Why I'll Always Be Naïve as an Aspie
I thought I’d outgrow the personal weakness. I thought that I understood the tendency, and knowledge is power, right? So, I was sure I could fix it. I could stop being naïve.
However, I have come to the conclusion that while I have learned to be attentive to situations in life and to get wise counsel from people I trust to help me understand the complexities of a situation, self-awareness alone cannot transform me.
As an Aspie, I’ll always be naïve. Even as a self-aware Aspie I’m naïve, because I always take things literally.
Even knowing there are often situations that can’t be taken literally, my instinctual reaction is to take things literally. Whether they are directions on a flyer that comes with a product, spoken words given by an authority figure, a joke — it doesn’t matter. I don’t get the nuances a neurotypical person would get.
A funny example is an early and sleep deprived one, so maybe I’m off the hook there. I was at scout camp and a couple cabins were driving the counselors up a wall by staying awake late at night giggling and singing goofy songs. After several nights, they threatened us by telling us they’d wake us up before dawn, make us take a hike and then see how much we liked being without sleep.
They really did it. It was pitch black and we were to get up and get ready for a hike. I was so completely out of it, I didn’t understand what was going on and had to ask again for instructions. These were given, probably with the thought of “how foolish could this child be,” with step-by-step directions of what to do, which presumably included that I should dress myself. I was certain, in the sleep induced haze of four in the morning, that the counselor said to get my underwear. Only when I was sleepily milling around in the crowd of girls did I realize no one else was carrying underwear with her. At least I had put my clothes on before going outside.
The good side of taking things literally is that I am a straightforward, truthful person who expects the honest best from others. I look for the truth and I tell it like it is.
Sometimes though, I wish I weren’t so conscientious and trusting. I remember a period of about eight months in which I waited for two different people to get back to me to arrange a time for our families to get together, because they had said they would. Part of that was just me being too tired to pursue it myself, but most of it was me believing what they said. Both people had told me they weren’t sure when they could meet and they would get back to me when they knew.
At that point, I was mid-40s, old enough to have been around the block a few times. I was also old enough to have it explained to me more than once that people will say things they do not truly mean. Intellectually I understand. But when it comes down to the actual, personal situation, if I’m interacting with someone who seems sincere, it’s very difficult for me to accept, even months later, that the person was just talk.
What about sarcasm’s effect on me? Only if it’s really obvious. Often, I don’t get it and I am not sure how to respond to what you say.
Practical jokes? Please, don’t even try one of those on me. I promise it will not go over well.
Even with the big stuff, I’m still naïve. My husband worked for 12 years at an employee-owned company. He loved the work and the people he worked with. Clients asked for him to manage their projects. He was respected, an ideal employee. He had received a signing bonus to take the job in 2005, so I guess this made me think the company was so invested in him they would never let him go. Neither one of us saw it coming, so maybe Aspies aren’t the only naïve ones. Everything I observed about his situation at work was valid. But in my naiveté I did not understand these observations were not eternal guarantees.
That’s what we all want, isn’t it? Eternal guarantees? I am a person who believes, hopes and trusts other people to be faithful, loyal and true.
I’m not certain the hope I have is a bad thing. It’s embarrassing at times. It makes me look foolish, which I hate. However, I’d rather be me. I’d rather take things at face value. I’d rather believe you than not. If we believe each other, it makes the world a better place.
Getty image by fcscafeine.