Apparently I've just missed "Man Week" (at least locally), and was an initiative intended to get men to talk about how they feel. After reading some of the other entries from Sydney-siders (see links after this post), I thought I should probably join in and put an aspie spin on things, though I won't be talking directly about aspie traits (you'll have to guess which ones they are).
Fighting the Stereotype
We're still not sure where aspergers comes from (genetically) in our family but I guess the money is probably on my dad. When I was younger, my dad was so different from me that I'd often wonder if perhaps my parents had picked up the wrong baby. Now that I'm older, I'm able to see the resemblance (I'm starting to look like my dad - and he, like his). I'm also acting like him in some ways, some beneficial, some not.
My father was a perfectionist and a workaholic. When he wasn't working, he was doing things (hobbies) which looked like work. I can already see the resemblance.
My dad came from a poor background but was a hard worker and put himself through TAFE at night. He worked Monday to Friday, left before I got up for school and generally returned after I was in bed. Some of his late nights were drinking nights, some were studying, some were sports and training and some were meetings - regardless of the excuses, he wasn't there.
On weekends in Summer, he would be out sailing. In winter, he'd be in the garage building his next boat for the coming sailing season. We still found time to squeeze activities into his busy schedule (he managed our soccer team for years) but it wasn't enough and our relationship in those years barely scratched the surface.
My sister Maree, My father and I at the "Three Sisters", Katoomba
I remember that when I'd learn some new dance routine or song at school, I'd show it to my mother but would fall silent as soon as my dad walked into the room. Pokes and prods would not incite me to continue the performance. He'd always frowned at those "poofter" (gay) type activities and to do one in front of him was to invite negative comments.
My dad was also into sports, he liked to watch them and play them and he always encouraged me to get involved too. The trouble was, I didn't like sports and I was hopeless at them. In any case, my low muscle tone and hyperflexibility didn't lend itself to hard sports like Soccer and Football. I liked reading, watching movies and Star Wars. My obsession with Star Wars figures was almost a breaking point for him and he often used to rant and rave about those ... "dolls".
Then there was beer. I don't like it. I don't really like wine either. That's not to say that I don't like alcohol but I generally prefer cocktails and premixed drinks (Bacardi Breezers etc). Unfortunately, these are "women's drinks" and my father was not impressed. Luckily I developed, with a fair amount of encouragement from him, a taste for Bunderberg Rum and Coke. It's probably still girly but at least it doesn't come in a pastel coloured bottle.
When I left school, I'd originally intended to do an information science degree but my father "encouraged" me towards the more masculine degree of Civil Engineering. I failed - and eventually I did go back and do that Information Science degree, though not without a great deal of heartache.
Then, there were the cars. I didn't care about them. I drove them without water and without oil and with flat tyres. I had no interest in repairing them myself - I'd rather pay someone to do it. I didn't even like the feel of grease on my hands. I copped years of "nagging" over my lack of interest and ability in this area.
My first job, in a public library, really set the cat amongst the pigeons. In fact, I was told by my employers that there were two reasons why I got the job. Firstly because I obviously loved and cared for books but secondly because my father had apparently contacted them and told them that he didn't want his son working in a "poofy" library.
While I was working there, my dad told his friends that I was unemployed. Somehow that was easier for him than the truth.
If all this makes it seem that I have problems with my father, then I've given the wrong impression. I love him - though I could never use that wording to his face. He just had a lot of issues with my failure to fit into the Australian male stereotype.
When I changed jobs into computing my father was overjoyed. Similarly, he was pretty happy when I announced my engagement, mainly I think because it involved a member of the opposite sex. Having male grandchildren and knowing that I did in fact turn out ok, seems to have calmed the whole situation down.
Over the years, he's come to accept that I'm not the normal male stereotype and that men today are quite different from the men of his time. My father wasn't alone in his views and they seem to be shared by many of his peers. He's mellowed over time and I've stopped checking over my shoulder whenever I do something less than masculine. Years of non-acceptance can have an impact on your self-confidence.
In recent times, I've actually seen my father express emotions other than the male ones of anger and amusement but they're still few and far between. He's not "cured" and every now and then I'll catch a disapproving glance, when I cry at a funeral or when I let my wife boss me around but he's certainly more settled and more tolerant.
In his retirement, he frequently says things which shock me and challenge all of my beliefs about him. There's definitely an emotionally repressed person inside him struggling to get out. It makes me wonder if when I get to his age, I'll experience the same feelings of letting go. Perhaps I'm repressing more than I realise. Perhaps we all are.