I started reading this insane book yesterday called Born on a Blue Day, a memoir written by Daniel Tammet, a British man with Asberger’s syndrome, savant syndrome, and synesthesia. To get an idea of how the mind of this guy works, and how bizarre of a reading experience the book itself is, here’s a quote from the introduction:
“Numbers are my friends, and they are always around me. Each one is unique, and has its own personality. The number 11 is friendly and 5 is loud, whereas 4 is both shy and quiet – it’s my favorite number, perhaps because it reminds me of myself…As the sums and their results grow, so the mental shapes and colors I experience become more complex. I see 37’s 5th power – 37x37x37x37x37 = 69,343,957 – as a large circle composed of smaller circles running clockwise from the top down.”
(Funnily, I was about to write the exact same thing earlier, except then I remembered my life syndrome is closer to Down’s than savant, and I simply ate a strawberry yogurt.)
I find this book fascinating, not only because of the mindblowing things Tammet experiences inside his head with regards to learning capacity, and the way he’s able to deal with them and live a relatively adjusted life, but because autism and Asperger’s are so peculiar and incomprehensible to the normal mind, yet apparently quite prevalent in society.
On a totally different note, does anyone else think that women have been getting the short end of the stick these days? Without even delving into the tragedy that is Mitt Romney or the irksomeness of menstruation, it seems like I and my fellow females have been dealing with a lot of shit lately. Everywhere I turn, in our allegedly educated and wizened society, yet another girl friend/school mate/roommate/self is dealing with a retarded battle between the sexes caused by a failure to communicate, a misunderstanding, or a blatant burst of machismo.
But lo! Is it really that different of a note, after all? As I was reading Notes from a Blue Day, I began to wonder about Asperger’s and autism and my cock-wielding counterparts. Tammet writes that “[Asperger’s] affects around every 1 in 300 people in the UK…[it] is a condition affecting many more men than women (around 80% of autistics and 90% of those diagnosed with Asperger’s are men).” In other words, for every 100 AS-affected individuals, 90 of them are male. If you have a group of 10,000 Brits, that means 33 of them are affected, and that 29.7 of those affected individuals are male. If you go to a large English sporting event – let’s say Wimbledon, which can have 450,000 spectators – there would be 1,336.5 mildly autistic males in attendance. I would even estimate a higher number, because one behavior that’s very common in individuals on the autistic spectrum is an obsession with patterns, with circles, with things that go back and forth. Tennis.
This is shocking information. This information indicates that a night out in Central London is like shooting fish in a barrel, if you want to shoot maladjusted, socially-inept fish. Surely the US couldn’t be on par with those frighteningly high numbers. I mean, we don’t have a monarchy! To Google I went.
Fact: “Recent survey results from the NICHMD estimate that 1 in 500 people (0.2% of the general population) have some form of AS. Some estimates run between 0.36% and .71%. Among people with Asperger’s, the prevalence of males:females diagnosed represents a ratio of 4:1”
These numbers are indeed nearly parallel to those in the UK. Fuck.
“People with Asperger’s,” writes Tammet, “often have good language skills and are able to lead relatively normal lives. Many have above-average IQs and excel in areas that involve logical or visual thinking. [The condition] is defined by the presence of impairments affecting social interaction, communication, and imagination (problems with abstract or flexible thought and empathy, for example.”
In other words, ladies, to synthesize the facts and findings, there is an astonishingly high probability that your fiance, boyfriend, FWB, or crush is actually retarded.
People with Asberger’s have to find a way to comprehend emotions because emotions are not second nature to them. Tammet uses numbers: “If a friend says they feel sad or depressed, I picture myself sitting in the dark hollowness of the number 6 to help me experience that same sort of feeling and understand it.” Chicas, how many times have you yelled in vain at a boyfriend that he just doesn’t understand/how can he be so cold/what the hell is wrong with you? Isn’t this validating? Isn’t it comforting to know that, since he’s not a savant, he didn’t know to channel the 6 in order to be one with you and your sadness?
How many times have you texted a guy something like, “What are you doing?” and received the response, “Nothing.”
How many times have you had one of those crazy nights, where passionate sex follows a terrible fight, and you want to know where the situation stands, so you say, “I just want to know where the situation stands,” and he’s like, “It’s fine”?
Falling asleep immediately after sex? Toilet seat up?
Letting Mom roll his tortillas well into his twenties?
They’re all mildly autistic.
(All? You say. Aren’t you skewing the numbers? No. Because there are a ton of well-adjusted, civilized, understanding males. Who are dating all the other well-adjusted, civilized, understanding males. Yes. I said it. Real men are gay.)
“Single-mindedness,” writes Tammet, “is a defining characteristic, as is a strong drive to analyze detail and identify rules and patterns in systems.” I and my mother were recently driving home from Jersey (the state where I’m positive at least 88% of the residents, male AND female have at least some mild form of autism). We hit traffic on the GWB, and so called my father to ask for a different route in hopes of avoiding the 90 minute delays. A ten-minute conversation ensued, in which my father just kept telling us to take 95 North, and we were explaining that while in theory this was great advice, we wanted a different option, at which point he kept saying “95, 95,” until I became enraged and hung up. “He gets retarded on the phone,” she said. “Just ignore it.
Unfortunately, enlightenment is a paradox of sorts. We women now have this information, which allows us to understand the shortcomings of our male counterparts. But how do we proceed knowing that a decent number of guys we’re going to meet are maladjusted individuals with no hope?
We forge on.
We remain stoic.
And we hope that a ray of sunlight shines through the rainmen.