I need to focus on only one or, at most two autism related concepts and make every piece look like a complete short story, which basically means, I have to rewrite things. Which I don’t mind doing, it’s just that I’m a bit surprised it took me so long to came to that conclusion – if it was somebody else who would have similar problem, I’d knew straight away what they should do, but as it was about me, my mind was just totally blank every time when I was trying to think what to do.

Anyway, I prepared two pieces yesterday, both should take approximately 3 minutes to read, which is what Shirley suggested. The first story was about that male staff from a care home where I worked two weeks ago, the original post is here (that post is not necessary for understanding what happened today but it will give you better understanding of my thinking process):

I’m getting curious about other people

And that’s how I adjusted it for the radio. You can as well read it as I doubt I’ll end up recording it:

I am aware of the concept that autistic people should just be themselves because that’s good for us and although the idea looks great on paper it’s sometimes difficult to apply in real life.

I have a short story for you to ilustrate what I mean: I work as a support worker for an agency and was recently sent for a shift to a small care home where I didn’t know anyone.

At some point during the shift, when I was in the lounge with residents, a male staff came in to do some jobs and he asked me, out of nowhere, how long I have been in the UK. He had neutral face expression and his question really confused me.

’14 years’ – I said. ‘Why?’

‘Just wondered’ – he replied.

I understand social communication through patterns and I’m aware this question shouldn’t be asked other than as a part of a longer conversation. Asking it at the beginning can make people appear racist.

I quickly decided, however, that sometimes it’s better to be confused rather than confrontational and I didn’t respond.

An alternative explanation came to me the next day: that man was approximately my age and, if he was single, he could be looking for somebody to date and maybe he just didn’t know how to approach me. He had neutral face expression, yes, but as we were at work it would make sense that he didn’t want to appear as if he was flirting with me.

Can you imagine how upset he would be if I told him he sounds racist to me? And how would that make me look? But that’s what came to my mind at the time and not because I’m overly sensitive but because I understand social situations through patterns.

So what do you think? Should we, autistics, always be ourselves and say what we mean?

When Shirley read it, she said that asking about how long someone lives in the area it’s just what English people do to start a conversation. That really confused me – they never ask me that till after they get to talk to me for a bit – this is precisely what made me think this type of question can be seen as rude if asked too early and now I’m totally confused – possibly there’s something in my body language that make people more reserved when they talk to me, so they don’t ask me this question at the beginning of a conversation, but they do to others?

The other problem is me thinking that that guy was possibly looking for a girlfriend. Does that make me look naive? Well, it’s not like I’m being disappointed, you know? I’m in a happy relationship, I was just trying to work out what he wanted from me, purely for the purpose of blog. I’ll sum up all the facts here:

  1. During a handover at the beginning of the shift we all had a short chat. That guy asked me ‘is that a Polish accent?’ I confirmed. He looked like he was pleased. It was really strange, he had nothing to be pleased about.
  2. I am aware some English guys prefer to date women from Eastern Europe as we are seen as low maintenance. Moreover, we don’t see the fact that we’re are being seen as low maintenance as a sign that the guy doesn’t take us seriously. I’m not quite sure where I got that information from, being autistic means collecting this type of data is not easy, yet I somehow know about that.
  3. The guy was approximately my age and taller than my 5’11
  4. When you’re an agency worker in a new place you’re being ignored on social level by pretty much everyone, even if you’re not autistic, yet, he tried to make a conversation with me.

If he was one of those guys described in 2. it would make sense for him to be suddenly pleased with the fact that I’m Polish (1.), 4. sums everything up nicely while 3. makes my conclusion possible.

Shirley and another lady who was there, and who’s a mum to two autistic men tried to tell me to treat that man normally if I go back there. I guess seeing how I (over) analyse social situations made them think that I can’t cope with them, but I can do that perfectly well – I’d just apply the same script that I always do. ‘Hello, how are you?’ said in a way that doesn’t make anyone think that I’m actually expecting an answer is something that I do with minimal effort and that got me through loads of situations that were much more difficult than this one, so I’m really not worried about going back there at all.

I was also advised by Shirley not to overthink things. I’ll think about it. And I’m not being sarcastic here, you know? I’ll seriously consider it. I am however worried about two things:

  1. Will I still have at least some awareness of what’s going on around me if I try to stop thinking about it?
  2. What will I blog about then? My entire blog is about what I think in response to what happened to me.

Anyway, Shirley said to still record that piece, but it now feels to me like spreading misinformation, you know? It looks like what I thought was a pattern naturally occurring in language was just something that was happening to me, because I’m autistic.

I suppose I can rewrite it though. What do you think?

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