Recently I ate lunch and caught up with an old friend who is the mother of two neurotypical adult children. We traded stories about the dysfunctional romantic relationships of our kids. She told me about her son’s broken engagement, involving a series of twists and turns with my friend’s prospective in law. My friend’s son broke up with his fiancé because he thought she was an incurable spendthrift. Turns out the young lady was not only a big spender, but also a thief who stole credit card information in addition to swiping a friend’s jewelry and designer bags.
“Lucky he got out before the wedding.” I offered the obvious response.
Then it was my turn to share. I offered updates on Samantha’s break-up last year with her boyfriend who gave us a recurring and wildly expensive bedbug problem. While that breakup was a relief for our family, we may have gone from the frying pan into the fire. Several of my daughter’s male friends wanted to date her immediately. One friend/ suitor became obsessed with her; he was so persistent that he called ME! I had to explain that Samantha needed a break after her three-year relationship and our family’s exhausting bedbug battle. I added that my daughter wanted to focus on her career and date casually.
The suitor’s misguided and over-involved mother had also called and texted me periodically to complain about my daughter’s behavior, never once imagining that her son was falsely accusing Samantha of bullying him and then throwing her under the bus. Somehow it never occurred to the meddling mom that her son might bear some responsibility for their difficulties. How lucky we are that my daughter escaped BEFORE any romantic relationship ensued.
My friend looked at me in amazement. “I always thought people with autism were sweet. I never thought they could be so mean!”
Well, now my friend has been (somewhat) enlightened. Young adults with autism can be just as mean as any neurotypical millennial. Male or female, with or without a disability, we are dealing with HUMAN relationships and individuals. I don’t know why my friend or anyone else is surprised. Kindness and cruelty are qualities found in everyone to greater and lesser degrees, regardless of whether or not they have a disability. Perhaps a neurotypical person with superior communication skills can dissemble or inflict verbal injury on a friend or romantic partner with greater subtlety than someone on the autism spectrum. Either way, everyone wants to be loved; everyone feels hurt and disappointment no matter how artful or obvious their words or actions may be.
We are all on the spectrum—the human spectrum—together.