(Note: The following text is a satire.)
Neurotypical people are weird. They do all kinds of silly things. They are emotion-obsessed, easily distracted by novel stimuli, and insist upon participating in silly social rituals that they consider mandatory. Their odd lifestyle choices and preferences in how they like to communicate would be their own problem and none of my business, but, alas, I routinely have no other choice but to communicate with a neurotypical person.
If neurotypicals only engaged in silly activities and left me alone to live as I prefer, then I wouldn’t care. After all, other people are free to live as they want. But instead they actually demand me to imitate their nonsensical behavior. Unfortunately for normal people like me, communication with neurotypicals is made harder by the fact that they mistakenly perceive themselves as “normal” and their own typical communication preferences as normative. In order words: They expect me to accommodate their preferences, and they tend to become offended whenever I don’t feel like wasting my time on elaborate linguistic constructions that are nothing but empty lies. Whenever I am reluctant to follow their silly norms, they will complain that I am being rude towards them.
Neurotypical people speak in riddles and communicate via subtle hints.
Speaking in riddles would be annoying enough already, but what’s worse, neurotypicals actually expect other people to correctly decipher their cryptic messages.
For example, on one occasion, a weird person asked me whether I am a Vulcan. That’s a nonsensical question. How can a rational person even answer to something like this? “No, I cannot possibly be the Roman god of fire. You might have some doubt about whether I am a human or a chatbot, but I certainly cannot be a mythological figure.” As another person explained to me, by asking me whether I am a Vulcan, “They were trying to flag that they thought I was being extremely distant about something they did not think was a matter people should think about dispassionately.” Firstly, how the hell am I supposed to decipher such a cryptic message and correctly figure out all the implications somebody meant? Secondly, of course, I am dispassionate during some random online conversation. Why should I be emotional during what is just an exchange of written comments?
Alternatively, neurotypicals will imbue words, phrases, and statements with weird connotations that remain unknown and unnoticeable for a normal person. Yet the moment a normal person uses some word in a way they perceive as incorrect, neurotypicals will attack them like a pack of hyenas. For example, in a conversation I once mentioned that “I am a polyglot.” Three weird people ganged up on me, attacked me, criticized me for bragging, even diagnosed me with narcissism.
According to them, “Anyone who refers to him/her/themselves as a polyglot is just about bound to be a tiresome, pretentious @sshole.” One of the weird people also stated that:
Nobody who isn’t trying to brag, or drafting a jacket bio for their upcoming book (same diff, maybe), should be referring to themselves as a “polyglot”. It’s just one of those words non-asshats don’t use in a sentence that starts with “I’m a(n)” — see also ‘autodidact’ or ‘very stable genius’. If you do speak several languages, just say that. Or say what they are.
A normal person can only wonder at the nonsensical nature of such statements. Phrases “I am a polyglot” and “I speak several languages” are absolutely identical in terms of what information they convey. How can it even be possible for one of these phrases to be bragging while the other one is acceptable? It just makes no sense.
Neurotypicals can never cease to amaze a normal person with all the ridiculous meanings they assign to some words. Trying to keep up with all this nonsense is an uphill struggle. Sure, you can learn that when a poet says, “Her eyes looked like sapphires,” the author actually wanted to convey that those eyes were beautiful rather than literally looking like stones. But neurotypicals will continuously invent new weird meanings for existing words. And they will do it so quickly that a normal person cannot keep up with memorizing the meaning of each new weird thing they hear.
And how are we even supposed to learn the meaning of all these odd linguistic inventions? It’s not like there exists a dictionary with a compilation of all the weird things a normal person can hear from neurotypicals. For example, the dictionary entry for “polyglot” doesn’t warn normal people to abstain from using this word while having a conversation with neurotypicals.
Never mind the cultural differences. The same word or phrase can be value-neutral in one culture while still having some connotations in a different culture. Good luck keeping up with all this nonsense if you are a polyglot who communicates with people from numerous different cultures!
Neurotypical people label direct statements as “rude.”
The “politeness rules” neurotypical people tend to have are often nonsensical. Many neurotypicals are overly sensitive, react negatively to us saying things directly, and are unwilling to be honest with us and directly inform us about things we do need to know. One of the most frustrating rules is that merely stating facts often gets perceived as rude. If a neurotypical person asks me whether they look good is some clothes, an honest answer like, “These pants are too tight for you, they make you look fatter by emphasizing the outlines of fat on our belly,” wouldn’t be appreciated.
If there is a potentially unpleasant message I have to convey, then I must use euphemisms and sandwich the real message in between a nonsensical amount of small talk and pleasantries. Let’s say a neighbor started smoking next to my open window. I couldn’t just ask them to stop doing this, I would have to spend at least several minutes in a useless conversation during which I would have to casually slip the one message I actually wanted to convey.
This weird distaste for direct statements can show up anywhere, also when you least expect it. For example, I once stated that I intend to remain childfree, because I perceive baby screams as irritating and dirty diapers as stinky and disgusting. A weird person had to object about this, according to her, by stating that “I see babies as disgusting screaming bundles of stinky bodily excretions,” I was advocating violence towards children. Of course, that’s nonsensical—no normal person could come up with something so weird. “Let’s beat up some kids” or “spare the rod, spoil the child” are examples of statements that advocate child abuse. But me directly stating that baby poop is stinky is no way suggests that I perceive child abuse as acceptable (of course, I don’t; I strongly oppose any forms of child abuse).
If some parent believes that their baby’s poop smells like roses, they are free to have an opinion, but instead of accepting that people can have different opinions, some weird people actually get offended when I directly state that I happen to have a different aesthetic opinion. In this particular conversation, the weird person had clearly expected me to tone down my language and resort to euphemisms while discussing my reasons for choosing to remain childfree.
Being expected to practice self-censorship and having to use euphemisms and complicated linguistic constructions that obfuscate the truth is annoying.
The worst linguistic nightmares happen when trying to get sex with a neurotypical person. Obviously, I strongly prefer to just ask directly, as in: “Do you want to have sex with me?” If they are interested, we could negotiate from there and agree upon something mutually acceptable. But no, many neurotypicals want some odd courtship rituals and silly flirting instead. Those are a real nightmare, because, in addition to nonsensical verbal statements, people also use odd body language and other subtle hints that are literally invisible for a normal person. This is why many normal people choose not to approach neurotypicals for sex (fearing that our advances might be unwelcome) and instead wait for some neurotypical to approach us. However, if you, just like me, are more dominant and prefer to be in charge in a sexual relationship, good luck, because you will need it! You can brace yourself for endless guessing about what the other person wants (or doesn’t want) you to do, because they sure won’t be willing to just state it directly.
Neurotypical people lie a lot. All the time.
When a thief lies that they haven’t stolen something, they do so in an attempt to hide the truth. Lying is rational in situations where you want some fact to remain unknown to other people. Yet neurotypical people lie not only when it would be rational to do so in order to hide some truth, instead they lie all the time for no good reason.
Many people lie, manipulate others, and imagine that they are just being polite. “How are you? / I am doing great, thanks for asking,” is a lie. The person who asks doesn’t truly care about the other person’s wellbeing. The person who answers is aware that an honest answer is unwelcome, thus they will say “great” even if their life is terrible at the moment. It’s a double deception with both people being totally aware about the dishonest nature of this interaction. I perceive such social interactions as pretty nasty. Personally, I don’t like having to lie or being lied to. I don’t want others to pretend to care about me.
Alternatively, consider the cover letters that you have to write when applying for jobs. In those letters you are supposed to explain why you want to work for some company. The only truthful answer would be, “Because I need money.” But no, instead in these letters you have to write about how you want to use your skills in order to help some company. The people who read those letters don’t even believe this nonsense, but no, this is how communication between neurotypical people is supposed to happen.
According to neurotypicals, wasting another person’s time and telling them lies is the polite thing to do. When they ask me how I am doing without actually caring about the answer, they are wasting my time. When they say, “I will call you later,” I end up waiting for the call, thus wasting my time.
Moreover, the same phrases often have different meanings. Consider, for example, the phrase “I will call you later.” Most of the time this phrase actually means “go away.” The problem is that occasionally, instead, this phrase means “I seriously intend to call you later.” How the hell am I supposed to tell the difference? Being a cynic, I usually assume that I was just told to get lost. The problem is that occasionally my pessimism turns out to have been wrong. Just two weeks ago, I was very surprised when a person who had promised to call me actually did exactly that.
Alternatively, when people ask me, “How are you doing?” I usually reply with, “Great,” because that’s the standard reply for such situations. But maybe this time I was dealing with a person who actually cares about me and would have preferred a real answer? How do I tell the difference?
Getting an honest answer from a neurotypical person often turns into a time consuming ordeal. For example, a while ago I contacted a person I know suggesting that I’d like to visit him. His answer: “You wouldn’t enjoy it, because it is boring in my part of the world.” How can a rational person even react to this? Am I really supposed to start a discussion about what I perceive as fun and would enjoy? That wouldn’t make any sense. After more poking, I finally got the real answer—the person I was dealing with doesn’t like having guests, because he perceives it as stressful.
In my opinion, “I don’t want both of us to do X, because I won’t enjoy it,” is perfectly fine as a reply. After all, my friends don’t have a duty to agree to everything I suggest. However, “I don’t want both of us to do X, because you won’t enjoy it,” is problematic, because, in general, each person knows best what they like and what they would enjoy. This reply is potentially patronizing. I am capable of deciding for myself what I would like to do, and others don’t have to question and undermine my ability to tell what I enjoy.
All of these lies make it hard to maintain any long term relationships. I couldn’t care less about my friends not spilling their secrets to me (people’s secrets usually are pretty boring anyway), but I do dislike it when people refuse to give me information that I really need in order to make rational decisions. For example, let’s say I offered to go to an art museum to a friend. They perceive art as boring, but they still agree to come in order to be polite. They will be bored and dislike the experience. After a few such boring experiences, they will start distancing themselves from me. The relationship will be over. Such problems can be easily prevented if the other person honestly says that they have no interest in art, because then we can go over our interest lists and search for some overlap, which allows us to pick some activity that would be interesting for both of us. But no, according to neurotypicals, you cannot just directly tell other people what you would like to do.
Even though neurotypical people are hard to communicate with, due to their prevalence in the society, the few of us who are normal have little choice but to tolerate their follies and silly behavior. Usually, we have no alternative options but to interact with them. Communicating with neurotypicals is hard and akin to walking on a razor’s edge (notice the idiom: this is the kind of nonsense we must learn to understand). On one hand, you have to use the right linguistic constructions in order to please them and make them happy. On the other hand, if you bend over backwards in order to satisfy their odd preferences, you are likely to become stressed and unhappy, because you feel like a fool wasting your time on silly social rituals and acting incoherently for no good reason. Achieving a reasonable balance between satisfying their silly expectations while still maintaining some integrity and personal emotional wellbeing is a hard task that is made only harder by neurotypicals refusing to directly state what exactly they want from us in any given situation.
This was a satire. This text is written in 1st person singular for the sake of expressing a specific message. I intentionally wrote it from the perspective of a person who is extremely frustrated with how neurotypical people prefer to communicate. In this text I intentionally have the speaker address other “normal” people. I share these views only partially. Personally, I am nowhere near as frustrated, because most of the time I actually can comprehend neurotypical people. Situations where I am completely clueless about what somebody is trying to convey are actually pretty rare. Thus being puzzled or frustrated about different communication preferences is something that happens with me only occasionally.
Of course, I do not actually believe that neurotypical people are weird or that their preferred ways of communication are flawed. Instead, I strongly dislike that some people want to pathologize diversity, they want to label people like me as sick or rude and my preferred communication methods as invalid.
The problem with some people is that they imagine themselves to be normative. They want to make those who differ from them invisible, erase our existence. We are taught to mimic and emulate their weird communication patterns. We are taught to fake it, pretend that we are also neurotypical for their convenience, just so that they wouldn’t even have to notice that not every person is like them. The result is that our authentic selves aren’t good enough for them, instead they want us to act, perform their idea of normalcy, and stop living in a way that is comfortable for us.
I do not mind that there exists an adjective like “normal,” which is used to describe some characteristic that majority of people happen to have. However, once you define “normalcy” as “average behavior,” it becomes imperative that it should not be treated as normative. It’s wrong to imply that all people ought to be normal (whatever that even means). Besides, most people generally perceive themselves as normal, others who differ from them are weird. For example, my own preference for very direct communication might be a minority preference, but nonetheless I actually perceive that as normal.
For the record: I have never been diagnosed with any mental health disorder. As a child, I appeared normal enough that my teachers perceived me as only a little unusual and never bothered with sending me to some mental health professional. Thus I do not know whether I actually qualify for any diagnosis or no. Nowadays, I have no interest in finding out whether I am atypical enough to be labeled as something from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.
In general, a diagnosis is only useful for figuring out what is happening with some patient, it also aids a therapist with deciding how to help this person. I do not need any help, and I am perfectly happy with my life. I know just fine how to handle social interactions, and I already know exactly how my own thinking patterns differ from those of neurotypical people. Whether those differences are significant enough to warrant an official diagnosis of something is irrelevant for me. Thus I do not know whether I qualify as autistic or no. I cannot diagnose myself, and I have no interest in going to a doctor who could determine it. I know for certain that I am not completely neurotypical, but I have no diagnosis beyond that.
By the way, in case you haven’t already read this one, I highly recommend you to read Allism: An Introduction to a Little-Known Condition by Andrew Main. It’s fun and thought-provoking.