Everyone has their strengths and weakness. With me the things I’m good at I’m spooky good at. The things I’m bad at I’m miserably bad at. There is no in-between or gray area when it comes to my skills. It is black or white. This is very common in pervasive developmental disorders and was one of the defining characteristics in testing that would lead to my diagnosis.
I’m good with technology. My dad has fixed computers for years and I used to hang around him, picking up knowledge. Computers are fun and exciting. All those pieces put together and you can play a game that takes you to another world or talk to someone on the other side of this world. When I lived in the dorms the other girls would bring me their laptops whenever something went wrong. I’d charge a minimal fee or trade for the kinds of things you want in a dorm (toilet paper, non-cafeteria food, laundry detergent, dryer sheets, quarters of the washer and dryer, etc). All the girls knew who to come to for technological help but I didn’t make a single friend. Despite the fact that people were often coming by my room I didn’t learn anything about them. And I had no idea why. I wasn’t surprised by this failure. I was pretty used to it actually. Social reject began as early as kindergarten for me. I have two friends these days. One I’ve known since junior high and the other I met my second semester in college. I had more friends in high school but once we scattered after graduation I lost them. Without the commonality of being at the same school and in the same classes I just didn’t know how to keep a friendship going.
It wasn’t until I had spent a very lonely three months far from home that I asked my childhood friend, R, about my social failures. She said that I seemed rude, dismissive, and short with people. She said I seemed disinterested and would say odd, sometimes bizarre things. She said I never made eye contact. I was closed off and emotionally distant. She knew I wasn’t really uninterested and that I did care deeply but it took a lot of work/time/proximity to get the real me. In other words, I was a hard nut to crack. Also, I spent so much time alone in my room reading and playing video games. How was I supposed to make friends if I was never around people?
So I decided I was going to try. I started eating my cafeteria dinner in the dorm common room when I knew other girls would gather as a group to watch a particular show on the common TV. I knew nothing about the show and thought that asking questions about it would be a good way to get a conversation going. I listened intently as the other girls explained the characters and plot lines. They seemed to enjoy teaching me the ins and outs of the program. I made sure to smile a lot and look at people’s faces (not the eyes though) to show I was paying attention. The show was Project Runway which consisted mainly of one thing I hate (interpersonal drama) and one thing that bores me to the point of drooling (fashion). So maybe I needed to find a group that watched a show I was interested in. I like procedural cop shows (Law and Order), documentaries, cooking shows, horror films, and anime.
When I learned another group of girls met informally on a different night to watch Supernatural I thought, “Yes! These are my people.” But even then I simply couldn’t seem to connect with anyone. That barrier (that same old social barrier) was between me and them. I didn’t know how to break through it. I never knew what it was I should say, when I should say it, or how to keep a conversation going. Beyond my socializing problems, the sounds of the TV, the sounds of chatter, the florescent lights in the common room, and the mingling smells of food and perfume were too much for me. Eventually I just stopped going to join the others. I had never had much success socially (at school or my job) and it seemed like college was going to more of the same.