My Life With Asperger's

How to live a high-functioning life with Asperger's.

Are many of the females who don’t like my stories ugly?

Are the female readers who don't like my stories ugly?

That question is a logical result of my observation that many females who like my stories are attractive. If so, would the opposite be true as well?

We all know that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, as is beastliness. So my ugly may be your beautiful, just as one man's princess is another man's troll-ette. Follow me down the bizarre road of reason and let me know what you think . . .

My writing is mostly about the autistic and Aspergian mind, and how we think. It stands to reason that my thought processes will be comfortable to those who have a personal connection to the autism spectrum, and they'll seem unusual or even downright weird to someone who has no connection. So the way a person feels about my writing may reveal something more about them. Does it give insight into whether I'd find an image of them pretty?

That, folks, is the subject of a $232,000 research grant I was just awarded.

I began by considering these questions: Are a majority of the females who express fondness for my writing attractive when I see them? And if they are, is the percentage of attractive females larger than the percentage in any other control group?

Some guys find any girl attractive, rendering any comparison meaningless. Was I in that group? To find the answer I went online and looked at 100 images of females who expressed fondness for my writing. I judged 71% attractive - a pretty high score. Next, I looked at 100 images of random females my approximate age, as provided by the web site Plenty of Fish. I only found 39% of those images attractive. So there does seem to be a difference - supporters appear better looking, at least to me. Why?

A fair number of the females who write to express fondness for my writing have kids, husbands, or siblings on the spectrum. Some are on the spectrum themselves. It's no surprise that such people would feel an affinity for someone like me, and perhaps I simply respond to that. Sort of a "You like me so I like you." The evidence of their lives demonstrates affinity for my kind.

That would explain a fondness for people in real life, but it does not explain why I'd judge their images more attractive. Images, after all, do not express fondness for me. When people say nice things to you, you tend to like them, but images don't talk. Yet.

Can this be genetic? I do believe there is a distinct look of autism - I've written about that before. Judging from the comments and letters I receive, I am not alone in that opinion. It begs the question - why? Evolutionary psychologists say a distinct look could facilitate mating between people with similar traits.

Is there a subtle "look" that some of us on the spectrum share, and if so, we are drawn to that in others? That may well explain my response to images of females with a connection to the autism spectrum.

What about the females who say, "I like your ideas, but I don't have autism in my family. Does that make me ugly?" At first all I could say was a lame, "I hope not . . . " But then I thought of some examples; females I knew. I realize that many have a kid with ADHD - a close cousin, or they have geeky kids with some traits but no diagnosis. They are what I now call the Proto-Aspergians. At the very least, they are geek fanciers or strong sympathizers.

I figure if there's a genetic component, they must have a touch too.

So what about the opposite? Are the non-supporters ugly? In truth, I don't know. You see, supporters friend me on Facebook and other places, so their images are readily viewable. Non-supporters leave anonymous reviews on Amazon, so I can't see them. I can only read their words and imagine. But if my imagination is a guide, boy, their situation does not look good.

Some of the critical reviewers are judgmental, as in, "Robison derives enormous enjoyment from humiliating people." If someone said that about you, you wouldn't feel too friendly toward them either, would you? But opinions like that are not evidenced in photos, so a remark like that does not give any reason to think I'd judge its writer unattractive. At least, not till I met her, and she opened her mouth.

The situation is different with some other reviewers. A few come right out and say the book is aimed at a different kind of person, as in, "This book seemed like it was more geared(ha) towards people with engineering backgrounds."

Clearly, the writer of that comment is not an Aspergian geekette. Does she look different as a result? It's a good question. I wish I knew.

And there are a few who say, "I'm not an expert on autism or Asperger's, but I have read enough about it to feel quite sure that this is not what this author has." She may be sure, but the professionals disagree with her.

Once again, if there's a look of autism, she probably does not have it. Would that make her unattractive to me?

Let me add one last thought . . . back in 1943, Kanner wrote about his beautiful children with autism. Many people took that to be a figure of speech. But researchers today are finding many kids with autism do have attractive facial structures, more so than the general population.

So where does that leave me? Well, I can say with some confidence that I'm not attracted to people who express a dislike for me or my ideas. But could I pick such people out of a lineup? I really don't know.

What I do know is, I can recognize others on the spectrum more often than chance alone would dictate, and when they are female, I feel a natural affinity for them. So the question remains . . . . is the opposite true too?

And I was just kidding about the grant. But maybe I should apply . . . .

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John Elder Robison is the author of Look Me In The Eye: My Life With Asperger's, and Be Different, Adventures of a free-range Aspergian.

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