Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Autism Answer: A Conversation With My Brother About Meeting Girls

Some of us siblings chatting in the sun.

My Brother: I try to meet girls. I try to talk to them but some women are just so stuck up.

Me: True, but mostly we're not. Mostly we've learned to protect ourselves by ignoring advances and random compliments from men.

My Brother: But I'm just telling them they look good, it's a compliment.

Me: Sure, but I promise you, most of us women have experienced men talking to us in nasty, rude, inappropriate ways. Sometimes it starts with a friendly compliment and when we respond, even in the slightest, it turns into something nasty and uncomfortable. Certainly not all the time, but often enough that we've learned to pretend we didn't hear you.

My Brother: I guess I see what you mean. I've got friends who talk to girls that way. But you were just telling me to practice chatting with people in order to meet them, so what the heck am I supposed to do?

Me: Well, for starters, don't focus on how they look. Chatting with people is about connecting, recognizing similar interests. That sort of thing. If a woman is buying coffee in the grocery store and you've never tried that brand of coffee, for example, you could ask her if it's good. But, and this is important, only if you actually want to know. And if she doesn't answer you, don't take it personally. But also, if she does answer you, don't try to turn it into, "Can I have your number?" Just let it be a natural conversation. The better you get at that, the better your chances of connecting with people.

My Brother: Ya, I did that the other day. I chatted with a girl about her day at work and the conversation flowed easy. When it stopped, I just said, "Have a nice day," and went on my way.

Me: Perfect! Great example! Right now you just want to get comfortable honestly chatting. Eventually, a friendship can grow out of some of these encounters but don't force it.

My Brother: Wait, I always see you chat with people. Do you do the thing you were saying? Ignore people for protection or whatever?

Me: Mostly? Nope. Sometimes I do, when my gut tells me to, but mostly I chat. I have a belief that in small ways I can make a difference by giving most people the benefit of the doubt and when it turns inappropriate (and, admittedly, it often does) I say, "No, I don't like that," in a strong, kind way. That's a new skill I have and I want to use it. Also, I want to get better at it. We have been taught in both subliminal and obvious ways that guys will do that, and girls will handle it, and that's just how it is. I don't agree. I think we can make it happen less if we change the underlying narrative and assumptions. So, I do my small part.

My Brother: Maybe those other girls should learn to do that. Give me the benefit of the doubt, like you said.

Me: Not necessarily. I used to respond to guys who called out to me and then I got myself in sticky situations when they were pushy. I didn't have the "no" skill I have now. So, for many women, ignoring is probably safer. It's not up to us girls to solve this problem, we need to insist that the boys don't think it's okay to treat us as sexy toys. We've got to work together on this one.

My Brother: So, I should talk to girls about things that are happening in the moment, not about how they look.

Me: Yes! Exactly! Eventually, you'll be comfortable enough that you can add the piece about them being pretty to you, because it will happen naturally and not as an excuse to talk to them. Besides, it will also be good for you to pay attention to things other than what the girl looks like.

My Brother: (Dubiously) I guess.

Me: (Giggle!) You are so funny to me. You call the girls stuck up but you are a little stuck up yourself there, mister!

My Brother: I guess.

I love that my brothers will have these kinds of conversations with me. I love sharing my perspective and learning theirs.

My favorite thing about diversity done well is the guided imagining of a different perspective.

Hugs, smiles, and love!!
Autism Answers with Tsara Shelton (Facebook)