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Friday, February 24, 2012

No Borrowing Without Asking

I've written up some embarrassing Asperger's moments earlier in this blog, but they were from my childhood. I think now's the time to include anecdotes from my college days.

During my first semester in college, I commuted from home, which was hard because I have low stamina and get fatigued quickly. When it came to staying after class time for concerts or play rehearsals, I was aching for a place to rest. I tried to make do by finding a welcome among the ladies who were dorm residents.

One day, the dean of women issued a notice to the commuting students. The letter requested that we not help ourselves to the dorm rooms, citing an instance where a student came back from class and found a commuter student napping in her bed. Put like that, it sounded crazy . . . till I realized I was the student who had borrowed the bed. I did personally know the student whose bed I took a rest in, but my mistake had been in taking another dorm girl's word for it that "she won't mind if you take a nap in her bed." Apparently, she did mind, because after I woke up, thanked her for the use of the bed, and went about my business, she must have reported the incident. Mine was an honest Aspie mistake. Once I knew what the rules were, even though it made it harder on me - still having nowhere to lay my head - I napped in a library chair with a jacket for a pillow from then on.

Another friend of mine handled a similar situation differently. She and I wore the same size clothes, and after lending me an outfit one day, she told me, "Sharon Rose, you can borrow clothes from me any time - whenever you need an outfit to change into and you don't have time to run back home, okay?" I thanked her and tucked that offer away, ready to draw on it at a moment's notice. The moment came a few weeks later, when I decided to stay past suppertime to attend a concert that I had just found out about that day. I knocked on the door of the dormitory, was let in, and although my friend was not there, I helped myself to a dress in her wardrobe. When she came in to the concert and sat next to me, I gave her a happy grin, and said, "Does this dress look familiar? I borrowed it from you, just like you said I could. It's so nice of you to lend it to me!"

She nodded, but the next day, she took me aside privately, and said, "Sharon Rose, I actually felt uncomfortable when you borrowed my dress yesterday, because I didn't even know you were going to wear it. I'd like to lend you clothes, but I just would like you to ask specifically each time."

I apologized and let her know that I had misunderstood and wouldn't do that again - which I didn't. We maintained our friendship over the next three years and grew very close. Meanwhile, the girl whose bed I borrowed, who had reported my mistake, is forgotten and unknown to me at this time. These are examples of how an Aspie either can be gently corrected in a friendly way or can become indignant that her motives are misinterpreted.

I can easily understand now how my actions could have been attributed to my being self-absorbed or self-indulgent. Maybe I was. But I didn't mean to be, and I loved it that the friend whose dress I borrowed gave me a second chance.

You see, I knew the rule, "No borrowing without asking," but according to my literal mind, I had asked in both cases. My first semester in college was when I learned the hard way that I actually had to ask the right person at the right time.