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grew up in Ang Lee's The Ice Storm, contemporary of Judd Apatow. Listened to Free to Be You and Me and Yellow Submarine countless times on a phonograph that could play 16⅔, 33⅓, 45 or 78 rpm records from the inside of a large console cabinet on the floor of my living room. John Lennon was assassinated, the 1980's began, and I went through puberty. On late night radio, random people asked Dr. Ruth all variety of questions about sex. She asked, "Do you masturbate?" If the caller said yes, she gleefully exclaimed "Gut!" in Yiddish, and then took the next call. Went to college, abroad, grad school, work and more grad school. Married, started a new career and had kids. Decided that like Jung at age 37, my time for individuation had arrived. I'm ISTJ according to Myers-Briggs; I'm a five according to Enneagram; I experience "flow" as described by Mihály Csíkszentmihályi. I read The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin, but surely there must be more to it than cleaning one's closets. And what is "love" anyway? After one of my children was diagnosed with mild Asperger's, on September 24, 2010, I heard Tim Page on the radio say that he figured it out after his son was diagnosed. Oh.


5. communication

first words. I didn't speak at all until I was two and half years old, when I said: "I want a Mallomar." Then, I just talked in full sentences. I never referred to myself in the third person.

funny sounding words. When I was nine years old, I had one classmate who I felt a special connection to. In class, we spent a lot of time giggling when he said "doy" and I said "der." He was doy and I was der and I found this hysterically funny. I have no idea why. When I was little, I remember trying to figure out what the purpose of life was. I decided that the purpose of life was to laugh. I still think that maybe I was right.

body language. When I was little, I always used to stare at people with a blank expression on my face. At some point, I stopped doing it, but whenever I am in public I need to constantly fight the urge to stare at people. When I'm talking to people face to face, I make a conscious effort to make proper eye contact, but I often think to myself, "should I look at the left eye or the right eye? If I dart back and forth that will be distracting to me and will probably look strange to the other person. I’ll just concentrate on one eye. Okay, here I go." I actually consciously think these things when I talk to someone. When I walk down the street, I'm always conscious that I'll look at someone too long, and I need to avert my eyes. I have never gesticulated while talking.

literal. It took me an extraordinarily long time to understand that people often do not mean what they literally say. I did not used to know that "How are you?" usually just means hello, and the other person doesn't really want an answer to the question. I have been told my entire life, "you’re so literal." Some people I knew in college even nicknamed me "Mr. Literal." I remember learning the word "blocks," as in city blocks, when I was a child. I could not understand what the word meant. I knew it had something to do with streets, but all I could imagine was a small pile of children’s blocks in the middle of the street. I remember once in high school, I was with my friends, and we went into a house that had a young child. One of my friends remarked: "Wow, the kid's shit is all over the place." I said: "I don’t see any shit." It didn't occur to me he was referring to the child's toys. It took me a long time to understand the expression "black ice," because I had never seen ice that was black. After hearing the expression numerous times, I finally understood that "black" ice means transparent ice on top of a black surface. I guess that concept is immediately apparent to other people, but not to me. I distinctly remember the first time my teacher asked me to use a vocabulary word in a sentence. I don't remember what the word was, but let’s say it was "peculiar." The sentence I wrote and handed in to my teacher was: "I looked 'peculiar' up in the dictionary." Not only did I think this was an acceptable and correct answer, I thought it was the best possible answer, because this sentence not only worked for this word. It could work for any word. Of course, my teacher derisively told me that my answer was wrong. But it wasn't my fault; her directions were wrong, or at least incomplete. I have always enjoyed puns and wordplay. I think this follows directly from having a literal interpretation of language.

conversation. When I was growing up and wanted someone's attention, I used to grab the person’s chin and physically force the person to look at me. In social situations, when people are talking about something, the conversation will frequently diverge to a different topic. I often find this very disconcerting if there has been no "closure" to the first topic of conversation. I frequently have the urge to "finish" the first conversation, before moving on to the second conversation. Other people seem to have no problem flipping from one topic to another, like constantly changing the channels on a television without ever finishing a program. A lot of times when people are talking, especially women, they laugh even though nobody said or did anything humorous. I have trouble understanding why they're laughing. I need to make a conscious effort to indicate that I'm listening to someone when they are talking to me. Saying "uh huh," "yes," "I know," nodding, smiling, making eye contact or other gestures does not come naturally to me. I have read that other people have a natural ability to understand what others would find relevant or interesting, how to begin a narrative, the proper duration of a narrative, what information should be included and excluded, and how to be neither curt, obtuse or boring to the listener. Trying to do all those things requires a great deal of conscious effort for me. When someone's talking to me, one way to indicate that I'm interested in what the person is saying is to ask questions. But when I do, it's often interpreted as giving the person the "third degree" or "cross-examining" them. People assume I'm trying to make a point, and their feelings will get hurt, because I'm being argumentative. I'm actually just trying to engage in conversation. Maybe, I'm just supposed to say, "uh huh, uh huh." "Yes, that's wonderful!" But I find it difficult to force myself to do that. Other people seem to do that without consciously "acting," but I am not able to. I think I'm as good at making small talk as anyone; I just find it completely tedious. I enjoy conversations in which someone conveys to me information that I don't already know. Purely "social" conversations are a big effort for me. Subjectively, it appears to me that most people find me boring and I find most other people to be boring, but I don't think my own thoughts are boring. I now know that people don't usually want to hear details, even though to me the details are the most interesting aspect of any narrative.

reaction time. Sometimes I react unusually slowly when someone says something to me. Sometimes it just takes some time to process what I've heard and to formulate how I want to respond. Sometimes it takes a few seconds for me to notice that someone else is intruding on my own thoughts. I've noticed that other people often begin responding to what I'm saying before I've finished talking. It seems to me like they are rudely interrupting me, or responding thoughtlessly without really considering what I'm saying.

tone of voice. How many times have I heard, "it's not what you said, but how you said it." It is so frustrating to do all the right things, and even say all the right things, but others still dislike me because my body language and tone of voice betray me. I remember that I sometimes talked oddly when I was little. My voice became high-pitched at certain times, and I tended to speak with something akin to an English accent. I frequently talk too loud without realizing it. It wouldn't surprise me if people find me a lot more pedantic than I realize. I like teaching people things I know and learning from others things that they know. To me, it seems like a lot of people just like to spend a lot of their time complaining to each other, which I find extremely tedious.

tuning out. Sometimes I tune people out. I don't think I do this on purpose.

shyness. When I was little, I was "shy." That's kind of an understatement, because much of the time I simply did not talk at all. I remember many times listening intently to people talking and pretending I did not hear or understand what they were saying, even though I was actually listening to every word. Sometimes, I was pretending to be asleep even though I wasn't. I think I've always been a little afraid to express myself to others. When I was little, I wanted the game "Mousetrap" for my birthday. When my parents asked me what I wanted for my birthday, I said "Mousetrap" but was unable to communicate that I wanted a game called Mousetrap that I saw advertised on television. My parents had no idea what I was talking about and bought me a mousetrap for my birthday. I of course was upset, because it wasn't what I wanted. They then bought me the game I did want, which I liked very much. The point is that I was unable to express the simple thing of what I wanted for my birthday. Perhaps one reason I have always had difficulty expressing myself to others is that I can't distinguish between the thoughts that I should express to other people and the thoughts that I should not express to other people. I think I frequently feel ashamed about what I'm thinking.

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