Sixty miles. That is how far I travel one way on a regular basis just to see my friends. I live in a town on the exurban fringes, as that is the only place I can afford to live reasonably well if I am to stay in my expensive region, yet my friends are in a more centrally located town near where my parents live. I leave my house in the early afternoon before the evening rush hour begins, drive down to this quaint town, go into the stores, some of which I have gone to for nearly ten years since I discovered the town when I still lived with my parents, and hang out with my friends, mostly female and of different ages, who work at these stores. I stay in the town for a couple hours and then in the evening, after rush hour ends and after the sun sets so that I will not need to drive westward with the sun in my eyes, I drive back home.
I live on my own and find it difficult to find friends, that is why I need the company of the people at the stores. Some people ask me why do I simply not move back in with my parents if I like that town so much. I tell them that I cannot handle living with my parents and that I like having my independence. They also ask me why do I not simply make friends in the town where I live. I do have friends in that town where I live, including a lady who went to college with me whom I consider my best friend as well as a few ladies in the stores there, but I am much more successful in that town sixty miles away. The people in that more central community tend to be social, bohemian, open minded, and urbane- all ingredients that are necessary for people to befriend me and be accepting of my unconventional ways, and all ingredients that, like in most exurban places, are not very present in the town where I live.
People can indeed be reactionary to my unconventional ways of befriending people. They do not know why I need to go to the stores and talk to the people there while they are working. I do that because that is what works for me. Joining a synagogue or a church, as some people have suggested, would not work for me. The people in these places are not always kind to everyone, particularly people who appear different, and in the places where the people are truly warm, they tend to work on you if you do not conform to their practices and beliefs. I tried volunteering and making friends that way, but the things I am uncomfortable with- little kids, smells, germs, dogs, and bees, among other things, greatly limit where I can volunteer and when I have gone to volunteer at places that I am more comfortable I often had to not be as committed because of the things with which I was uncomfortable, such as when I volunteered at a garden and there were bees. Furthermore, if you go on your own to the volunteering rather than with a school, religious, or other similar group who has its own clique, you will not be too successful at befriending the other volunteers. At stores, however, the workers tend to be social. If they are working with customers, the employers want them to be warm and courteous to others. Maybe they are there to work, but they also have a lot of down time and it is in that time, when they are not assisting other customers or are too busy with other tasks to talk, that I hang out with them and entertain them. The stores are not where I made my most successful friends. That for me was in college. I had a multitude of friends there and regularly hung out there after I graduated, but them smartphones became popular and the campus became polluted with their radiation. I still talk to my stronger friends from when I went to school with them, including the one who lives in my town, but most of them have since moved on with their lives.
When I was in high school, I wanted to have friends my own age. I was at that age where people want to conform to their peers, and I desperately wanted to have other friends with whom I could hang out, but that never quite worked out for me. Then in college I went to a place that was conducive to me making friends and I thus was very successful socially with my schoolmates. However, with regards to befriending people my own age, these two periods were the exception. I never liked little kids when I was their age, and instead preferred befriending the adults who were my mother’s friends or the ones who were aides at my schools. Now that I am in my thirties the people who are my age tend to be the parents of the little kids, and I still am not a fan of the little ones, finding them to often be quite noisy, repetitive, and all over the place. That makes it a challenge when I want to keep in touch with my old friends from college but they have their kids with them. Even if kids were not an issue, the fact remains that the parents are married and are busy with their families. Indeed, even when the children are older, and especially once the children and the parents get older, the parents no longer socialize much outside the family. This remains true from the moment they marry, or even once they get into a long term relationship, and just two weeks ago one of my last major friends from college, someone whom I thought might never get married, got married. Some people ask me why do I not find someone to marry like my peers did. That for me is easier said than done. Marriage involves a lot of compromise, some thing that I am not good at, and even if I would be better at it, there would still be things that I would not want to give up on. Most women who get married want to have children. There are some who do not, but they also tend to want to have dogs and see them as their children. While I might be willing to compromise more if it would be for someone that I love, I would not want to give up on my likes and dislikes, including and especially the dislikes for little kids and dogs, for her.
Because of my difficulties, I need to step outside my age zone when making friends. Some of my friends are teenagers- people who are far from having children of their own and who are not that far removed from their kid years themselves. Contrary to what some people say about teenagers, I find the ones who work at the stores to be very mature, even if they still do not know everything. Some of my friends are way older, and they include a 64 year old aging hippie lady and an 86 year old lady who goes to dinner with me and her caretaker sometimes. They also include all the other ages in between. Sometimes people ask me why do I hang out with people of all these ages. They can be particularly judgmental about me befriending the teenagers, given that they are underage and everything that appears in the media about child molestation, trafficking, and the like. Even when people know that I would not do anything remotely of that nature, they still might be a quite reactionary or even insulting to me being friends with them. And when the adults in charge did not know me, they could greatly harass me and even threaten to call the police on me.
People who know me better might ask me why I so much need to befriend teenagers if they are so immature and mean. I tell them that adults can be mean and bullyish also, but they do it in more subtle ways. For example, my younger friends with whom I sometimes get lunch are very honest with me about their busy schedules and generally do not make plans with me unless they know they can keep them. One of them when she wanted to reschedule because she was a bit tired tried texting me, but when she could not get a hold of me because I had already left my house decided to come anyways because she did not want to stand me up. My older friends also are generally good with keeping plans. However, the ones who are closer to my age flake on me left and right. They make plans but then when I confirm with them the day of, they tell me they cannot make it. Others have simply stood me up, and when I later ask them about it, they tell me that they forgot that we were meeting or forgot the name of the restaurant. And this has happened after I planned my whole day around our meeting and drove all the way from my town to meet them. When I try to reschedule with them, they tell me that they are busy, even though I can see on their social media accounts that they apparently have time for their other friends whom they think of as more worthy. I do not want to say that people of one age group are better than people of another age group, but I will say this much. I find millennials to be one of the most fake generations of all times. They claim to be all liberal and for equal rights and equal treatment, but when it comes to it, they are not that way.
I sometimes get very worried about how people will react to me when I socialize. Will people start seeing me in a different light because of a rumor they hear about me and think that I am a harasser rather than someone looking for friends? Will Metoo change people’s views of me? Will the parents of my younger friends tell them that they cannot talk to me anymore? Will my friends themselves decide that? I also do not always know how genuine my friends are. Having Asperger’s makes this all the more difficult. However, there are a few friends that I know are genuine. These are the ones who take their time to get lunch or dinner with me despite their busy schedules. These can be people of all different backgrounds and ages, from teenagers to octagenarians and everyone in between. These are the friends who keep me going and keep me satisfied with my life.
-The AFS (Aspergeric Free Spirit)