Why do I keep my little fingernails so long?

Reason 1: My particular brand of autism makes the sensation of anything touching the skin beneath my fingernails utterly intolerable, so I keep all my fingernails longer than is considered normal for a guy.

Reason 2: Long little fingernails are useful for emergency ear cleaning – as noted by Detective Goran in an episode of Law and Order: Criminal Intent.

Reason 3: It signals to people that I am seriously into cocaine. I am not into cocaine at all, but sending the message that I am amuses me far more than it really should.

Just call me Stefan…

I’m Purple Wyrm, what’s YOUR Disability?

It really can be a lot of fun to read through the personality disorders articles on Wikipedia.

For instance, I display enough of the symptoms of Schizoid Personality Disorder to make Sigmund Freud yell “Mein Gott!”. However many of these are accounted for by Aspergers Syndrome – which I have a formal diagnosis for – and the rest by Avoidant Personality Disorder, which I don’t have a diagnosis for but who are we kidding?

Throw in a fearful-avoidant attachment style and it’s a non stop emotional thrill ride simply existing as me!

The root causes of these kind of things are not well defined. They’re sometimes linked to childhood neglect and abuse, but there’s none of that in my background. Much more likely is the general trauma of growing up autistic in a non-autistic world without knowing that you’re autistic and that’s the reason everything is so confusing and difficult – rather that you being a dysfunctional, worthless freak.

In any case I’m well into middle-age now, so I only have to put up with this stupidity for another 50 years or so before the sweet release of death – and with all the work I’ve put in living like this I can manage that with my eyes closed. Bring it on, universe! You ain’t broken me yet and I have no intention of letting you, you gigantic prick!

The Pony Problem

The other week, this happened…

The Internet—the global system of interconnected networks that’s become an increasingly central means of commerce and communication capable of bringing far-flung civilizations together—reached its apex this week, after a man claiming to be the fiancé of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic character Twilight Sparkle contacted a user of online community DeviantArt to demand he stop drawing sexual pictures of his imaginary pony-bride. The request was made in a letter that was then published in full on the Internet, which no longer has any reason to exist, having achieved everything it has ever set out to do.

My initial reaction to this was to track down a ‘Brony’ and yell STOP IT!! JUST STOP IT!! NOW!! at them for a while, but on reflection I think I can offer some explanation on just what is going on with this person, and perhaps light the way to reintegrating them into sane, non-cartoon-pony-marrying human society.

I would guess that our pony fancying friend is autistic. Yeah, not so much of a leap given that he’s intending to share his life with the plushy version of a cartoon pony, but bear with me. What I’m intending to explain is why to the autistic brain, sharing one’s life with the plushy version of a cartoon pony might seem like a good idea.

It is my contention – based on reading lots of articles in New Scientist and on that fact that I’m an autistic person myself – that the autistic brain doesn’t draw a distinction between people and non-people. I suspect that neurotypicals have some kind of system in their brains that detects when the thing they’re looking at/dealing with is a person, and places it into a privileged mental category – a category that says ‘this is a fellow human being with whom you can have some kind of social relationship’. This system isn’t perfect of course, but generally it does a good job of dividing the world into two classes – people (eligible for social relationships) and things (not eligible for social relationships).

We autistics lack this system. For us the world is made up entirely of things – it’s just some of those things happen to walk and talk. For us a person is – on a fundamental neurological level – no different to a telephone pole, so we have to learn how to tell what things are suitable for social relationships. A useful starting point is ‘Is it animate?” Another is “Does it talk?’ Yet another is ‘Does it appear to engage in social relationships with others?’I think you can see where I’m going here…

Up until the 20th century this probably worked pretty well. The only animate, talking, social things around were human beings. But throw in film and  suddenly you’re exposed to animate, talking social things that aren’t actually people – they’re recordings of people. And then throw in animation and you can be exposed to animate, talking, social things that plain don’t exist – like magical ponies. Show this kind of thing to an autistic person whose method for identifying people isn’t robust enough, and the stage is set for all kinds of inappropriate weirdness.

Interesting, you may say, but it’s just a theory. Well I speak from more than just a theoretical perspective. Many years back I myself fell prey to this particular social-neurological trap and developed a particularly strong attachment to a fictional TV character (not, I am relieved to relate, a cartoon pony – or for that matter a cartoon anything). I never reached the levels of delusion required to refer to her as my fiance, or to write letters to random internet people defending her honour, but I did spend a substantial amount of time daydreaming about our ‘relationship’ and building up a fairly detailed mental dossier of our ‘time together’. It was all mad as a meat axe, sure, but years later I still think of her fondly.

And the truth is that an imaginary relationship has a lot of advantages – particularly for the lonely,  socially inept autistic. All aspects of the relationship are entirely under your control. Your ‘partner’ has no hard to understand emotions, they have no need for time or attention you don’t feel like providing, they’re always up to hang out, and conversely don’t get upset or offended if you’re not in the mood to see them, you don’t need to buy them gifts or take them out on expensive dates – it’s all so simple!

And while the ‘affection’ you get from them isn’t as good as the real thing (not, in fact, being anything at all) it’s better than nothing. Hell, if you’ve never had a real relationship it’s the best affection you’ve ever had! And the opportunity to express affection to someone, and have them accept it – even when they don’t technically exist – is just as intoxicating. It’s a nasty, addictive and unhealthy trap to fall into – regardless of whether you make a fool of yourself professing your love for a cartoon pony or not.

So I get where this guy is coming from. I think I understand it. But, seriously, dude, dump the pony and try to get out there and find a real person. You might fail, but at the very least you’ll no longer be the poster boy for internet mediated pony based insanity.

Schrödinger’s Rapist

Now this is a really good read….

Schrödinger’s Rapist: or a guy’s guide to approaching strange women without being maced

It basically sums up why I don’t approach unfamiliar women under any circumstances. My social and non-verbal communication skills are so terrible that I’ve always assumed that any woman I see (or rather, who sees me) will assume that I’m some kind of monster, and so – out of respect – I go out of my way not to inflict myself on them.

It’s nice to read some confirmation that I’m not completely mad after all 🙂

Single by No Choice

Forever alone!

So, the other day I was talking to a friend (you know who you are 😉 ) and the subject of valentines day came up. They mentioned they were having a rough time with it because they were single, then backtracked and acknowledged that I was single too, but that I’m “single by choice” and so it’s not quite the same thing…

Well. The thing is I’m not single by choice, I’m single by no choice.

I’m austistic. Now, being autistic has about as many different effects on people’s lives as there are autistic people, but the major debilitary effect it has on my life is a near complete lack of social instincts and a general inability to pick up on those mysterious channels of non-verbal communication that all you neurotypicals take for granted.

This is not terribly unusual for us autistics, and there are ways around it. Intensive study, social counseling and general life experience can help. Hell, the last one is the sole reason I can fit into society at all. But I wasn’t diagnosed with aspergers syndrome (my particular flavour of autism) until my late 20’s, by which point it’s hard – not to mention expensive – to try and undo years of damage from living in a society that’s essentially completely alien to you (and not realising why everything is so damn hard).

So, as a result of both my neurological state and years of unintentional abuse from a world that makes no sense I just don’t know how to do the whole relationship thing (and please note: in the term ‘relationship’ I include everything from living happily ever after with one’s soul mate to a quickie in a nightclub toilet stall). I don’t know how to approach someone, I don’t know how to talk to them, I don’t know how to indicate interest, I don’t know how to recognise any interest that may be being directed at me and, if I did somehow manage to recognise it, I have no idea how to reciprocate it. That kind of thing is just not in my skillset – and it would have to be in my skillset, because it’s not in my instinct-set either.

Now at this point some may scoff and make noises about how I’m overthinking things and I should just relax and let things happen naturally. Well, I’ve been doing that for over twenty years and no dice. The thing one has to realise is that the autistic brain just doesn’t work the way a neurotypical one does. The automatic systems that do all the heavy-social lifting stuff, quietly and in the background, are either unreliable or missing entirely. So social stuff is work. Hard work. And work that you need to be shown how to do, because you’ve got absolutely no idea where to start. The vast savannah of all possible behaviours is laid out before you, and you don’t have even the most rudimentary map to show you what path leads to the tourist lodge and how to avoid the lions.

There’s also the fact that not only am I congenitally socially incompetent, I’m also massively underexperienced. By your mid-thirties you should have basic social interaction – let alone social interaction of a more intimate nature – pretty much sorted out. You can make judgements on what to do and what not to do based both on your inbuilt social instincts and your years of experience. Well I don’t have those years of experience. Social interaction is hard enough without the added pressure of making some kind of rookie mistake that everyone else has been avoiding since their teens.

Add it all up and the stress and difficulty is just overwhelming. As a result I’ve more or less resigned myself to not experiencing the relationship component of life, and given up trying.

So, I’m single by no choice. Does this mean I sit around at home in the dark wailing in loneliness? No (mostly). I may not have a choice about being single, but I do have a choice about how I can deal with being single. I can wallow in self-pity and complain about how unfair it all is, or I can pull myself together and focus on the good stuff in my life. Good friends, good food, good music, a stable society, a safe place to sleep at night, socialised health care, access to funny cat videos on the internet, etcetera. It’s not always easy, when work or life or the state of the world are stressing me out it can be soul-wrenchingly hard to come home to an dark apartment and an empty bed, but on the whole it ain’t so bad. I can at least laugh about it and spend my valentines day’s considering how much money I’m saving not having to spend $20 per stem on hothouse roses and overpriced chocolates 🙂

Forever alone!

A Dark Place

So, am I sailing the ocean blue, heading for adventures in New Zealand?

No, I am not. I am sitting in my apartment in Perth wallowing in a nasty combination of embarrassment, humiliation, disappointment, anger and worry about how much money I’ve wasted.

Turns out I hate cruising. After two days on board the boat I felt so wretched that my only option was to jump ship at Melbourne and fly home. So I’m not going to New Zealand, I’m not seeing all the cool stuff I was looking forwards too, and I’m pretty pissed off at the world and myself for not realising that life on a cruise ship would be hellish for an Aspie like myself.

So, I need to cancel all my reservations in New Zealand, alert my bank that I’m back in Perth so they won’t block my card and get in touch with my travel insurance to see if there’s any way I can get any of my money back. I’m not hopeful on that last one, but I’ll try.

I’ve also got to try and reconcile myself to another magnificent failure at living. If American sit-coms are anything to judge by, this is the kind of thing best treated by consuming vast amounts of alcohol and going to a strip club, but that’s not going to happen, so I’ll need to figure something else out. Give me a week or so and I should be coming out of this horrible funk. I hope.

Man I suck.

The Slap

I’ll give *you* a slap!

The ABC is going on and on and on about it’s ‘brilliant’ new drama The Slap.

The media are going on and on and on about the ABC’s ‘brilliant’ new drama The Slap.

As far as I can tell the ABC’s ‘brilliant’ new drama (The Slap) consists of…

1) Person slaps child….
2) Everyone gets angsty about it.

Call me autistic but that sounds like the most batshit boring eight hours of television ever envisaged by man.

And what’s all this about La Paglia the Younger being an unknown? He was the star of 7 Days you ignorant savages! Just because you have no interest in giant blue time-travel spheres and oddly cold-war influenced pro-American storylines doesn’t make the guy an unknown!


Tunnel Dreams

Idiot dreaming of future rail lines.

If tomorrow the people of Perth arrived en-mass at my front door to appoint me absolute Monarch of the State, there would be a number of programs I would immediately initialise. For instance, the coversion of East Perth Power Station into a royal palace, the banning all imports from Texas (with the exception of Ms Kelly Clarkson) and the distribution of knighthoods and government allowances to people who don’t generally hack me off (a small and exclusive group).

But my major legacy to the state (apart from the continuation of the royal line – ideally with the assistance of Ms Kelly Clarkson) would be the expansion of the city’s public transport system via the construction of a number of underground rail lines. And they would go like this…

(Asterisks indicate interchanges with other lines)

The Northern Suburbs Line – Sorrento, Greenwood*, Ellersdale Avenue, Balcatta Road, Mirrabooka, Norranda, Morley, Broun Avenue, Bayswater*, King William Street, Ascot*, Blackrock Road, Belmont.

The City/Ariport Line – International Terminal, Domestic Terminal, Ascot*, Tranby, Burswood Island, WACA, Victoria Square, Perth Underground*, Cloisters*, Mill Point, Perth Zoo, Douglas Avenue, Ellam Street, Burswood Island (again).

The University Line – Glendalough*, Dog Swamp, Edith Cowan, Hyde Park, Russel Square, Cloisters*, Observatory, Nicolson Road, QE II, UWA North, UWA South, Applecross, Canning Bridge*, Goss Avenue, Curtin, Boundary Road, Hill View Terrace, Oats Street*.

There’s a fair potential for expansion there – for instance the University Line could be linked with the Northern Suburbs line with an expansion between Oats Street and Belmont. The other end of the University Line could be run out to Scarborough Beach, and a further expansion up to Sorrento could complete the loop. Norranda station is well placed for a branch line up to Whiteman Park and Ellenbrook. There’s also plenty of potential to expand into the southern suburbs – or at least there would be if they were anything more than a barren wasteland haunted by wind and ghosts 😉

I’ve obviously got it all figured out. On with the coronation! 😀

Damned Impertinence!


This morning at work I got a call from a client wanting an update on his project. As might be expected on a Monday morning he asked if I’d had a good weekend. I answered in the non-committal affirmative. He then asked “Do anything interesting?”

Well. Call me a socially inept Aspie but to me that’s stepping over the line. We’re not friends, we’re business associates. As I see it, he has no right (social or otherwise) to request information about my personal life, and to do so was frankly impertinent.

What was I going to do? Fill him in on all the details of my weekend? Tell him how I went to an old friend’s wedding lunch at the Rose in Crown at Guildford? And how it wasn’t the actual wedding because the actual wedding was in Japan and Switzerland, and explain how that was actually possible? And say that I had the barramundi but wished I’d had the steak because although the barramundi was fantastic the steak the other people were having looked even better and came with chips? And that a good time was had by all and then on the way home I saw a house flying the state flag of Wyoming for some reason? That information is mine, not to be handed out over the phone to someone I barely know.

I mean I didn’t want to know what he’d done over the weekend. Why would I? He’s a client – one among many. As far as I’m concerned he could have spent his weekend morris dancing, pin collecting or hunting the most dangerous prey of all. It makes no difference. He could be the goddamn Batman as long as he gets information to me in a timely manner so I can get his work done.

My clients are not my friends. And’s that the way it should be.


(Yes, I understand the irony of saying I don’t want a client knowing details about my weekend and then posting all about it on a publicly accessible blog, but if you’re reading this then you’re either a personal friend of mine, or a complete stranger I’ll probably never meet, so it’s not the same thing :P)

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