In my adult life I have a focus on women's issues, women's friendships and women's beauty. But as a teen and young adult, the male race provided me with most of my support, friendship and acceptance. I did have a gal who was considered my best friend and a core group of girlfriends that I still carry on with today whom are lovely ladies I have written about in the past, but some of my main friendships were guys from Elementary to High School.
At the one job I managed to last more than six months at, my main support were the stock/ grocer/bag boys who enabled my many disabilities (of which I knew nothing about at the time but just felt) to be overlooked. Of course, a couple of cashier girls also supported me, but I would not have made it through without these guys. Being Autistic, on the spectrum, without knowing it, but still dealing with ALL of the vulnerable issues that come with that, was not an easy feat. At the time, a cashier's job was to memorize all the codes for the produce. More than 60 codes over four digits. My memory has never worked well with numbers, plus I did not know that I had Dyscalculia, a condition in which I see numbers switched all the time (so 65 looks like 56 ect.)
My cashier line would be held up if I couldn't find the code in the handy code book my dad made me. I begged every night to quit that job for over six months before I settled in. I cried because I felt so incapable. I didn't realize that often I was internalizing the social interactions I had because I did not understand them. I could not often tell if someone was angry at me or just in a rush. I definitely couldn't tell when older men were flirting with me unless one of the other cashiers pointed it out and then I felt foolish because my naive friendliness was probably misunderstood as flirting back. There were about 7 stock/bag boys at the time, most from the other school in town, that became my friends.
I realize looking back that most of how I made it through school life and navigated the social system was through sheer luck, friendship and using my semi ok looks. I wasn't ugly but wasn't a beauty either but it was used to my advantage. My perceived "sweetness" or "shyness" was also sometimes a boon to get the support I needed. I was lucky because it was a small town with a lot of protection built in to it, with my family's name, the school system, and the community at the time.
The guys who worked with me liked me in general. Probably because I was known for being sweet (which still baffles me) and because I was a little bit cute. Thus, I had their attention and built upon that. I worked hard to be friends with each of them on some level, so that when I needed help, one of them would always be there and not resent me too much. As soon as my voice came on the intercom to ask for help one of them would show up...or two...and they all memorized my codes FOR me. Yup, each of them knew the codes and would whisper them to me when the manager wasn't around while they bagged groceries. That is how I literally made it through two years at that job. They also would talk to the costumers for me with light chit chat or include me in it. When I looked shy (I was actually more confused or baffled, and private then shy) they would step in and take over. Some women may think that is patriarchal, or ironic considering I am against all patriarchy, but to me this was friendship. The fact that they were male DID make it easier on some level, but it wasn't that they thought I was the "little woman." They respected me most of the time, thought I was funny, and treated me equally...even if they did help me out. I helped them out by constantly listening to their girl woes and giving INFJ insightful advice, that more often than not, worked for them.
I related to men more in general. I found guys easier to talk to. I also found them less likely to play games which held great appeal to me. If a guy liked me, he generally told me and I would generally ask to be friends, and somehow we always ended up being friends without too many resentments. I am thankful to each one of them. Most of them were willing to listen to my blunt statements and still be my friend. I had one guy who would edit all my writing and encourage me with all my essays and I edited his drafts. I loved our friendship because of that writing/editing value and even though we shared inner soul thoughts it never went beyond friendship. My husband and I bumped into him a few times in a nearby city and found out he writes for a living. I loved hearing that and was excited for him upon hearing his job choice and that he had a child on the way. I had another guy friend with whom I started out our friendship by telling him that I didn't like him because he was "a self righteous, pompous person who used God as leverage to heighten himself above others." I can still see his face when I said that so sweetly and I barely knew him. He was so shocked at that statement but to his credit, he asked how he could come across better. He tried to win me over with little anonymous encouragement notes until I found out it was him and we became friends. I am an INFJ which means I can be both cruel and sweet depending on the situation, and since this is a rare personality combined with my autism diagnosis- I was not an easy person to figure out. Click HERE for more. (There are obviously moments that went terribly wrong and a few male friends whom I know will forever dislike me if I ever come up in memory.)
I wasn't into all the sexualized drama of teenage hood. I was trying to survive. I often felt like I was drowning. Looking back I realize that generally, the Autistic brain can relate more to the unemotional, logical aspect of the male brain. Not in all cases, but there is a camaraderie between the logic of an Aspie/ Asperger's woman/ Autistic and the logic of a male. Women are logical too of course, but autistic women are less inclined to be into any social games, gossip chains, or competition modes. Autistics are actually very empathetic in general, but we don't come across as such because we lack the facial expression most expect and communication that culture demands. It's a myth that we are logical robots but we do respect logic while at the same time deeply feeling what is around us. I also was an INFJ (click)which meant I liked to counsel people about whatever my interests were at the time...which basically came down to the christian god, romance and friendships.
I also attribute my sexual protection to one crush I had that lasted for YEARS. One of my best guy friend's was brothers to this boy who was a year younger then us. Looking back I think I took interest in this guy because he was non threatening. He wasn't my typical type. The moment my crush ended was the moment I stopped thinking about him unless someone brought him up. Which shows how very fluffy it was, but at the time I thought it was love, and I was obsessed. Being an Autistic, we can get obsessed by people, and this guy reminded me of Paul Brandt...a country artist I was also obsessed with. So, I chased and made a fool of myself but it was comfortable.
(Below- Paul Brandt. I would have been shocked to find out that years later I would have a quick conversation with Paul about our children, homeschooling and his children whom are a little younger than mine. I think, in my youth, I sensed Paul Brandt's genuine spirit, kindness and respected his creativity which is why I bought every album in my teens. He still puts on a great concert:)
My crushes' brother and I became close and exchanged letters all the time. To this day I think of his brother but rarely, unless I run into him, do I think of the guy I actually had a crush on. Unless, it is with gratitude. I think of him sometimes when I think of my daughter's first crushes. I hope she gets someone like him. Because he would tease me a bit and we would hang out, his brother, himself and I, but he never used me or even mocked me. Those two wild brothers taught me how to drive in country fields, ride horses, crazily drive down country roads with music blasting and generally taught me how to let loose a little because I liked to be in control (because being autistic in the world means one is often NOT in control of the sensory data.) We had fun. But the one I crushed on, always made it very clear that he wasn't interested in me. In fact, once he even told me that if he was a lesser guy and on looks alone, he would go for me, but our personalities didn't suit. He had wisdom I did not at the time. He was definitely right.
We were not at all alike or even the type to be attracted to each other. I basically objectified him... poor guy, but he was a trooper. I needed someone to talk about when all the other girls talked about their boyfriends and experiences...unrequited love was the perfect escape. I think I chose him subconsciously because of that. I used him a bit to get through the higher years of high school while still being accepted by my peers. My whole school knew I had a crush on him from grade nine to twelve and that he was my friend but uninterested in me. I was very convinced I was in love which convinced the school that I was off the market which saved me from a lot of uncomfortable experiences. And when a guy was brave enough to approach me, I used my crush as an excuse to let him down easily. This was perfect for an autistic person in school, navigating the confusing, fragile system.
He was safe. He was in another school, he wasn't interested, he respected me as a friend, and his brother was a close confidante. I will be FOREVER grateful to him for this. Looking back, I could have had a lot of experiences that many autistics unfortunately have....naively getting taken advantage of, having unwanted physical experiences, or just a lot of pain navigating the teen dating world. For that reason alone, I still breathe a sigh of relief and send thankful vibes to him and his family. But I didn't love him. I loved his brother in a forever way, in which I still will often think of him and wonder how he is, if he is thriving, and hope that his life always goes well. (I know I could look him up if I had Facebook but I don't want to. I am of the mentality and INFJ way which believes that when something is done- it is done until it flows back naturally into life. I don't believe in looking up people I miss unless I am concerned about them or have a warning dream about their lives. I don't believe in prolonging relationships out of curiosity or just to add more followers to social media. However, I do hope I can send genuine thank you vibes:) In the end, it was his brother who was the background support for most of those years of my life. He let me make a fool of myself and confess things I probably shouldn't have confessed. He accepted me. He was a true friend.
And I had many more lucky interactions like that. My first "boyfriend" was in grade seven/eight. He left a rose in my grocery cart when I was shopping with my mom. I didn't know what do do so I yelled out, "Hey you dropped this!" He winked and said, "I know." I use the term "boyfriend" loosely because all we did was become friends, hang out and eventually we held hands or he put his arm around me for the many movies I had him sit through...and that is as far as it went. He didn't push and we became phone friends, and talked for hours monthly, after he moved away in grade ten until the end of grade twelve. We had our arguments, but again, I was lucky to have people who seemed to sense my naïveté and instead of exploiting it, they protected it. Him and another guy became two of my closest friends in my two toughest years of Junior High. I call grade 7 and 8 my 'Ugly Years...' (metaphorically, on a depressive mental level and physically) and those two guy friends who hung out with two other gals and I, are the only happy moments I can remember from those years.
My mother was called by a few teachers to be told that I was hanging out "with the druggies and rough crowd" and that she should "save me or discipline me to make better connections." Luckily, my parents trusted my judgment. While I was naive I was also very insightful. I have always been a paradox. I generally could tell who had the pure soul despite actions and who was full of crap despite a shiny exterior. My mother told the teachers off and let them know that I knew what I was about. Once I was offered stuff, I said it wasn't for me, and that is as far as it ever went. I guess there was a fair amount of respect for my decisions or I was just blissfully unaware. I rarely felt peer pressure.
Even though I was a strong christian at the time, with a huge moral compass, I actually thought that these "wayward" souls were the kindest and worthiest people in the school. They didn't play as many games. They said shit and told it like it was. I responded well to honesty and vulnerability. Almost all of my better conversations happened with my male friends. I was just better at getting them to talk for hours and I think most of them needed a trusted outlet. My dad would call our phone 'K's counselling service'. There were quite a few guys I spent many hours on the phone to talking about their crushes. Unfortunately, I was naive and a few times it backfired to the point that they started crushing on another girl but switched to me because of all of our soul talks. I never saw this coming and felt awful about it each time because I DID think I was in love with the other country boy and I was quite loyal to what I thought was ME. It was ironic because I understood others with accurate perception most of the time but not when it came to anything connected to myself. Which now with therapy and diagnosis I generally know myself accurately, but it took years to get to this point and sometimes I still have to verbalize. In fact, my best kindred talks with me an average of three or more hours a week about life, and then I also have my husband and therapy. These are the reasons I am balanced more now and I am very thankful they all think I am intriguing, funny and smart despite all my interesting verbal quirks and weird sayings. But back in school I did not know ANY of this. I knew I was a pain sometimes but in general my guy friends and I got along well. Looking back, I sigh with relief. A number of things could have gone wrong in those situations but always, always, always, someone was there for me.
I also had a best male friend from grade nine onward, who became to me, like an ingrained forever family member. We both felt alienated in the school for different reasons. He came out in adulthood as gay and I came out as autistic. We both had a kinship probably because of our minority status we did not fully understand at the time. I loved him more than most because of the ample time we spent together. We usually walked or drove to school together, spent lunches together, went home together, spent the evening together, and sometimes the weekends. It was a lot of time invested so naturally, a lot of love and concern and complications went with that. But overall, he was my partner for those years to get through.
In Elementary school, my neighbours growing up were a family of four boys, who moved out to a farm but my family kept in touch. So I watched them roughhouse, shoot mice and gophers and talk about snakes, but they also played dress up and sat through my renditions of the Sound of Music. I had differing friendships with each one of them as I got older and appreciate, looking back, the valuable support and acceptance their entire family gave me. The eldest one helped pitch my tent for me, at each stop we made, the month that we spent on a youth trip in the Yukon. I didn't know I had Dyspraxia and I was soooo clumsy and unable to do practical things like pitch a tent. In those circumstances, it was translated into "K is too girly to do these type of things" which I let slide because I would rather be considered "too prissy" then incapable. I used a lot of myths and labels to my advantage because I needed to get through. Often undiagnosed Neurodiverse people in the school system become collectors of unflattering labels. In adulthood I would rather it be known that I am Autistic then have the labels like, "Nerdy," "Clumsy," "Shy," Socially Inappropriate," "Snobby, "Flirty," "Awkward," or any other narrow descriptions. I have received statements like,"You are too high functioning to be an Autistic!" Which is supposed to be a compliment but really it feels like more of an insult. (See THIS post for more and the autism label.) Often Neurodiverse conditions will come with other learning disabilities or differing brain conditions. I didn't know I had learning disabilities (now I know that I have Dyscalculia, Dyslexia, and Dyspraxia) but I knew my brain could not make the connections when it came to some things and to hide this fact, I leaned into the many labels placed on me and made them work. Thus, I was often "prissy" and my guy friends would want to help out...thankfully. Girls were more catty about the attention I would sometimes receive, not realizing it was my survival mode and also friendships that went back to early Grades school.
In Junior High my guy friends would put up with me constantly picking up cheesy romantic comedies for movie night. I think I made a couple of them sit through "That Thing You Do" or "Only You" at least seven times. I had no idea of how I sometimes came across. I just enjoyed the movies and was obsessed with them, so we watched them again and again. The guys were probably high and I had no idea, but still, it was fun for me. I also did not understand social rules of privacy, so I shared details of monthly cycles and they each knew generally when I had that time. Ha, I think I stretched many of them with my verbal openness. Honestly, I think I didn't know how to deal with it because I was anemic and in pain. When I didn't/don't know how to deal with something, I verbalize until I can figure it out. Also, I don't find most normal functions of the body something to hide or be embarrassed about - it's normal to half the human race, so while having dignity is important, why can't one talk about normal functions? My best friend says I have stretched her immensely in this area of speech but now she is more comfortable conversing on most topics. Thus, there are some memories when I think within a quirky context, "What was I saying??" but most were overlooked, some were teased and I'm sure others were talked about behind my back but I didn't care much about that. I'm still considered "too open" with details in writing or verbally at times, but to me, these details are not the inner core of who I am, thus it is easy to give the details away and not think I am giving much of anything, when most people view that as a lot of information. I have to go back and edit words that make most people feel uncomfortable but I think nothing of. This actually makes no sense to me because most people experience the same bodily functions.Yes, privacy matters, but why can't things be talked about? At their core, social and cultural rules I will adhere to simply to make peace but most I don't apply to my own life. When it comes to personal depth, I am a very layered individual and I only reveal certain layers to certain people. To me, there is a deeper core that isn't shown and as long as I protect my inner soul, I like having the freedom to express whatever I wish. When I am verbalizing to someone it usually isn't for advice because I figure that out on my own while I am talking. I am thankful that when I did monologue (something those on the spectrum are prone to do) that each of my male friends allowed me to use them as a trusted sounding board.
I loved each of them deeply. Some more than others, but I think of each of them, in my INFJ way. Which means, in my heart/mind I carry a piece of each of them, with me forever, and there is a little space in my soul dedicated to each of them specifically. It's not in a sexual or romantic love way. It's in a deep growth, friendship, brotherhood/sisterhood, teaching/learning, love way.
I married young, and did everything that I felt I needed to do to protect my very vulnerable marriage, which meant cutting off all ties with guys. I burned every photo with a guy in it. Yup. It is not something I would do now, but for some reason I felt I needed to do it at the time. I sometimes wish I had those fun pictures to show my children as they compromised most of my friendships. I don't have many pictures at all because it was the pre digital age. Every male who was my friend was invited to the wedding but wasn't talked to much after. I felt awful about it and I went through a mini crisis at the time but my Aspie brain could not understand the difference between loyalty to my husband and friendships with other men. It was probably good, in hindsight, that I did this, because I am a very loyal person in my soul, and I would have probably confused those loyalties when I was young, innocent and undiagnosed. Thus, not one of my male friendships, a few of which were my main supports growing up, and a few I had known since Kindergarten and Grade Four, lasted beyond twenty.
However, they STILL looked out for me. We were extremely poor the first few years of our marriage and also had kids to support. We went to the local restaurant on a special occasion with our kids. We only had enough in our bank account to eat the meal but we wanted to do something special for once. When the bill came the waitress said, "Oh it's paid. Rusty covered it." I didn't know my guy friend by that nickname so I was baffled and said thanks...and realized years later it was a school chum I was friends with. That happened a few times. We also had anonymous groceries dropped at our door and I found out later it was some of my school guy friends. We had gifts given and moments of protection that we didn't know came from them. And those brothers I mentioned before? They came to our home and played with our toddlers after church once. Because we kept asking families to join us for dinner and no one ever accepted. We were very lonely in those years because we were still kids that wanted to have fun but we also had kids. We didn't fit in with the older family set but we no longer fit in with our teenage, early twenty something, single friends. These brothers witnessed us asking people over and my former friend walked over to me and said, "Hey Kiss, if you want, we would love to come over." And I cried later when I was alone. I cried. Because I had burned all of his pictures (not that he knew that- I burned everyone's pictures) and hadn't talked to him much, other than a polite 'Hi' in church, for a couple years. And he brought his brother over and they played with my kids and chatted with us. And for a moment we felt our age. Of course it didn't happen much. We all had our own lives and eventually they both got married and my husband and I finally grew into our own roles of happiness and life. We quit church which made everything better for us in general, and we became the unit we are today. But those moments mattered.
My husband is now my best support. I have poured everything I gave to others into him. Most people are in awe at our relationship. Some say it is weird. He is baffled when at men's groups the guys share things they never tell their wives and he says they are shocked when he mentions that he feels comfortable communicating all things to me. Mostly we are best friends. The bathroom door is always open, and we don't tend to hide any sort of thought or human activity. He protects me in the ways that I need, and I protect him. It's why our marriage works well on most days. Because we are honest and communicate thoroughly...and we laugh a lot. He is my soul and I am his. (See marriage label for more.) It was worth cutting all ties for him so I was less confused and concentrated on our unique and young start, but I now wish that all the men I loved before him, would know how eternally grateful I am. I know they helped shape me into who I am and enabled a quality of life I would not have otherwise had as a differently neurodiverse person on this earth. Probably most of them wouldn't be shocked to find out I am autistic once they understood what that means without all of the myths surrounding it. Most would probably go, "ahhhhh now it all makes sense." But I think most of them would also be kind about it. Generally, they were all kind, intelligent and fun individuals. I still tend to talk more with the men, if we have families over, than the women. I have to consciously make an effort to appear like I am not flirting or that I am not overly taking interest in the opposite gender. But if my husband is there, and the other gal is fine with it, sometimes the husband and I will talk for hours while my husband talks with the wife. I enjoy soul connections, deep conversations that skip the boring social protocol of chit chat, and vocal, healthy council...more often then not, it is the men who seek out my conversation in this way. Generally, we just don't have couples over anymore as we like our space and time. But I have fond memories of brief conversations, like the last high school reunion, chatting it up with a guy friend I knew (and always loved to chat with) from grade five onward and speaking about relationships for a couple hours while my husband chatted with everyone else...
As my daughter gets older, I have been giving this more thought. She is now at the age where I started having crushes, "boyfriends" and soul friends whom were the opposite sex. And where I had no memories before, I am now being triggered and remembering events I have not thought about in years. I can honestly say, that looking back, I am so relieved. I can not even begin to explain my gratitude to all my friends, male and female, who accepted me for whom I was or enabled me to seem less disabled during times I needed to be so. I sometimes wish I could thank each one of them, but I know that would be weird and considered socially inappropriate.
That is the difference between me now and me then. I'm still an alien to most of our culture. I am odd, I am a mystery, naive yet aware, I am complex and never socially appropriate in my most natural state, but I now KNOW what is generally thought of as socially inappropriate. In important situations, I now call on all the information I have learned on the net and in therapy about people, contexts, cultural expectations and etiquette. I don't always follow it nor wish to, but if I need to know it- I generally do. There are a few times I am caught off guard and have no idea until later how different I was to others....but mostly I understand what I didn't before. So since it would be socially inappropriate or "freaky" to contact them all and thank them, I am writing this post out into the void, which is unlikely to get to the specified audience but cathartic nonetheless.
Funny enough, when I write about myself, I most often picture a male audience even though my core group is women. I also write on topics geared more towards women in general and do tend to speak to a larger women audience for most posts, but if it's a post about me, I picture mostly men reading. Which now finally makes sense to me because I wondered why I did that...it's because they were the main group who listened to me growing up and gave me more time. I viewed my friends as my family and I literally got by with a little help from my friends. I felt growth and acceptance (mostly) which is what I often hope is communicated in my writing.
To all the men I loved before...Thank you.
this version is also fun...oh boys...:):