Friday, 31 December 2010

Socialing and Me: Reflections on 2010

Well 2010 has come to an end and it has been a good and eventful year for me. There's certainly been a few difficult moments, and one or two outright bad days, but there's been many good days.
One key aspect of 2010 was attending organised socials, which involved interacting with various types of people I would otherwise be unlikely to come into contact with. Whilst this has been challenging and sometimes quite frustrating, I have certainly learnt a few things through this experience. Meeting some of those people has helped me confirm in my mind where I am most comfortable socially, and helped me know my social identity as to the kind of person I am.

This blog is not about politics and I will not say anything about my political persuasions here, but I am a very political person, and an 'issues' man. I've had quite a few letters printed in local papers since 2004 and this year I started doing some freelance writing on line and my articles are mainly on matters related to politics. They are not full of rhertoric and I work hard to ensure that everything I write is backed up with facts and evidence, quoting parts of documents etc. All serious stuff. I also listen to a number of U.S. based talk radio podcasts, which discuss various issues related to politics and current affairs. The hosts and guests speak in a straight-forward manner, continually backing up their opinions with facts.

With such influences as these, I find that my best conversations are those when I'm on a subject I know about and I may start to resemble an 'expert' of some sort being interviews on talk radio. This is where I am most at home socially. Of course I enjoy lighter conversations too, especially if the other people provide some social stimulation. Now I often find myself naturally comparing two very different people to each other, or two groups of people, for instance I find myself contrasting someone from organised socials to a talk radio host I listen to. I don't wish to be critical of anyone who knows me from organised socials, but of the people I've got to know a bit, I cannot imagine many of them being a very effective guest on a political/issues based talk radio programme (sincere apologise if any of you end up reading this and I'm wrong). Their conversations are not fact-orientated enough, and even when they are, their language by and large will be more like that of a football player, musician, a relationships coach, a housewife, or anything other than a professor or politician. (I don't like carer politicians by the way). I contrast the straight-forward interview with the more frivilous talk and banter that takes place in pubs.

Mixing in with different types of people and in not-so-comfortable situations is good for confirming your own identity and where you are most comfortable socially. One thing I have learnt is that it is good to prepare for social situations that might be uncomfortable and have a strategy set for any particular awkward moments that might arise.

There's an old female teacher from school who I have subsequently had dealings with, who even in a social setting comes across as formal and very business-like, and I think I am rather like her in that way. I am naturally a formal person, I don't exaggerate a story or situation like many young people do (that not a criticism), rather I try to give as accurate a picture as possible.
In short what I'm saying is attending organised socials, combined with listening to political talk radio podcasts, during 2010, has confirmed in my mind where my social identity lies, and whilst I want to be able to adapt to any social situation and there's always much to learn, I have a clearer idea of who I am socially, where my social home is, and I can take pride in my social identity. It reveals the things I am good at.
Another thing I have discovered this year is this. When you find yourself unsure as to how genuine someone's friendship towards you is (which has happened a number of times at organised socials when I witnessed certain people cooling towards me for no apparent reason), you begin to realise and it confirms in your mind who your real friends are. In my case it is with people outside the organised social scene.

With all that said I may well attend more organised socials at some stage in 2011, and still like to remain in touch with a number of people I met there this year. It all depends on circumstances.

Monday, 27 December 2010

Time on my own verses time with others - the tables turn at Christmas

When I was growing up, in a family of two parents and a younger brother, and going to school each day, I always looked forward to spending time on my own in the garden or in a room at home in the evenings and weekends. I was around people so much that I needed all the time to myself I could get. And as I've said in previous posts, I had no interest in making friends and being socialable back then.

I've lived on my own for seven years now, something I always looked forward to doing when I grew up. However as I find myself on my own so much and usually waking up, eating and going to bed with no one else in the house, I find myself trying to maximise the time I spend with others, trying to arrange to meet up with friends and keep busy. I do need time to myself, but I get so much of it that I can forget how necessary it is.

However there are rare occasssions when I do need to get away from people. One of them that happens every year is at Christmas time, normally Christmas Day and Boxing Day. For as long as I can remember, every year on Boxing Day, my wider family on my mother's side meets up at the home of my Mother's eldest brother and his family, as it's their youngest son's birthday is Boxing Day (he's just turned 20) All the children are grown up now and some of them are married with their own very small children now.

I always look forward to this day, and the first part always goes well, having a meal, unwrapping presents over a nice cup of tea and the chocolates we've just been given for Christmas! However, it is around mid- afternoon to early evening that I normally find it gets harder. Most of my family love to play games, board games, writing poetry etc, which I do not generally enjoy, and I find after spending several hours with the family I am simply too tired and games are just hard work so I opt out. I think having done this for so many years now I have recognised what my problem is and have learned to deal with. Firstly by recognising the problem, that I need time to myself, and secondly, my preparing for this my bringing something like a book to read, or bringing my chess set along and having a game with one of my uncles.

Now there are some games I do quite enjoy and I do sometime join in, but the problem I have with playing games on this occassion is firstly, because it is taking place after several hours of being around people with nowhere for me to get away for a break. Seconly, it is because there is often so much confusion about the rules and how we'll play, and people shouting over each other (not in a nasty way) instead of it all going quickly and smoothly, and it all goes over my head and becomes draining. A third problem is that some games take a long time (often because of my previous observation) and you find that you're 'trapped' inside the game without being able to get away from others until its finished. I cannot play games like Monopoly, they require too much thinking of a type I cannot do, and it takes so long to finish it that you can never finish it properly! And again there's often so many arguments about rules that takes up time and makes it even more tiring. I cannot do writing poetry that my family often like to do either, my mind just doesn't work that way and it seems like a lot of hard work for a Boxing day bank holiday.

In previous years I've often found myself board and at a loose end at this stage of the day. I think that preparing for it has helped me very much here, in the same way as preparation helps me in other social situations. Oddly, I often find the late evening is more enjoyable, when the games are over and everyone is winding down with a more relaxed conversation. That said this does vary from year to year. The one thing I can say is that family occassions are far more relaxed then socialising with people you do not know so well (though probably not as exciting) because everyone knows I have Asperger's and has seen me grow up, and it is very helpful when you're parents and uncles and auntie's remeber you as a baby or toddler, because it shows you what you are naturally like and where you hae come from as a persno, as its impossible for anyone to fake anything at such a young age.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Please, Please, Please, Allow Me To Explain Myself

Today I had a conversation with my parents that unfortunately was rather disheartening. Sometimes it really gets to me the fact that as a 28 year old I have never had one girlfriend in my life. When it comes to women, I feel very much like an Older X Factor or American Idol contestant, who is a great singer, yet has tried for years to make it for years in the music industry and has never had their big break.

I have tried a lot in the past seven years, placing ads in the local paper and responding to them, siging up to a few dating websites, and trying to build a social life in general. Out of all the people I meet at work and other groups, only half of them will be female, a smaller percentage will be nearer my age, some of which will be in relationships, and others of which will not fancy me and vice versa or are just not suitable dating material. Most of the time on the Internet I will see a girl who looks interesting, send a quick message to say "Hi, how's your week going?" etc and the vast majority of the time they'll never get back.

Now my Mum thought (very hope she's wrong, as she doesn't see me in social situations much these days) that my problem may be that people first notice my Asperger tendencies about me, and may instinctively believe I am not ready for a relationship. I can quite suspect that people will notice me looking rather anxious, having to concentrate hard to follow conversations, and maybe appearing a bit distant and not getting jokes. I often feel that many people, though certainly not all but probably the majority of younger people, just don't really know how to relate to me, They'll be friendly enough, but they might think there is something not quite right that they cannot pinpoint, and wouldn't be inclined to invite me to social events or have me as part of their "in" crowd.

Now this is where I say "please, please, please, allow me to explain myself." I never know exactly what people are thinking, but if my suspicions are correct, I really want to have the chance to explain why I am that way. I would hope that if the people in question, especially potential girlfriends, realised the reason why I may appear anxious or uneasy in social settings is because I am having to concentrate harder to follow what's benig said, which invariably will impact my facial expressions, and if I can explain the complixities of jokes and reason with them how abusard it is to expect one to understand a joke in a flash etc, then I would hope people would take back any reservations they have about me as a person. If this is with potenial girlfriends, that they would be persuaded not to rule me out, knowing that these things do not signify unfriendliness, but are things that are just unavoidable (to a degree) for one with Asperger's.

On a slightly different note, what I really need right now is a viable means to meet many local, single girls of my age group. I am good looking and think I have much I can offer a girl but don't get the chance to demostrate my abilities in this way. I don't think pubs and clubs are that viable for me. Internet dating seems like a dead-end for me. In other situations one may bump into the odd single girl here and there, but when it's only the odd girl there is a limited chance the two of you would be compatable (I'm not settling for any old girl.) Maybe I should attempt to organise something?

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Asperger's Syndrome - Growing Up With A Developmental Delay

One thing often said about having Asperger's Syndrome, that I can testify to, that it involves having a developmental delay in learning and understand social interaction. One with Asperger's may eventually pick up all the social skills that others have, but the whole process takes longer. Things many people may learn instinctively in their childhood and teens, people with Asperger's may not learn until their 20's and 30's or later.

Now this may not be much of a problem if every human being around you shared the same developmental delay. However the problem arises when you are being educated in schools when every one else is years ahead of you in terms of their social understanding than you are. You find that others in school are telling jokes that go way over your head, and may interact on a far more complex level that is  beyond your capability. It can make you feel quite threatened by parties or large assemblies of social gatherings. Perhaps a bigger problem can arise when teachers organise group work or activity events, and organise games of various types. The problem is distinct because no one can identify this developmental delay by looking so no one may make any allowance for you, as they would for people who have a physical or more obvious mental problem.

This can cause the one with a developmental delay to develop many complexes when growing up. One way one may deal with the issue is by becoming a loner. I think that happened somewhat in my case. But a more interesting complex which I developed in my teens is something I have called "old man syndrome." You can probably make a rough guess of what this means. I will attempt to explain more in a future post

Friday, 5 November 2010

My Three Step Plan for Arranging to Meet Up

In my last post I spoke about devising a plan to try to arrange to meet up with Maria, whom I'd got to know earlier this year on organised socials. Well today I think I have devised my plan.

The background to this situation is that I have already tried the subtle approach of simply sending a Facebook message to suggest we catch up, and I have recieved no reply. And I have decided I will not take a 'No' without a fight! Although I am genuinely not seeking a relationship with Maria, I want to remain in touch as a friend and have her as part of my social life, and have more than just a bit of interaction on Facebook.

Before explaining my three step plan, I wish to explain that whenever I'm trying to develop a closer relationship with a woman, the thing I want to avoid most is not being able to develop the relationship and not have her know that I was intersted. If I am lacking any positive responses, I still want to ensure that the girl knows clearly that I am seeking a relationship with her. I never know whether girls are suspecting that I am trying to develop a relationship, and I certainly do not want to find that the girl would have been prepared to enter a relationship with me, if only she'd known that I was interested.

Now with Maria I have devised a three step plan to try to arrange to meet up with her. I may not end up doing this and find a better approach, so nothing is set in stone. But for now here it goes:

Step 1: Continue to interact on Facebook, including hopefully a bit of online chat, and bring in a few bolder hints that I seriously want to meet up with her. I may say something like "really hope I haven't seen the last of you." It is possible that one or two bolder hints may give rise to a get together in some capacity. But I think it is more likely to act as the warm-up process for Step 2.

Step 2: Right now it is seven weeks till Christmas. In another five to six  weeks it'll be time to send Christmas cards. I will definitely send Maria a Christmas card, probably via Facebook, and if I have not yet managed to see her by then, I will send an accompanying message with it. In my message I will withold from telling her that I have a crush on her or going that far, but I will state very clearly that I am very fond of her. I will explain why, and be quite specific about the ways in which I've enjoyed her company. I will say that I was disappointed not to hear from you last time and I really, really want to meet up, in some capacity or another, one to one or in a larger group, but that I am not looking for a relationship with her and it is not a sexual thing. Maria knows that I am very honest, and I will remind her of that fact, so she remembers to take my words literally (I wish everyone would be honest about their intentions, because dishonesty causes an enormous amount of confusion!)

Step 3: If I get a 'No' type of message from Maria after Step 2, and there remains little prospect of us meeting up, or if I fail to get any reply within about a month say, I will send Maria a link to this blog. Now I am very selective about whom I share this blog with. I share it with my family and a few close friends, but there are some people I would not share it with because having them know all my thoughts could make some situations rather awkward for me. Maria knows nothing about this blog. However one way or another I want to her read it eventually. And if it doesn't look like she's prepared to have me in her social life, it is imperitive that she knows my feelings about her and what I am trying to achieve. Indeed, it may be that by reading this blog, she might think it is so good (don't want to boast but that's what many people think) and she realises what she means to me, that she decides that she really wants to meet up with me and develop a closer friendship after all. She certainly won't forget about me easily!

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Why Can't We Just Meet Up As Friends?

In a previous post I spoke about trying to arrange to meet up with Maria, who I've got to know on organised socials and am immensely fond of, not in a sexual way, but really just as a person.

I sent the Facebook message on the Tuesday of the week before I was off work, and she did initially get back to me on Facebook chat to say she'd got my message and it seemed as if she really was keen to meet up, so I told her just to let me know when you're free. However, during the week she never did get back to me, so as it happened I have not seen her since the 25th July, and have not yet met up with her outside an organised social. (She appears not to be going to organised socials for the moment, and I myself have recently unsubscribed from the group, although I may well go back next year. Before anyone asks, the reason for me not going is not because of Maria, although it may be a factor in my decision. The main reason I'm not subscribed is because I'm starting to tire of it generally, having other commitments such as a course I'm doing, and that I'm less inclined to want to go out in winter.)

I have had some interaction with Maria on Facebook since, and my plan has been to leave it for a few weeks and then get back to her in some way. How I'll do that is something I'm still working on, but I have a few ideas.

In discussing the matter with my parents, it made me think of a various taboos in social life, unwritten rules relating to how to mix with the opposite sex, which quite frankly, are piontless and benfit no-one. They are nothing more than obstacles to maintaining and building friendships. Let me explan:

Meeting Up As For a Coffee and Chat Just As Friends. Why Not?

Why is it a taboo for a man and woman to meet up one-to-one, just as friends. Maybe it isn't in all circles, and there may be some exceptions here. I understand if one or other partner is married, it could cause a problem sometimes if their partner was concerned that it would jeopardise their relationship. But why is it a problem for two single people of the opposite sex to meet up for a drink and chat?

Why does arranging to meet up with a member of the opposite sex have to involve working up some other excuse to get together, rather than just having a 30-60 minute conversation? Or alternatively why does it have to involve having to bring a load of other people along, going through the hassle of deciding who else to invite, and finding a time when everybody is free, in order to ensure that the other person doesn't think you're trying to date them? (Mind you, if all women are going to get edgy whenever a certain man wants to date them, why should anyone be suprised that I've never been in a relationship?)

Now when it comes to relationships, there are three main scenarios to deal with.

1. Both Man and Woman meeting up are at least open to, (perhaps eager for) the idea of the relationship with each other.
2. One or other of the partners is at least open to the idea of a relationship. The other just wants to be a friend.
3. Neither Man nor Woman want a relationship with each other. They just enjoy each other's company as friends.

Now I cannot see any reason why in any of those scenarios, there should be a problem with the two people arranging to meet up one-to-one, yet in many situations the only scenario that would be acceptable is scenario 1. I understand that scenario 2 could be difficult, but that is only because of another taboo matter relates to how you go about explaining your feelings to another person. If we could break the taboos that prevent us from being more open and honest about our intentions, (and especially if the one who wants a relationship has another viable means available to obtain one from elsewhere), then meeting up shouldn't be a problem.

The most confusing one is 3, which I think is the case with myself and Maria. We are total opposties in many ways, but we've got on like a house on fire and bounced off each other well. But I am not looking for a relationship with her, and I very much doubt she is with me either. But why should that stop us from just meeting up as friends, for a cup of tea or a walk? Especially if I can make my intentions (or lack of) clear. Now how to do that is another matter, wrought with taboos, which no doubt will be covering in a future post (perhaps very, very, soon).

By making this kind of meet up a taboo, nothing is achieved, no harm is prevented, and all it does is to create an artificial rule which acts as a hinderence to maintaining and developing a friendship. Why? What Purpose Does it Serve?

I think my plan is to forget about other people's taboos, be real and honest about my intentions and just be a go-getter in this area of life.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Isn't It Absuard that We Should Expect People to Understand Jokes Like This?

Me:            has just put the heating on for the first time tonight.
My friend:  EASY TIGER!LOL

The above is a transcript of what I posted on my Facebook wall a few days ago and a comment a friend of mine made in responce. Does it make any sense to you? I certainly was a bit confused when I first saw the words 'easy tiger' posted in responce to me putting the heating on, as its getting colder in the flat these days.

However after about 15 minutes, incredibly, it clicked. The 'easy tiger' comment was based on what could be an alternative meaning to 'putting the heating on'. It was as if I was talking about heating up as in getting into a night of sexual passion, and the comment was asking me to go steady and not too fast with it, as if I was like a tiger getting in on his prey. It was actually quite funny when it clicked, so I replied to the comment saying "um, didn't quite undestand what you meant by that initially but it's just clicked and you've made me laugh now." Needless to say, I wouldn't normally have got such a joke, and certainly not instantaneously in a wider social setting.

Jokes Like This are Way Too Complicated for Some of Us

The reason why such a joke is complicated is because one must go through many leaps in their thinking in order to understand it. Firstly in this case, the words 'easy tiger' means nothing much in itself. To understand it you must recognise that the word 'tiger' is not being used as a literal noun (not talking about the animal) but is being used in the sense of calling someone by such a name as their behaviour in some way resembles that of a tiger. The word 'easy' is not referring to something being easy to do in its literal sense but really is used as a way of saying 'go easy, steady on.'

Secondly, in order to understand the joke one must have at least a vague idea that the word 'heating' can be referred to in reference to the build up of sexual passion, something that I probably wouldn't have known if it wasn't for one or two pop songs (i.e. Senorita by Justin Timberlake "It feels like something's heating up, can I leave with you?"). Yes even people Asperger's Syndrome may eventually pick up a few thing like this, although it may take a lot longer!

There is of course an enormous difference between flicking a switch in your cupboard to turn on your central heating and sexual activity, and there is absolutely no logical reason why anybody would make any connections between the two, and no logical reason for even thinking someone could be making a reference to sex after you mentioned you've put the central heating on. If you could bring up sex you could bring up virtually any subject after putting the central heating on.

So there is both issues about content, and about vocabulary here. And considering the whole manner of subjects one could bring up there is no logical reason why one would be lead to think it could be about sex. In short your mind has to make many invisible connections to work out what 'easy tiger' could mean after commenting about putting the heating on. Well I suppose the fact I had posted comments recently about online dating but have helped give some clues?

All this may seem unimportant, until we recognise that these are the kinds of jokes that are frequently exchanged in pubs and other social occasions, where one is expected to 'get it' in a flash! And if you don't get it you can be made to feel like the odd one out, socially incompetent, insular, as if there is something wrong with you. Whilst one may occassionally get lucky and the meaning of the joke will click immediately in one's mind, it is highly irrational to expect people to get jokes like this in a flash, as it involves working out a great number of variables (content, vocabulary, whether it's a verb or noun etc) all instantaneously and putting them all together connecting all the dots with minimal clues given, having to make invisible leaps in the mind between one thing and another, with no clear sense of direction.

Next time you see someone who understand a joke, please show some sympathy and realise that for some people, some intelligent people, the whole thing is just far too complicated, especially in a busy social setting.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Why it Sometimes is Just Not Worth the Effort

As this weekend is not proving to be the most exciting and a little empty, and having felt mildly dispondent about the way my plans had turned into on Saturday evening (they were worthwhile though never especially exciting in the first place), I was thinking of going to an organised social today, which was a meal out. I haven't been to any organised socials for some time now, and I have decided not to renew my subscription to the organisation when it expires next week, although I probably will come back at some point, possibly sooner rather than later. At the moment life is very busy in the week with work and college, but I just wish I could have some more exciting social occassions for the weekends, particularly Saturday evening, with people around my age.

I was up till about half twelve last night thinking about whether I should go or not. In the end I decided against going. The reason? Basically I just couldn't be bothered, it didn't seem worth the effort. Having thought through whether or not to go made me think of two things. Firstly, the things I hope for at a social occassion, where I am meeting new people or people I don't yet know very well. Secondly, what in practice do will normally happen at such an event (in contract to my hopes).

My Hopes for Social Occassions

I don't generally go to social events with these specific hopes in mind, but unwittingly, when I am on my own imaging a good social occassion, feeling in mood for socialising, these are the kinds of things I hope to get out of a social.

I hope to get onto conversation topics that are stimulating, whereby I am given the chance to express my thoughts on something, to demonstrate something of my personality, and something of my knowledge. An example of this would be when I was asked if I was watching Big Brother and it lead to discussion about contestants on past series and the activities they did, and how I would feel if I was on there. Such a conversation was an enabling one, it enabled me to express my thoughts in a way that I was keen to do so. Another good thing is when people who don't know you that well say what they think of you, who (celebrities maybe) they remind you of, as it is interesting to see how close they may be to the truth. It's very good when people also instinctively work out what you might be good at and your positive qualitites. Obviously there are some questions I don't want to be asked, and generally these types of conversations require the other people to have an instinctive sixth sense, so they can identify what may be good subjects to raise. And by the way, this is not the type of social discussion that can be planned, so if you're trying to plan your next conversation with me based of these principles, forget it.

Another thing that makes a social especially good is any flirting (by young women) directed at me. Any hints, (or even jokes sometimes), that a girl might find me attractive will have me on a high till at least the end of the day.

Above is What I Hope for but in Reality it Normally Goes Something Like This

A typical social will consist of me doing my best to approach people, introducing myself, shaking a few hands, trying to break the ice, asking them things like "how's your day been?", "where abouts do you live?", "what do you do for a living?" and vice versa, with the two of us, trying to dialog with each other on fairly mundane issues. I normally end up repeating things about myself that I say to loads of people, explaining to people that I do a basic clerical office job, that I live in a flat, that I travel by bus etc. When someone tells me what they do for a living, it's not always something I know much about, and rarely brings about things I can relate to, so the best thing I can do is just nod "OK" etc and the conversation will generally amount to both of us exchangnig a few fact -  "this is what I'm about", and "this is what I'm about", maybe exchanging a few mildly common interests or experiences, but barely going any further.

In a larger group, I find I am more likely to make an ill-judged comment (due to the pace of the conversation) that will be met with a "you haven't quite understood" responce, than I am to make others laugh. I may well unwittingly interrupt, misjudging whether I had the appropriate window of opportunity to make my statement. And oftentimes the conversation topics will go onto subjects of which I have little knowledge or experience.

I may leave such a social event with a feeling that you haven't performed too well. And that is why, on some occasions, going to a social event is just not worth the effort.

Friday, 8 October 2010

The Common Feeling of Exclusion or Jealousy

I would like to share a common feeling I get which happened to me this week. As I said in my last post I am now doing an evening course at college, and during our two hour lesson we get a short break where we can go into refrectory and talk amongst ourselves. I always make a conscious effort to socialise with my fellow students at this time, and there are some attractive girls on my course.

One thing that gets to me is when girls I know in this type of situation talk about their nights out, or their plans to go out on a Saturday night etc. Now this is hard to explain, I don't know if it's a kind of jealously about their social life or what. You see there are two things I am looking for, and I honestly don't know which I want most, to have a girlfriend for myself or to have a social life which involves being around many girls (which would put me definitely 'in' the dating scene and make finding a girlfriend much easier).

I think the issue is that when I meet girls that I find attractive, I feel I want to be a part of their wider social life, not just someone I see only at college etc. This can apply whether they are single or in a relationship. I think this is because of my own lack of such a social life. Whilst I have some good friends, I don't generally have anyone to go out with as such, and the types of friendships I have are not ones whereby I often meet suitable single women who can ask out for dates. Now if I did have a social life that I was entirely satified with, I don't think it would bother me that a certain girl I knew from college etc was going out one night, but as I don't, I get a kind of jealous feeling.

However, it is not that I would necessarily want to be out with that girl with her friends on that particular night in question. If she was to invite me along with her and her friends, I would most likely find it a rather uncomfortable experience if I was with an all girl group. Nor am I saying I would want to be that girl in question. I suppose it is a more general wanting to get into their social circle, including getting the know the men in their social circle.

Strangely I don't get this kind of jealousy when I hear men talk about their nights out, although I would most likely except their invite if it was offered.

Since the age of twenty I have always wanted to go out on Friday or Saturday nights more. I've never been interested in getting drunk, or doing anything outragous, but simply meeting up into possibly the early hours with other young people in a feel-good environment, and having many attractive girls from other circles who I could approach during the night. My problems have always been two-fold: Firstly, finding people to go out with (you want genuine friends, not just anyone). Secondly, whilst I wished I could, I just don't naturally perform too well in such an environment, though having the right people around me can enable me to do so.

There have been a number of situations over the years where I have seen groups of people go out and I wanted to somehow get in with them, but have always seemed to be overlooked. There has been times when I've thought "how come so and so manages to get in with them and be invited out and me not?" It can be a real fight for some, and many hoops to jump through to achieve the kind of social life one is looking for.

I was thinking today that probably the reason why I have never found a girlfriend is because I naturally tend to click with older people better for the most part. It could be because of my interests, or my own generation being younger hasn't worked out qutie how to relate to me. The girls I an attracted to are probably not drawn to my personality.

Forgive me if I am sounding like I am mixed up in this post. I don't think I am but when I first decided I would write something on this, my mind thought of so many directions I could take this post and angles to this issue I could discuss. If anyone has misunderstood me, hopefully future posts will clarify my thoughts on this.

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

The Catch 22 Situation of Arranging to Meet up with People You Don't Bump into Regularly

Well it's been a while since I've posted anything herer and the reason being is basically because I haven't been out much in the past month. Work has been busy and stressful at times. I've started a course in book keeping to help improve my career prospects (I may go on to be a qualified accountant) and there hasn't been much on in terms of organised socials that I've fancied going to. Numbers seem to have dried up a bit, and my friend Maria who I am very fond of (though not in a sexual way but because of personality etc) doesn't appear to have be attending many organised socials these days.

One thing that I have experienced in the past and am experiencing now is the difficulty of trying to keep in touch with someone whom you don't actually get to see very often. In such a case it means I must take the initiative and find a way ask that person, in this case Maria, if she will meet up with me in some capacity. I've tried this once this month. On 28th August I sent Maria a Facebook message asking her if she wanted to come to a gig that my uncle was doing on the 17th September. She replied on the 12th September, with a "thanks but I can't make that date, see you soon" type reply.

Now next week I am taking the week off work, just to have a break. So tonight I sent her a message suggesting that we should catch up over of a cup of tea, and of course I am now awaiting a reply. I have tried to word both messages in such a way (with much help from a friend) to make it appear that I'm not trying to date the girl, just wanting to meet up as friends.

Now here's the catch 22 sitaution, which I feel I might be in if I don't get to meet up with Maria after today's message. When the other person is repeatedly unable to make the dates you suggested (when still on good terms), you find that you have to keep persisting in asking in order to be able to meet up with that person, and keep in touch. Otherwise you may end up losing touch by default. But if you keep on persisting in trying to arrange to meet up with someone, you can end up looking like you're pestering them, or they may start to become weary of you if you think you're trying to date them.

In short the problem arises when there is someone (most likely someone of the opposite sex) who you are really keen on, for whatever reason, you're trying to arrange to meet up with. If that person can say yes to your first offer of meeting up, you can meet up and hopefully remain in touch in the longer term without that person knowing exactly how interested yu are in them. If however, after two or three attempts that person you like cannot make the dates you set, the catch 22 situation one must get around is finding a way to meet up with that person without them realising how important they are to you (as that may put many women under pressure and you're liable to become a pest). Can anyone find a way out of such a Catch 22?

Friday, 27 August 2010

Review of last Sunday - an even damper squib of a day out than the last weekend

Well following my previous Saturday night out, explained in my last post, when I was disappointed not to see Maria, I was had hopes I would see her at another social, this one arranged for last Sunday (22nd August).

The social planned was first of all a walk, then a trip to pub in view of a local airshow, and then back to one of the member's houses for a barbecue. I was unsure during the week whether or not to go. Basically I was keen to go if Maria was there but if she wasn't going to be it wsn't worth it. There was no one else I especially wanted to socialise with, although they're all nice people, and it wasn't particularly good timing for me. In the end I decided that I would book my place on Friday night, and decide just to meet up at the pub and not do the walk in the morning as it wasn't a convienient time for me. I wanted to know if Maria would be there, as she has a tendency to change her mind a bit, so I gave her just a casual text on Saturday night at 9:00pm to ask if she'd be there. She replied at around 11:00am the next day to say she'd be at the pub around 4:00pm. So it sounded like she was doing the same as me and meeting at others at the pub.

Well I decided I would try to get to pub by about 3:00pm in any case so I got the train and walked with a map trying to find the place. Once I found the place at 3:00pm I saw no-one was there. I then texted Steve, who was organising the event to ask where they were, and it turned out they had already gone off for the barbecue. My goodness that's quick a thought! I've naturally always been a punctual person (except when it involves getting up early) and I'm used to having to adjust to other people's lateness - now it seems the tables have turned!

And this put me in a dilemma. Should I reply to Steve and ask for the address or should I just go home? My decision would depend on one person - you've guessed it, Maria. Well at least it gave me a genuine excuse to text Maria again. After all she said she would arrive at the pub at 4:00pm, and if she did she would be stuck on her own too. So I just texted to say "Hi, don't know if you're with the crowd but they've gone off for the bbq ..." just to inform her. Well I think my dilemma was over when she replied that she was "stuck in" another area close by. Sounded a bit odd to me. The neighbouring town she was 'stuck in' is a small, industrial area to my knowledge, there wouldn't have been much traffic around the area, lor any attractions on a wet Sunday afternoon as far as I could see. Anyway, it was something of a relief to find out about her whereabouts, and it meant that for me it was time to go home.

It was a real damp squib of an afternoon. The weather was cloudy with intermittent rain but very warm and humid. Fortunatly I was able to see another friend later in the evening, so it made a nice end to what had been a very unsettling weekend.

Monday, 23 August 2010

Coping With a Damp Squib of a Night Out

I was meaning to do some blogging last week but other things got in the way, and my report here is of the Saturday before last (14th August).

At this organised social there were in the end only six people due to attend, why so low a number I do not know. One of them was my friend Maria, who I mentioned in an earlier post. Now I have seen her since I last wrote about her, and I must say that I have developed a bit of a crush on Maria, although it is not a sexual thing, it's more to do with her personality. She's very useful for me as she naturally helps me along socially and takes a real interest in me, and socially, you could say she gets the best out of me. I am useful for her on a night out too, because particualarly later on she can become very spontaniously minded, losing sense of reality, and I'm useful in helping her to steady and clarify her thoughts, and I think she's recognised that before I did. We're incredibly opposite, but it's probably a case of us both naturally filling in the missing bits of each other's personalities, and as far as I'm concerned it's a case of "opposites attract" (which would have to be our wedding song if we were ever to marry!).

Unfortunatly, at this damp squib of a social, she didn't turn up. I was a little suprised, as although she often changes her mind about things, she will usually post a note on the website if she's not coming at the last minute and she didn't this time. In the end there were just four of us.

I had a bad feeling about this social as I was on my way there. I was the last of the four to arrive and it was hard to try to mix comfortably, and be friendly, whilst wondering if Maria would turn up, often looking towards the entrance to see if I could spot her. We were all wondering about it, though I think I was the only one who knew her, so I offered to text Maria to see what was happening. Now I was nervous about texting, because I didn't want to give her the impression I was only going to the organised social to see her, so I decided to use the word 'we' in the text, to make it sound more like I was a good friend looking out, rather than as a man trying to hunt her down. She replied to say she wasn't well.

I felt somewhat more after relaxed knowing that she wasn't coming. What was awkward about this event, and can be awkward about many organised socials, is that you end up having to try to socialise with people you may not wish to make the effort to talk to, or who may be hard work. I was sitting next to this lady, Jane, whom I have met a few times. I have nothing against Jane, but she doesn't appear too easy socially, I don't think we have any common ground and she's in her 40s (don't get me wrong I interact happily with people far older than this, I'm not ageist but on these nights out I hope to meet people more my own age). It was a struggle for a while. However she then commented that "it's a bit of a dull night..."and immediatly I was little relieved as this was what I (and the others) were thinking and a subject I can engage in, analysing the social dynamics.

In the end we all left the bar at about 10:00pm. We were all disappointed with the low turnout. Maria would have made all the difference I think. However to see that no-one was enjoying the night and we could be open about it was quite a relief, as I fear that commenting about the night being dull may appear like a more polite way of saying "you're boring company" so I'm relunctant to express it myself. But it's just a fact that some occassions can turn out to be a damp squib socially, simply because you need more people to stimulate the conversation.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

My day out in London. A talk on Relationships and an Organised Social

On Saturday 31st July I went to London for the day. I was there for two reasons. A few weeks ago I was sent an email about a talk that was to take place for men, about how to chat to women, how to approach and communicate and hold conversations with women in order to attract them, and find a relationship. It sounded just like the kind of thing I wanted to hear about so I booked my place, and went to London on Saturday to hear the talk.

Then after that, I planned to go to another organised social in London. The group which arranges the organised socials I go to operates in many cities across the UK, so I thought I'd take the opportunity to go an event in London, mainly for the purposes of practicing my social interaction skills.

Review of the Talk on Relationships

I arrived at the hotel at 12:30pm, I was the first one there, and it felt strange sitting on my own for 5 minutes or so in Suite 1 of this posh hotel. Eventually other guys turned up, about twenty five in total, and then the talk began at about 1:00pm.

The speaker gave some helpful tips during the talk on how I should communicate with women, and what not to do, things I definitely appreciated hearing and will take on board. However, there were aspects I did not like. Now I came to this event to hear a talk, I did not go to play games. Yet there was an element of role play involved which I did not appreciate and I basically opted-out of it.

Abuot 40 minutes into the talk, the speaker asked all the guys to stand up and greet each other in a monotonous, unenthusiastic way. Well I was fine with that, after all I hadn't really said Hello to many people I joined in. However, after that the speaker asked everyone to go up and greet everyone with energy and enthusiasm. Now this I was not comfortable with. I was getting quite tired after a busy morning travelling up to London, and I'm not really inclinded to greet people I don't know in such a way. So I basically stayed up my chair and allowed people to greet me.

Then thirdly came the tipping point, where the speaker asked everyone to greet others as they would greet someone they hadn't seen in years, like an old school friend. Now I was not up for this kind of acting, so I decided I would opt out. I did not move out of my chair at this point. There were two ladies in the room assisting, I don't know if they were hotel staff or the speaker's assistants, and they tried to greet me in such a way. I tried to explain I wasn't hear to role play I was hear simply to listen to a talk.

Then a bit later on the speaker tried to get everyone to jump up and down, to scream and celebrate, the idea being to help people get in the mood for chatting to girls, because, as the speaker said, you will impress women far more if you have energy and excitement and in a fun mood. Now there was no way I was going to do this. The speaker said "everybody stand up" and everyone stood up bar me. He tried to nod at me as if to get me to stand, but I just shook my head, so it went on with me opting out.

During the break, I tried to explain, politely of course, to one of the speaker's assistants that I did not apprecitate all the role-play, and that for me, far from getting me in the right mood, it would be more likely to make me feel uncomfortable and would distract my attention to what he may say next. I also made a clever point which is as follows. The speaker made the point that in approaching women we must act as men, and be seen to be in control of our decisions and be able to take the lead. I said to the speaker's assistant girls that if by refusing to join in I was acting like such a man, in control, doing what he wants rather than following another man's lead. They said it was a 'good point'.

There was also an element of mind control during the meeting that I did not appreciate. The speaker at times asked people to close their eyes and visualise themselves in different situations. Again I kept my eyes open and opted out. I came to the meeting for practical tips on speaking to women, for which I did get some useful tips. I did not come for any knd of psychological manipulation or role-playing games.

However I did take the opportunity afterwards to try to chat to a few women in Green Park and around the streets of London, taking on boards some of the things said, though I was genuinely too tired to do this properly.

The Organised Social

I booked by place on the organised social in the evening partly as a means to practice any skills I could pick up at the event. I'm not sure if I really succeeded in this as I was really quite tired by the evening and the place was very loud. Nevertheless it was nice being able to mix in with a different crowd, and the fact I wasn't likely to meet such people again enabled me just to attempt to experiment a bit socially (I don't think I experimented much though). It was hard as a visitor to London knowing what to say, but it was still a worthwhile time I had.

I would have liked to stay later, but I ended up leaving the organised social at 10:00pm, and eventually arriving home sometime soon after midnight (which tends to be about my bedtime anyway during the week). Needless to say, the following afternoon I was feeling quite shattered, after such a busy day with so much to take in.

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Oldies are easier to come by

Before going into this post I wish to explain to any readers who may be wondering why I haven't posted anythnig here for over a week now. Basically I am a very busy man, I have to work 37 hours a week in the office and I've been working hard writing articles for Suite101. So its been quite hard finding the time to post anything here.

Besides I have been to quite a few social events recently, and have had a fantastic weekend. Though I am very analytical it's often hard to know how to explain everything and sometimes I don't have the time.

However, at an organised social I went to at the weekend, I got into a very interesting conversation with a few other 20 somethings. Basically, they were saying that it can be very difficult in your 20s to meet new people of a similar age. That's in the case of someone who is not in college or university, and has with few friends in their area, either they're new to the area or their friends have all moved away or married off etc.

One girl was saying that, whilst people may think the way to find friends is to join a club i.e. a sports club or hobby group, the same problem arises, everyone is much older. It was really intersting for me to hear this as it was the very thing I discovered about seven years ago, at a time when I was desparate to make friends of my age.

The thing is it appears that the oldies are easier to come by because they're more likely to belong to organised clubs. The 20 somethings will tend to hang around the pubs and clubs more, and whilst it is possible to meet new people there, that is very difficult if you go in on your own and try to start a social life from scratch there - you need to be part of a core group of friends to begin with.

The once people marry and have children, usually in the 30s, they become very busy becoming tied down with family commitments, unable to go out much, either to organised clubs and societies or out to pubs and clubs, and in any case such people are unlikely to have the time to build up new quality friendships.

It's only when people reach about 45 when they get to the empty nester stage of life do they find they have more time and may be inclinded to join a club of some sort - hence why oldies are easier to come by.

Now so no-one misunderstands, I have a very good relationship with many people much older than me. I have served on the committee of my local branch of the UK Independence Party for many years where everyone else is in their 50s, 60s and 70s. And I'd encourage all young people to integrate with older people.

However, when you are in your 20s and the only people you ever get to meet are much older than you, you do have a big problem, because as nice and kind-hearted as many older people are, there are some things they cannot offer which someone you're own age can. There is no scope for a relationship with older people, and interaction is usually not quite on the same wavelength.

This is a problem we all need to be aware of, whatever types of circles we mix in.

Monday, 12 July 2010

Time for a Laugh: Marrying an Oldie

I have always been someone who has not normally understood jokes. They're often too complicated, or require knowledge of something that I'm not familiar with, or I simply find I cannot connect the dots of a joke quickly enough. I have got used to simply being a bit out of it in more jokey conversation settings, not quite fitting in, though I often try. It's All Too Fast and It's Too Complicated!

However, I do have a sense of humour, but it is probably not apparent to most people I know because it is not the type of humour that I can slip into a conversation easily. Rather it has to be explained properly, and requires a platform for me to explain it, and it's a platform that is rarely given to me. Hence, I have to create a platform for myself to share my funnier side - here on this blog! So here goes with my first piece of humour, please have some patience as you read through this scenario.

Dating an Oldie

When my grandmother was alive she would often ask me, when I was in my 20s, if I had a girlfriend. My answer was always no. I've never been in a relationship to this day. Now my grandmother was in her 80s by this time and was becoming increasingly out of touch mentally. Now suppose she had become just a little bit more out of touch than she was, she might have suggested I'd date her 70 something year old friend Anthea, who had been a spinster all her life, thinking that, being younger than herself, Anthea was still a young lady.

Anthea was a good friend of my grandmother's. She probably did something to help my grandmother feel younger, as Anthea's mother Winifred was still alive. I only met Winifred once in around September 2001 when I accompanied my grandmother, Anthea and Winifred to visit a care home for Winifred, as being 96 and on two walking sticks she was now needing more care than Anthea could provide for her. Winifred stayed in a care home until she eventually died in January 2006 aged 101, who my this time had been bedridden for months, unable to speak, hear or eat.

Now lets just imagine I was so desperate that I ended up going out with Anthea, say in 2003 when I was 21 and she would have been at least 71. I would be accompanying Anthea and my grandmother to visits to Winifred's rest home. Now lets suppose that Winifred, as Anthea's mother, started giving Anthea a few relatiosnhips tips, sometimes from her rest bed (she would still have been speaking OK in 2003/4), I might if I was mad enough decide that I might as well dump Anthea for her 99 year old mother Winifred. After all, if Winifred is unattached (she'd been widdowed since 1971 I think) and knows better than Anthea how to handle a relationship, why not then just start dating the expert!

The Wedding

Imagine the reaction from my family, me being in my early 20s dating a woman in her late 90s! In such circumstances they might think I should get back with Anthea again. Very soon I decided it's time to propose to Winifred and get a wedding date arranged fast! So lets suppose we arrange a wedding in August 2004. Very few of my friends know who the bride is and everybody arrives a bit confused about the whole affair.

At the wedding the minister requests at the start that people standing beside the isle be prepared to give the bride a hand as "she has a few mobility problems." Now all the congregation are even more confused. The music starts playing and it takes longer than usual for the bride to make her entrance. Eventually though, the bride begins to walk through, extremely slowly with two walking sticks, wobbling considerably, looking like she's about to fall any minute and holding onto any pews or any person beside the isle who she can lean on on the way.

At this point there is great confusion among the congregation. Some people are wondering if this is the bride's grandmother or great-grandmother suffering from dementia, thinking she was the bride getting married. The minister, in trying to calm everyone down and keep a straight face annouces that "I understand that this might not have been the kind of lady you were expecting Christopher Woodward to marry but this lady is the bride."

During vowels, the bride, Winifred aged 99 struggles to hear what is being said and makes a few blunders. Before the start of the photographs, the minister announces that "once we've got into position we must get the photo done as quickly as possible before Winifred has a fall." Winifred sits in a wheelchair during the photo session and gets up only for the individual photos.

I will leave it to your imagination what might be the plans for the first dance, plus the reaction of the local, national and possibly international press towards this wedding, as well as the aftershock effects of all the friends and relatives who only learnt that day that I was marrying a 99 year old. Needless to say this would make a brilliant comedy sketch.

Sunday, 11 July 2010

Bumping into a Work Colleague's Daughter by Chance. An Ill-Fated Decision?

I went to another organised social on Saturday July 10. It was altogether, a bitter-sweet affair. I won't go into detail because that will be very complicated, but it was one of those which I went to with a particular agenda in mind. And although I did eventually get to say what I wanted to say, it wasn't in quite the context I was hoping for.

I ended up catching the night bus home to Worthing at just after 12:30am. Having had a disappointing night I was feeling a lot bolder than usual afterwards, and at the bus stop it was fairly quiet but I saw an attractive girl on her own nearby, eating chips. In trying to work out which was the correct bus stop I decided to approach her to see if she knew, and it turned out she was also waiting for the bus to Worthing.

When we got on I asked her if it was OK for me to sit next to her, she said yes. Now this is hard to explain specifically, but my intention was to try to have a bit of fun with her, ask her a few tantalising questions (questioning or commenting on things that are turn-on for me, without her knowing it), and see if I could flirt a bit with her. After all we had half an hour on the bus with no other friends around, it had been a poor night for me, and this kind of opportunity does not come often.

Now it turned out she was on a hen night, and she had a boyfriend, which was a little disappointing, but not really a problem as I was not desperate to go out with her, I was only really interested in talking to her that night. However, when we talked about work, I discovered that her Mum is one of my colleagues atwork. Oops! I'd already said a few things by that time that I would not have said had I'd known we had any connections - but then again there was absolutely no way I could have guessed!

Nevertheless I was in a bold mood that night, so I carried on chatting to her. She was very tired, she explained she'd been out two nights in a row and had only had three hours sleep last night. As we moved towards Worthing, I tried to gage her reactions a bit and see if I could find an excuse to initiate some physical contact, without making her feel uncomfortable. Nothing sexual or threatening, but hopefully just fun and light-hearted. I did actually manage to find a way into the conversation to do this and make a bit of light physical contact, and she seemed to be OK with it. I suppose I was taking a few risks, but as I said, it had been a poor night for me, I was feeling bold and I am starting to become more of a risk-taker in life generally.

Well it was a bitter-sweet affair, because whilst I enjoyed the time I spent with her on the bus, and I fulfilled a few fantasies (this may sound strange until you realise my fantasies are extremely tame and incidental things, I may talk about this more in a future post), and gained a bit of practice and experience chatting to a girl, my concern now is if she will report any of it back to her mother.

Fortunatly I don't think her mother at work will be one to spread rumours about me. But I feel the need to be able to explain myself if I am asked about this, as her mother may be a little suprised about me. I seriously hope I did not make her feel uncomfortable in any way, I don't think I did though she may just have been very polite, and I don't think I would ever have approached someone in this way if it had been on the way home from work or shopping etc, but after a hen-night its a different matter, a situation where girls may half expect to be approached by men, so I thought I would just try it out.

The best kind of therapy I can find in handling any embarrasing encounter, is to work out specifically why I acted in such a way on a given occassion, and be able to explain myself in as much detail as possible, if it becomes necessary.

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

My Grandmother

My maternal grandmother died in January 2008 aged 88. I had a very good relationship with her, especially in her last few years.

I would regularly go and visit her on a Saturday and have a game of scrabble with her. In fact from about September 2006 till the beginning of January 2008 I saw her almost every Saturday.

I've also had the tendency to want to repeat the same conversations, and with my Grandmother that worked so well, because her memory started to go in her last few years, so my repeating the same questions to her helped her memory.

Here's a typcially conversation we had. I would go through a list of her friends, who were her fellow 80 and 90 somethings, many of whom she went to church with.

Christopher   "How's Doris Dearsley doing?"
Grandma       "Oh she's fine"
Christopher   "How's Dr Drown doing?"
Grandma       "She's very good"
Christopher   "Because she sometimes has Doris Dearsley round for dinner"
Grandma       "Yes"
Christopher   "How's Anthea doing?"

and so on. Somehow I found these extremely elderly ladies very interesting. I think it was because they were extremely elderly, infact Dr Drown recently turned 100 and is in a care home (I know this as I remember people's birthdates well and I still have contacts who tell me she's still around.) How I got interested I don't know, as it was my grandmother who first mentioned these people to me. Some of them I'd met, some I hadn't. But I think my Saturday's with grandma really helped me to show an interest in other people, and has been benefical to my social skills today.

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Report on an Organised Social on Saturday Night

I went to another organised social on Saturday night. This one was fantastic for me. Although there were a few slightly difficult moments I was very happy throughout the night.

When I entered the pub, I instantly saw a number of people I knew and the first person to say 'Hi' was Maria, who I am particularly fond of. Now my fondness for Maria is not a sexual thing, though she is an attractive lady. To cut a long story short, when I met her at a previous event I found her very interesting, as I thought she was acting rather suggestively towards me, being rather touchy, mouthing the words of the song being played towards me etc, and this is not something I'm used to. On another occasion I managed to get to know her better as a person in a quieter setting, and we had a good conversation and got to know each other better.

Now I went to sit down close to the main circle where people were sitting, just slightly to the edge as there wasn't a space as such. It's hard in any case to join in the conversation, but one thing Maria is very good at is including anyone who may not be interacting much and helping them mix in. So I was very happy. I chatted to several others too, including Martin, a quiet guy, whom I feel I get along with quite easily and is someone whom I feel is on a similar wavelength to me.

There was another group at the other side of the bar, and I found an approriate time to move towards that end and successfully managed in mingle with a number of people, some I knew and some I didn't. It is worth noting that conversations can often revolve around the different events the organisation puts on etc.

One interesting encounter was when I confidently approached one girl and had mistaken her for someone else! (they did look similar) This was quite a good thing, it got her laughing a bit as made a nice ice-breaker.

During the course of the evening I was pleasantly suprised to see a quite a few people I was not expecting to be there. Though it was a good evening there were a few little problems. One is that after a couple of hours of socialising I do get tired, especially in a noisy environment. Sometimes it became hard to even hear what others are saying. Maria was very helpful here. If I ever looked a bit anxious I could just explain that I'm getting tired etc. I haven't told her I have Asperger's yet by  the way.

As the place was becoming very crowded and hot, we decided at one point we would move onto another bar. However the process of deciding to move on and then actually moving on was at least half an hour. I tried to mingle whilst waiting around, and I fear that one lady, who I hadn't met before may have misunderstood me. She said something like "why can't you just enjoy it."

This is one thing I want people to understand. Someone with Asperger's may at times look like they're anxious, not because they're upset or being grumpy etc, but because they're having to concentrate harder than everyone else in the social situation and the fact their concentrating invariably cannot be hidden from on their facial expressions. I tried to explain to the lady that I was tired in some sort of way (didn't say I had asperger's).

At one point I said to Maria, that we needed to find out who was going on and where we were going, so we wouldn't all lose each other. She suggested I tried to round people up to see who was going. I attempted, didn't feel I was doing very well at it, but Maria said "I like it."

In the end a large group of about a dozen of us in total went onto another place. I walked with Maria and a couple of others. Though I was very happy, I often find when people are joking around (as they do when walking from one pub to another) the conversation goes above my head. I do have my sense of humour but it doesn't really fit in with those types of situations.

We arrived at a club by the beach with an outdoor seating area. We initially went into the main club room to buy our drinks. This is not an environment I'm that familiar with, and I was overawed with the crowds and the noise. Maria kept saying to me, in a caring and friendly way "are you alright?" I just explained that there's  lot to digest and she totally understood. Maria told me she worries about everyone in this way.

We sat in the outside area to have our drinks. The others who came along joined us. All in all it was a very nice time. At around 1:00am, Maria's friend really wanted to go home, she didn't like the place, but Maria wanted to stay out until sunrise. Well I was not prepared to stay till sunrise but was not in a rush to go home either, and the idea was for the three of us to share a taxi home, as we all live in the same direction. I think I even may have used a few skills in negotiation that night, in trying to find out exactly what people wanted to do to clarify things and see if we could agree to something. I suggested that we make a compromise by agreeing on a time to leave. Maria eventually decided that she'll "have to be an adult" and go earlier than she'd like.

Maria, her friend and myself all got a taxi home, which was really nice. It was wonderful to feel included in the group. I think I helped to negotiate how we would share the costs of the journey too. All in all a great night out and felt very much on a high afterwards.

Sometimes Hesitation can be Mistaken for Rudeness

Today as I walked into my block of flats coming home from work, two of the other residents (I think) were chatting. I hardly know my neighbours, in my block we don't get to bump into each other much at all. 

Now I have moments when my mind pauses for some reason, and this time I couldn't quite think of the word to excuse myself wakling through, or think to say "thank you." One of the people muttered after I'd gone through "doesn't say thankyou etc. "As I was going up the stairs after I heard that I asked, "sorry what did you" say, and she said it was that I didn't say thank you.

I apologied and explained to her that my mind was pausing, I couldn't quite think of the word, and asked her that she doesn't mistake my mind pausing and not quite thinking of the word for rudeness. She said OK.

Sometime Asperger's people may appear rude when they don't mean to be. It's just that their mind genuinely pauses and they having to take longer to think to say "excuse me" or "thank you" on a given occasion.

Monday, 5 July 2010

Report on an Organised Social on Thursday Night

Last week I went to an social on Thursday night. It was not a brilliant night but had a few redeeming elements to it. It was in a small, rather cramped pub. It had a poor start as when I was on my way looking for the place, I first saw Lucy outside chatting on her mobile, a girl I know who regularly goes to organised socials and has been quite friendly with me in the past. I initially went in and couldn't find anyone I knew so I waited outside for a few minutes till Lucy ended her call and went in. I was a little worried by Lucy's reaction to me when I tried to say "Hi" she asid "Are you following me around?" For some reason she seems to taken a dislike to me, as whenever I tried to chat to her later on she was polite enough but I got the feeling that she didn't really want to chat to me. I was also a little disppointed that the host of the event, Steve, didn't really say hello properly when I entered. I was quite early, only a few turned up before me but the others arrived soon after. But anyway, I found a seat near the corner (not isolated) and an older lady, Marian who I'd never met before arrived and we started chatting.

Having felt rather tense at these things in the past, I tried to relax, not to have too high hopes and be content in whatever situation I was in. I had a fairly good chat with Marian for 10 minutes or so. However once, a few others arrived, including Robert, whom when I had met previously I felt we didn't really get on (he had taken a strong objection to my views on a certain subject and was rather forceful), the conversation turned towards things I couldn't follow, in fact I couldn't even hear too well. Hence (and I did genuinely need it) off to the toilet.

Then once back I joined another table where Lucy and a few others were sitting. I wanted to try chatting to Lucy again. However someone else called Lucy and she went towards the other side, and I was in fact left on my own, so thought "shall I move again?" and decided I would move back closer to where I was before.

Now the next bit I cannot remember too well. But there was one lady at the other side of the room who I had seen before and was keen to chat with (she was quite attractive, and I love to mix and mingle with attractive girls) and found that the seats opposite her were vacant. I didn't want to move chairs at a wrong time, looking like a lost man, but succesfully managed to keep an eye out and plan to move to the vacant seat at the right time and we actually had quite a good chat. She and her friends decided to get another drink and move outside (it was getting very warm indoors) though I am quite sure that this was nothing to do with me, as many were moving outside at this point. That was no priblem with me, I'd said enough for now.

It made total sense for me to move out to the beer garden at that point. And I sat on a table with Lucy and Ryan. Now I was pleasantly suprised about Ryan, as when I'd met him before he seemed like an odd guy, very dry and little rude. But he seemed much more pleasant this time. I noticed how Lucy, whom I mentioned earlier, this time had her head tilted more towads Ryan than me. I little disppointing but in retrospect Lucy and I have nothing much in common, and she's probably figured that out now.

Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Reflections from School: When the Teacher Observes You Doing Poorly

Throughout my schooling I remained in mainstream education, often with extra help from support assistants in lessons. I realised at one point, when I was around 14 or 15, that I found it quite stressful when the teacher would walk around the class observing everyone donig their work, if I felt I was struggling with the work or doing badly.

If my work wasn't going to be too good, I would rather the teacher would only see it after the lesson, when I was elsewhere, so I did not have to deal with their reaction to my work. Witnessing someone's reaction to something you've done badly is stressfull because it somehow requires a responce from you (when it is not a positive situation to respond to). Whereas if the teacher doesn't see your until after the lesson, you don't have to face the teacher's reaction if the work is sub-standard. That way if it's bad enough for the teacher to want to talk with you about it, they will at least have got over their initial reaction and be able to discuss it with you in a more composed way, and they will see all your work before you face their reaction, not just a part of it.

Monday, 28 June 2010

Approaching Someone to Talk To - Finding my Window of Opportunity

In my earlier post The Toilet can Sometimes be my Best Friend I explained my tactic for getting out of awkward conversations, used primarily at organised socials but also in other social settings when necessary. Now once I'm back into the main hall, ready to socialise again, the challenge can often be knowing how to approach the person I wish to talk to. Now I can go up and talk to anybody and start a conversation, I'm not shy about that, the problem is when that person I wish to speak to is already in a conversation with one or more other people, how do I find a way in? I'm faced with the challenge of finding a 'window of opportunity' (as Tony Blair used to put it regarding Britain joining the Euro) to approach that person, when it appears that the conversation that person is engaging in may have reached a pause, or better still, clearly ended.

Looking out for a window of opportunity to chat to someone is tricky because you're having to do two things at once. You're having to at least try to look as though your confident, and not lost socially, whilst keeping an eye on you person you're wishing to speak to. Then, when you think you've found your window of opportunity, you don't want to appear abrupt or as if you're interrupting them. The business of approaching someone engaged in conversation is much harder for someone with Asperger's Syndrome and requires more concentration then it does for someone without Asperger's. Hence I may appear very anxious looking in a social setting, and my expressions and body language may possibly be misinterpreted as being unfriendly, when you're simply having to try much harder to do what others are doing with ease.

And to make matters worse, there can be many moments when a conversation between two or more people appears to have reached a standstill, only for it to start up again. When approaching you risk the embarrasment of getting the timing wrong, looking like your butting in, starting to make eye contact with that person for half a second before you realise the conversation hasn't ended after all, or saying 'Hello' or something without a responce, discovering you didn't quite find your window correctly.

With all that said, there are times when I may find an easy window of opportunity with someone and end up having the conversation I am looking for.

Now a little note to end this post: As I was writing this post, I was conscious that people might take a poor view of me, thinking I am favouring talking to one person compared to another. If that's what you're thinking, I'll just say that I love to interact with a very wide range of people, but at a given social event there may be a perfectly legitimate reason why I may rather talk to Person A than Person B or C, particularly if I am in the business of trying to build up a social life and possibly exchange contacts. So I plead with you all to reserve judgement here.

Friday, 25 June 2010

The Toilet can Sometimes be My Best Friend

Here is a common pattern that takes place with me at organised socials when I am trying to mingle around and talk to people. Firstly, I get into a conversation with someone or with a few people. Then, either with one comment from someone or just gradually, the conversation changes direction into a topic which I don't know much about or cannot discuss easily. Initially I will try to follow along, and see if there is anything I can say to contribute to the conversation, but after two or three minutes, I start to feel conscious of the fact that I am getting a bit isolated. After about five minutes I might begin to feel it is time to move on and try talking to someone else, sometimes also spotting someone else I want to chat to. However I don't want to appear rude and just walk away. What I need is a get out excuse.

The tactic I have somehow developed is to say 'excuse me' then go to the toilet (its quite often at these moments I actually need the toilet, to a certain degree) as my way out of the conversation. Then once I'm out of the toilet, I can go back to the main room, and hopefully find someone else to talk to.

Often in a pub or a noisy environment, the toilet can be the one place to go for a brief respite, collect your thoughts, and prepare yourself once again to go back and socialise, maybe even to have another brief look at your social preparation notes from your pocket while no one is watching. Everyone needs to go occassionally, but no-one knows when you need to go. The toilet can sometimes be your best friend.

Organised Socials - Factors that can Make a Good Night or a Bad Night

In the various organised socials I have attended this year, there have been some great moments, and some very awkward and difficult moments. The context is that of an unstructured general get-together in a pub with a mixed bunch of people, some I might have met four or five times, others once or twice before, and some completely new people.

Before I outline the factors that affect whether it's a good or bad night for me, I had better define for you first what makes an evening good or bad. A good evening happens when I am engaged in interesting, stimulating, and sometimes exciting conversations, when I feel people are friendly towards me. A bad evening is when I am struggling to talk to people and I find myself on my own, looking rather lost for much of the evening. Now here are a few of the factors that can affect how good the night is:
  • Seating Arrangements. As a general rule, I am more confortable when everyone is sitting at a table rather then if everyone is standing around. When everyone is standing, if you don't look like you are part of any conversation, you look like a 'loser'. If you're sitting, it is generally more relaxed and easier to follow a conversation as people are not moving about, and if you cannot contribute you don't look so lost as you do when standing around.
  • People in Attendence. Although there is always a mix of personalitites and some quite extrovert people at any organised social, it still makes a difference as to who is there. Some people respond more warmly towards you, and naturally seem to help you along in a conversation. Often the best moments are when someone, through their more lively personality, can unwittingly help you interact in a more positive way and help you join in the fun.
  • Direction of conversations. Once I'm into a conversation, the direction the conversation takes is important, as sometimes it may go into a direction towards something I know little or nothing about.
These are probably the main factors that affect how much I will enjoy organised socials. That said even the best organised socials have their difficult moments, and the worst ones have a few good moments.

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Organised Socials - How I Prepare Myself

Over the Christmas to New Year period I stumbled upon a website that organised events for people who simply wanted to find new friends and meet new people in their area. Seeing that it was possible to go to an event simply by signing up, without having to go through the hoops of online networking with someone first, I bravely decided to join this group, and went to my first event the evening of Tuesday, January 12.

(I will be posting more on comments on socials with this group. However in order to protect people's identities I will not name the group, but I will refer to this group's events here and in future posts as "organised socials.")

The event was a catch-all meet up in a pub, and was one of those events specifically geared for new members. I was, like most people, very nervous about going. But I did go and ended up having an OK evening, though not a fantastic one. However I have since been to several more organised socials. I've had a really good time at some, others have been more of a struggle. So far the number of organised socials I've been to is something in the teens, and the majority have been simple meet-ups in pubs.

Having Asperger's means that the business of social interaction is more difficult for me than for others. However I am not shy as such, and I can go up and talk to almost anyone. I decided before my first event that I would be wise to do my pre-social homework, which was as follows:
  • Look on the website to see who was going to the event, and what the people said about themselves, their job, hobbies, interests etc. Make a note on paper of anything you could ask them when you talk.
  • Prepare beforehand how you will introduce yourself to others, practice on your own approaching a new person confidently with a "Hi, I'm Chris...."
  • Prepare beforehand what you will say about yourself when someone asks you. Think of things you may have in common with other people that could be talking points, often just general things, like TV programmes.
This was not intended to be a formula that must be followed, but I used it as a safeguard to hopefully fall back upon if I became unstuck in a conversation. If I can have a good chat with someone without remembering any notes, then great! As it happened, on this first organised social I was quite overawed with the situation and all these new people, and I couldn't remember faces from the profile pictures, so I never used my notes, but having done the preparations no doubt helped me feel more comfortable at the event.

Introducing Myself - My Background

It is difficult to know how to start a new blog, so I decided the best way was for me to give you some background to my life so far as social interaction goes. This is just an overview, details will follow in due course in later posts.

The majority of children with Asperger's Syndrome wish to make friends with their peers but find themselves unable to know how to do so. I was not like this. Up until the age of about 20 I had no real interest in making friends with others my age. I lived at home with my family and always wanted time to myself. Oftentimes when I was growing up the first thing I would do on Saturday morning was to go outside and talk to my imaginary people, and would spend the school playtime doing the same, wanting the other kids to leave me alone. That said I did develop a few friends in my primary school years, even going to their houses after school on occasion, quite how that happened I do not know. However by the time I started secondary school I really was not interested at all in making friends with my peers. I think that might have been to do with the impressions I had of teenagers when I was a young child and thinking "I could never possibly be like or fit in with them."

In my teens, my social life outside the family basically amounted to latching onto my parents' friends occasionally, usually other middle aged couples, because that is what I found safe, easy and comfortable. For instance when my parents invited another couple round for dinner I might join them for the meal then go upstairs once I'd had enough and talk to my imaginary people. 

However, about a year after I had started working, which was around late 2002 - early 2003, I started to want my own friends of my own age. I felt I was missing out on my youth. Now today I have a good social life, although I still do many things by myself. I have some great friends, from a mixture of different places, and I have found a means of being able to meet more new people regularly, which is very important for me. However in the past seven years or so I have worked hard to develop and build friendships with some key opportunities and many frustrations along the way. I have learnt much about the social world, something I was clueless about when I was 20, and this has caused me to analyse the social dynamics of different situations that I am in or observing.