I think I’ve covered the ways in which I’ve been feeling lonely and taken for granted in this relationship. Now I want to talk about some other incompatibilities.
TA is…kind of an asshole. Not in any serious way. But she’s a bit blunt sometimes and she’s a person who expresses affection for people by making fun of them, I think. As someone who got bullied all through school, I don’t generally deal well with affectionate teasing. Like I don’t know that she’s actually doing anything objectively terrible, but I can’t cope. And it seems like this shit is a fundamental personality trait for her and saying “stop doing that entirely” might be basically telling her to be a different person.
There was the ongoing thing of hers where she’d giggle at me for having told her the same anecdote more than once (to a point where she even laughingly said “this is the fifth time you’ve told me that. I started counting a while back” which is SO RUDE wtf). I had to explicitly connect the fucking dots for her that I have told her my memory sucks and that I believe this was caused by trauma, therefore making fun of my shitty memory is tantamount to finding it funny that I’ve been traumatized.
There’s the thing where she loves to pick on people’s wording. So if I say a sentence that can be parsed some way other than how I meant it, she’ll deliberately take it the other way, I guess just to rub it in my face that every damn thing I ever say isn’t textbook-perfect English? So like if we were talking about a particular movie and I said “My one friend saw that the other day and hated it” she might go “you only have one friend?!” That might not sound like much but she does it a lot and is so gleeful at catching me out and it gets tedious.
There is (for instance) the time we were at a party and a clump of people, including us, were talking about how Queen Elizabeth II had just died. And I said “wait, does this mean our money is about to change and have Prince Charles on it? That’s weird to think about.” And TA kinda got in my face and triumphantly said “who? The money will have whose face on it?!?” because the Queen’s death would have made him King Charles now, not Prince Charles, and I guess she super loved pointing out in front of everyone that I had made this minor error. Like excuse me for not effortlessly changing over the title I’ve known someone by for literally fifty years. I don’t think my mis-titling was a big deal, and I don’t think anyone else gave a shit, so it was weird how TA was acting like she caught me making a major, mock-worthy gaffe. She could’ve just said “yes, and also he’s King Charles now!” and moved on with the discussion.
All of this stuff gets really tiresome. It makes me second-guess everything I say before I say it and puts me on edge.
Also: TA prides herself on being good at grasping subtleties in conversations. She says she enjoys conversations with a ton of subtext to them, actually, and sees them as a game she can play and win. And so, sometimes I’ve used her as a translator of sorts, because I’m autistic and although I’m pretty good at picking up on subtleties, sometimes I guess the allistic thing of having layers of hints does confuse me.
So one time, a friend was telling me about a speed dating event they were going to go on, and said I ought to come, too. And they linked me to a social media post from the organizers so I could check it out and decide if I was interested. Someone had commented on the post “are polyamorous people welcome at this event?” and the organizers replied something like “we have a checklist attendees can fill out to mark off what kind of relationship they’re looking for!”
And I was half-tempted to reply to that “and is ‘polyamorous’ on that checklist, or…?” because what in the allistic fuck was that response? It was a simple yes or no question and they managed not to answer it at all. I kinda wondered if the real answer was “we forgot that poly people exist when we were making the event, but we want your $35 entry fee, so just come to the thing and we’ll figure something out.” But I wasn’t sure if that was overly cynical of me.
I ran this exchange by TA to get her thoughts. First, she weirdly defended the organizers by saying “organizers are busy! They don’t have time to compose a whole novel to anyone who asks a question!” and I was like “nobody was asking them to compose a novel! They could have just said yes or no! It would have taken them less effort to do that than it did to compose their weird non-answer!” TA kept insisting that it wasn’t a straight yes or no question and I was like “but it is? Do they allow poly people at the event, or do they not? That is simple and binary.” Then she said that the response did answer the question, and I was like “but it literally didn’t. They didn’t say ‘yes, you are welcome at the event’ or ‘no, the event is for monogamous people only’ or even ‘shit, we didn’t even think of that. Ummm you know what, just come. But we won’t guarantee that there will be a lot of other poly folks there.’ They gave an answer that seemed like it said something but when you really look at it closely it’s a non sequitur.”
I was annoyed in this conversation because the event organizers gave such a vague and useless reply. TA didn’t have a dog in that fight because she hadn’t been interested in going to this event – but she was annoyed, too. And it seems like what she was annoyed with was me. Finally she yelled “Look, it’s perfectly clear that they mean ‘we haven’t made any actual provisions for polyamorous people but you can still come if you want to.’*” I yelled back “If that were ‘perfectly clear’ then I wouldn’t be asking you what it means.” And that made her pause and collect herself, as if she’d suddenly realized she was implying I was stupid. What else could I be, if I needed perfectly clear things painstakingly explained to me?
And this is the thing. When I first started talking to TA, I assumed she was autistic, TBH mostly because she’s getting her PhD in a STEM field. Also she’s diagnosed with ADHD, which is often comorbid with autism. And she’s trans, and for some reason a lot of trans people are on the spectrum. And she gets along with me. I wasn’t fixated on the idea that she must be autistic, you understand – it wasn’t central to my idea of her – but I figured probably. But at some point – I can’t remember how it came up – she said that she’s not autistic. And I thought that was because she had looked into it and found a bunch of evidence to support that she’s not. But now I wonder if it’s an ableist “I’m not like those people” thing. Because her occasional asshole bluntness and inability to see that she’s said a hurtful thing until I spell it out feels kinda autism-y to me TBH. And it’s fully possible to be autistic but just better-than-average at decoding allistic shit, just like how I’m autistic but great at reading body language when some other autistic folks can’t.
Because TA teaches a STEM subject, she deals with a lot of students on the spectrum, and she prides herself on being able to communicate with them in ways that they understand. Her girlfriend is on the spectrum, and TA is pleased with herself for accommodating that, too. And of course she’s felt pretty self-satisfied about “translating” allistic shit for me occasionally. One time when we were lounging in bed talking, I gave an opinion on something -or-other and she replied “this is just an observation, I’m not making fun of you, but that’s a very autistic thing to say.” From someone else on the spectrum, some version of “that was so autistic of you” would feel like we were bonding based on our shared neurotype. From someone who claims to be allistic, it feels infantilizing to me, or like she’s a biologist making notes about the weird, weird species they’re studying.
I’m sensing a subtle but pervasive vibe that she sees me and other autistic people as cute little aliens for her to rescue and help. Like, it is good that as a teacher she knows how to communicate with both allistic and autistic students, just the way she talks about it kinda puts my teeth on edge, like she’s underscoring how weird autistic people are instead of thinking of things in terms of “here are two separate neurotypes that need different approaches to teaching.” And her attitude would be annoying whether she’s on the spectrum or not, but if in fact she is autistic then it definitely adds a little extra spice to it all, no?
I don’t like feeling as though my gf sees me as a different species.
*So it looks like my guess was in fact correct and I’m not as obtuse as TA thinks. I maintain that the organizers’ answer was neither clear not direct; they were deflecting, trying to placate people enough to get them to pay the entry fee. And I am right to be annoyed by that and to prefer transparency.