It’s certainly true that everybody wants to fit in somewhere, somehow. This is especially true for people who suffer from Asperger’s Syndrome and other similar conditions. The problem is that many people who do suffer from such conditions lack the social skills that would enable them to interact efficiently with others. In many cases, it is turned the other way around and the person wanting to fit in but can’t becomes the victim of exclusion type bullying. I have mentioned this before in my post “Exclusion, More Painful Than Punches.”
I definitely know what this is like and have experienced it first hand. Growing up, I wanted to fit in but my lack of social understanding made this difficult. Many times I would approach a group or even just one or two persons with the hope of joining their group, only to be sent away, laughed at or worse. Sometimes, the cause of this was down to my lack of social understanding. I would say or do the wrong thing at the wrong time but in many cases, it was just down to intolerance or plain bullying by the others. What was worse, some of the ones who were deemed most popular would use my desire to fit in against me. They would get me to say or do anti-social things and I would comply believing that I would be accepted if I did. Of course, they would have their laugh at my expense and things would go back to the way they were.
My solution to the problem came even before I moved out of the town that caused me so much grief. I would rarely, if ever, approach anyone with the hand of friendship. Instead, I would wait for others to come to me. Worse, my past experiences led me to mistrust people thinking that everyone was out to make a fool out of me and I adopted a defensive posture towards people. This was especially true during my high school years. I remember one girl saying to me, “You’re not very friendly.” The problem was that I wanted to be but my past conditioned my mind where my actions gave that impression. As a result, I was a loner throughout my high school years. However, I didn’t realise it was down to social conditioning influenced by Asperger’s like mindset. I thought it was down to being a born again Christian and not being accepted because I wasn’t of the world.
Even when I came out of the service I changed little in this regard. Being the 80s, some would probably explain it away by quoting a line from the movie “Pretty in Pink:” “If you give signals you don’t want to belong then people will make sure you don’t.” In 80s Regan America, this was the philosophy at the time. People made sure I didn’t belong on account of my ‘awful’ crimes of having long hair and wearing moccasin boots. I wasn’t totally not to blame either. I perceived people at my college, who hadn’t experienced what I had were judging me out of ignorance. They were but I never took the time to put them right. Would they have listened, maybe not but I could have tried.
Already stated before, I have put many of my experiences at wanting to fit in and not being allowed to in my book “He Was Weird.” Many of Mark’s experiences in regards to this subject were my own. As I look at this and research school shootings further, I sense this rejection by others can lead the sufferer to feel isolated to where they eventually might snap. What is needed here is more tolerance and understanding. Too often, the victim of exclusion is blamed for not having the social skills to fit in. Often times it’s not the victim’s fault. They are simply doing what they think is right and harshly rejecting this effort is not the way to go about it.
Next post: It’s Not That I Can’t Hear You
To buy He Was Weird, go to: http://www.amazon.co.uk/He-Was-Weird-Michael-Lefevre/dp/1909740942/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1424698357&sr=1-1&keywords=he+was+weird
From the start, there are two things present in this post that were not present in my previous post about haircut anxieties. First, this post wasn’t influenced by anyone else’s post about a similar subject, I didn’t need any for this one. Second and most important, there is a definitely link here to my book “He Was Weird.”
In the story in “He Was Weird,” Mark has a problem with clothes, which triggers bullying against him and gives him loads of anxiety issues over it. At the age of eleven, Mark starts a growth spurt and outgrows his clothes fairly rapidly. This causes a big problem in the trouser department for him. His trousers were often too short and resulted him being constantly teased for wearing “flood pants.” It gets to the point where every morning was filled with total anxiety as to whether or not Mark’s trousers are long enough. Of course, bullies being bullies, they would change the rules and say he was wearing flood pants even when he was originally confident there were okay. The bullies thought it was really amusing when he would get upset arguing that he wasn’t wearing flood pants so they would use it to wind him up the more. Although, I don’t say it in the book, someone in the town would have put it down as one of Mark’s reasons for shooting up the school.
This part of the story is one where I can certainly say that it happened to me. Like Mark, my growth spurt came at the same ages. Plus, my grandmother had a flair for sewing hems in my trousers and too slow (in my mind) about letting them out. Therefore, I suffered the same teasing and anxieties that Mark did. Another part that was definitely the same was mother’s reaction to it. Both Mark’s and mine mothers would say things like “Don’t let it get to you” or “Well, I’m at least ready when it comes.” What neither of us could say was that if we did say the latter, we feared a backlash of violence. Such is always the case with bullying.
Six of the final nine months I was in the marines, I was stationed on Okinawa. What was great about that place was that you could get good clothes cheap. I bought a really nice suit when I was there. On the other hand, there was a shoe shop which sold Native American style moccasin boots. When I saw these on display, I had to have them so I did. I didn’t care what else anyone thought, besides, like with my hair, I had spent four years dressing like everyone else to the finite details so I earned the right to stand out a little. Unfortunately, like with the hair, 80s Regan America wasn’t tolerant of such crimes against fashion. Therefore, in the eyes of many, I was weird simply on the grounds that I wore the above boots.
The strange thing was that the boots still didn’t land me in as much crap as did the hair. True story, I actually cut my hair after two years and one day at college, I walked past a group of girls, still wearing the boots and I heard one of them comment: “At least he cut his hair.”
I know for the fact that I am not the only person in the world who has suffered bullying and great anxieties over clothes. Some of the service users at one of the homes I work at suffer these anxieties. Take first instance Ernie, (that’s not his real name). He worries so much about getting arrested for torn trousers that he has to buy loads and loads of them. He has also stated that this anxiety came as a result of bullies. So my final thought is directed to those fashion fascists who only recognise people who wear certain clothes or worse, certain brand names. Not everyone has to dress like you and there may be real reasons for the way the do dress, so back off! Your comments can cause real distress if directed at the wrong person.
Next post: Asperger’s and the Need to Fit In
To buy He Was Weird, go to: http://www.amazon.co.uk/He-Was-Weird-Michael-Lefevre/dp/1909740942/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1424109385&sr=1-1&keywords=he+was+weird
Welcome to yet another post inspired by Anna Rose Meads. Before I read a post on her blog, Rose With Thorns, I thought I was the only person in history who had any anxieties about haircuts. In that post, she writes about the anxieties she has when she goes to get her hair cut and I fully agree with her when she states that it may not be a big thing for most of the world but to someone with Asperger’s Syndrome, anxieties such as this may be harrowing for the person suffering from it. I know this to be true from my own experience and even though it was thirty years ago, the memories still remain and leave a sour taste behind.
My haircut anxieties began in 1979 when I enlisted in the US Marine Corps. I knew before I joined that when I went to boot camp, that I would get all my hair shaved off and that I would have to keep it short throughout my entire enlistment. However, I didn’t realise just how strict the Marine Corps regulations were on haircuts and that it would remain very short for that time. Nobody did. Furthermore, I was in the infantry who were strict to the letter on this. It also gave me anxieties over whether or not my haircut was within regulation. Therefore, like many of my comrades, I couldn’t wait to get out and grow my hair once again. I felt that, in my own words, “after four years of this bald eagle shit, I had the right to rebel a little.” It was my right after living under strict discipline while giving four years to my country.
So, when I got out of the marines, that is exactly what I did. I got my final haircut in the service five days before I left and didn’t cut my hair again for eighteen months. By that time, my hair was down to my shoulders but I didn’t care. I was just rebelling from having to be the other extreme for four years. Unfortunately, since it was during the intolerant times of 1980’s Regan America, most people were unsympathetic. Okay, I never wanted people feeling sorry for me but I know that I didn’t deserve the persecution, abuse and exclusion I got from people for doing nothing more than growing my hair long. One guy made it a point to tell me I looked like a faggot. Then he could because of his physical disabilities, I would have been in the wrong for retaliating. (I should have used this example in my Hidden Forms of Bullying post but I digress.) What really frustrated me was that many people knew that I had served in the marines. Many knew that I had to adhere to strict regulations but it seemed that they just didn’t want to make the connection that my long hair was down to a reaction from that life. In their minds, I was not conforming so I needed to be sanctioned. What frustrated me more was that practically none of those people had ever served in the military, many of those were just out of high school and had only a TV/textbook view of the world I had seen with my very own eyes.
The fallout from this was not only great amounts of anxiety due to the belief that people were judging me solely because of the length of my hair but it began to make me resent my country. Growing my hair once I got out was one of the things that kept me going when I was in the marines. Therefore, when people gave me crap about my long hair, I saw it as if they wanted to take away the very thing I was looking forward to having. It was important to me!
Fortunately, my story had a happy ending. Three years after I got out of the Corps, I went to college in London and found a more tolerant society. At least no one was persecuting me over my hair length and things did turn out well for me in those regards. Saying that, the more painful memories haven’t completely gone away but I can deal with it now even with people today who have tried to downplay my suffering. I mentioned on one site about all the intolerance I suffered for having long hair, one woman responded patronizingly with, “Poor victim” and something about getting free counselling. A gentleman stated that if my own problem in 80s Regan America was a few people dissing me about my hair, it couldn’t have been that bad. I had to inform him that he was way off base with that one, he didn’t respond.
That is my haircut anxiety. It might have been three decades ago but it was very real for me back then and caused me a lot of anxiety, stress and suffering. For the vast majority of the world, it is a little thing but for someone who has Asperger’s Syndrome or genuine anxiety issues, it is very important to them and can have a traumatic effect on their lives.
Next post: Clothing Anxieties
To buy He Was Weird, go to: http://www.amazon.co.uk/He-Was-Weird-Michael-Lefevre/dp/1909740942/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1423561714&sr=8-1&keywords=he+was+weird
In a song by one of my favourite bands from the 1970s and early 1980s, Jefferson Starship, featured lyrics that went:
I’d like to see jesus and mohammad
On the road to damascus
What did you think they would say
Would they fight with knives clenched in their teeth
Like jews and arabs today
Or would they walk and speak
Like philosophers and thinkers
Amused at each other’s insights
Relishing the brain waves there
Round the warmth of the hunting fire
Eager for, hungry for
They got to have
You know they love
And let our two great religions
Cease their senseless struggle
It only hurts the children
These lyrics have always got me thinking but before I put my own opinion, I would like to share an experience of when I posed this as a question on an opinion sharing website. I had quite a bit of response to that question. Some made a joke, one person posting a picture of Jesus and Mohammed in a boxing ring with the caption, “Round 1, Fight.” I did think it was amusing and complimented the respondent on their sense of humour. However, there were quite a few responses from what I believe to the the obnoxiously religious fundamentalist evangelical Christian brigade that had me shaking my head in disbelief. The one which stood out most in my mind went: “Jesus would pray for Mohammed, Mohammed would try to kill Jesus.” No he wouldn’t! Like another respondent pointed out, Mohammed considered Jesus to be a great prophet, he just rejected the notion that Jesus was the begotten Son of God. That wasn’t the only response in that form but the one that had me sticking my thumb in the air was a gentleman from Iran. He didn’t answer the question directly, he simply told me that he thought it was cool that I posed the question in the first place. What disappointed me, on the other hand, was the fact that there were only a very few who responded that Jesus and Mohammed would call for their followers to cease fighting each other.
Foremost, I believe they would call for the fighting to end and I further believe that they must feel slightly sick at people who call themselves their followers are killing those of the other side in their name. Like the lyrics state, they would speak to each other like philosophers, listening to what the other had to say. They would not bash the other one’s faith in an attempt to prove their right and the other wrong. Sure, they would most certainly disagree on some minute points but they would agree on many more. This brings me to another answer from when I posed this question. One stated that Mohammed would see Jesus’s divinity for himself. There is nothing to say that he would or wouldn’t but I would not attempt to get inside Mohammed’s head on this. What I would say that once they parted company, both of them would have a mutual understanding and respect for the other.
Next post: Haircut Anxieties
To buy He Was Weird, go to: http://www.amazon.co.uk/He-Was-Weird-Michael-Lefevre/dp/1909740942/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1422987332&sr=1-1&keywords=he+was+weird