A little while ago, I ran into an autistic person, let’s call him “Felix”, who didn’t wish to associate with other autistic people. Felix said that he was worried that if he associated with other people like him, he would lose out on living life as he thought it should be lived. Felix expressed the idea that if he had autistic friends (It seemed that in his mind, it was either-or, he couldn’t have friends of various neurotypes, it was all or nothing) then he would never have a girlfriend, have sex, or get married.
This tied in to an interesting point in my life. My significant other and I are moving (at a snail’s pace, mind you) towards getting engaged, and we’re making plans on moving in together in December. I’ve mentioned before that we are both autistic. We didn’t choose to date each other based on our neurotypes, it just so happened we share one, and it makes us more compatible, just like our mutual love of certain sci-fi/fantasy novels and history makes us more compatible. Is our love not considered as valid as love between an autistic and a neurotypical?
I’ve seen this anxiety about needing to find a neurotypical partner expressed by others as well, not just by autistic people, but by their parents. When the autistic person expresses it, I feel considerably more sad though. It’s like they’ve internalized this idea that in order to find eventual marital happiness, they can’t consider being in love with a fellow autistic.
I’ve discussed that in depth before, so I won’t spill anymore e-ink over it. But I want to address this idea that in order to be happy, you have to have a significant other, be married, and have children. This is just plain silly. The beautiful thing about autism is being able to find fulfillment in something outside the norm of “acceptable” happiness. If playing with a feather is what makes you happy, do it. If celibacy makes you happy, congratulations! If your one true passion is ceramics, molecular biology, or playing the ukulele, then I’d like to be your friend, because those activities rock, and I’d rather listen to people talk about them than “the dating scene”, any day of the week.
I’m not eventually going to marry Jaime because I think that it’s the only way I’m going to find satisfaction in my life. I’m doing it because I wish to share the satisfaction and adventures of my life with her. And I am sure she feels the exact same way about me as we go about sharing our futures with one another. Autistic people, hell, anyone, shouldn’t be seeking a partner to find the key to happiness. That’s not going to work. I have things outside of Jaime which bring me joy in life. I have aims, purposes, and pleasures, hobbies, wacky side projects, ambitions, and hopes for myself and the world around me. Jaime happens to be that golden thread of grace which is woven into the tapestry of my life: Not the most dominating part of the pattern, but adding a shimmering completion to it.
To share a rather corny, but profound metaphor from a rabbi friend: “You cannot open a flower by peeling apart its petals with your hands. You have to wait for the flower to open on its own terms, warmed by the sun.” You can’t wait for someone to come along and open your flower (Keep the damn Freud to yourself, please); rather, it’s up to you to make yourself into the fulfilled, interesting person who will attract a special someone, rather than trying to become that person vis-a-vis a significant other. Some people don’t have a special one, that’s okay too. If you allow me to mangle and twist about and misquote Tolstoy, most happy people are alike in that they knew they had to follow themselves, not the wishes of others. Before I get any cheesier or quote-happy, I’ll just end this by saying that it is not productive to isolate yourself from people like you just so you can find another person’s definition of happiness. Nor is autism a life sentence away from marriage, relationships, sex, children, if you want them. Just don’t let attaining them become the centre of your universe.