One of My Little Quirks: I Like Spoilers

Spoiler
Photo from Photofunia

I like knowing what’s going to happen in a movie or TV show before I watch it. I prefer it, in fact. Perhaps this is related to not liking surprises. But it’s more than that. It helps me decide if I want to bother watching it or not. And if I decide I do, it increases my anticipation and then my enjoyment of seeing how it all unfolds to get to the end result that I know is coming.

Also, I don’t process things quickly, so a bit of advance knowledge helps me understand the plot, especially in fast-paced movies. How I wish I could have the same advantage in life!

I have had to learn that other people don’t feel the same way. In fact, I gather that most other people can’t even enjoy a movie or TV show if they already know the ending. This is one of those areas where taking the Golden Rule literally backfires on me. If I do to others what I would have them do to me, I will come across as an obnoxious ass by spoiling things for people. I admit I have done this in the past, just because I didn’t realize how people felt about it and I assumed they would appreciate it the way I do. Reading people’s posts online has taught me otherwise. I’m sorry, people. I have learned my lesson and I won’t do it again.

Walking the Cat

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Vintage photo found on Flickr, posted by Wicker Paradise. Used under Creative Commons. Photo has been cropped and edited for colour.

I will tell you a secret.

I want to buy a pet stroller like the one pictured below and take my cat for walks in it. This is something I would enjoy.

stroller
Photo of pet stroller from Amazon.ca.

I haven’t done so because I know it will make me look insane. The last thing I want is to attract attention or appear crazy in public. But if it weren’t for that, I think it would be fun.

It’s not like I think my cat is my baby, or that because of my infertility I long for a baby and want to use my cat as a substitute. I don’t even want a baby. I don’t have a mothering instinct. I know my cat is a cat. But I like cats. And I enjoy my cat’s company. Is that so bad?

For what it’s worth, I think there are people who could do it and get away with it without looking insane. I mean no insult to anyone who takes their cat for walks. But I’m always right on the edge of weirdness anyway, and pushing a stroller with a cat in it would likely be the tipping point. Which is a shame, because I think taking her for walks would be mutually beneficial.

First of all, because of my weak joints, I would enjoy the added stability that pushing a stroller would give me. I’m not ready for a walker, and hopefully won’t be for a very, very long time, but I do find it helpful to have something to hang on to. I don’t need it, but it would be nice.

Plus, I think it would be enjoyable for my cat. She apparently used to live outdoors, but when we adopted her, the shelter that had rescued her made us agree to keep her as an indoor cat. Which is fine, and I’m happy to not have to worry about her roaming around out there somewhere. But I do think she misses the outdoors. When we open the windows she sits in front of the screens and happily sniffs the fresh air for hours. I think she would love being taken outside, even if it had to be in an enclosure to keep her safe.

I kind of miss being a kid, when I would just do eccentric things without thinking about how they would appear to others. But then, I got so much criticism and negative feedback and got called weird so many times that I learned to act normal just to avoid all that. But acting normal feels so stifling sometimes.

It doesn’t help that the culture of the city I currently live in is rather conservative and traditional. There is no room for eccentricity here. One of the cities where my husband has applied for a job, and where I desperately want to move, is known to have a lot of eccentric types. Of course, that’s a generalization and a stereotype and I have no personal, first-hand knowledge of the culture or people there, so I don’t know how true it is. But then, I do follow someone on social media who lives in that city and dresses her cat up in little sweaters and takes her around town in a basket. The photos she posts are so adorable my heart feels like it’s being squeezed out of my chest when I look at them! So at least I wouldn’t be the only one taking my cat out and about if I lived there.

 

One of My Little Quirks: Aversion to Games

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Photo by Doug via Flickr. Used under Creative Commons.

I do not enjoy games. When I play against another person, if I lose, I feel bad about myself, and if I win, I feel guilty for possibly making the other person feel bad. Logically, I realize that most people aren’t as sensitive about such things as I am, but emotionally, the concern is still there.

Funnily enough, my dad says he’s the same way. He feels his aversion to playing games is related to his Finnish heritage. He says Finns fundamentally want everyone to be equal, and playing competitive games forces you to try to be better than other people. He doesn’t want to be better than anyone else, but he also doesn’t want anyone else to be better than him, not even for the length of time it takes to play a game. It’s just not an enjoyable thing for him. Or for me. (Disclaimer: I realize not all Finns feel this way, otherwise there would be no competitive sports in Finland!)

I’ve heard people talk about how children should learn a healthy sense of competition. Needless to say, I never learned that. I still don’t understand it. And if I’m completely honest, it’s not something I want to learn. I don’t like the whole idea of competition. Why can’t people just do their best at things, without comparing themselves to others or trying to be better than others? I am just not wired to understand this.

The only game I play right now is Scrabble on Facebook. I play with my mom, and we have an agreement that we won’t be competitive or even look at scores, we’ll just use it as a way to spend time together long-distance and to have the fun of making words. I like words. The only problem is, then other people on Facebook can see that I’m playing and they try to start games with me. Every time I see that someone has started a game with me my heart sinks. I can’t just ignore it, because that might make them feel bad or rejected. They might wonder why I’ll play with my mom and not with them. But when I play with anyone other than my mom, I feel it forces me to play strategically and competitively, or else look stupid to my opponent. Every move becomes fraught with anxiety and stress. I realize it shouldn’t be that way, but it is for me.

The types of games people play at parties are even worse, because they’re usually overstimulating and require quick thinking. People get all loud and boisterous, which due to my sensory issues makes quick thinking almost impossible for me. Again, I end up looking stupid.

Board games add another level of awkwardness for me. I’m clumsy, and I’ve been known to knock pieces off boards by accident. That’s embarrassing.

I don’t even enjoy playing games against a computer though, so perhaps it’s not just about my issues with competitiveness, sensory overload, or physical awkwardness. And the role-playing games some of my friends like hold no appeal for me. To me, it just feels like a waste of time. It’s strange that I feel that way, since I have no qualms about wasting time in other ways. I guess it’s because I just don’t enjoy them. Maybe it’s the make-believe aspect that I have an aversion to in these cases. I’ve never been good at or interested in make-believe. My imagination is very limited.

Because I’m seen as a geek in other ways, I think people expect me to be a gamer, but I have no interest in all that. It’s yet another way in which people just can’t quite figure me out.

And it all adds up to yet another thing that makes socializing awkward and draining for me. It seems like people often want to play games when they get together socially, and I either refuse, or go along with it for the sake of being friendly but can’t fake having a good time for long. And I’ve noticed that other people seem to feel hurt or offended when you don’t enjoy the games they like to play. This makes me feel horrible, as I hate hurting people’s feelings!

One of My Little Quirks: Random Facial Expressions

Photo of Sophie Cave's Floating Heads by Lettuce1 via Flickr. Used under Creative Commons.
Photo of Sophie Cave’s Floating Heads by Lettuce1 via Flickr. Used under Creative Commons.

I have no idea what my face is doing.

Many times, people have asked me what’s wrong when I’m feeling fine.

Other times, people have asked me what I’m smiling or smirking about, when I wasn’t aware that I was doing so.

One time when I was a teenager, my mom snapped at me in the mall that she was embarrassed to be seen with me because I always looked miserable.

Another time, a woman at church told me I always had a huge smile on my face whenever she saw me.

A friend once joked that my smile was so big and lopsided that I looked deranged.

I often felt annoyed and frustrated because of all these comments, but then one day I was a passenger in a car on a road trip, and I was having a fantastic time and felt like I was smiling, but I caught a glimpse of myself in the side mirror and saw that I looked unhappy and nauseated, like I was about to be sick. It truly hit me then that my facial expression at any given time does not necessarily reflect what’s going on inside.

Because of this, at some point in my adulthood I started to have anxiety about what my face was doing. I hate being misunderstood, and I also don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings by doing something inappropriate with my face. Like I don’t want to sit in the front row at a concert or a lecture, lest the singer or speaker think I’m scowling at them and not enjoying their performance or talk.

I tried talking to my former counselor about this, but he totally pooh-poohed my concerns. He started making faces at me and getting me to interpret them, showing me how a neutral expression can look hostile just because of the lack of a smile. He said that’s the case with everybody, not just me.

I’m also now aware of the humourous concept of resting bitch face (or bitchy resting face, as they call it in this video), which I can totally relate to.

So perhaps it’s not just me, but I doubt that everyone has this problem like my counselor insinuated. If they did, society would have no awareness of the meaning behind facial expressions at all, because they would be completely random and wouldn’t be assumed to correspond to any particular emotions or intentions. That is clearly not the case.

I have started deliberately stretching my lips slightly horizontally when I’m in the presence of others, not to the point where it’s an actual smile (which apparently looks weird when there’s no noticeable reason for it), but just to ensure that my lips aren’t scrunched up into a little ball like they’re normally inclined to do. I probably look stupid and dippy, but at least no one asks me what’s wrong when I’m doing that.

One of My Little Quirks: Spacing Out

Photo by tubb via Flickr. Used under Creative Commons.
Photo by tubb via Flickr. Used under Creative Commons.

My kindergarten report card contains the comment that I had the tendency to tune out my surroundings. It’s meant as a criticism, but I like that I have that ability. I just wish it always worked, even when I’m overstimulated.

I am aware that other people find it odd. Like when I’m sitting in a waiting room, while other people are reading magazines or looking at their phones, I’m often just staring into space, thinking my own thoughts. I have learned to feign scrolling through my phone though just so I don’t creep people out by appearing mentally absent from my body. Like the lights are on, but no one’s home.

One of the things that tires me out when I’m in the workforce is the inability to just think my own thoughts. Work requires me to be mentally present all the time, and I can’t keep that up long term without eventually having an emotional crash. I need to retreat into my head. It might not appear so, but those retreats are what keep me sane.

One of My Little Quirks: Obsessions with Other Countries and Cultures

Photo of Stockholm by Jesper Yu via Flickr. Used under Creative Commons.
Photo of Stockholm by Jesper Yu via Flickr. Used under Creative Commons.

I suppose this is related to my interest in maps and places, but gets a little more specific.

In the 90s and early 2000s, I was obsessed with England. One branch of my family tree came from Yorkshire, and I was very intrigued by the family stories that had been passed down. Every picture and video of England I saw made me long to visit.

I watched every British show that aired on the channels I got, including silly things like Coronation Street, read lots of books set in England, and soaked up all the information I could. Then I married an Englishman who provided me with the opportunity to actually visit England, and who is the best thing that’s ever happened to me.

Unfortunately, a certain person I met through him who shall remain nameless is one of the worst.

This person has not been very nice to me, and I got over my obsession with England pretty quickly once I got to know this person. For various reasons, I can’t think of England without this person coming to mind, which kind of ruins it for me. I realize I’m not being fair and that it’s ridiculous to allow one person to colour my feelings about an entire country (and there are certainly many fellow Canadians who haven’t been nice to me!), but no matter how much I try to use logic to think my way out of them, my feelings are what they are. I’m sorry, English readers. I’m sorry, husband. I’m a jerk. For what it’s worth though, I don’t dislike England (I still watch British TV, now using the website FilmOn), I’m just not obsessed with it like I used to be

There are other things that have contributed to this, like when I had the opportunity to visit the places mentioned in the family stories, only to find out that some of these stories cannot possibly be true. In fact, I made a big giant ass out of myself talking to people there. I can hardly bear to think about it.

And there was this moment where my husband and I were walking along in the Northumberland countryside in exactly the kind of landscape I had seen in travel videos and subsequently envisioned in my fantasies, and I realized that, as strange as it may sound, it had felt more real to me when I was fantasizing about it. When I was there in person, it’s like my awkward, sensory defensive body was a barrier between me and my beautiful surroundings, but when I was fantasizing about it, my mind was roaming freely, seemingly at one with the place.

Meanwhile, as my obsession with England waned, my obsession with the Nordic countries took hold.

A much larger chunk of my ancestry is Finnish, with a dash of Swedish mixed in too. My Finnish ancestry comes from my dad. My mom always thought Finns were weird though. She was far more involved in my upbringing than he was, and she did not encourage me to learn anything about that aspect of my heritage. Since I’ve been an adult, however, I’ve realized that many of my personality traits are typical Finnish traits, and I was interested to read the following in Benjamin Wallace’s article Autism Spectrum: Are You On It? in New York Magazine“In his zeal to present autism in a positive light, [behavioral economist Tyler] Cowen… [comes] very close to diagnosing the entire country of Finland as autistic.”

In fact, my mom always attributed all the things that were odd about me as a child partly to me being an only child, and partly to me being half Finnish. (She mentioned it again when I showed her the list of female Asperger’s traits in the book Aspergirls a few months ago. “It all fits, but I always thought it was because you’re Finnish!” she said.) I can’t help wondering if I wouldn’t feel like such a fish out of water in Finnish culture like I do here in Canada.

But my interest is not limited to the countries of my heritage. I’m intrigued by Norway, Denmark, and Iceland as well. If I could choose to visit any one of them right now, I would pick Norway. The scenery is so beautiful, and much of it reminds me of the part of Canada I grew up in, which I also love and no longer live in. I love the way the Norwegian language sounds, too. At first I thought it sounded like a recording of English played backwards, but after watching a lot of Norwegian TV I developed more of an ear for it and no longer think it sounds that way.

I think what really triggered my full-blown obsession with all things Scandinavian and Nordic was reading Stieg Larrson’s Millennium novels which are set in Sweden, specifically mostly Stockholm. While there’s a lot of nasty stuff going on in the books and I had to only skim certain passages because they were so violent (and I therefore don’t necessarily recommend them to other sensitive souls), I still think they’re the best books I’ve ever read. The culture and places described in them really captured my interest. I read one reader’s review that said she didn’t like one of the novels because of all of the place and street names, which she didn’t recognize, didn’t care about, and thought distracted from the story. It just goes to show how differently people can perceive things, because that is one of the main things I loved about the novels! Due to my love of maps and places, stories that evoke a strong sense of place are the ones I love the most. I look up each place and each street on Google Street View, and imagine the events happening in their settings.

After that, I couldn’t get enough of Nordic books and media, and I can find lots to feed my obsession online. I read all the Nordic fiction I can get my hands on that’s been translated into English. I’ve made playlists of Nordic music. I read Nordic news sites that have English-language content. I watch documentaries about Nordic countries and cultureYouTube videos of driving on Nordic roads, and every movie and TV show I can find from Nordic countries, provided they have English subtitles, although sometimes I’ve even watched ones without subtitles just to soak up the ambiance even without understanding the language. This is one of those things I do that other people find very, very odd.

I have never visited any of the Scandinavian/Nordic countries, and although I long to, I’m a little concerned that visiting might burst my obsessive bubble, like visiting England did. I rather enjoy my obsession and don’t want anything to mess with it. Perhaps it’s just as well that Scandinavia can be very expensive to visit and we can’t afford it anyway. Although if we could, and my bubble were burst, I suppose I’d move on to a new obsession like I did last time.

One of My Little Quirks: I Hate Surprises

Photo by Stefano Mortellaro via Flickr. Used under Creative Commons.
Photo by Stefano Mortellaro via Flickr. Used under Creative Commons.

It was hard to find a relevant picture for this post that didn’t creep me out. Pictures of surprise parties? No thank you. So please enjoy the above photo of a surprised-looking cat. Thank you for understanding.

I hate surprise parties. I hate surprises of almost every kind. Please, please don’t surprise me. I will probably not react the way you’re hoping I will, and it will ruin everyone’s fun.

My mom loves surprising people, but she has learned not to try it with me, because it’s the reaction she loves, and I do not provide an acceptable one. If I enter a room and the lights go on and people yell surprise, I will probably jump back (possibly injuring myself in the process), then stand there like a deer caught in the headlights, and then vomit. Not exactly a precursor to a good time.

I love to be able to plan things, including my own reactions to things. If I know in advance that someone’s planning to surprise me, I can expect it, plan for it, and mentally brace myself for it. Then I can jump up and down, smile, clap my hands, say, “Yay!” and everyone will be happy. That is a much nicer scenario.

I also don’t like it when someone tries to keep something from me or lies to me about certain details so they can surprise me later. I can usually tell something’s going on, but I’m not sure what. It feels like they’re just messing with my head and is very disconcerting. I get little enjoyment out of the end result if I was put through any kind of mental confusion to get there. Just don’t do it, please.

On the other hand, if I suspect someone’s trying to surprise me and I’ve mentally prepared myself for it, but I turn out to be wrong, that can be unsettling too. In one of the cities we used to live in, there was this independent bookstore/coffee shop that had a large seating/event area and often had art on display and performances by local musical artists. It was a pretty cool place, but we didn’t go there very often because it was a bit out of our way. A few days before my birthday, my husband told me we would have to go to that bookstore on my birthday since a colleague of his was doing a book signing there and it would be good to support him. Because I’m a planner by nature as well as an information junkie, I looked up information on the man, his book, and the bookstore, but I could find nothing, not even on the store’s online calendar, about this book signing. That seemed odd. And then it hit me: There was no book signing. There was going to be a surprise party for me, and wow, what a perfect location for it. How utterly astute of whoever had thought of it! If I were planning a party for someone like me, that’s exactly the location I’d pick! So I thoroughly mentally prepared myself for the surprise and actually started to look forward to it. I even bought a new outfit.

Guess what. It was a book signing. Happy birthday to me!

I don’t even like parties, and there I felt all hurt and dejected because there wasn’t one. So, I don’t like surprises, but I also don’t like things that look like potential surprises but aren’t. Those are, in themselves, surprises, in that they are not what I was expecting.

I can honestly see why some people find me difficult. There’s just no pleasing me.

One of My Little Quirks: Interest in Maps and Places

Manitoba Map

There was a point in time about 20 years ago when it hit me that I was saying a certain phrase on almost a daily basis. People so often thought my behavior, interests and expressed thoughts were odd that I had taken to saying almost apologetically, “Just one of my little quirks, I guess,” by way of some sort of explanation. The truth was, I didn’t know why I was the way I was, or why they were the way they were. When being put into a position where an explanation was in order, this was the only thing I could think of.

When I realized how often I was saying this, I felt ashamed and decided to stop. But instead of then being myself unapologetically, I started learning to hide my “little quirks.”

I will now share one of them here. Because why not.

I have a great interest in other places. I could call it geography, but that word has a negative connotation to me, since I didn’t enjoy geography in school. We’d be given a map of a fictitious place and told to extrapolate from it what would likely be the primary industry of that region. I didn’t give a shit what the primary industry of some nonexistent region was. That was mind-numbingly dull. Outside of an academic environment, however, I did love maps, for some indefinable reason.

My dad was the one who taught me to read maps when I was about 5. My parents were into camping and fishing and road trips, and my dad showed me how to follow our progress on a map, and I loved it. I hated camping and fishing, but maps made these trips so much more fun for me. I suppose it helped that this was a rare personal interaction with my dad, who wasn’t a big fan of kids in general. (We get along great now that I’m an adult and can discuss things like religion, politics, and everything that’s wrong with the world.)

I not only love maps, but I love seeing what other places look like — the scenery, landscapes, and architecture. So in adulthood, the advent of Google Street View was like a dream come true. I actually remember imagining such a thing when I was a kid, thinking, wouldn’t that be great? Oh, how I would have loved it back then! Even now, I spend countless hours virtually touring other places, completely absorbed in the activity, tuned out to my immediate surroundings.

If I hear a place name I’m unfamiliar with, I have to look it up to find out about it. If I don’t have the opportunity to do so right away, it will nag at me until I do. I also love browsing scenic photos on sites like Flickr and 500px, but I feel intensely agitated if there’s no mention of where it was taken. Like, it really, really bothers me to the point where I feel like I could crawl out of my own skin if I can’t find out or figure out the location. I feel kind of unfairly annoyed at the photographer, like “Why would they post this without any information? This is utterly useless.” (Of course, thinking logically, I realize if someone’s only into photography as an art and not into places, they wouldn’t have seen a need to, and that’s okay.) I’ve actually gotten pretty good at guessing locations from the scenery or architecture, especially European ones. I test myself sometimes. I find it fun. Armchair Tourist (which I watch via Roku), where they show you video of a place and then provide a number to look up if you want to know where it is, is a blast for me.

When I was younger, it never really occurred to me that my interest was unusual until things happened that made it obvious. For example, when I was about 19, my dad had given me a decent camera as a gift, and I got the idea that I would take scenic photos, enlarge them, frame them, and give them as gifts. I would have loved to have received such gifts myself, provided the photographs were of adequate quality. But I mentioned my plan to my boyfriend at the time and he looked at me like I was crazy and said, “I don’t get it. Just, like, here’s sunny wherever?” He thought the idea was so bizarre that I ended up feeling incredibly embarrassed that I’d thought such a thing would be acceptable. (My face still gets hot when I remember it.) Another time, I was driving a friend to an unfamiliar location in another country and I asked her to navigate while I drove. She looked at the map I’d given her and said, “Sorry, I can’t make sense of this. I’m not very good with maps.” I was bewildered. It had never occurred to me that an intelligent person like her wouldn’t be able to read a map. (I didn’t actually say anything like that to her, thank goodness.) And then there was the time I realized that the highly intelligent friend I’d met online a decade ago knew nothing about the location of the city I was living in, when I had learned all about her city a long time ago. Other times, I’ve been astonished to hear long-time residents of a city say they don’t know how to get to a neighbouring town or don’t know which direction another major city is from there. I can’t even imagine living somewhere and not at any point having used a map to orientate myself to my surroundings, both local and further afield. As soon as I know I’m moving somewhere it is the first thing I do.

I have learned not to express my interest or my thoughts on this subject to others at all, because I eventually realized that I’m the one who’s odd, not them.

It’s just one of my little quirks, I guess.