Sunday, 28 February 2010

Killing time

Sunday, 6pm. I haven't left the house all day. I got up late and did French toast for lunch, started playing my xbox and here I still am. Not only a stranger to the outside, but also to clothes. I put the controller down, get dressed, gather up The Picture of Dorian Gray and head to my local by way of the newsagent. I haven't showered or washed since Friday night.

It is bitterly cold outside but the pub is warm, if loud, and fairly busy although there is a table free so I stay. I order a diet coke and sit at the free table and place my paper down. I lament at the growing redundancy of newspapers as the last sections are "sport" (in the UK sport is a euphemism for "football") that I have no interest in so never read. It seems to me that there are two kinds of men…one who reads a newspaper from the back to the front, and me. Leaving the professional lives of footballers to face the table, I turn over the first, second, third, fourth and fifth pages of the front of the paper as they are adorned with the personal lives of footballers that I have no interest in.

My paper spent, and me no more educated, I sit still for a while and listen to the music that, for once, is quite pleasant, if a little loud. It feels like that special effect you see on TV where the protagonist stays still while the world flurries past in a stop-motion blur. To my left are a group of musicians that are killing time waiting for their gig to start at the venue next door. To the right of me are a group of men, standing up in the glow of the television that broadcasts sport. Having lost the power of speech, everything the say must be shouted and enforced with fists on tables and unreasonably loud and raucous fake laughter. If they can address someone at the other end of the room rather than one beside them it is all the better as they can scream and shout all the louder.

At the bar is sat an off-duty barmaid. It seems that when you work at a bar it becomes your life. You're there when you're working and socialising when you're not. She is an attractive girl with a good body that she refuses to show off. Queen bee in human form, everywhere she goes there is a swarm of men buzzing around her and she flits her attention between them all, flirtatiously running her fingers through her honey-blonde hair.

The time I used to kill with alcohol is now left to me to spend in regret. I wonder if I actually don't want to be social, or if I've just given up. A part of me envies these people and their circle of friends, spending time instead of killing it. Filling their moments with joy and happiness while I fritter mine away. A part of me remembers the two unanswered text messages on my phone and remembers who I am.

Leaving the room to themselves, I open my book and continue to read while I try my best to block out the environment. When I'm done reading I'll go home to my xbox. I'll have something to eat. I'll watch a movie. I'll wait for the day to end.

Sunday, 21 February 2010

How to get what you want

There is a series of TV programs running in the UK at the moment that is pseudo-science titillation dressed up as informational programming. It is called "How to get what you want" and features a team of people who can show you tips and tricks on how to be successful. Each show covers a different topic and not being very well equipped for life I thought it was the kind of thing that someone with Asperger's Syndrome should watch.

I recently caught the one on how to be successful with the opposite sex. Something I certainly need help with. The panel consisted of (and I quote) "a brain scientist" as well as your usual "relationship expert" and an expert on body language. The show comprised of information about how people's minds work and what behaviours they exhibit that they might not be aware of. They also ran a series of experiments to demonstrate various hypothesis.

What it didn't really do was tell you how to get what you want. It showed how people flirt what why they flirt and there was some explanation of what men look for in women and what women look for in men. The experiments involved a group of young, attractive 20-somethings in bar scenarios. However none of these people were being told what to do...everything they did was natural behaviour. So if we do these things naturally…what exactly is this show all about? I am guessing it is implying that if you're not successful with the opposite sex that maybe you are not doing these things so you should start doing them. In other words, be fake.

Other things that were revealed were how men concentrate on physical appearance when they first see a girl, but girls tend to draw conclusions about a man's personality from how he appears. They also demonstrated that first impressions can actually be changed so it is possible to turn someone around with conversation.

Regarding what a man wants, they want someone who looks young and healthy. So tips for women were to wear flattering clothes and make-up to enhance good features and cover bad ones. Wow, really? I'm sure that was a revelation for many. Regarding what a woman wants, they want a man to be masculine, broad-shouldered and have the appearance of someone who can protect and provide and is healthy. When it came to tips for men they fell short of saying you should hit the gym, they simply said that if your strengths are health, or youth you should show them. If you have wealth you should show that too.

Now my problem here is that I despise outward displays of personal attributes. I can't stand seeing guys in tight tops and vests showing off muscles. I can't stand people with flash jewellery and designer clothes. I think it is vulgar and shallow to behave that way. So is that why I'm not too successful with the ladies? Should I be spending my money on Dolce & Gabbana sunglasses, an Armani suit and a Rolex watch? Yet again an advice show is telling me to attract women I'd have a better chance if I pretended I was someone I'm not. Is this how normal people behave?

Then in a display of serendipity I was watching another show where I gleam psychological knowledge of the workings of the woman's inner mind. It's called Take Me Out and comprises a line of about 30 girls each with a light to demonstrate they are still interested in the current male contestant. As each guy is introduced they have to endure a few rounds that include their introduction, a display of talent, sometimes their own VT or that from their family or friends. With each round the women turn off their lights if they are not interested. At the end if the guy still has girls with lights still on they can choose one to go on a date with.

On an episode I saw today a guy came out in his twenties I guess, not ugly but not the most attractive person on the planet either. He was dressed the way most contestants are, in jeans and a clean white cotton shirt. His hair was styled the same way most contestants have their hair styled. He was your common or garden guy…looks the same as every other guy. After the introduction a few girls turned their lights off. For the second round his "trick" or "talent" was simply to reveal that he was worth £10m. From that point on only two girls maybe turned their light off and similarly in subsequent rounds almost no-one turned their light off. Also from that point all he did was talk about money or his yacht or his lifestyle and how he has a lot of gold-diggers, how he wants to avoid gold-diggers blah blah blah. If you want to avoid gold-diggers why not just not tell people about your money?

Long story short, by the end of his rounds he had more lights still on than any other contestant I've ever seen. Yet if you asked women I'm sure they'd express utter revulsion at the idea that they'd date a man because he was rich. Yet here it was…spelled out in black and white. No matter what women say about how they're not shallow, and how money doesn't matter, here they were throwing themselves at a man who has done nothing but reveal he was rich.

I wonder if the Rolex shop is still open.

Monday, 15 February 2010

Better dead than red

When I was younger I used to read a lot but my reading habits were maybe typical of someone with Asperger's Syndrome. Almost exclusively, I read non-fiction. The rare times I did read fiction it was something that was about whatever I was interested in at the time. I used to think that reading a fiction book was a waste of time. Why invest all that time in something purely for pleasure when you could be educating yourself and learning instead?

Now that I'm older I have to admit I've all but stopped reading books, and even the rare books that I do read are fiction. Oh, the irony. I'm not sure what caused this change. I think maybe I realised that when you read a non-fictional book about something you're only really getting one person's view of the facts with selective evidence to back it up. I think also when I was younger I didn't appreciate that the language that makes up the book can be art itself, the art was not just the finished product.

It's been a while since I read any books so I recently made a decision to make myself better read. I'm not sure if I'll find anything that will change my life, or even anything I'd want to read more than once (the concept of reading a book more than once is something I don't think I'll ever understand). On the other hand I do expect to read a lot of crap that I have to struggle through then curse that I ever wasted the time.

One of the reasons I want to be better read is because I want "in". I want to see what it is about these books that everyone talks about. I want to experience something that is an important piece of people's lives, and an important artifact of our collective culture. If I'm honest, though, a little piece of me wants to read these books because I'm a snob and I think reading books will make me a "better" person.

I want to concentrate on "classics" and have few books in mind already and I know some people who know some people who read some books so I'll seek to get recommendations too. I'm currently reading "The Picture of Dorian Gray" by Oscar Wilde. It's a bit of a cheat first book and I know I'm easing myself into this exercise as I know the story very well (I've read Will Self's "Dorian" and I've seen the movies too) and it is something that piques my interest. Couple to that Wilde's famous wit, of which I have enjoyed and admired many of his quips, and I think it's a good book to start with.

Monday, 8 February 2010

Big spaces and small spaces

After my initial introduction to my new company I have been moved into the general population…namely the main open-plan office. I know many people with Asperger's Syndrome have problems with open-plan offices and such but I'm not that bothered by it. I'm missing the reduction in screen privacy, and I guess I am occasionally annoyed by the idiotic discussions that go on around me, both technical (someone didn't understand why when updating something using jQuery the html in view->source did not also change (sorry if you don't understand that)) and non-technical (someone telling an anecdote about someone they knew who worked at a bank and programmed the computers to siphon off spare money…I swear this actually took place, I couldn't bite my lip and had to inform him that wasn't an anecdote, it was the plot for Superman III).

Stranger than the open-plan office is the lift that I need to take each morning, and each evening. It's only a few floors but when you’re in a confined space with someone you're constantly thinking in your head "please no-one start a conversation"…but they always do. We're in there for 20 seconds or less…how can you have a conversation? Gah! This morning I had to actually go the wrong way out of the office so I didn't cut my co-converser off mid anecdote (he was telling me about his friend who got bitten by a radioactive spider). Then on the way home rather than go to the car park I had to walk half way down the road so I didn't cut off someone else mid-anecdote.

Saturday, 6 February 2010


While walking around among other people it seems that I am the most impatient person in the world. I am the only one who appears to ever have an agenda or somewhere to go or some place to be. Apart from me, everyone just seems to not care. They all dawdle and crawl and clump together causing nothing but blockages and nuisance.

It's not only when on the move, but everywhere. They can't use an ATM in under 10 minutes, they can't have their money ready when getting to the counter or the ticket machine. They can't have already decided what they want to eat when coming to order.

I think the phenomenon at work is that other people enjoy the journey, where I am just looking to reach the destination. I always have somewhere in mind that I am going to, and I just want to get there. Other people seem to enjoy ambling so that they can use the time to talk and socialise.

That explains the walking around…but why can't people use an ATM in an expedient manner or show efficiency when their actions affect others? I suppose people are just selfish.

Thursday, 4 February 2010

I am Jack's lonely liver

Last year when I had that time off between jobs and went on a tour of the country, I entered into that state where you drink so much it just has no effect on you any more and you're drinking purely for the 2 seconds it wastes lifting up your arm then putting it back down again. When I returned I vowed to dry up a little. I mainly had my new job in mind as I wanted to stay acute and focussed, not obtuse and hung-over.

My problem is that "moderation" isn’t in my vocabulary. I've tried cutting back, I've desperately tried not drinking on Sundays so I am fine for work the next day but all I end up doing is breaking promises. I guess I'm just an all-or-nothing kinda guy, so I decided to just stop drinking altogether. I was off the wagon for Christmas and New Year as I knew I couldn't possibly handle the stress and anxiety without it, but that's been my only blip so far in four months now.

In terms of the health benefits I've already lost over half a stone which isn't bad seeing as I haven't changed what I eat or how much I exercise. My sleep is a lot better too. During the week I still don't get much sleep, but I haven't had to go to work with a hangover for a long time so I'm always fresh and alert in the mornings. At the weekend I usually turn my phone off when I go to bed and just sleep right through to the morning, waking up naturally. Usually when you're drinking you don't get a particularly restful sleep…but now I sleep for a good 7 or 8 hours and when I wake up I actually feel like I've had a good, solid sleep too. I feel really rested and rejuvenated, not all dehydrated and restless.

It's not all good though…obviously I do miss it and things just don't "feel right" at the weekend when you're not drinking. I still go out to see local bands and things but it's not quite the same when you're drinking coke at £3 a pint. When you're sat at home of a weekend watching TV, movies or playing games it's just not as relaxing without a few drinks. Having Asperger's Syndrome (AS) my mind is always racing and I miss the down time that being drunk gives me. In terms of work nights out and things, it's never fun being around drunk people when you're sober. So I'm not saying I'm teetotal now or anything, I'm just trying this out for now to see where it goes. Recovered alcoholics must have a terrible time; at least people who have never drunk don't know what they're missing.

Maybe my AS is actually helping me here. I'm always telling people who are "trying" to give up smoking; "why don't you just not smoke?" "You don't understand…" they bleat. Maybe as I'm so centred around routines I've just made this my new routine? "Not drinking" is now what I do.