You think it would be really fun to have sex with me. Because, I think you can tell from my posts, I’ll do anything. But maybe you can also tell from my posts that it’s a little bit weird. Because you know that I’ll say anything, too, but sometimes, I make you cringe.
I think I’m that way in bed, too.
This post is about work. And sex, which are two of the essential areas of life one needs to be able to function in before you can feel like a normal adult. And both sex and work are governed by a set of rules that many people are able to learn just by being in the world.
Asperger Syndrome compromises one’s ability to read nonverbal social cues. A simple example of this deficit is answering the question, “How are you?” It is loaded with so many nonverbal issues that I simply freeze. Even if you tell me, “Just say fine,” sometimes the situation looks special to me, and I can’t figure out why it’s special, so I can’t talk.
So I’ve spent my life teaching myself the rules for what to do in each social situation. I study people, make notes for myself, and then test the notes to see what other situations my notes apply to. To get a sense of how awkward this looks, here’s a video that is supposed to be a parody of people with Asperger’s interacting with each other. But my family has such a high proportion of people with Asperger’s that this video, honestly, is not far from what our life is like.
In my experience, the places with the most rules are work and sex. So, you can teach yourself the process of becoming better at work by applying the process of learning the rules about dating and sex. And vice versa. I, for example, am great at work rules and terrible at sex rules. So I teach myself using the reverse mechanism.
1. You can tell you need help if you are not having fun.
When I think about my sexual history, I think it is me basically not understanding that there are rules.
In college, where most people are experimenting with the rules of sex, I was missing them. Maybe because I was raised by my grandma, I honestly believed that if you had sex, it meant you were getting married. So I lost my virginity to a guy who said he’d marry me.
And on that day, I had no idea how sex worked. I don’t know why I had not bothered to find out.
He was propped up on his arms when he couldn’t find my vagina with his penis, so he said, “Put me inside.”
I said, “What?”
“Inside you. Use your hand.”
“I don’t know where the hole is.”
“What? Are you kidding me?”
“There are a lot of holes down there. I don’t know which one is for sex.”
“You are so stupid.”
He eventually put his penis in. He said, “Am I in?”
I said, “I don’t know.”
Then he came. And I returned to doing homework.
2. If you can start by pretending it feels right, eventually it will feel right.
After college I posed nude to make money. A guy who paid a lot of money for a shoot looked at me for one second and said that I’m too uptight to be good. Another guy did soft-focus for Penthouse. I signed a release. He told me to undress, showed me a dressing room, and gave me a robe. I said, “I don’t need this,” and I undressed right in front of him.
“What should I do?”
“Lay down, and enjoy yourself.”
“Enjoy myself? Do you have a book I could read?”
“No, I’m going to take pictures now. I mean you should masturbate.”
I didn’t know what to do. I only need one finger to move one inch back and forth to masturbate. He wouldn’t see it. I told him I thought all the other women were faking it for him because masturbation is not visual.
“Okay. Can you fake it for me?” he said.
I tried, and then we both agreed that I couldn’t. So I left.
3. Surround yourself with people who can effectively guide you through rules.
I tried having lesbian sex. I answered an ad. Picture her: The professional ballet dancer who had just quit, and to celebrate, she got breast implants. And me, the aspiring professional beach volleyball player.
She spent the whole evening talking about how smart I am and how many books I’ve read and how strong I am.
I spent the whole evening talking about how hot she is.
I did not realize that this exchange meant that I had to be the aggressor in bed.
I said, “Are we going to kiss now? We can’t do this whole date and not kiss.”
She said, “I need you to seduce me.”
I said, “What? Are you kidding? Just take your clothes off. How are we going to have sex if we keep putting it off?”
She said, “It’s not like that. There has to be a game or something.”
I said, “Okay. You do the game. What should we do?”
She pouted. I did not realize it was part of the game.
I told her that we were really ineffective together and I thought we needed some guy there with us to run the show. We never did that. We never did anything.
4. If you don’t learn the rules for navigating, life gets boring and repetitive.
I am fast-forwarding through things that are largely repetitive of the above situations. For example, there was the guy who asked me out while I was an arbitrage clerk at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. He was on the phones, picking up orders, and I’d stand in the British Pound pit, flashing hand signals to him to tell him what was bid and offer. He’d flash back a hand signal like, buy ten at twenty. Then he started using other sorts of hand signals (open-outcry hand-signals are way more than just market indicators, believe me.) He flashed the sign for do you want to have lunch (spooning food into mouth for “eat” coupled with pretending to break something between your hands, for “break”). I went.
We dated. To get rid of him, I told him I was a lesbian and I only wanted to date him if there could be another woman there, too. That didn’t just make him pursue me with more fervor. It made the whole trading floor pursue me. And I had no idea why.
Notice how there’s one theme here: I have no idea how other people think about sex.
5. Do not get obsessively sidetracked by things that do not require social interaction.
So then I get married. The first time. We both have Asperger’s. We both like reading about sex, but having it is more traumatic. He would not go down on me, so I started writing obsessively about his not going down on me. Like the time he told me he couldn’t do it because he had a toothache.
We had sex, but he didn’t like that it was messy, and I liked writing about it better than doing it.
We had sex two times in six years after we had a kid. And I got pregnant both times because I have studied my ovulation since I was 24, and I’m an ace at sticking my finger up my vagina and 1) gauging how open my cervix is and 2) pulling out some mucus on my finger and checking to see how elastic it is.
Even now I can’t help getting excited about ovulation. Go to the bathroom right now and check your cervical mucus. It’s fascinating. If it’s elastic you are ovulating. I can peg my ovulation to the hour if I check every half-hour, which I can do because I can stick my hand in my vagina anywhere—even in a job interview, if the person leaves the room to get some water. So that’s why I was able to have a kid (and a miscarriage) only having sex two times.
6. Rules never stop coming at you, they just get infinitely more nuanced.
And now, here I am with the farmer.
At this point, sex should be low pressure for me. I am one of the one percent of women who can have an orgasm just by thinking about having an orgasm. I’m not sure why this is. Maybe because my mom taught me to do Kegel exercises before I even got my first period. I can orgasm ten times before the guy has one.
But the nonverbal cues you do to get to the sex really stress me out. It seems like a dance. When you date, there’s the official dance date you do, which I can handle. I’ve been dating enough to know you do dinner, talk, go to someone’s house, move close, kiss, lay down, get close to sex, go to bed. That’s the dance. I know where we are and what’s coming next.
But if you’re married, there’s no dance. You are just there, in bed. So the dance becomes a micro dance. There are little cues you give the other person, a careful touch in a spot you don’t usually touch, a kiss that is a kiss that means this-is-not-a-goodnight-kiss, a pointed question like, did the kids fall asleep? These are tiny cues that have to come with other, tiny cues.
I tell the farmer, “I can’t take it. The subtle stuff. It’s too much. Just tell me you want to have sex.”
So a day went by, and he did that. He said, “I want to have sex.”
I said, “Okay.”
Then I said, “Hold it. This isn’t fun. There needs to be something else.”
So we went back to the dance. And I tried to pay close attention to nonverbal cues and then respond with the appropriate nonverbal cue.
Sometimes I can do that. Like if I take a Xanax. But a lot of times, he gives one nonverbal cue, like breathing warm and wet next to my ear. And I curl up in a ball.
I curl up in a ball and tell him I’m too anxious to have sex. Even after we have had sex hundreds of times. I still do it. At first he couldn’t believe it. But then he saw that I don’t know left and right, really, and my math skills end, largely, at third grade, and I am an idiot savant when it comes to memorizing statistics about Gen Y tendencies at work. So now he’s learned to believe anything. And he has learned that the only way to get me uncurled is to talk to me.
He does facts. He says what he’s doing with his hands, what he is feeling, what we will do, what I have done, he tries to stick to facts. And he narrates his movements as he goes. And he does not expect me to move or speak, until I’ve heard enough verbal cues to get back in the game.
Sometimes, when the farmer was dumping me, and people were saying, how can you stick with him? I would say, “He’s so good in bed.” And now you know what I mean.