Category: Gender

Life in a mixed marriage – the problem with wine gums, Teresa’s response…

My first thought upon reading David’s post was – what’s going on? What happened to our routine? Routine is crucial for autistics and those of you who read this blog on a regular basis know that the custom is for me to write the kick-off article, then David will come along and respond. On this occasion, the world seems to have turned topsy turvy and the man who likes routine has broken with routine and changed the rules while I wasn’t watching…

Be that as it may, the thing about the wine gums highlights, as David says, the whole theory of mind issue and also harks back to what I said on a previous posting about politeness.

Early on in our relationship I remember going to a pantomime with David and his son (his daughter was on stage) and said son won a box of chocolates in the raffle. He received his prize, sat down, opened it and hunching over it, began to eat. It did not occur to him to offer the box to his father or to me, nor did his dad say anything to him. I was shocked. Now that’s a big word, ‘shocked’. Part of my personal baggage is that as an only child, my father was determined that I should not be spoilt: share your sweets; always take the smallest piece of cake; never take the last biscuit; if out for a meal and someone else is paying, never choose the most expensive item on the menu. In the early days David’s son regularly broke all of these behavioural conventions and I really struggled because according to my world view, he was being incredibly rude and antisocial.

Fast forward to David himself. Early on in our relationship we went out for a meal and at one point he turned to me to congratulate himself for being good and not taking food from my plate. That word again: shocked. What on earth made him think it was appropriate to take food from my plate, unless invited to do so?

I mean, I know food taken from other people’s plates carries no calories, but even so…

The point here is that we are all programmed from an early age to behave in a certain way and can find it difficult to step outside that programming. It took me a while to understand that what I considered to be rude might just be another person’s way of coping with the world due to the fact that their brain is wired differently to mine.

However, we need not be defined by these predispositions. I understand that just because David and his son see the world differently to me, that doesn’t make them wrong. Similarly David may have been brought up in a culture where women were ‘less’ and men always drove the car and therefore were entitled to the last wine gum, but he understands that to be inappropriate and so modifies how he thinks and acts.

Most importantly of all, as David said, we talk about these things all the time, we prod and poke at our responses and reactions and that is why the wine gum conversation happened. Of course at one level David was stressed and I should have just let him have the other wine gum. On the other hand, I too had had a stressful day (it didn’t turn out to be the ‘us’ day I had hoped for) and yes he was driving but I would have been quite happy to drive and the reason he was doing so was – yes, you’ve guessed it, because driving is less stressful for him than being driven!

So, fast forward to the writing of this post. We decided that we needed a packet of wine gums for the photo. Once the photo was done, we divided the remaining sweets into two equal portions – but oh no! There were not two left over, but three. What to do? Well, David took one for himself, and left the rest for me. Like the ‘last Rolo’ ad, I think that as a declaration of love, that hits the spot 🙂

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.

The Imitation Game

I wrote this after watching the film “The Imitation Game” staring Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley, which was, in theory, either the story of Alan Turing or of Enigma or both.

That it failed to do justice to either is a shame, but nevertheless the film, as made, raised enough questions for me that I thought it worth drawing them out, if we were to go all poncy then I should say, “I’d like to unpack some of the ideas in the film”, but I won’t 🙂 .

It is quite possible that by using the “p” (oncy) word, I have broken one of the many politically correct conventions that seem to be constantly created, if so, then on a neurotypical level, I’m sorry for any offense caused. On an autistic level, get a life; it’s only a word for goodness sake. I thought it was me who is not supposed to be able to handle nuance and understand that what someone means may be separate from the words they use?

And that is really my starting point. At our first meeting with Alan Turing, and repeatedly throughout the film, it is made very clear to us that:

  • He doesn’t get jokes
  • He is very literal, for example, when told by his colleagues that they were going for lunch, he treated it literally as a statement, not a question as to whether he wanted to join them
  • Social communication is like a cipher to him, if you don’t understand the code, you have no idea what is being said
  • He was outspoken, blunt, arrogant, said what he thought without social filtering
  • He needed his orange and green vegetables to not touch

Ok, we get the message; the film thinks he was autistic. I never met him; he killed himself the year before I was born, so I cannot diagnose him. That said, the traits portrayed are classic autism and being a mathematician, we would not be surprised to find autistic traits. I’m a mathematician; I can recognise those traits in many (but by no means all) very capable mathematicians, far more capable than I am.

On the subject of food, autism is a spectrum so it’s not always about colour. I have to eat food in a certain order; the colour is not important but the sequence is. The need may seem strange to you, but it makes sense to me and to prevent me, or block me, from doing what I need to do is unhelpful. The same is true of what I eat. I have the same thing for lunch at work and at the same time every day and disturbing that routine is difficult. I can manage it but it’s not easy. My son needed his tea at 6:30pm exactly, unless there was a good reason not to, so that’s what we did. If it was impossible, I explained well in advance and made sure it happened rarely. On occasion I’d make sure his meal was at 6:30pm even if mine was at some other time. Nowadays he just needs to know the time, but you need to be accurate and include any uncertainty factor otherwise he will arrive on the dot of the stated guesstimate!

For me the most important message in the film, (I have no idea whether there is an original of this) was:

“Sometimes it is the people that nobody imagines anything of who do the things that no one can imagine”

The world would be poorer without difference. Difference should not just be tolerated, it should be embraced. You never know who will have the next idea that changes the world!

There was an article on the BBC news website lately which questioned why a gay man would want to be married to a woman if he wasn’t at least bisexual. The Imitation Game addressed this very nicely. Marriage is MUCH more than sex, all the other aspects of the relationship matter too. In the film, and, as far as I know in real life, Alan Turing and Joan Clarke communicated and were honest with one another about his homosexuality. The problem highlighted in the BBC article occurs when communication hasn’t taken place and people find out that they have been deceived, either deliberately or accidentally. Honesty, even when painful, is an autistic trait that is seen as negative, this is clearly demonstrated in the portrayal of Alan Turing’s relationships at Bletchley Park. Yet such traits can make the world a better place and there can be a clear benefit when things are spoken about, even when, from a social point of view, they are no go areas.

I love Teresa, but I could not be married to her just for the sex, good as that is. I am married to her for all the rest, the understanding, the communication, the willingness to try, indeed, all the things that Teresa put on her shopping list.

Finally and absolutely not least, Alan Turing was granted a pardon for being found guilty of being gay (not what it was called at the time of course, back then being gay meant being happy!).

There are tens (hundreds?) of thousands of gay men with a criminal record from the time when being homosexual was illegal. These men haven’t been pardoned. Alan Turing was a special man and did not deserve what happened to him, but neither did the others. I have no problem with him being pardoned. I do, however, have contempt for a society, and especially a government that thinks it is acceptable to not pardon ALL homosexuals who were prosecuted, but only to make a special case because it is politically correct to do so.

p.s.

In case the dual nature of the title had passed you by, in order to appear “normal” in a Neurotypical world, my whole life is a Game of Imitation.

OUPS Autism Video is ready

Following on from the presentation on Autism we did at the OU Psychology Society conference on Learning Difficulties, I said that Teresa recorded it, well, what actually happened was, …

On the spur of the moment when taking a photo at the beginning Teresa decided to Video the presentation on her mobile. It was an inspired idea but one we were unprepared for. So, it is hand held, varying audio and video quality, a fair degree of hand tremor (her hands got tired, understandably!), and all sorts of technical problems, …

But it’s there, I have done some simple editing to try to ensure that nobody else is in the video but me, however I am most definitely not a video editor so the quality of the editing is suspect too :-). Nevertheless we think it’s worth uploading it onto Youtube.

The Video of the presentation is here

A PDF of the slides is here.

A copy of the Video of the National Saxophone Choir that didn’t work so well is here.

A link to the scene from the Restaurant at the end of the Universe is here.

I’m sorry if you don’t always catch the words and there is a fair amount of talk that is not on the slides. We might generate a transcript one day and add it here, but until then, you only have to ask us 🙂

Oh and because the talk was about the difference between perception and reality I enjoyed making this.

Gender at Cambridge Adlerian Society

CAS Talk2

Teresa commented: “David’s talk on gender: battling the stereotypes – why do we have to be one or the other when gender is a spectrum”.

This was a CPD (Continuing Professional Development) evening seminar on Gender. The main theme of which was that gender and sexuality are not binary and indeed people use gender and sexuality language without understanding what it means or when to use it. Surprisingly I was in a top and leggings and not a frock, though from past experience leggings seem to be more “shocking” than a dress or skirt to the average customer of Tesco or Sainsbury’s :-).

The first of four talks in 3 weeks

  • 24th June    CAS, Gender
  • 4th July        OUPS Annual Conference in Warwick, Autism
  • 11th July       Penzance Literature festival, Gender
  • 14th July      Penzance, Autism

And no two the same!

David