I have, seriously, been asked this question. We were talking about the 2010 film The Social Network, and commenting on facebook-founder Mark Zuckerberg’s various aspie-type traits. I’d mentioned how I’d been “just like him” when I was younger (only without the genius), and that’s when my friend said, “So, did you grow out of it?”
At the time, I just muttered, “no.” I didn’t know what else to say; when faced with such ignorance (however well-meaning), I was speechless.
So, here are some answers (those I give, and those I wish I could give) to the responses I get to saying I have Asperger’s:
You? YOU have Asperger’s?
Are you sure?
But… have you actually been diagnosed? By a proper doctor?
Yep. This one.
Don’t you think you should get a second opinion?
Oh, you mean Ass Burgers. Ha ha ha!
Har har har.
But only boys get Asperger’s syndrome…
Now you’re going to tell me all about someone you know whose son who has Asperger’s syndrome.
But you’re not actually autistic…
Let me guess. You’ve seen Rain Man.
Well, it is a spectrum…
I know. You’ve seen Rain Man.
You obviously don’t have it very badly…
You wouldn’t last five minutes inside my head.
You must be very high functioning…
Yes, I can talk.
But you seem so normal…
Yep. Should have been an actor.
So, did you grow out of it?
It’s only a label…
It’s better than all the other labels I’ve been plastered with all my life.
You’re still you…
No I’m not; I no longer carry the weight of failure everywhere I go.
It doesn’t need to change anything…
Oh yes it does.
You’re not actually ill though.
Do you need me to be?
Okay, so you have a disability, but you’re not actually disabled by it, are you?
How long have you got?
It won’t affect you long term though…
I know people mean well, but seriously. Why do they feel the need to try and make it better, usually by questioning the validity of my diagnosis and telling me everything they know about autism? You’d never say, “Oh, you have cancer? Are you sure you saw a proper doctor?” And go on to explain all about your aunt’s colostomy and her resulting irrigation-problems. Would you?
It would be much nicer if people would give credence to what I’d just told them, and resisted the urge to tell me all about the nephew of a friend who has Asperger’s (and how he freaks out at fireworks and likes to line up his toys), and everything else they’ve ever seen on the news or read in the paper. And then not tell me how unlike that I am.
Praise me for coping so well if you like and, if you really want to have a conversation about it, please don’t tell me what it’s like to have autism. Try asking me instead.