The Hidden Village of Aspergers

March 13, 2014

Fran in Japan

“Always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of somebody else.” – Judy Garland

My family was full of female role models for me, growing up. I had my mother, my aunties and my grandmothers. They are and were all people I look up to, though I felt for a long time that I wasn’t the daughter my mother wanted; that I wasn’t feminine enough, not interested enough in clothes or make-up or stereotypical ‘girl’ things, not sociable or outgoing. She used to compare me to Flora Miller, one of the other girls in my class, and ask me why I couldn’t be like her, to the point where I wanted to ask her if she could adopt Flora and get rid of me, since she liked her so much. I even wondered if she actually loved me. Of course, I know now she does. I blogged about my maternal gran, Margaret Elma Carder, a while ago; the more I found out about her after her death, the more I admired her, and the same is true in Mum’s case. I had no idea that she helped organise a conference for women in industry, or that she was Head Girl, or that she never got to do the full uni course as planned because my grandad was ill and she had to take care of him. I’d known for years that she was anorexic as a teenager, suffering a relapse years later, and that she had two brothers – Robin and Andy – both of whom died. Robin died when he was a baby (he had a hole in his heart), and Andy died when I was very little; I think it was pneumonia complications. Other stuff has come out which I will not repeat here, because I respect Mum’s privacy, but I will say that she is one of the strongest people I know. She says having a daughter with Aspergers has been a learning experience for her, and I feel that at last I’ve managed to make her proud of me. I don’t feel like so much of a failure anymore.

I also found people to look up to outside the family, people whose behaviour I wanted to emulate – and not all of them were female. R, my best friend in high school, was one of these people. Even before things got a bit more personal, I loved how outgoing and friendly he was, how he could talk to anyone – something I could never do. He was so refreshingly normal, compared to me. Without him, high school would have been even more of a hell than it actually was. There was also P, who I saw as a kind of academic rival, and who I became quite friendly with in sixth form, but sadly, he was the second man I got obsessed with. He wasn’t the most serious case, though. That one came later.

When I got to uni, there were people I met there who actually got me and liked me. One woman who really helped me at uni was someone who I’ll call E. I’d seen her around the languages buildings and she seemed nice, but I didn’t really get to know her until a year later when she and her boyfriend – who is now her husband – got talking to me outside Owens Park. She started inviting me to parties, for coffee etc., and I got to know her and her circle of friends. She is a couple of years older than me. Half of the people I know on Facebook, I’ve met through her, and if I meet someone in a goth club in Manchester or Leeds, there’s a good chance they’ll know her. She’s that kind of person. Like R, she can befriend and talk to anyone. I did have a tendency to put her on a pedestal, though I realise now she gets down and anxious too – she’s just better at hiding it than I am. She helped me a lot when I was going through a hard time in second year, and I was able to return the favour a little when her dad died a few years ago. She was also one of the people who made me decide to convert Reform rather than Orthodox, and one time, she drove out to see me and take me back to her flat when I was having a panic attack at Grand Central. She’s in London now, and I miss her loads. I admit I relied on her far too much when it came to a social life.

On a less personal level, there was Cerys Matthews – more on her later – and the boys from Space, in particular Tommy Scott and Franny Griffiths. I’m never entirely sure what it was about Franny that made him stand out to me; maybe it was the fact that it was his tracks I loved, or the fact that I played piano and keyboards myself, and listening to Space made me want to write songs like Tommy, and make the weird noises Franny made. I fell in love with ‘Fran In Japan’, the instrumental track on Tin Planet, especially after watching Franny playing it on Tin Planet Live video, and played it in GCSE Music for my performance exam and got an A. When I finally got to meet Franny and Tommy in 2002, I was amazed at how nice they were. I’ve met them several times since then. I’m not saying this to namedrop, but because they say you should never meet your heroes, and I’m glad that old saying was proved wrong for once. I have no idea what Franny thinks of me (apart from ‘ her team are shite’), but he’s never been rude or arsey towards me, and neither has Tommy. Hell, the guy let me sing ‘The Ballad of Tom Jones’ with him, and gave me a hug and took me backstage when I had a screaming meltdown at a gig, after a bouncer was yelling at us to get out while I was trying to talk to Franny. At London, Franny said he was impressed how I came to out-of-town gigs on my own. I think one reason why I admire Franny and Tommy so much is because they both came from nothing, played in bands and worked for years to get to where they were, and in Franny’s case, he went off to live and work in Spain, something I couldn’t ever do. Space also made me realise it was OK to be a misfit, that you don’t have to be like everyone else. Like me, they didn’t fit in. The music press in general hated them and wrote them off as wacky, the record company tried to make them change and they refused to compromise, and I have a lot of respect for them for making the sort of music they wanted and sticking to their guns.

As a conclusion: I know some aspies look down on neurotypical people, but I don’t. While some of them frustrate me, I need them in order to show me how to behave. Not how to confirm, but how to get ahead in society. The majority of people I admire, people who I wanted to be like, are neurotypical – and they’re neurotypicals who were able to accept me.

4 Comments »

  1. […] Angels: relationship with my father 11. The Man: coping at work 12. Disco Dolly: festival tips 13. Fran In Japan: role models outside the family 14. I Am Unlike A Lifeform You’ve Ever Met: on books and the imaginary world 15. Bastard Me […]

    Pingback by An announcement | The Hidden Village of Aspergers — March 13, 2014 @ 10:51 am | Reply

  2. I believe that like LGBT people, we are a minority that will always exist alongside the majority as a co-dependant culture, offering new and innovative perspectives that mainstream society couldn’t live without. Aspies are disruptors of the status quo, and I think people need that. In the same way that LGBT liberation meant liberation for everyone, giving aspies the freedom to think that way we do means freedom of thought for everyone.

    Comment by Sarah — March 13, 2014 @ 10:59 am | Reply

  3. I think the world needs all sorts of ppl and different ways of seeing things. Yay for all sorts of brains!

    Comment by Chloe — March 13, 2014 @ 12:42 pm | Reply

  4. […] good friend of mine, E, who I have talked about before, always threw the best parties. I have so many happy memories of those parties, mainly involving […]

    Pingback by Armageddon | The Hidden Village of Aspergers — September 6, 2014 @ 1:25 pm | Reply


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