Day: April 15, 2008

  • Me and Willy Wonka, or, How I Learned I'm Aspie

    :edit: Some of the links in this article are no longer viable, sorry about that.

    What am I up to today?  Is it fun? 
    YES!!!!  And I can't tell you.  Too bad.


    I had no idea what Asperger's syndrome is until fall of 2006, and I learned about it quite by accident.  Up until then, I always saw myself as a freakazoid nerd brain that nobody understood, and I tried very hard to hide my natural self and blend in with normalcy.  That's pretty hard to do when you think the raging debate over the age of the universe (now solved) is more exciting than running into Brad Pitt.

    Because I'm not fond of crowds and noise, and particularly because I assumed this movie would draw a whole bunch of little kids, I avoided seeing Charlie and the Chocolate Factory in theaters like the plague.  And because I'm dreadfully out of whack with the what-is-hip-right-this-second buzz, I failed to rent it when it was first released.

    I like Tim Burton movies, they are cool.  Johnny Depp was ok, too.  Sleepy Hollow and Edward Scissorhands were both pretty good.  But as much as I like Gene Wilder, I wasn't fond of the first Willy Wonka movie.  I couldn't imagine a second one being any better and went on my merry way.

    Then one day, I rented it.

    I liked the beginning.  Really easy to get into feeling the moment.  But what caught my full attention was the calliope catching on fire and the little dolls continuing to sing while they melted.  I knew when I saw that, I would ~love~ this movie, regardless.

    And then Willy Wonka stepped in and just took over.  I had never in my life seen someone so much like me.  Actually, he looks more like my cousin Shelly did in high school (she was prettier), and I'm the polar opposite of well groomed most of the time (I'm more like the Hunter character in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas).  But everything Willy did was ME.  His reactions, his movements, his enthusiasm, his disdain, his skewed way of looking at every situation he was in, his obsession with what he was doing- everything.



    I'm a search engine addict, so one of the first things I did after I saw the movie was google Willy Wonka, and the very first article I chanced across was The Science of Willy Wonka, and the very first paragraph was about Asperger's syndrome.  I was surprised that his behaviors had a name,  and that what was being said about Willy could apply to myself as well.  From there I started googling Asperger's syndrome, and ran into From Asperger geek to Aspie chic and You Might be an Aspie If- and Wired 9.12: Take The AQ Test.  I discovered through many more sites that there are two camps of thinking, one to cure autism, one to save it from annihilation.  I also found a number of personal sites created by people with Asperger's syndrome who were just fine with themselves, and it made me feel good to know I was not alone.  I see a psychologist now to help me learn how to better integrate myself and be less nervous about being social.

    I was so excited and enthralled that I couldn't help creating a myspace called My Wonka Bar, which seems to be pretty popular and attracts all kinds of people.  I filled it with youtubes, of which there are ~many~ focused around Willy Wonka.  Apparently, a LOT of people either identify with Willy Wonka, or love him because he's who he is, a unique individual with mesmerizing quirks.  The youtubes come and go, and the people come and go, but that site continues to remain active, even though I don't do much more with it and almost never contact anyone there.  The artwork is mine, and people ask me all the time if they can use it, especially the background.  I couldn't help it, I got so obsessed with rendering artwork I couldn't stop.



    This was a key breakthrough for me toward integrating my hidden self with my pretend self.  I was trained for years to 'perform', starting with being forced by my mom to behave normally, and eventually earning customer service awards on my jobs.  But no one ever knew the real me, and I felt like anyone who got close either blew me off with a laugh about being so weird or looked down on me for not being able to keep up with what is socially expected, like all the 'normals' being obsessed with reality shows on tv.

    Oddly, Willy is also how I came to recognize my asexuality.  I also didn't know there was such a thing until I found it being discussed about Willy Wonka.  Many people don't seem to understand what that is, thinking it means I don't like sex, or that I'm some kind of prude, or that I don't like feeling sexy once in awhile, or that there is something wrong with me.  But I'm finding there are a lot of people in this world who are naturally asexual, and although it can show up with Asperger's, it's not necessarily caused by it.  For me, it has more to do with my inability to trust people and my loathing of being touched than with sex itself.  (I was never sexually abused as a child, so this is not something I learned.)  No offense to anyone, but just thinking about being intimate sometimes makes me nauseated.  Fortunately for Scott, this doesn't apply to him.  I like him and I trust him.  If you are interesting in learning more about asexuality, this is a good place to start.  Asexual Visibility and Education Network

    I'm intrigued that a lot of people find Willy Wonka sexy.  Some of the youtubes are fairly suggestive, which is fine, but a little surprising to me because I just don't think like that.  However, I imagine the draw has a lot to do with (besides that really being Johnny Depp in there) Willy being so 'himself' that people find him new and exciting, and a challenge because he is so sealed off from intimate contact.  I've noticed this happens to me once in awhile, someone becoming intrigued with me and me having to eventually extricate myself from what weirdly becomes an almost sexual obsession with me.  I don't understand it at all, and partly because of that, I go out of my way to avoid friendships.  It seems the more I try not to get attention, the more I draw it.

    I think being aspie is becoming somewhat popular.  I don't know if that is good or bad.  I know I tend to like fringe people more than mainstream, and that characters with aspie-ish traits are used a lot in television.  I think that a segment of the population once grouped as oddballs is becoming a new kind of norm.  I think it's going to be savvy some day to be known as the aspie in the room.  I don't know if anyone will understand what I mean by this comparison, but it's kind of like the Geico cavemen looking at society around them, knowing they are different, having to deal with regular people not 'getting' them, but knowing they contributed just as much to society as anyone else.  You can almost insert the word 'autistic' in for caveman and get an idea of how we aspies sometimes feel when we are singled out and picked on.


    Since I 'came out', I am finding out that it's not that easy for other aspies to make the leap and be who they really are.  There is a lot of fear out there.  Some people want to cure their children before they become like us, which must mean we are mutated freaks.  Some aspies are so afraid of rejection and judgment that they don't speak up about how they really feel, and they keep hiding and pretending.  What I find amusing is how many people don't realize they probably *are* on the spectrum, even as they are thinking 'thank goodness I'm not like ~that~'.

    I LIKE people who are themselves.  I don't enjoy mass produced pink barbies and molded sweaty beefcakes.  When people feel they have to work really hard to change who they are so they can feel better about themselves, I find that sad.  I have always liked *me*, in spite of never finding the niche I fit into.  I would rather be in my head any day than someone else's perfect body.

    I think I have an edge on seeing the human condition.  I'm not caught up in the whims of feelings and reactions that I see other people go through.  I'm usually the first person in a room to come up with a solution to a problem, and I think it's because I see any situation I'm in like a big chess board.  I can see the consequences of a variety of actions to the nth generation.  Some people think that's like seeing the future.  Three people have called me a prophet, one has called me a wizard.  I don't think I have any special powers.  It's more like I don't have a lot of 'stuff' in the way.  I see action and reaction without being emotionally entangled.

    I think autistic people are born thinkers and problem solvers.  Some of them get their chance to shine, some are locked in a world of repetition and people trying to mold their behaviors because they don't understand that the little things are not always what is important.  What is important is enjoying the world we see around us, loving the people in front of us, and finding who we are and what we are good at.

    I hope they never cure what makes Willy Wonka who he is.


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