Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Contradictions and Corrections



The Asperger's traits addressed in this post include:
*Detail-orientation
*Getting misunderstood
*Honesty and bluntness
*Perfectionism

"It's not a house; it's a condo."

With these words, directed at my dad, I displayed my natural tendency to correct and contradict those who make errors, be they glaring or miniscule. I got in trouble for it. I was turning eight years old that summer, and we were staying at a friend's condo. I was excited to learn the new word condo, short for condominium, and to discover that the condo was attached to many other condos in the same building, unlike the house I lived in during the school year. My dad's remark, "It's time to go back to the house," seemed like an appropriate opportunity for expressing my superior knowledge - but it really wasn't.

This incident was the first time I can remember feeling chagrined after contradicting someone. Another time, when I was a teenager, I contradicted a lady whom I admired very much, and she laughed it off, but I could tell I had embarrassed her. I felt ashamed of myself and wondered why I had blurted out the correction to what she had said, without considered how that might make her feel.

Fellow Aspies, do you have this same drive to make sure no mistakes are left uncorrected? Does it sometimes get you in trouble?

It got Jack Lack into trouble. In a book I recently read, Out to Get Jack, by James Williams (not to be confused with James Patrick Williams, my husband), the main character Jack is eleven years old and has autism. Here is an excerpt from the book:

" 'We got here at noon,' [said Jack's mother.]

"Jack suddenly found his voice. That was because his mother had just committed hypocrisy. His mother had told a lie in front of her aunt. And for years he had been told never to tell a lie. They did not get there at noon - they got there at 12:05. So why didn't his mother say so? Jack was so angry, he decided that if she wouldn't say so, he would.

" 'No, we got here at 12:05, not at noon,' Jack corrected her.

Everyone looked at Jack disapprovingly."

Jack's motivation for correcting his parent was different from mine, but I still identify with the desire for the truth to be told - with precision!

Since I was an English major in college, people sometimes joked about having to mind their grammar around me. I reassured them that I didn't mind grammar being butchered while people around me were talking, but I was a stickler for correct grammar in writing. Still, I took mental note every time grammar was butchered in the conversations and speeches I listened to - especially when fake words were coined!

Yes, when tired, I myself have said "fighted" when I meant "fought," and other similar bloopers, but I corrected myself as fast as I could. . . . And that's another strange Aspie characteristic I have - correcting myself out loud, no matter how socially awkward I appear by doing so.

At a birthday party I went to with high school friends, the birthday girl opened my present and before she had a chance to thank me, I blurted out, "Oh! I forgot to take the price tag off!" thereby immediately directing her eye to the price tag. My mom had drilled into me that price tags must be removed before wrapping a present. So while my friends at the party chatted and laughed, I sneaked the opened present into a corner and peeled off the price tag. What was I thinking??? Um, simply, "Price tags must be removed from presents." Not, "It's too late. She already saw the price. She knows how much I spent for her present. It's not the end of the world. I'm here to have a good time, not to worry about protocol." But somehow, while following my mistake-correcting impulses, I had the sinking feeling that I was acting in a strange way, and that I was being thought of as a strange person. Hmm.

I have made an effort to overcome these impulses. Recently, a friend from college visted my home, and twice, I resisted the urge to make corrections. At one point, my friend was in the kitchen, holding my baby, and she grabbed a toy off the kitchen counter and handed it to the baby. I wanted to blurt out, "Oh, that toy has been on the dirty floor. It's on the counter waiting to be washed in the sink." However, my mental restraining order read: "It's too late. The baby already has the toy in her mouth. It wasn't that dirty after all. What can your friend do but apologize and feel bad? Keep it to yourself."

Then, the next morning, as we were getting up for the day, I realized that although I had brought the comforter out to the couch for my friend to sleep on, I had forgotten to provide sheets. She had brought her own blanket and pillow, and that threw me off my original plan to provide pillows, sheets, and the comforter to double as mattress and blanket. So she didn't have sheets. I wanted to say, "Oh, I'm sorry, I forgot to put sheets out for you!" But instead, I kept it to myself. She slept well, after all, and I didn't want her to think I considered my comforter contaminated by her presence. Automatic correction mechanism outwitted once again!

Naturally, there are times when corrections and even contradictions need to be made. As Aspies, we can often, with lightning speed, zoom in on details that we know to be incorrect, and this can be an asset. However, we need to take a moment (or a day) to think of a polite way to contribute our corrections . . . or screen them out altogether when appropriate. Are you up to the challenge?

How this topic relates to Christian living:

Deuteronomy 32:4
He is the Rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he.

Job 19:1-4
Then Job answered and said, How long will ye vex my soul, and break me in pieces with words? These ten times have ye reproached me: ye are not ashamed that ye make yourselves strange to me. And be it indeed that I have erred, mine error remaineth with myself.