Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Girls, Girls, effing Girls!

Young love. Isn't it everything? I certainly thought it was when I was a teenager and a young adult. Now that I'm a mother, not so much. It's murder watching my kids go through heartbreak.  Which is why I would basically like to forbid both of them from ever looking at females until they are emotionally ready to handle all of the feelings that come along with them. 

Girls, girls, effing girls! These situations make me want to scream! 

When they ask for guidance about their relationships, I feel my veins tighten, my stress level elevating. I feel like it's all a big setup --a trap so that when it all goes wrong, it will be my all my fault! Because everything that ever goes wrong in their lives is my fault. 

I was a hopeless romantic as a teenager.
There was no instruction, other than romance movies which are so authentic, right?
I was totally Sandy from "Grease." Hopelessly Devoted. 
I had no idea what I was doing.
I only thought about how good it felt when I thought I was in love.
I didn't analyze the meaning of love or calculate the probability of heartbreak.
I only thought about how handsome, sweet and popular my fellow was.
I didn't completely fall apart every time a relationship ended to the point where I couldn't sleep or handle the rest of my life. 

Young, immature and lacking confidence in myself, having a boyfriend gave me a sense of validation. I didn't see myself as attractive. I lacked confidence from all of the teasing in middle school about my rather large nose. I didn't have long pretty hair. I had dark skin. I thought I was average at best.

Looking back now,  I was cute as a button with a slammin body! I would give back my children to have that body again.
Hawaiian Day, Circa 1983

Now, I'm a mom of three young men. Two of my sons have autism. They are twenty-one and eighteen.

Some people think that autism means they may not want a relationship. Maybe they're  loaners --socially reclusive. Maybe they don't want to be intimately social.  Nothing could be further from the truth. My boys crave social relationships.  The lack the ability to read people just makes them more difficult.

They want affection like every other hormonally charged teenage boy. Ultimately, they want what they've been fighting for their entire lives --to be accepted for who they are. They are just not clear about all of the interpersonal dynamics of relationships, especially with females. 

I get these dating questions...

"Exactly how many dates should I go on before I ask a girl to be my girlfriend?"

"Well, first of all, you don't ask every girl you think is pretty to be your girlfriend. It's not like middle school. You take the time to get to know her, become friends and then decide how you feel and if you have things in common.  Now that you're older, relationships become more intimate, so you really have to get to know one another first."

"So exactly how many dates is that? Two? Five? Ten?"  *Insert eye roll here. 

I have discussed this subject with other moms in one of my online support groups. We have to remind our young men on the spectrum that a girlfriend is not a prize. A girlfriend is not a status to achieve. Each individual comes with their own thoughts and feelings, and they may not be the same as yours. You have to listen to them and not just talk. You have to get to know their wants and needs and consider their feelings, not just your own.  These things just don't come to our boys naturally. 

Sometimes, I am asked blunt questions about sex...things that I would NEVER have considered asking my parents.

"The more attractive the girl,  the sex feels better, right?"
"I have to keep in shape and have a perfect body so I can have better sex."
OMG seriously dude?  

Me -"Umm...not really. There are a lot of factors that play into what makes sex feel good. How you look has very little to do with the actual feeling. Connection with the person you're with is a huge part of it."

He just looks at me like I have three eyeballs. I think he imagines that sex is just like it looks in Hollywood movies.  The girl is always totally hot! And the guy has six pack abs. 

No. My dear.  Even old, fat people like me and your dad still enjoy sex! 

My eighteen-year-old is an old soul. In the past year, one might say that he is intensely interested in love. He has studied it ...like it's a science.  He reads articles about it. He researches the history of it. His thinking about it also seems to be very intellectual, black and white, and quite frankly, pretty idealistic.

So in real life, when gray happens, it totally knocks him out of the water.

There was a girl.  They had so many things in common. She seemed like she genuinely cared about him as a person. They were developing a lovely friendship. When he decided to express his true feelings, she practically disappeared off the face of the earth. The semester ended. Summer came, and he did not hear one single word from her.

He was left laying in the middle of the road after being hit by that truck. It seemed like it came out of nowhere.

That was last summer. And OMG! It was the most miserable summer of our lives! And we've had some pretty miserable summers. His misery was the shock and intense emotion of loneliness and heartbreak. Mine was taking the shrapnel from the bomb(s) that went off every time he melted down over anything and everything. 

I saw the signs before it happened. Of course, it wasn't my place to say anything. He would have chopped my head off if I did.

The signs were subtle. He was always the person reaching out, going out of his way to do things to make her happy. I never saw her reaching back. She was always "so busy."  Someone new to the game of teenage dating and having autism, he missed the signs.

Many with autism have difficulty reading the emotions and social cues from others. So the learning curve in their relationships will ultimately be higher.  Autism can be like wearing a mask which makes the signs that someone doesn't feel the same way you do, easy to miss.

What you see is what you get from most people with autism. My boys expect people to say what they actually mean because they mean what they say.  If a person with autism says he's your friend, he really is your friend. At least that's what I find to be true with both of my sons. They will be there for you for life if you'll let them. They are loyal and authentic. They don't play games. They don't really know how. So when other people are not honest, or they suddenly change their minds, it's extremely confusing.

Most people with autism feel emotions intensely. It's the way their brain works. In my boys, their emotions seem to make feelings appear bigger. Every hurt and disappointment can feel like the end of the world.  This is especially so with a feeling they've never felt before or when something happens that they were not expecting.

What are you supposed to do with all of those feelings when you thought you finally found the person you always wanted, and it turns out they just don't feel the way you expected they would? It can feel pretty overwhelming for the average person. Autism magnifies everything. 

Love is a rainbow. Love is fluid.  It's ever changing. It can be evasive.  It can be pervasive. It is so many got damned things, it will make your head spin. It makes it pretty difficult to handle for someone who thinks in formulas. If you add two and two you are supposed to get four, not negative four. 

For those of us who have experienced love in various degrees, we know that it can be the best thing ever. Then when it's over it can knock you out. I'm talking... laying on your back, up under the covers for days wondering if you will ever feel anything good again. Seriously like... will you be able to stand and take another step, or will you just lay there and die? 

Experience tells us that eventually, you do get back up. You do rise again. You walk and then you run. Ultimately, love finds you again. Sometimes it's even better than before.  Sometimes it's just an experience that makes up a part of who you are.

There is no "sure thing." So if you're a person who likes to know what to expect, when it comes to human relationships, there is no standard expectation. Let's face it, most teenagers are flakey. They don't know what they want. So when they find themselves in a situation with a person who has such intense emotion, it probably freaks them out a little.

Blue has told me, how hard the open-ended part of relationships is for him. His anxiety really would like some guarantees, some assurances that it will all work out. Love is a world in which there are no guarantees. 

The longer we live this life, we start to see that for every closed door, there is a new one that opens that could have a new wonderful prize behind it. I tell my boys, every relationship teaches us something about ourselves that we didn't know before, and that's okay.  In fact, it really is a good thing.

The person who acted like they cared and then stopped reaching out. The next time that happens....ding, ding, ding, ding!  Hopefully, an alert will go off. Something ain't right here.

So many nuances of life unfortunately only come with experience and usually with some degree of pain.  When you're young, and you have autism, these subtleties can slip right by you. You may not see them until it's too late. 

At twenty-one, Kendal still thinks, you see a girl, you think she's cute, you ask her to be your girlfriend. Then, you expect her to behave in the exact same way that your last girlfriend did.

What? You mean they're two different people? Aren't all girls basically the same? How exactly am I supposed to figure that out?

We find out these things from experience. When you have autism and you have a vision of the way things are going to go and then they don't... it can cause real fireworks. It can set off a shockwave of emotion and sometimes anger. Add together immaturity and autism, you simply do not have the tools to handle all of the intense feelings.

Okay, so I'm the mom. I am their person.
Got damn! How I wish sometimes, I wasn't their person.

Because they are transitioning into adulthood, I try to step back from being their person.
I try to run away from being their person, but sooner or later, they always find me. And when they do, they shoot me with bullets of emotion, and feelings, and questions about how all of this is relationship stuff is supposed to work.

I can run, but I can't hide.

What they really want is a sounding board. They want someone to process their feelings with. Yes. They both have therapists, but I'm the in-home, on-call, 24/7, therapist.  They both need something more like a therapy school, like 5 days a week,  several hours a day, at least. Come to think of it, I do too.

Sometimes they will talk to their dad. Kendal actually listens to his father better than he listens to me, but he will NEVER go to dad first. Dad's reality check is the last resort. Blue and his father are so much alike, they can barely have a conversation most of the time. They are both so rigid in their thinking. They end up setting each other off.  Apple meet tree. 

Occasionally they will use other resources, their relatives, mentors, and friends. Eventually, through enough experiences, they will learn. Lucky me. I get a front row seat to it all. It's an entertaining show, in a horror movie kind of way.

Hopefully, I won't die of stress before they meet the right girl. I pray that someday they will find someone to take them off of my hands. Oops. I mean, I'm praying that they will both find the right person who loves and accepts them for exactly who they are, unconditionally.

Seriously God. I've done my time.

Give a sistah a break will ya?

The good old days, before girl questions.