Matthews is funny, intriguing, eccentric, articulate, a talented artist — all qualities that many people find appealing.
The problem with having Asperger’s is simply that he doesn’t know how to market himself.
There is a universality to the suffering captured in “Aspie Seeks Love,” a new documentary by Julie Sokolow that premiered at Cinequest over the weekend.
As it chronicles its protagonist’s dogged attempts to enter a successful romantic relationship, the film reveals an agenda much deeper than discussing Asperger’s syndrome or the broader autistic spectrum.
As I explained in an earlier article on my personal experiences with AS: If life in a society is a game (and make no mistake about it, it is), having Asperger’s forces you to play while learning two-thirds of the rules as you go along, even as everyone else knows them instinctively … Of course, one of the twists of having AS is that you tend to develop an outsider’s perspective on social rules in general, and the world of dating is no exception.
For better or worse, there is a music to dating, and while people with AS can understand the verses (and often have a distinctly straightforward way of expressing ourselves that can be refreshing), we struggle with the pitch, rhythm, dynamics, timbre, and texture. This could be compared to speaking a different language, although that analogy would imply that individuals with AS could at least “speak” to others with the condition, when in fact AS manifests itself so differently from person to person that we are generally as unable to relate to each other as we are with the non-AS population.
Thankfully having AS certainly doesn’t inhibit one’s ability to desire or enjoy sexual intercourse, but the same cannot be said of cultivating the kinds of connections necessary to escape from the “existential loneliness” described by Russell.
While the resulting sense of loneliness is not unique to the mildly autistic, as Russell’s quote itself makes clear, having AS significantly hinders one’s ability to cure it. Mahari, people with AS may be able to ”feel a tremendous amount of empathy, compassion, sadness, happiness, and so forth,” but “it is not natural for us to communicate and to express our emotions in a social/relational context the way that it is second nature to NT’s [Neurotypicals, or people without AS]. It is work and requires effort and energy.” Not only does this cause people with AS to often come off as emotionless and lacking in empathy, but it makes the process of falling in love almost alien to us—you can’t develop or identify chemistry without knowing how to give off and read cues, or feel truly connected to someone with whom you can only communicate by feigning mastery of a social language in which you’ll never be fluent.
Love requires not only the ability to have “loving” feelings for someone else, but also the ability to have those feelings reciprocated, create “chemistry” in a relationship and, ultimately, create a deep and mutual romantic bond. This isn’t to say that there is no hope if you have AS.