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If life in a society is a game (and make no mistake about it, it is), having Asperger’s forces you to play while learning two-thirds of the rules as you go along, even as everyone else knows them instinctively … There is more of a connection between these two things than you might think.

After all, there are few places in society where social rules are as crucially important and deeply entrenched as in the sphere of courtship, and being mildly autistic—or having Asperger’s Syndrome (AS), if you use the label as it was before the APA revised its diagnostic criteria last year—impairs your ability to comprehend nonverbal communication.

While this is partially due to the insecurity caused by disproportionately experiencing various forms of social rejection for years and years, even people with AS who received predominantly positive reinforcement in their early lives can still feel detached and isolated due to their inability to fully communicate with others.

This could be compared to speaking a different language, although that analogy would imply that individuals with AS could at least “speak” to others with the condition, when in fact AS manifests itself so differently from person to person that we are generally as unable to relate to each other as we are with the non-AS population.

As I explained in an earlier article on my personal experiences with AS: If life in a society is a game (and make no mistake about it, it is), having Asperger’s forces you to play while learning two-thirds of the rules as you go along, even as everyone else knows them instinctively … Of course, one of the twists of having AS is that you tend to develop an outsider’s perspective on social rules in general, and the world of dating is no exception.

“Remember that time you were ten and the boy at the Christmas party tried to flirt with you? We were waiting on a rather long line to talk to Santa, who was nice enough to come by my dad’s company’s office party, and this annoying kid was tearing sheets of paper into bitty shreds, raining it over my hair, smiling at me, and following me around. Inaccurately reading body language is a deficit when dating.

A rule-obsessed, serious child, I told a grown-up that he was bothering me because I felt rather harassed. I took a face-reading test — basically you look at a series of photographs of eyes and choose the multiple-choice answer that corresponds with what the eyes emote.

For better or worse, there is a music to dating, and while people with AS can understand the verses (and often have a distinctly straightforward way of expressing ourselves that can be refreshing), we struggle with the pitch, rhythm, dynamics, timbre, and texture. This could be compared to speaking a different language, although that analogy would imply that individuals with AS could at least “speak” to others with the condition, when in fact AS manifests itself so differently from person to person that we are generally as unable to relate to each other as we are with the non-AS population.

Thankfully having AS certainly doesn’t inhibit one’s ability to desire or enjoy sexual intercourse, but the same cannot be said of cultivating the kinds of connections necessary to escape from the “existential loneliness” described by Russell.

I’ve turned to my journal, my therapists, and my family members to share my rational reasoning behind feelings and social life.

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