You know this one. For over a half a century, “(You’re So Square) Baby I Don’t Care” has been an anthem of geeks and those who love them. One can imagine songwriters Lieber and Stoller lusting after the sweet, sheltered, fifties girl for whom rock n’ roll was just oh-my-a-tad-too-raucous, and Elvis’s hips were just a bit too swivelly. Ah yes, the good old days, when the geeky were truly socially marginalized.
But where have the squares gone today? In 2010, we are truly Nerd Nation. Everyone from indie rockers to major league baseball players are self-described geeks and gamers. No one bats an eye at the newlyweds who met in a chat room through their shared interest in cosplay. Geek is the new chic. And from what I see, they don’t have any trouble gettin’ any.
Yeah, yeah, you’re all so square… but are you Aspie square? Are you awkward-pause-in-the-conversation square? Inappropriate-outburst square? Need-to-be-alone-now square?
We on the spectrum are not built for relationships. Yet, some of us manage to find a partner who for some reason finds all our turn-offs, a turn-on. Stephen Shore and Liane Holliday Willey are a few who have written about their happy marriages. They are the lucky ones. Many more never find what they’re looking for. In that respect, Aspies are very much the squarest of the square. Really, who can explain why someone falls for us?
I don't know why my heart flips, I only know it does. I wonder why I love you baby, I guess it’s just because…
But it’s all good, cause this song is for us. “You’re So Square” has been recorded by at least 20 artists, including Elvis and Buddy Holly. But for my money, it begins and ends with the garage-rock take by the Bobby Fuller Four. The track in the video is not quite as raw and fuzzed out as the version that appears on “I Fought The Law,” but it’s close. Go pick that one up on iTunes, because they blow the freakin’ lid off the thing.
Crank this tune up. Rock out. Repeat. That’s how it’s done.
And if you’re Aspie square, raise your hand, and pump your fist. Yeah, I am. And baby, I don’t care.
Tourettes Karaoke is the latest viral video making the rounds. Guy, the star performer, tarot card reader, poet, etc., has high functioning autism as well as Tourette’s. His obscentity-laden take on REM’s “Losing My Religion” is a riot. And, it raises questions both uncomfortable and important.
The most basic question: Is it okay to laugh? I know I did. Guy seems to be giving us an open invitation to do just that. Is there any doubt he’s in on the joke? His choice of “Losing My Religion” for his interjected f-bombs makes for a brilliant skewering of this oh-so-self-important REM hit. Here’s someone who sees the humor in his hardship and a purpose in putting himself on display.
The Osocio blog, which showcases noteworthy non-profit marketing campaigns, theorizes about that purpose. Blog author Marc van Gurp says Guy deserves respect for what he’s doing. He argues Tourettes Karaoke will reach a larger audience than any professional awareness campaign about Tourette’s. If that audience sees Tourette’s -- and autism -- humanized through Guy’s self-deprecating humor, perhaps it will lessen their fear and increase their compassion for those affected.
But maybe, you’re thinking, no, this is offensive. Just another idiot. Part of the problem, by encouraging us to laugh at the disabled. But if you do believe that, then is Guy any worse than the countless neurotypicals out there who subject us to their awful karaoke for yuks? (William Hung, anyone?) Hasn’t he got a right to make a fool of himself too? After all, he is as much a flawed human as any of us.
Now if it were an intellectually disabled person doing this, things would be different. Laughing would not be okay. Even Vote For the Worst draws the line at criticizing the American Idol rejects who are clearly lacking in intellectual faculties.
And where does autism fit into this? Tourette’s is Guy’s visible disability here, and it’s the tics that tickle the funny bone. There’s a reason it’s not called Autism Karaoke. But it doesn’t mean some fearless autistic couldn’t do what Guy did, and produce their own better-than-the-original REM cover. How about karaoke with stims?
I’ve personally never been one to make jokes at my expense, and I confess have trouble understanding what motivates others to do it. I feel a bit uncomfortable for Guy, and yet I do find him entertaining, and deserving of respect, whatever his motives. I think it is a healthy and humanizing thing to laugh at ourselves. More often than not, we get our guard up in response to differences – we discriminate, ridicule, or just walk on eggshells. Laughing along with those who are different, rather than at them, disarms our fear.
My blog takes its title from my very first, and most popular, post. But you may notice one difference. The blog title is punctuated with a period; the cartoon that started it all, with an exclamation point.
Oversight? Contradiction? Let me settle the question: it is intentional.
When I first accepted that I have Asperger’s, I was all like, “Dude!” The light bulb flashed on. Things that had never made sense suddenly did. I’d done my first round of reading, and begun connecting with others like me, on and offline. I relished the newly found “permission” to be just the way I am - to be different, without being at fault.
Soon, I encountered people who took this sentiment a step further. Autism was a gift, they said. A joy! A wonderful world! I could not help but want to jump on board with this mindset of pride. My first cartoon was concocted in this spirit - a message of celebratory disclosure.
But in the months that followed, I continued to learn. Questions were answered, but new ones arose. My disclosure was well-received, but not life-changing. I found there were limits to what online and offline resources could offer. And though I remained certain of my self-assessment, I felt the pressure to defend it to doubters. I had to back away from the “joy of autism” attitude. And for awhile, I backed away from writing and drawing.
Now, of course, I am back to blogging again. I like how it’s going, and I attribute that to the new rules I’ve made for myself. First, I decided I would not sugar-coat my experience. I would permit myself to be honest, to show the highs and the lows of Asperger’s. It may not always be what the readers want to hear, but it’s the truth.
Second, I decided not to write about Asperger’s all the time, since it’s not my life, only one part of it. When I feel like doodling about melon, or cinnamon bears, or whatever else, by golly, that’s what you’re gonna get! This is the direction I plan to continue in.
I am still searching for answers. I certainly am not done learning. Yet I have experience I feel is worth sharing. I am not jumping up and down to be an Aspie, but I am not ashamed of it either. Sometimes it’s a good thing, sometimes bad, sometimes it just is. I stand by my original cartoon and its exclamation point. I would not change anything about it. But if you ask me today, I’m an Aspie, period.
Where are you at in your journey with Asperger’s? What punctuation would you use?
I enjoy reading many of the mommy bloggers out there. They are humorous, insightful, loving parents and advocates. I’m grateful to count several of them among my fans.
But at times, I do get a bit envious. Things have changed since I was growing up. In my day, we had no mommy bloggers. We had no knowledge of Asperger’s. No testing. No diagnosis. No access to the online community there is today. What would mommy blogging have looked like 25, 30 years ago? I wonder…
Sunday, September 4, 1983
End of Summer Wrap-Up
Well, here it is, Labor Day Weekend. How quickly this summer of ’83 has come and gone! Soon Poohboy and his brothers will be heading back to school. We’ve had a very busy summer – in fact, it’s taken me this long to get to the store and get the pictures developed! (BTW – Pathmark will now get them back to you in 5 days! So convenient!)
Here’s Poohboy and friends at his birthday party. I can’t believe he’s 8 already!
He picked out the Return of the Jedi cups and plates himself. In fact, for weeks he’d been planning out his party to the last detail. Case in point: one day he walks into the room with this dreamy look on his face and announces to whoever’s listening, “I wish that my birthday cake was… a whipped cream cake, with blue gel writing that says ‘Happy Birthday’… And jelly beans… and jelly beans around the edges! MMMMM! Sounds delicious, doesn’t it? Mm-Mm!” Um, yeah. A subtle hint-dropper, that one.
Poohboy’s had lots of fun with all his presents, but he seems to really enjoy the Legos. Here’s a picture he took of a house he built! Such a talented boy!
We took lots of family trips this summer. The kids are pretty good in the car ever since we started bringing the tape recorder so they can record themselves and play it back. They make up gibberish songs, speak in character for their stuffed animals, and audio-bomb each other’s monologues by shouting “Oh, hiii-yee!” Then, they fightscream at each otherend up crying have friendly sibling disagreements. But less often. So, this is a good thing.
Where was I? Oh yes. The trips. Here we are at Sesame Place to see the Bird.
And here’s Poohboy, his brothers, and dad enjoying the ball pit!
And, here’s a suddenly terrified Poohboy two minutes later after they all ventured into the deep end where their feet couldn’t touch the floor. He was convinced he was going to drown! Fortunately, the helpful attendant was there to save him.
This summer was also Poohboy’s second at JCC day camp. Here, he’s shooting baskets at Parents’ Night.
His counselor remarked to me that he never plays sports; he always sits on the side and watches. We ask him why, but he doesn’t want to say. Poohboy does like the art projects and swimming, but I wonder whether he likes camp overall. I’m just waiting for him to grow out of this phase and become more outgoing, so he can make lots of Jewish friends.
Unfortunately, not long after this was the Great Arm Break of 1983. So I get a call from camp, saying Poohboy had tripped over a tree root and started screaming bloody murder. The counselor said my son routinely spent minutes at a time circling round and round the big trees on the campground, while the other campers were off playing together. I’m starting to wonder what they pay these counselors to do, anyway.
Anyway, I arrive at the nurse’s office, where Poohboy is still distraught. It was like he was having a meltdown or something. At the doctor’s, he kept pleading, “I don’t want a cast! I don’t want a cast!” But eventually he calmed down and was relieved he would only have to wear it for a month. Soon he was back to his old self and building his own Frisbee golf course in our backyard!
And that about brings us up to date. Next week is the start of school. Poohboy will start the third grade, although he’ll go to fourth grade for reading and math. Such a smart boy! He’s always felt extra special to be a “double grader,” as he calls it. I’m proud of him too. If he can do it, why shouldn’t he have a head start? His teachers and I know this will help him get into a good school years from now, and have a successful career. Just think! The sky’s the limit for him!
OK, bragging over. That’s a long way off. For now, I’m so glad you could relive our summer memories with us. Stay tuned for our further adventures as we move into fall and the school year!
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