Some thoughts

Life in a mixed marriage – the problem with wine gums

Winegums3

It’s Fri 4-Sep-2015 in the North Inn, I wish I could write as lucidly as Teresa, but there is a good reason she is a professional writer of words and I am a professional writer of software, so here goes, …

A week ago, instead of being here with my usual pint of Proper Job I was in Plymouth with Teresa and one of my children who had some tests to do prior to starting university. Now, Plymouth has a lot of history for me and my children as we and their mum regularly holidayed just over the Tamar on the Rame Peninsula twice a year and always visited Plymouth, indeed there were well-established rituals as to what one did in Plymouth and in what order. After their mum and I parted ways, the children and I still holidayed in Kingsand/Cawsand and still visited Plymouth and followed the same routines. Then Teresa came on the scene and we still, …, well you get the idea. Except Teresa didn’t get the idea, the routines weren’t hers and she wanted to do other things and go explore Plymouth differently. It took time to work that one out, especially as my autistic son did not like changes in plans; we had a few bumpy holidays before managing to expand those horizons. After a few years the children grew older and had different ideas about holidays and so Rame and Plymouth were no longer part of our plans.

So, here we are, Plymouth has many memories, however on this occasion Teresa and I were mainly on our own for the morning and afternoon, meeting up with the offspring for lunch.

So, where do the wine gums come in? Patience, we are getting there 🙂 . I had driven down from Cambridgeshire on the Thursday afternoon and the traffic had been a nightmare, especially from Truro down to Pendeen, and since Friday was the last Friday of the summer holidays I expected it to be even worse, now add to that:

  1. Not getting my routine North Inn – the problem wasn’t not going, I’d go on Saturday, it was the disturbance of a comfortable routine and in us autistics this is never easy, even if we know we need to.
  2. Anticipation of a difficult journey having only just done one the previous day. Stress is not good and it builds.
  3. Teresa was looking forward to us having an “us” day exploring Plymouth. Hmm, I know she needed it and I know it sounds good, but all I wanted to do was get home and away from the traffic. But it’s important to Teresa so I needed to be supportive

Stress, stress and more stress. Offspring’s second test finished late and we had to wait in the car for nearly an hour. Teresa tells me I was visibly shaking and I can believe it, trying to contain the stress, not get angry with everyone, which would have been unfair, but which is a way of relieving the pressure.

Still, the offspring arrived and I managed not to snap at her, after all she had done nothing wrong, although that’s not really the point when the pressure cooker is ready to blow. Here is where the word “meltdown” pops its head up. Learning to keep control at times like this is one of the hardest lessons an autistic has to learn and it’s not easy and often not possible, but this day I managed it, just, and meltdown was averted!

So, off we go, returning via the Torpoint Ferry, this is the same way we came in and one of the few bits of the old routines we kept. Anyway, on the way to Plymouth in the morning the Sat Nav had decided it wanted to go over the Tamar Bridge. I didn’t, but I knew the way to the ferry so ignored the satnav until we’d crossed the river and then let it navigate us to the test site. Returning, I expected the same problem but didn’t know how to find the ferry from where we were, so told the satnav to take us to Torpoint. Now Torpoint is on the Cornish bank of the Tamar and Plymouth is on the Devon bank, so you’d think asking the satnav to go to Torpoint would guarantee it would use the ferry. Well I did, but it became clear that wasn’t happening and I knew the traffic over the bridge was bad, so,

  1. I stopped the car,
  2. Reprogrammed the Satnav for “Ferry Road” the actual road into the ferry on the Plymouth side
  3. Set off again

All the while managing to keep my cool. Again you may think that keeping “cool” is to be expected, but having a day full of stress, all the people in Plymouth, changes in plans, …, it was a bomb waiting to go off (think of Teresa’s analogy of a hand grenade). Anyway, I got to the ferry OK, long queue but no problem, and off we went.

Wine Gums? Well, offspring had kindly brought along sweets and was passing over wine gums on the return journey, by the time we reached the ferry she just passed the whole bag forward and Teresa and I stuck in. It was what Teresa would call “comfort eating” and we were working down the bag rapidly.

Fairly soon the bag was near to the end and now we reach the point of this tale 🙂

I found there were not many left and instantly, without a moment’s thought, I decided that since I was the driver, I was stressed, I should finish off the packet.

Hmm, I can hear the voices: so far, typical bloke, doesn’t like shopping, rather be down the pub, thinks he is more important, …, how am I doing?

Except

  1. I am NOT a typical bloke, more girl than boy and not just in how I dress
  2. I love shopping
  3. I would have loved to be down the pub, but offspring needed the support and I would not avoid it just for beer (important as beer is)

Now it gets interesting because, yes, my upbringing and experience of living as a male for most of my life is that I am more important than any woman, that was part of my life for so long that despite the fact that I don’t actually believe it, the instinct for it runs deep and every so often will rear its head.

This captures one of the issues I have with the conventional view of gender, that somehow it was fixed at birth and, in the case of Transsexuals; the gender was fixed in a body type usually occupied by the other fixed gender. I don’t believe that I am trapped in any single gender and no matter the balance between nature (the one I got at birth) and nurture (what I subsequently learnt from those around me), I can choose and I do choose neither. So, back to the wine gums…

I may bash down the “I deserve them” instinct, but it remains. Could, indeed should I be condemned for the thought? I think not. We are all the sum of our histories, but our future is what we choose, and I choose NOT to be ruled by that experience, so share them we did.

Is this an Autism problem? A male problem? A gender problem? I don’t know. I do know that my autistic son struggled with the idea of sharing being two-way, that is he wanted others to share with him but it never occurred to him to share with others. If you work from the idea of Theory of Mind then an inability to perceive others as distinct would explain his reluctance, he couldn’t see any need other than his own. Of course, as a sensible autistic parent of an autistic child I could recognise the problem, even if I didn’t know at the time that either of us was autistic, and patiently and gently I helped him learn the idea and today he is a most generous soul.

So, autism maybe, male maybe, just stressed out, maybe …

What actually happened is that I felt the packet, found only a few left and asked Teresa to count how many there were and share them out. There was an odd number, so was there a dilemma? No, not a problem, I gave it to Teresa. Why? Simple answer, it is a social “trick”, one of many I have learnt over the years, that simple generosity that costs you almost nothing can bring you back social credit out of all proportion to what it costs and as an autistic it is so easy to lose social credit and hard to gain it, so it was a “no brainer”: I did give her the last wine gum and I got the credit.

Of course, Teresa and I being who we are, as soon as we’d done with the wine gums I explained my dilemma and we talked about it and I’m sure she’ll be along with her own perspective.

In the end, the journey back from Plymouth wasn’t as bad as I expected and I was in the North Inn 3:30pm on Saturday and never was a pint more welcome, well ok, a few more than one 🙂 , but they were all welcome.

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