When I saw John a few days ago he said he’d bake me a cake for my birthday, which is at the end of December. I immediately loved that idea and we started browsing through recipes. John loves cooking but I always had the idea he spends a bit too much time browsing through recipes, you know? And the idea of him baking me a birthday cake completely changed my perception. I mean, I’ll know that next time when he’s browsing recipes it’s because he wants to take care of me.
Mind you, he only started baking a few months ago so I don’t expect the cake to be decorated in a sophisticated way and I did make it clear that he shouldn’t be making it difficult for himself. Yet, I expected that cake to be somehow special without having and specific ideas about it.
Initially I was really enjoying the idea and it made me feel really looked after. I am not sure if, during our relationship, we actually spent my birthday together. I was born in a very difficult time between Christmas and New Year and as we are both autistic, we understand the importance of spending time apart, especially during such a busy period and I’d rather spend Christmas and New Year with John, as those are when everyone else is celebrating. Mind you, I’m used to the fact that my birthday gets forgotten by pretty much everyone, so I don’t really care that much and I am happy with the fact that John always remembered to send me birthday wishes via email. Yet, suddenly, the idea of having my own birthday cake baked by my lovely fiancé made me feel such an excitement! I’ll get treated on my birthday, the same like everyone else!
Unfortunately, after around 24h I started feeling very anxious about it but I didn’t know why. I am fairly flexible with my food choices and if I have any dislikes I’ll communicate them to John clearly so that he knew what not to cook for me. I had the understanding that I expected that cake to be somehow special, without knowing what it means for me, and I was getting worried that I’d end up disappointed.
I also realised that I had similar issue in my previous relationship: when my partner was going shopping and I asked him for a specific treat and it then turned out that it wasn’t in stock and he got me something else instead that I was normally happy to eat, I felt like my world was falling apart! I asked him, for example, for dark chocolate with tiramisu flavoured filling and he got me dark chocolate with cherry filling instead, which I also liked. But as on that particular day I really fancied the tiramisu one, having a different flavour chocolate would only remind me that I can’t have what I really want so I’d rather have something completely different, like a yoghurt. Obviously I was aware he couldn’t know it and my emotional reaction made no sense but I couldn’t control it. Finally I came up with this solution that I’d give him detailed list of what I want in case if other items on the list are not available, like ‘could you please get me A and if A is not available then get me B and if that is also not available then C but if none of this is available then get me nothing at all because I’d rather have nothing than things I don’t fancy at the moment’. That helped me cope because I was prepared but it didn’t really give me happiness, you know?
So I was very concerned that I’m starting to have the same reaction to John’s birthday cake idea. I also realised I never was like this when mum or a friend got me a treat that wasn’t exactly what I wanted so it probably wasn’t about the fact that I didn’t know what I’ll end up getting and I got the idea that it was more about the fact that I didn’t learn how to cope with minor disappointments in relationships.
The standard advice for autistics would be to either give up on the idea of birthday cake completely or to choose recipe together so that I’d know in advance what I am getting. But that would mean giving up on the feeling of being looked after for all this time between now and my birthday. How is this fair?
So I decided I need to sort out this issue somewhow and I was pretty sure that if I reallise why I’m doing this things will naturally improve with time.
It did take me a few days to work this sh*t out and I was initially thinking it had something to do with the fact that I was brought up in communism where food choices were extremely limited while people were constantly saying that in Western Europe and US you can go to the shop and find ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING there. So when I see that I still can’t get EVERYTHING, despite of having loads of choices, I get disappointed. The explanation made sense on the face value but I didn’t feel satisfied with it. It did feel to me that there’s something else going on there.
And now I finally know: you know like sometimes you can read stories in magazines or online about happy couples? You sometimes get to read there how the man got the woman a surprise and it was ‘exactly what she wanted’ and it made her ‘so happy’. So that means that a woman is in a happy relationship if her partner is able to get into her head and decode the information that he founds there to get her a present that she wants even if she doesn’t know what that is.
And if a man that I love is unable to do that, it means our relationship is not good and that is why I get unhappy with such a minor inconvenience.
And only now I’m thinking, possibly those women weren’t even telling the truth? They were just ‘investing in the relationship’, because if their man will read such a positive statement about his efforts, he will feel appreciated and will want to make even more effort for the relationship.
It now makes me think I need to be careful about what I post about John. It’s a bit tricky, isn’t it? My aim is to record how I think, as an autistic person, to advance autism research (Hello, Profesor Simon!) so I need to discuss issues openly. Everything that is on the blog is true, at least at the time of writing; however not every issue I have gets discussed here, for various reasons. But possibly I need to make more effort when trying to imagine how John will tfeel when he reads certain things about himself. So far it was all good and I wanted to take that opportunity and thank him for being so open minded about being on my blog. This is the most amazing thing that he could do for me. Except, of course, that birthday cake that he promised!