We often hear about aspie awkwardness in social situations but the diagnostic criteria doesn't give parents and supporters much to go on. I've decided to give you a very simple example;
Yesterday was Melbourne cup day. For overseas people, Melbourne cup day is the day in which the entire of Australia stops to celebrate a horse race in Melbourne. For the people of Melbourne, it is actually a holiday however the other States in Australia simply get a break around time the race is run and perhaps a few other celebrations.
At my workplace, we celebrate by wearing silly hats to a luncheon and then watching the race on TV together. This year, although I was looking very hard for a propeller hat, I ended up wearing a London bobby helmet.
Being in IT, I am always late to these functions due to last-minute helpdesk calls etc. This usually means that I end up sitting next to the CEO who is often also late.
On this occasion, the CEO wore a pointed wizards hat. A few other people around the table wore funny hats but most were too "sad"? To wear anything that wasn't strictly normal.
A Bit of Background
Last year, the CEO wore a jester's hat and it was a great hit. 1 month later, at the Kris Kringle (where we buy each other presents and secretly swap), the CEO received a clown's wig. He was not amused. At the time, I thought it was a pretty bizarre present and I could understand why he wasn't impressed. The CEO followed his musings up with a statement to the effect that the present must have been chosen because of his "comedy trendsetting" at the Melbourne cup.
Being an aspie, all of this is recorded in my memory in full detail and feels like yesterday. I might not necessarily expect everybody to remember the details but since it happened to the CEO, I would have expected him to remember it perfectly.
One of the things that I really hate about social occasions is the fact that you are expected to converse, even though there is not much to talk about. The aim of this conversation is small talk where you are supposed to talk about all manner of disconnected and non-relevant things such as the weather and you are supposed to comment on things that are unusual at the table - though not personal features.
Melbourne cup day hats fall very much into this category as great objects for discussion. I commented to the CEO that his was a cool hat but suggested that he would need to be careful as whatever he wore could conceivably influence his Christmas present in the Kris Kringle.
I figured that it was a fairly plain way to remind him, with humorous intent and without going into too much detail. As it turned out, the CEO looked at me strangely and said that he had no idea what I had just said. I had to elaborate four times and after each time he'd say, "no, I'm still not quite following you".
Eventually I had to tell the entire story which, to be honest is a fairly boring one. I couldn't just drop the matter since the CEO was now taking this as a personal comment.
After a while, the CEO and the other people at the table started to remember however it confused me that they didn't already know - they were all there after all.
They thought that I had purchased the clown hair since I was the only person who remembered it well. Although I dissuaded them, I wonder whether or not they believe that.
The result of all of this was that I ended up having to talk more than I wanted to, got blamed for something I didn't do and ended coming across as a very boring person because I had to spend a long while explaining a quip. I also felt pretty stupid because I wasn't able to get my point across without having to repeat it four times.
It just becomes yet another social discouragement for me and encourages me to keep my mouth shut in future. I'm not blaming the people involved, their own lack of memory isn't their fault. I'm simply using the incident to demonstrate how differently the aspie mind works and why it makes conversation so painful for us.
This was a very small incident but the point I'm trying to make here is that this sort of thing happens nearly every single time an aspie tries to be involved in a social event. Social events become extremely trying for us as well as significantly reducing our self-esteem.
I don't know what the answer is. I don't think that there really is one.