Friendships are very important to people. Sometimes, we are closer to friends than family. Friendships are immortalized in history such as the complex friendship between Thomas Jefferson and John Adams or the supportive friendship of C.S Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. In literature, Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn. On TV, Kirk and Spock.
I personally find friendship utterly confusing. I don’t think I am very good at it. I have a few close friends and a few more acquaintances and many people that I know from work or the neighborhood. I can only name two people (not counting my spouse) that I could call, any time of day or night, and expect that they wipe the sleep out of their eyes and ask me ‘How can I help?’
When I was a child, I didn’t have any friends. While I lived in a community with plenty of kids my age, I met very few of them. My mother worked nights and slept during the day, and I couldn’t go out of the house without her. She didn’t get along with the other mothers in the neighborhood so there were no visits to people down the street. I didn’t go to nursery school but for a month or two. So by the time I went to kindergarten, many of my classmates already knew each other and knew of the oddness of my family.
Once I was at school, I didn’t know how to make friends. I was more comfortable dealing with adults or the older siblings of my classmates than my classmates themselves.
I don’t think I had a real friend until I was almost out of high school. What I did have were survival friends. I wish I had a better term for it. Survival friends are not the people you would have chosen as friends but they are the only ones you can find. You share the common experience of being outcasts, of not fitting in, and not wanting to go through high school utterly alone. Instead of sharing positive experiences, you are sharing negative ones.
I met the girl who would be my first real friend at a girls group weekend. We were both sitting in the back of some meeting, both bored to tears, and started talking (quietly) about books or TV or something. We had similar tastes in books and TV and that started the relationship. She is completely Neurotypical, which helped me greatly to learn how to act more ‘normal’.
Making friends is hard for a lot of people, especially Aspergians who do not pick up those subtle cues in social situations. Or do not understand that friendships are less like cacti and more like standard houseplants: they need time and energy and care. Neglect can kill friendship but so can too much attention.
So I am going to spend the next few days exploring friendship and Aspergers: the perils of making friends, keeping friends, and exploring if friendship in the Aspergers community is different than that in the Neurotypical community.