The Hidden Village of Aspergers

August 24, 2010

Rudy Simone is made of win

Filed under: books,childhood,stuff what i have read — kankurette @ 7:59 pm

Last Monday, August 16th, the Telegraph featured an article on women with Aspergers Syndrome entitled ‘Help at last for the “Aspergirls”‘. Notwithstanding the fact that I wish I’d invented the term myself (I love puns like dogs love humping your leg), I was extremely happy to discover that at long last, there’s a book out there focusing on women with Aspergers. It’s called Aspergirls: Empowering Women with Aspergers Syndrome. It’s by a woman called Rudy Simone, who unsurprisingly has Aspergers Syndrome, and apparently you can order it through the Telegraph website, and with any luck it’ll be on Amazon.

According to the article, the National Autistic Society states that women are far less likely to be affected by Aspergers than men – over four times less, to be exact. And yet, in the same article, out of every five people on the autistic spectrum, Aspergers included, one will be a woman. But not everyone with Aspergers is correctly diagnosed. Another woman with Aspergers interviewed for the article, Sarah, states she was originally thought to be schizophrenic, and wasn’t diagnosed until she was twenty-six. I wonder myself how long it would have taken for me to be diagnosed if my dad hadn’t died and I hadn’t started acting up and worrying my family and primary school. I probably would have been thought of merely as just another weirdo, an eccentric loner, no justification or reason needed.

Simone, like me, wants to challenge the old misconception of Aspergers as a ‘male condition’, and to suggest how it might manifest itself in women and how we and the people around us can deal with it. She has a partner and a teenage child, proof once again that people with Aspergers can – like, ohmagawd – actually have families and lead ‘normal’ lives, rather than spending our entire lives in our mothers’ basements playing World of Warcraft and playing with string or whatever it is people think we do. (My mother doesn’t have a basement anyway, but that’s beside the point.) Sarah, meanwhile, is married and is working for BT, thanks to Prospects, a service provided via the NAS which helps people on the spectrum find jobs. I made use of it myself when I was at university.

Simone and Sarah’s stories struck a chord with me because both had similar childhoods and experiences to my own. Sarah admits to having been terrible at sport and badly co-ordinated, and used music as a means of escape. Simone, meanwhile, has habits which I recognise all too clearly as my own; re-reading the same books – something my mother has never understood, since you know what happens – and listening to the same songs again and again, just like me. Even now, on my iPod, I have certain tunes which I listen to again and again and never get tired of, although I admit having album fatigue after listening to Space’s Tin Planet, an album which admittedly hasn’t aged well but which I loved when I was halfway through high school, one too many times. Both women were bright as children; Sarah was even given an unconditional place to study music at Goldsmiths, but dropped out after one year.  Simone is also very sensitive to certain smells and textures, and I still remember as a teenager nearly throwing up after accidentally inhaling the stench of my stepdad’s rancid old dog’s basket, and disliking clothes made of wool because it itched me something rotten.

When I read something like this, it’s hard not to immediately start jumping up and down and shouting, “Me too! Me too!” It’s like discovering someone ships the same weird pairing as you, gets a nerdy cultural reference you make, or was at the same Rammstein gig at the Manchester Apollo in 2002 when American Head Charge and Raging Speedhorn were supporting, and Till Lindemann pretended to buttfuck the keyboard player with a fake dildo and squirted fake jizz over the front row. (Yes, I have met a good few people who were at that gig.) Knowing that there are people out there who grew up with the same quirks, the same problems and the same dislikes and fears and anxieties as you did, caused by the same condition that you have, is in its own weird way a great comfort. One of the most painful parts of the article was when both women described the problems they had fitting in at school, and with making friends with other women. Simone admits to having no close female friends, while Sarah finds interacting with women difficult, what with unseen hierarchies, peer pressure, social niceties and the other subtle little things that come with friendship groups among women, not just in high school, but in adulthood. I’m not suggesting that men cannot be two-faced, deceitful and subtly cruel. One of the worst betrayals I have ever suffered was from a so-called male friend. But I have had far more problems with girls in high school than boys. At least you knew when the boys were being cruel.

I’ve been lucky in that most of my closest friends are women, but they’re not ‘ordinary’ women. They are women with mental health issues, unusual fetishes, eccentric dress sense, intellectual interests such as archaeology and queer theory, good (in my opinion anyway) taste in music (and that includes the one who likes hair metal), tattoos, piercings, baggage, personality quirks, a black and often downright wrong sense of humour. Most importantly, they appreciate me for who I am, and anyone with Aspergers who can find friends, male or female, who genuinely care about them and enjoy being around them are lucky people indeed. However, ever since I was a nipper, I’ve always found men easier to talk to in some ways. I knew where I was with men. With women, I more often than not found myself second guessing.

So Rudy Simone, I salute you. Here’s hoping that you give girls and women with Aspergers strength and hope. I’m probably going to buy the book, and if I do, I’ll review it here. So watch this space. If any readers have read it, let me know what you think.

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