Based on some things a certain female relative recently said to me, it sounds like I may have inadvertently messed up again.
Remember last year when I went to see my favourite band from my youth in concert? Well, my husband and I went to see them again this year. It was a different scene this year, being in a smaller city at a smaller venue. It was an outdoor concert in a beautiful location. Last year, I nervously talked to my favourite guitarist afterward, but I didn’t get any pictures or autographs. This year I was more prepared and I brought along a CD I could ask them to sign if I had the opportunity.
As it turned out, the opportunity arose after the show. After much of the crowd had dissipated, the band members came down from the stage and mingled with the people who remained. They were very kind and friendly to everyone. I got all of them to sign my CD, and I got selfies with two of them, including my favourite guitarist. The lead singer talked to me at length about the making of one of their albums, and it was fascinating stuff. My husband took a picture of us during that conversation. The lead singer also asked me to stick around and hang out with them for a while!! And my favourite guitarist even handed me a camera and asked me to take some pictures for them, really including me in what was going on. It was amazing, and the anti-anxiety medication I’m on made it relatively easy for me to navigate the whole thing. (Although it was still overwhelming to my senses and I was exhausted for days afterward.) It was a world of difference between my experience talking to the guitarist last year, and mingling with the whole band this year.
It was an amazing experience. I have rarely in my life had such positive social experiences. I went home elated. I was literally lying in bed with a smile on my face that night.
Perhaps needless to say in this day and age, I posted a few of the pictures on Facebook.
But then my bubble was burst. A certain female relative warned me that “some people” might be judging me for those pictures, thinking I was behaving inappropriately for a married woman.
So then I was wondering if I should clarify a few points on Facebook, such as:
My husband was with me the whole time.
My husband encouraged me to talk to them.
My husband was so delighted by the whole thing that he was taking pictures and video of me interacting with them the whole time.
I was not flirting. I don’t even know how to flirt.
I joke about how I had a crush on the guitarist when I was a teenager, but I’m not a teenager anymore and don’t feel that way now. I still find the guy exceptionally talented, but I’m in a different place now. I take my marriage vows very, very seriously and I am happy with my husband. I was very happy to be going home with my husband at the end of the night.
On the way home, my husband was talking about what a great time he’d had, and was saying he was sad the night was over. So obviously he wasn’t feeling slighted or like I’d been inappropriate with other men.
But then I was thinking, I don’t know if anyone was actually really judging me, or if it was just the one relative. So if I started clarifying these points on Facebook, I might be making a mountain out of a molehill and embarrassing myself further. So I haven’t posted anything of the sort, but I’m embarrassed and uncomfortable now, wondering what people might be thinking, and a little annoyed that I am always somehow misunderstood.
And why is it that I can’t have one good experience in my life without some kind of negative attached to it?
I know it looks bad that my life is so stressful and unsettled because of my husband’s career. I know it probably looks like I would be better off on my own. But if you’ve read some of my past posts, you know that I could not provide a stable life for myself when I was single, either. I didn’t get married until I was 31, so it’s not like marriage is all I’ve ever known. I started out my young adult life assuming I could take care of myself and soon finding out that I couldn’t. My quality of life is far better now than it was then.
My marriage actually feels like the one thing I’m getting right and is a great source of joy in my life. Whenever we spend time with other people socially, I find myself feeling grateful that my husband is the one I get to come home with, because being with him is so much more enjoyable than being with anyone else. We are very compatible and we laugh together a lot. And he gets me, which is an incredibly rare thing.
When everything else is going to shit, at least my husband and I have each other, and on every level, it is so much better than going it alone. He is good for me, and good to me, in all the ways that really matter.
With my husband’s work contract about to expire in a couple months, he is once again applying for jobs. Jobs in his line of work are few and far between and we always have to end up moving when he gets one. The jobs he’s applied for this time around are in a variety of different cities. So things are very uncertain and we don’t know where we’ll end up.
I hate living like this. I didn’t know it was going to be like this when we got married. Because of his degrees and career ambition (not to mention my trouble coping in the workforce… but we didn’t fully understand the reasons for that back then like we do now), we agreed that he would be the primary breadwinner and we would go wherever he needed to for his career. I was perfectly happy with that, but even though he had warned me that we might have to move to a couple of different places while he did post-doctoral fellowships for the first few years, he thought he would land a tenure-track position after about five years and then we could settle down. Instead, his entire 12-year career thus far has turned out to be moving from one short-term contract to another and therefore one city to another. It’s not his fault. This is just the direction things have taken in the last decade in his line of work. It is a common problem, but one we did not anticipate.
People with autism tend to resist change and like (or need) routines and stability. I am no different. I feel like I can’t handle this life, and yet I have no choice. This is our life and we seem to have no real control over it. It is scary and very, very draining and disheartening.
I’ve been on an emotional roller coaster lately, alternating between dreaming of an ideal outcome where my husband lands a permanent position somewhere we’d really like to live, preferably near where we already have friends and family, and worrying that he’s going to end up unemployed again and we’re going to have to move back in with my parents, which, although I love them, is a nightmare scenario at our age. I’d like to be near family, but not be forced by poverty and hopelessness to actually live with them. The reality will likely end up being somewhere in the middle of the two extremes. Another low-paid, short-term contact in a mediocre location.
But my dreams persist. There’s this one job my husband has applied for that’s in an idyllic location. Gorgeous scenery, mild winters, great culture. And my husband’s salary would be almost twice what he’s currently earning. I find myself picturing a life there. No, not just a life. A lifestyle. I see myself going for walks by the ocean, living in a house instead of an apartment, setting up a room to be my own private writer’s studio, shopping at farmer’s markets, experiencing the city’s culture, owning a car again and going on day trips in the surrounding countryside. And because of the mild winters, I wouldn’t practically become a recluse for five months of the year because of my cold-temperature-induced asthma like I do here. Plus, we’d at least be closer to some of our family and friends, if not in the same city as them.
My dreams aren’t entirely selfish though. I also dream of being able to help others. To be able to afford to give to the causes that tug at my heart. I know those who have no money can volunteer their time, but I have so little energy, such a low tolerance for busyness, and am so clumsy and inept, that I tend to be more of a liability than an asset when I try to volunteer. I can’t even serve soup without dumping it on someone. I’ve tried.
But then, why do I think I even have the right to dream about this, when I can’t even hold a job? I’m well aware that nothing comes for free in this life, and if you want something, you have to work for it, but every time I try to do that I crash and burn. Besides, if I did have a job or a career, I’d still have to leave it every time my husband had to move on, because that was our agreement. He’s often said that it’s fairly common for people in his line of work to end up having marital problems when their spouse has a career, because with the constant moving that has become the norm, there’s the struggle of one spouse having to sacrifice their career for the other’s career. He has met many fellow academics in that situation. That’s why he’s never minded one bit that I am the way I am, even if it does increase our financial struggles.
So anyway, I know I probably seem like some kind of entitled Real Housewife type, wanting my husband to provide all this for me. But I’m not really like that, deep down. I know I don’t deserve these things I desire. What I deserve is the life I current have: A tiny rented apartment (with no dishwasher or in-suite laundry facilities) in an ugly city with harsh winters, far from family and friends, and with no car to even allow me a change of scenery every once in a while. Or worse, living in my parents’ basement in their home in the middle of nowhere.
Right or wrong, I do still dream though. I’m sorry.
My crushes started in kindergarten, when I first had the opportunity to get to know boys I wasn’t related to. A neighbour boy and I considered each other boyfriend and girlfriend at that age, and there was another boy in our class who said he wanted to marry me someday, but once I got chubby when I was 7, boys didn’t like me anymore. We moved a lot, so I went to a few different elementary schools, and at each school I found a new boy to fixate on, but after age 7 it wasn’t reciprocated.
Around the age of 10, I started getting obsessed with the whole concept of romantic love, taking my crushes to a new level. I started reading romance novels and listening to songs on the radio, mentally grasping on to every lyric that mentioned being in love. I wrote in my diary, “I love Clint,” about a boy in my class, and my mom read it and yelled at me that I was too young to be in love, accused me of fornicating, and threatened to call the boy’s mother. I was mortified. The boy barely knew I existed.
It wasn’t until I was 14 that boys started liking me again. But the only ones I got to go out with were ones who liked me before I liked them. If I liked them first, there was no way they would have come to like me, because I acted like a freakin’ lunatic when I liked a boy. In the book Aspergirls it says, “If she likes a male, she can be extremely, noticeably awkward in her attempts to let him know, e.g. she may stare when she sees him or call him repeatedly. This is because she fixates and doesn’t understand societal gender roles.” That was me in a nutshell. Despite my introversion and meekness in other aspects of life, when it came to guys I liked, I stared at them, called them, wrote them letters and poems, and made them mixtapes. Sometimes I would even let a friend ask them out on my behalf. That never went well, but it didn’t stop me from trying again with other boys. I was quite the optimist when I was young.
Even if someone had told me I was behaving inappropriately, I probably would not have stopped. I enjoyed my fixations, and I always had the idea (erroneously, I now believe) that if I were meant to be with someone, they wouldn’t mind how obvious I was. They might even like it. It’s like one of my male relatives says about his wife, “She pursued me and told me we should get married and it didn’t occur to me to argue.” They have now been happily married for over 50 years.
Unfortunately, even the guys who liked me first and whom I did get to go out with, didn’t actually fall in love with me. One boyfriend told me, “You’re the nicest person I’ve ever met, and I want to love you because you’re so nice, but I don’t. I’ve tried to love you, but I just can’t.”
Another boyfriend never even brought up the word love, but he did tell me once, “I really like you, but I will never understand you.”
I got dumped again and again. I was always the dumpee, never the dumper. When I was with someone, I was extremely loyal. Even though I had many crushes over the years, I really only ever wanted to settle down with one person. If the first guy I’d dated had stayed with me, I would have been happy to stay with that one person my whole life. I didn’t actually want to play the field at all.
I went through a dry spell for about 7 years in my twenties during which no men liked me at all. I was hit on by a couple of women (which really made me question what kind of vibe I was putting out there), but men showed no interest in me whatsoever. I hated being single, and as time went on it became excruciatingly emotionally painful.
The biggest heartbreak of my life was in my twenties over a guy with whom I’d never even been romantically involved. We were friends, and I felt such an affinity with him (he might very well have been on the spectrum himself) that I became convinced we were soul mates who were meant to be together. He was very intelligent, and just talking to him gave me a sort of high. Other people kept telling me that they thought he liked me and that they saw him staring at me when I wasn’t looking, which encouraged my delusion. After a year of friendship, I couldn’t stand it anymore, and when he said some really nice things to me that built up my hopes, I told him I had feelings for him and that I thought we were supposed to be together. He told me he did not feel the same way and if I felt that way he didn’t even want to be friends with me anymore. After yet another year during which we traveled in the same social circles but avoided each other, he started talking to me again, but then I blurted out something that made it obvious I was still fixated on him and he again rejected me and got quite cruel about it. He said I was confused, misguided, and possibly dangerous to him. I was crushed. I lied in bed and couldn’t eat a bite of food for six days. The despair I felt seemed insurmountable. I couldn’t fathom how he could misunderstand me so horrendously. Yes, I was intense and even obsessive, but there wasn’t a dangerous bone in my body. I was, always had been, and still am likely the most harmless person on the planet. When rejected, I don’t get angry or bitter or vengeful, I just get very sad.
It’s only been since I’ve been watching more TV and reading stuff on the internet that I’ve come to truly understand how an intense woman like me can be perceived, and how creepy and even scary we can seem. Not that I believe I ever said or did anything actually scary or stalkerish (I mean, if someone said, “Don’t call me,” I did stop), but I can see how my fixations could have appeared to be leading up to that kind of thing. I feel incredibly embarrassed when I think about how some people must remember me.
I ended up getting married at the age of 31. If it weren’t for the internet, it probably wouldn’t have happened. I met my husband in an online discussion forum. We noticed that we had a lot in common and had similar senses of humour, and we got to know each other without him having to witness all my in-person weirdnesses. By the time we did meet in person, he already knew what I was all about, and apparently wasn’t put off by my quirks. Also, right from the beginning, he pursued me and never stopped pursuing me, so I never had the opportunity to pursue him; he was always getting in touch or making a move before I was. That was the first time that had happened to me and it was the only way it could have worked out for me, I think.
We’ve been happily married for 11 years now. I can’t believe I’ve ended up with someone like him. We’re extremely compatible, and he’s intelligent, educated, kind, funny, and most importantly, a very good, honest, loyal man. I consider him to be the best thing that’s ever happened to me. I wish I could go back in time and tell my 10-year-old self that I’d have to wait a couple of decades, but it would be worth it.
When I was so miserable being single in my twenties, people told me marriage isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. For me, however, it has been. And despite all my social and emotional deficits, marriage seems to be the one thing I’m good at. So far, anyway.
Edited to add: This post was really hard to write and my face is hot after admitting these things.