Friday, September 17, 2010

Teenage Aspies and Fashion Sense / Date Sense

I'm often asked to contribute ideas and concepts to assist others in writing situations involving people with aspergers. I find these questions quite interesting because they get me to look into areas of my past which I've "moved-on" from. Sometimes looking at these situations with fresh eyes helps me to understand myself better and quite often it makes me cringe.

Often, as is the case here, it highlights things that I just haven't covered properly on the blog.

The question I was asked this time was about how an aspie would prepare for a first date in terms of clothes and gift shopping. The presumption is that we're talking about a male aspie on a first date.


Is it a date?
For a start, it's quite probable that the aspie wouldn't know whether it was a date or just "going out". I know that in society, these terms are often interchangeable but to an aspie who is very word-specific, they might not be. I can remember agreeing to go out with a girl and then wondering exactly where we were going out.

As it turned out, we weren't going out anywhere. Even worse, I discovered via friends that she was upset that we weren't holding hands. Nobody told me that we were supposed to be holding hands - hey, we were just going out... weren't we?

It's just as probable that an aspie won't have had any "romantic" thoughts about that particular person. He may like certain attributes but he won't necessarily feel love or infatuation. This isn't to say that aspies are emotionless but just to suggest that often these things won't appear until later in the relationship. Certainly not on the first date.

In an example from my past, I thought that this girl had beautiful hair. I hadn't considered her personality or any other part of her appearance - just her hair. It looked nice. This all would have worked out fine and maybe it would have been the start of "something beautiful" except for one thing - the very next day, she got a haircut.

For me, that ended the relationship before it had started. 100% of the things I liked about that particular girl were gone overnight.


Date Tokens (Flowers, Chocolates Etc)
Aspies, and male aspies in particular, don't usually understand the importance of flowers or other date tokens. I remember being quite shocked at my girlfriend's suggestion of flowers because she'd never shown any interest in them before. My mother loves flowers and she's always showing me her garden and talking about them. My girlfriend never ever did this - so why the sudden interest in flowers?

I've since learned that you're supposed to get flowers and that it doesn't matter whether or not a girl has any interest in them - it's simply "expected". Of course, getting flowers is a whole new level of complication. Since my girlfriend had never shown any interest in flowers and since they were obviously just a "token", it didn't make sense to me to spend a lot of money.

I didn't know where to go because it was the first time. So, initially I just went for the obvious - red roses at a florist. I paid an absolute fortune and because I knew that it was customary for the male to pay for the date, I quickly realized that I couldn't sustain a financial hit like that more than about once every fortnight. Of course, these aren't the sorts of things that you're supposed to communicate to a girl (and she kept hassling for us to go out more often). I couldn't lie and I couldn't tell the truth - so I simply clammed up. In retrospect, it probably wasn't the best thing to do.

I looked around for cheaper sources of flowers and discovered that most petrol stations sold them. I started picking them up from there but they often didn't have roses and sometimes their flowers looked worse for wear. After a bit of correction (being told that they were too scruffy), I started pick them up at supermarkets - this is probably the best place.

Of course, the problem with supermarket flowers is that there are a whole lot of different varieties to choose from. Apparently they all have their own secret messages. For instance, carnations and chrysanthemum should be bought for mothers - not girlfriends. Of course, I always chose the flowers which looked "coolest" to me. That usually meant that they had impressive decorations, like outlines on the petals, neat stripes, interesting shapes (orchids) or cool christmassy-shaped leaves.

They didn't all go down well but at least they were unique.


Clothes Shopping
A male aspie on a date wouldn't even consider clothes shopping to be important. They'd tend to think "I already have clothes" and would probably be completely unaware that he might need to get different clothes. He might even turn up in something which was comfortable but inappropriate.

I know that on several of my early dates, my clothing prevented us from getting into a club.

Clothes shopping with aspies is always difficult because the aspie will reject a lot of the fabrics based on their texture. He'd probably find a lot of visual turn offs, for example, he could decide that he hates a certain type of buttons, which unfortunately usually end up being the main fashion item of the season. Even worse, he may not like the idea of buttons at all. I had significant button turn-offs but but worst of them were "tiger buttons".

Additionally, there may be certain fabrics which attract him but aren't really recommended for dates (felt/velvet is a good example of this). I had a few velvet shirts when I was younger and couldn't stop petting myself.

Shopping is always a stressful affair for an aspie and lighting, sound and crowd issues would compound it. If he wasn't given appropriate space, an aspie could start to have real anxiety issues and he'd probably be babbling/talking a lot and playing with his hands (fidgeting) while shopping.

If he has any obvious special interests (eg: Star Wars), then his taste in clothes could lean towards that. He may tend to pick out clothing with Star Wars logos on it - or even just subconsciously pick all white to look like a storm trooper etc. His idea of cool would not be the same as everyone elses. As a kid, I was always dressing in all black. Maybe some people thought I was goth but really I just wanted to be like Darth Vader.

While shopping an aspie would probably be stressing out about where they were going or who they were going with. Aspies are often very sensitive to certain things like smoke, bright lights, loud noises and some settings (particularly discos) could set him off. He'd know that and would stress out about it. His questions would be "what if she wants to go to a disco etc" .... even when reassured (she probably won't go there), he'd keep talking about it. "I don't think I could take all those smoke smells, I really hate smoke. Smoking should be banned. Nobody should be allowed to smoke". It would appear, to an outside observer, as probably quite neurotic and repetitive behaviour.

Would an aspie ask a lot of questions about the date? No. As far as questions are concerned, he'd probably not ask too many because he wouldn't think to ask them. What would happen though is that the conversation would reveal certain inaccuracies and the person with him would seize upon them and provide advice.

This example conversation could almost be a conversation I had with my own mother about 15 years ago.

MOM: "how about these pants"
BOY: "oh no, they're not good"
MOM: "why"
BOY: "They're just not what I want to wear"
MOM: "but what's wrong with them? Is it the colour?"
BOY: "ohh... yes...and that little stripe on them "
MOM: "what little stripe?"
BOY: "down there,... " [points to something so small that probably nobody would have seen it]
MOM: "that's just a pattern"
BOY: "yes but I don't like it."
MOM: "but they all have it"
BOY: "well, I can't wear it - and anyway, it won't go with the shoes"
MOM: "what shoes"
BOY: "you know, the sneakers"
MOM: "what! you're not wearing sneakers tonight"
BOY: "but they're comfortable"
MOM: "you need new shoes"
BOY: "I want to wear my sneakers"
MOM: "they won't let you into a club wearing sneakers"
BOY: "but I don't want to go into a club"
MOM: "yes, but she might"
BOY: "why?"

.... and the conversation would continue.

You can see that the boy isn't really asking questions but that his mother is "discovering" his intentions and then just offering advice. An experienced mother of an aspie would know to do this. A friend would not. A sister would probably be a bit different - somewhere in between a friend and a mother in her reaction.

18 comments:

Mark said...

So very, very true. For adult Aspies as well.

Anonymous said...

Couldn't someone have told me that before my first date? Which was a disaster, by the way.

Luckily my girlfriend then seemed to be really into me and found ways to make me do what was normally done. Example conversation when we went out for a walk and she wanted me to hold hands:
She: "I'm cold, my hands are freezing."
I: "Haven't you got any gloves?"
She: "No."
I: "Can't you put them in your jacket?"
She: "I don't wanna."
I: "Well, then I don't see a way."
She: "Have you got warm hands?"
I: "Of course. I've got a good jacket with pockets."
She: "Would you warm my hands with yours?"
I: "Yes."

I have to say, she was really considerate that way. I'm still sorry it didn't work out.

Anonymous said...

Couldn't someone have told me that before my first date? Which was a disaster, by the way.

Luckily my girlfriend then seemed to be really into me and found ways to make me do what was normally done. Example conversation when we went out for a walk and she wanted me to hold hands:
She: "I'm cold, my hands are freezing."
I: "Haven't you got any gloves?"
She: "No."
I: "Can't you put them in your jacket?"
She: "I don't wanna."
I: "Well, then I don't see a way."
She: "Have you got warm hands?"
I: "Of course. I've got a good jacket with pockets."
She: "Would you warm my hands with yours?"
I: "Yes." (I figured that would be a good way to show my affection, in helping her out.)

I have to say, she was really considerate that way. I'm still sorry it didn't work out.

Bilby Burrows said...

From one aspie to another...what's wrong with my old worn blunnys...What makeup! Are you kidding me. What...ohh...non-negotiable social conversion you say...ok...what will those humans come up with next?

Anonymous said...

In my experience everything in the social contract is negotiable if you find the right person. Especially if you find someone else who displays spectrum traits. (It doesn't really matter if they've been diagnosed.) I also think that dating someone just because you like their hair is a good idea in general. Not sure if you posted on this before but perhaps you could do a post on how your experience dating your wife before you proposed was different from how you dated other women.

CelticRose said...

I probably would like your choice of flowers, Gavin. I get tired of the same old carnations or roses.

Serena said...

I still do the velvet thing and I'm 43. It's probably a little easier though being a girl and I try to only do the petting if no one is looking. It's probably one of my main 'stims' I really loathe that word. As far as I am concerned it's a soothe not a stim.

Enjoyed this entry a lot, especially the wearing all black like Darth Vadar thing.

M said...

i struggled terribly with ths issue, i'm glad your posting about it.

it happened several times that i was on dates without realizing it. and by not knowing, i accidentally hurt the other persons feelings. they were waiting for signals that i was interested. i was just talking, lost in my head. in one case i actually was interested, but i was too confused about the context to interact correctly. i seemed distant, her feelings were hurt, it was really no good.

anyway, this went on for years, i wasn't able to get things on track until my thirties. the delays this sort of difficulty can cause are, sometimes, serious.

Aranittara said...

I try see my girlfriend in quiet, calm settings. Occasionally we'll go out but usually to a calm event like an a cappella concert or something similar. But what matters to us is the fact that the other person is there, not if we're meeting some arbitrary standard for how dates should go. I honestly think that people would be happier if they spent more time worrying about how they feel than what other people think.

Elh. said...

I love your Blog

Naomi said...

Oh you have just described my 11 year old and a typical getting dressed conversation.

Jacque said...

JUST had this conversation with my son today who wanted to wear his skull hoodie with the shredded sleeves to speak in church. He took it off, due to a direct order from he, but completely thought I was crazy!

Kat said...

Being an aspie girl, I was able to find a guy that dressed exactly like me (t-shirt and jeans. My style sense has gotten better with the invention of stretch pants and my discovery of ROSS (and similar stores).

Also, I outlawed my boyfriend from buying me chocolates, jewelry, or flowers at any time. I saw these things a gifts brought back (by jerks) to make up for some horrible mistake on the guy's part. But I saw them an an easy out. So I outlawed them.

I realize now, that I instinctively choose safe guys, so I would have never ended up in a relationship where the law was actually needed.

AnaMarch said...

So I'm 34 and didn't discover I'm a mild aspie until I was 32...so many things on this blog just say exactly what I've thought over the years. I've had panic over what on earth to wear on a date and never feel quite right at what I pick out of my closet. Other occasions too - I always feel like I missed a memo or something. Oddly, I used to be voted best dressed in high school, so clearly I have some fashion sense...but never tied to a specific occasion. Also fabrics can drive me CRAZY...and a lot of "date clothes" for women seem to be made out of really uncomfortable fabrics. Sigh - thanks for being out there. I'm told I'm a pretty attractive girl, but I've never had a real long-term relationship and at this point don't even know how to get started anymore. However - I finally have what I consider a real true best friend (a girl), so it's a step in the right direction!

Anonymous said...

"...But what matters to us is the fact that the other person is there, not if we're meeting some arbitrary standard for how dates should go. I honestly think that people would be happier if they spent more time worrying about how they feel than what other people think."

Not even what the other person on the date with you thinks?

I would not want to go on a second date with a guy who spends our first date not caring what other people, not even what I, think.

the princess said...

For what it's worth, I'd prefer a single flower with a bit of greenery (a wildflower or flower out of your garden that you picked yourself would be even sweeter) over a big bouquet--I've heard other women say the same. I don't want someone to break the bank for me, I just appreciate having them demonstrate that they thought of me with flowers.

If someone studied the "language of flowers" & included a little card saying what the flower meant & why you chose it, so much the better ("forget-me-not"="true love", "daisy"="innocence", etc.).

Tenebris In Lux said...

Hehehe. I've been reading your blog for the past 15 minutes out of curiosity, but more or less because I'm dating an Aspie.

I recall that with a lot of our dates, he would wear the usual jeans, white jacket, and geeky shirt. Thankfully, most of these took place in coffee shops. I don't see myself as a club person.

Had to chuckle at the shopping mention (I'm Goth!).

Gwen said...

I just freaked out tonight because the fabric on my fiancees pants were wrong. Like, incredibly wrong. And he thought it was funny (until he realized how distressed I was).

I don't know... it seems better to clarify what the other person expects before spending too much money.

'What would be meaningful to you?' and run like heck if they imply you should just know. After all, you would hypothetically be happy to have them happy, provided they gave you the requisite information...