Last week was a board meeting for my company, Brazen Careerist. I used to hate the board meetings because there is so much to prepare beforehand, and if everything is not going great, then you have to really face that.

1. Hide your feelings if they are going to be trouble for someone.
I am still a major shareholder in my company, but I do not work at the company day to day. I would like to say that my neediness issues and fear of abandonment do not follow me to my workplace, but in fact, they are huge there. And I spend a lot of time worrying whether people listen to my opinions because they care or because it’s easier to listen than to try to get me to shut up.

When the board meeting rolls around, I get nervous. I don’t know if I should go or not.

I like to go because I like knowing what’s going on. Well, and of course, I like giving my opinion. I also like hanging out with the board. I really like Ryan Healy now that I don’t have to work with him. And everyone on my board is someone who did a huge amount for me at one of the (many) very tough times in my life. (Like this time.) So I just really like everyone.

So, while I am deciding if I should go to the meeting or not, Ed Barrientos, the CEO tells me that the company would pay for me to go. Ed is incredibly cheap when it comes to any company expense, so I take this to mean they really care about me being at the meeting.

2. Focus on clothing because it’s easier to control than personality.
I wear my dark J Brand jeans and a purple shirt from Banana Republic. The clothes I choose are really important because I don’t want people to think I’ve lost my edge on the farm. I can’t look too farm-y. I have worn jeans and a black top to every board meeting ever. That’s fine for men, because the only criteria men have for clothes is that you look hot. But now that there are women at the company, and I will have to stop in and say hi, and the women will think I don’t know black is out.

So it is out of my comfort zone, but I wear purple. I work really really hard at looking like I fit in. Which you have to do if it’s impossible to fit in. If you fit in, you can think about being a little bit special. I try just to not be special.

3. Act nonchalant about things like a private jet. Making any scene is bad.
The board member who has a plane, Erik, has had, for a very long time, the job of keeping me in line. When I had a screaming fit at the attorney’s office about the investors lowering my salary, they brought Erik in to talk to me. And he never stopped.

I love his patience for me, but I also love his plane. Did you know that companies do not put their logos on their corporate jets because it’s bad PR? So I fly in and out of airports that look like all the planes are full of CIA operatives.

4. Acknowledge that you make people uncomfortable.
On the plane, Erik reminds me that I should try to behave well at the meeting.

I tell him that I know he didn’t like the time that I made paper airplanes to keep myself occupied.

I tell him that to assure him that I know what bugs him. But the mention of paper airplanes seems only to remind him of bad things, so I assure him that I brought new pens to keep myself busy.

“Jelly Rolls,” I say. “Do your daughters use them? They’re really fun. They sparkle. Or there are some that are dull. And the ink is like squishy liquid.”

Board members do not like hearing about Jelly Rolls. I did not know this is a rule, but I infer it from the look on his face. Just not immediately. I wish I had noticed sooner.

5. Suffer in silence. If you talk about pain, people will think you’re a pain.
Then my abscess tooth starts to hurt. It was already hurting that morning. So I put a few Vicodin in my purse, which I have from the dentist who said I might need some in the few days I’m waiting for the oral surgeon.

The thing is that was two years ago. Two years ago when I was supposed to get my tooth pulled. It is dead. Or whatever an abscess is. The dentist said I’m very young to have a dead tooth.

I cried. I didn’t tell him that it’s not fair that I’m losing teeth because for my whole bulimic life I was really careful to brush my teeth after every vomiting episode.

I also didn’t tell him I wasn’t going to have the tooth removed. I mean, I will. Just not now. It’s too upsetting.

6. No mind-altering drugs on short notice.
Erik and I land and I thank the pilots. I have noticed that Erik, the King of Being Normal, is always gracious to everyone. And I am oblivious to everyone. So it stands to reason that for him to think I’m normal, I need to be gracious.

I thank the driver for being there to meet us and then I thank him for waiting for me to go to the bathroom.

The tooth is hurting a lot, and I am worried I’m going to pass out. It would actually be good to pass out with Erik. He would figure out what to do and he’s a get-things-done kind of guy. But he would not like it. He wants to feel secure in the idea that I’m stable and he won’t have to rescue me again.

So I think of popping a Vicodin, but what if it makes me loopy? Then maybe they wouldn’t invite me back to a board meeting. Then they’d tell me to dial-in, and I’m a notoriously bad listener on the phone, so they’d assume I was checked out, and then it’d be like I wasn’t there at all.

So instead of a Vicodin, I take ten Advil.

7. Try to do what is expected in each situation.
In the car, on the way to the meeting, Erik looks at his email, so I do that too because if you want someone to like you, you should mirror what they do.

Then Erik stops to pick up lunch. He asks if I want lunch. Everyone at the company knows that I hate eating with a group. So he only asks because it’s the normal thing to do. He knows I will say no. But it’s good to be normal. I get it. So instead of saying, “No, of course not,” I say, “No, thanks.”

He nods.

I see the line for sandwiches is really long. So long that I’d have thrown a fit and demanded to go somewhere else. But Erik is not a fit thrower. So I see that I’m going to have some extra time.

8. Fend off all possible emergencies.
I go to the bathroom to investigate the tooth situation. On the way to the bathroom, I pass a dentist’s office. That gives me confidence. Because something really bad would not be really bad too long because I could just slip right into that office and ask for some help.

In the bathroom I take out my earring and use the pointy part of the earring to work on my tooth.

The puss was more like popping a big yellow zit. It sprayed onto the mirror. I popped it a few more times, a few more sprays onto the mirror.

Then I clean everything up. The mirror, my mouth (now there’s blood dripping, which is how I know I got all the puss) and I redo my makeup, which takes a while, because I pretty much have to wash my face and start over.

When I get to the car, Erik is there. Waiting. I say, “Oh. Sorry. Were you waiting long?”

He says, “Yeah. Did you take a tour of the building?”

9. Explain yourself so people don’t assume the worst.
That is Erik’s way of asking if I did something bad. He knows me well. He sees possibilities. He is worried I did something not appropriate.

So I need to tell him something because it is not normal to walk around a strange building for twenty minutes. Which, it turns out, is how long I’ve been gone. I want to let him know that I was doing something okay.

So I tell him that I have an abscess tooth and I had to pop the puss part.

“It was interfering with my speech,” I tell him. I try to convey that I was just worried about being normal for the board meeting. Which is true.

He is not going for it. He thinks I take insane risks. Which, to be fair, is the only reason there was even a company for him to invest in: because I took insane risks. But whatever, risk takers always look exciting from far away but never up close. So I try to tell him that I definitely made a choice on the side of caution because I made sure there was a dentist’s office nearby and also, I did not take the Vicodin.

He says I didn’t need to tell him that.

I’m not sure what I needed to tell him.

10. Get a list of expected behaviors and then execute on that list.
I am well behaved for the meeting. I do not tell everyone that I think I know more about Brazen Careerist’s traffic than everyone else even though I don’t work there. People do not want to hear that from me. And someone with good social skills would say it differently. So I keep quiet while Ed talks.

And I keep quiet when people talk about the weather and sports. Well, not really. I say no, please, don’t do smalltalk. It’s so awkward. And then they talk about it anyway. Which is a sign they think I am on good behavior.

At dinner, everyone compliments me on my good behavior at the meeting. I paid attention, I had no outbursts, and I did not do anything completely inappropriate.

I breathe a sigh of relief and then spend five minutes ordering because I’m terrified of not having complete control over the contents of my plate.

11. Recognize the crazy people and don’t follow their lead.
Then the guys reminisce about farm times in their childhood and it turns out that they have been cow-tipping.

“That is not nice,” I tell them.

I tell them we would never do that on the farm, and that one of the signs of a child turning into a sociopath is treating animals poorly.

They laugh.

117 replies
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  1. Jo
    Jo says:

    Penelope, go to the dentist. I to had abcesses that I would have to pop every morning for months because I refused to admit to losing a to a couple of teeth (a case of shitty luck, not poor oral hygiene). I spent two years taking Tramadol and ruining my body with antibiotics in an effort to save two teeth that caused me nothing but pain and suffering. Root treatments failed and it all culminated in extraction anyway. I am now mid-way through getting titanium implants that will have cost me over £6,000 when finished, which I can scarcely afford.

    Go to the dentist. Please.

  2. Jo
    Jo says:

    Tell you what, you go to the dentist and I’ll learn to edit my posts more effectively. That one I just wrote was atrocious.

  3. Regina Twine
    Regina Twine says:

    PT, in what tone did you say that it wasn’t nice to tip over animals? Maybe this is the outburst they were waiting on?

    Oh and I freaking love Jelly Rolls. I used to take them to my boring classes in college to stop myself from being sarcastic to the professor. It worked and I have multicolored notes that made me smile.

  4. Jude Bloom
    Jude Bloom says:

    “I tell them we would never do that on the farm, and that one of the signs of a child turning into a sociopath is treating animals poorly.”

    Man, when I worked at the psych hospital when we’d get someone and it said in their chart that they’d been into 1) fire or 2) harming animals as a child, the docs would just kind of sadly shake their heads. No successful treatments.

  5. Lindsay | The Daily Awe
    Lindsay | The Daily Awe says:

    I’ve been reading for a while now but this is one of those posts that make me realize just how hard you have to try to be ‘normal’. My heart aches for you a little because that would be freakin’ exhausting! 

    The puss part is pretty gross, Penelope. But I would’ve wanted to have seen it. I’m gross like that. Were you able to eat dinner or did you just chew on the side that the rotten tooth wasn’t on? 

  6. Irving Podolsky
    Irving Podolsky says:

    As I read this post, loving you as always, and wondering should I laugh, which I do, or feel very concerned about you, which I do, I get another idea of who you are, which may be wrong. But I think I’m right.

    You are two people – at least two people, but not in a bad way. Not in a schizo way. In a “witness” way. In a way that lets you watch your actions as if you were ME reading this post. And I think that’s good. And other thing about this witness thing, is that the witness part of you is SANE. And the Penelope part of you, is a wacky ten year old, which is LOVABLE and INNOCENT, and needs caring and attention.

    So I think people who love children, love Penelope, because Penelope makes us feel like we are children again, with sublime innocence and honesty. The honesty part, which is the opposite of manipulation, is your gift to us. And we cherish it, even though we know you are having a very hard time handling it. 

    The interesting thing about your WITNESS, is that she gets to come her of box within this blog. That’s when you free her now, to look at your actions, write then down and speak to young Penelope from that part of you anchored in sanity. If you scribed journals growing up, then this is how Penelope learned to communicated with her HIGHER SELF. Shall we call it your SOUL? We can say that, can’t we? We can call your words “SOUL WISDOM.” And that’s why you “speak” to us. and that’s why we “hear” you. That’s why you affect so many. The witness can’t lie, nor would she try. Your double self represent TRUTH. And TRUTH is LOVE.

    So keep loving us, Penelope. Keep blogging and we will love you back, as we learn, through you, to love ourselves.

    Warmest regards,
    Irv

  7. Rachel
    Rachel says:

    I love jelly rolls!  How could he not understand how great they are? It looks like you’re maybe writing a bit of a song?  And yes, not nice to tip cows.  Good for you to defend…I think I would like to sit at your end of the board meeting but you may get me in trouble by making me laugh too much…

  8. MB
    MB says:

    Yes, please get yourself to the dentist–when I had an abscessed tooth I
    learned that your body dissolves the jaw bone around an abscess. Seriously, I
    hadn’t even left it very long, and I could see it on my x-rays. My dentist
    explained that your body tried to “pull back” from what it sees as harming it.

    The good news is, after having the abscess treated your body can repair the
    bone damage, like it does when you heal a regular broken bone.

    What about one of those “snooze” dentists, where they put you out for the
    procedure?

  9. Mark Wiehenstroer
    Mark Wiehenstroer says:

    The crazy for me would be to eat the nuts, candy and popcorn that Ed has in front of him. I may do it but would do so in a very careful manner. You see I broke a wisdom tooth on an unpopped popcorn kernel and had it extracted. About a month ago I chipped out a piece of tooth on one of my molars while eating peanuts. I couldn’t believe it at the time but it became clear to me that the tooth was already compromised by a large,old amalgam filling. I immediately went to the dentist and he told me what I already suspected. I really needed a crown even though he could do a filling. It would be risky, though, because he detected a crack in another part of the tooth. I now have a crown on that tooth. I have had a lot of dental work done on my teeth. I sometimes think I will go bankrupt due to these visits to the dentist … but I will go … and I will take care of any problem right away before it gets worse. I would advise you to do the same. I think after all is said and done that you’ll wonder why you didn’t take care of it sooner.

  10. Harriet May
    Harriet May says:

    This post is great.  Maybe because my mom and I are so intrigued with shows about surgery-type stuff, the bloodier the better.  There was one about a guy on a construction site who got one of those big hooks that hang down from cranes through his eye and remained conscious until they got him to the hospital.

    BUT, I do hate small talk.  I am terrible at it; I never know what to say.  Really what I want to talk about is how outrageous it was of Georgia to execute Troy Davis, or what a sensible thing it was of Rick Perry to make girls get the HPV vaccine and then point out what a good person I am for saying that since generally I can’t stand Rick Perry.  But I know that when you have small talk with someone you’re not supposed to bring up polarizing subject matter– although I did read in the Times that one guy always wrote a list of interesting questions before dinner parties as conversation starters, and one was “Out of Michele Bachmann’s 23 foster kids, how many do you think would vote for her?” and I thought I should do that but I wouldn’t come up with anything that good.  So then my backup topic is my dog, which makes me sound like a crazy person (my boyfriend just bought her a personalized Panthers jersey because really he is the crazy one) since no one really cares about other people’s kids or animals or personal issues.  And I think I would categorize my dog as all three of those things.

    And then I wonder if anyone else has so much trouble with such minor interactions with other people.

  11. Harriet May
    Harriet May says:

    This post is great.  Maybe because my mom and I are so intrigued with shows about surgery-type stuff, the bloodier the better.  There was one about a guy on a construction site who got one of those big hooks that hang down from cranes through his eye and remained conscious until they got him to the hospital.

    BUT, I do hate small talk.  I am terrible at it; I never know what to say.  Really what I want to talk about is how outrageous it was of Georgia to execute Troy Davis, or what a sensible thing it was of Rick Perry to make girls get the HPV vaccine and then point out what a good person I am for saying that since generally I can’t stand Rick Perry.  But I know that when you have small talk with someone you’re not supposed to bring up polarizing subject matter– although I did read in the Times that one guy always wrote a list of interesting questions before dinner parties as conversation starters, and one was “Out of Michele Bachmann’s 23 foster kids, how many do you think would vote for her?” and I thought I should do that but I wouldn’t come up with anything that good.  So then my backup topic is my dog, which makes me sound like a crazy person (my boyfriend just bought her a personalized Panthers jersey because really he is the crazy one) since no one really cares about other people’s kids or animals or personal issues.  And I think I would categorize my dog as all three of those things.

    And then I wonder if anyone else has so much trouble with such minor interactions with other people.

  12. Sarah
    Sarah says:

    Hey P, I’m going to tell you something you surely already know, only because I care about you.  Get the tooth pulled.  It really, truly harms your health in ways we’ve only begun to realize, to even have bad dentition.  The bacteria getting in through teeth actually causes heart disease.  It certainly causes systemic inflamation, a constant stress response in your body.  You already have enough stress.

    • MJ
      MJ says:

      100% correct on the harm of decaying tooth bacteria – this killed people in the old days.  Avoid blood poisoning and heart disease (and hey, the doc will give you more good drugs, right??)!!

  13. nobody
    nobody says:

    I wish I had the courage to say “please, don’t do smalltalk.” Instead, I just keep quiet and hope no one looks at me or expects me to say anything. Which can work in a group, but not one-on-one. I feel completely crippled by that kind of everyday interaction most people think nothing of; when I try to participate, it’s just awkward. I don’t have Aspergers, but I am a total  introvert. I am very good at my job, but I can’t take the social aspect of working in an office/corporate environment. Your posts make me feel slightly less like a freak, so thanks for that.

    • Lynnewhiteside
      Lynnewhiteside says:

      why the shit do I feel so awkward all the time too?  I don’t want Anyone to feel uncomfortable around me, but if I’m uncomfortable with myself, how can anyone be ….well you get the idea, I’m 65 – I’m  discovering that the older I get the more weird I get.  what the…?  well,… on the other hand, like you and me, we’re not alone.

      My conscious breathing helps a lot when I’m anxious or stressed.  Oh and by the way, you are Somebody, you’re here aren’t you? 

      • Vicky
        Vicky says:

        Maybe you are not getting weirder, maybe you are just getting more comfortable with yourself, and knowing that you have a right to be you. And you do!

    • Caitlin
      Caitlin says:

      Why shouldn’t people make small talk? They are not doing it to make you feel uncomfortable. They are doing it to make themselves comfortable. It’s also known as taking an interest in the people you are with and the circumstances you find yourselves in. Many people enjoy it.

  14. Sylvain
    Sylvain says:

    Hey Penelope, I know I don’t comment much these days but I always read your post. I think you are incredible because reading you post make me feel like I was in the plane with you . It is a powerful effect of your writing. And because of that I really enjoy reading your posts. Hope that Brazen Careerist do well in this bad economy. Wish you the best…

    Sylvain from Switzerland 

  15. Sg2482
    Sg2482 says:

    You wrote that you were really careful to brush your teeth after every vomiting episodes. Just wanted to clarify one thing for readers and for your own knowledge.

    It is best to AVOID brushing teeth immediately after vomiting. The stomach acid that gets on your teeth when you vomit weakens tooth enamel and brushing right after can cause erosion of the enamel.

    Here are some references:
    http://www.eatingdisorders.org.nz/index.php?id=759
    http://www.colgate.com/app/CP/US/EN/OC/Information/Articles/Oral-and-Dental-Health-Basics/Medical-Conditions/Anorexia-Bulimia/article/Bulimia.cvsp

  16. ResuMAYDAY
    ResuMAYDAY says:

    I want to see more pics of you in your posts, so hand someone else the camera once in a while. Eric is cute – he has a Jeff Goldblum thing going on. Oh – when I say pics of you, I mean, like, the purple shirt, not the pussy tooth. (NEVER the pussy tooth!)

  17. Shandra
    Shandra says:

    This is a really great post because it really does capture (I think) what it’s like for you and it’s a bit mind-bending. I really want to try to write one for us…I’ll post if I do.

    I’ve had a tooth out. It’s not so bad. Here’s a tip: Find a pediatric dentist/surgeon. They are used to kids freaking out and needing things explained.

    • Jeremy
      Jeremy says:

      True. My cousin is a pediatric dentist and I go to him whenever I need to and am able. Aside from most of his employees and patients (and patients’ parents) looking at me a bit weird, it’s the best experience I’ve ever had with a dentist.

    • Zellie
      Zellie says:

      Yeah, if they know you have Asperger’s they will understand and whatever happens, they’ve seen it before.

  18. Sadya
    Sadya says:

    the Brazen careerist community hasnt been as active as it was , say last year or before that. what are your ideas for increasing its web traffic, u know the ones u didnt share. Also did u share them later on?

  19. Marc Roston
    Marc Roston says:

    I think you need a special section on how to look normal at a board meeting, especially around the plane topic.  Knowledge of aircraft shows far greater value than knowledge of the company.

    1.  Never confuse a G-V with anything else.  If you don’t know a Falcon 900 from a G-V, don’t risk it.  You’ll look like a fool either way.
    2.  Never complain about security at the international terminal at JFK.  Ditto.
    3.  Demand a helicopter take you to your preferred airport if the plane cannot land for whatever reason.  (You want Morristown, but your colleague needs to make a golf game in White Plains?  No problem.)  You will look like a player.
    4.  If scheduling forces you to take the turbo prop, express disgust only once.  Too much whining makes people think you’re desperate to get on the jet.
    5.  And of course, get your own plane.

  20. Betsy
    Betsy says:

    The secret of small talk — which secretly, I think most of us hate — is to ask questions where the other person will do most of the talking or lead the conversation.
    Topics for small talk:
    1. How is your family?
    2. Do you have any pets?
    3. How did you meet your significant other?

    • Anonymous
      Anonymous says:

      This is a great moment to educate people about Asperger’s. It’s not that I can’t think of a list like this. It’s that I can’t make myself say it. For someone with Asperger’s the part of a conversation that is a formality is like nails on a chalkboard. It feels so incredibly fake and wrong that it’s impossible to utter. And those questions would come out of me sounding like a robot is saying them. 

      So I have no choice but to ask questions that genuinely interest me. Like, “I heard you just got a divorce. What didn’t your wife like about you?” I’ve said that before. And the person is surprised, yes. But it’s a reasonable question —  I mean, surely everyone in the world would be interested in the answer. 

      So my problem is that I can’t do the talk you are supposed to do to establish rapport so that you can ask the divorce question. 

      Penelope

      • Sandra
        Sandra says:

        Thanks for that explanation. Very helpful. I don’t have Asperger’s and here is where the difference is, it feels so incredibly fake and wrong in many social situations for me too, but, I go ahead and say it. It’s taken me most of my life to get there, and the reason I can even do it to the extent that I do, is that I do a lot of mental preparation before hand. I would much, much rather ask questions that genuinely interest me too, but I think a lot of people think/feel they’re being judged. 
        If we met in a social situation and you were to ask me a ‘personal’ question, my response would be, wow, that’s really a personal question, why do you want to know and/or are you willing for me to ask you a personal question? I don’t know how many other people would be willing to engage that way though

        • Andy
          Andy says:

          I try to do small talk but in areas I actually enjoy. Travel is a good one for me. Most people have traveled somewhere are are looking forward to. I think making small talk when I’m not genuinely interested feels like lying, on the stand, on a polygraph, naked.

      • Dannielle
        Dannielle says:

        I have the same problem, Penelope. I am working on balancing diplomacy and directness. You can get to the heart of the matter without scaring people or hurting their feelings. It’s a matter of 1) believing you need to change 2) learning the skills to change 3) practicing. The way I learn is to watch how other people do diplomacy and then copy them. Hope this helps.

        • emily
          emily says:

          a new co-worker recently told me that i could work on being concise.  i loved this feedback.  what i learned though was that she also was saying that i needed to have better work boundaries.  i don’t need to tell everyone everything about me in order to be authentic and real.  i’m learning that real is connecting with people and what’s authentic is the good feeling you get when you do.  

      • DorothyP
        DorothyP says:

        Of course, those whose Aspergers is self-diagnosed have even more of a problem–remembering to act like they’re on the spectrum.  You have a choice, but then, you’d have to be like everyone else.

          • DorothyP
            DorothyP says:

            PT diagnosed herself, based on a careful search of google-bait and SEO terms. Thus, she has to remember that she’s on the spectrum, and post/act accordingly. Simple selfishness and callous actions can thus be explained away.

  21. Velvet
    Velvet says:

    Penelope, I think you are really sharp and have remarkable insight, and I also appreciate the humaness and honestly of your posts. I find it strange that someone so remarkably insightful and intelligent is so blithely unconcerned, and, frankly, has such little intelligent thinking or reflection to offer on environmental issues. Is the Brazen Careerist and its executive team really so important that a private jet is required to fly you to meetings? Perhaps that’s where the descriptor “Brazen” is truly justified? 

    • Anonymous
      Anonymous says:

      Believe me, the environmental problems we have in this world are not from corporate  jets. Before you bitch about corporate jets, start eating local. Eat squash every meal from October to March and then talk to me from your environmental high horse. Oil to transport food is way more serious than corporate jets. 

      Penelope

      • Velvet
        Velvet says:

        Is your point that your eating local somehow makes taking a private jet to a meeting environmentally ok? Perhaps you could have examined whether my comment had some truth to it rather than getting so defensive? Or better yet, start another business around “eating in season”?

      • Velvet
        Velvet says:

        Is your point that your eating local somehow makes taking a private jet to a meeting environmentally ok? Perhaps you could have examined whether my comment had some truth to it rather than getting so defensive? Or better yet, start another business around “eating in season”?

    • Anonymous
      Anonymous says:

      Believe me, the environmental problems we have in this world are not from corporate  jets. Before you bitch about corporate jets, start eating local. Eat squash every meal from October to March and then talk to me from your environmental high horse. Oil to transport food is way more serious than corporate jets. 

      Penelope

  22. Another oversharer
    Another oversharer says:

    I disagree with Step 9: “Explain yourself so people don’t assume the worst.”  I think you misinterpreted Erik’s question about touring the building.  It doesn’t matter if he knows you well and can imagine “bad” activities you did or even if he privately felt intensely curious about what you were doing.  People are always expected to maintain private(me)-public(us)-private(you) boundaries unless there’s a transition to break this boundary first.  So I think the appropriate responses to this question would be:

    1) Accept the invitation by sharing something socially appropriate and entertaining that you noticed during your absence.

    Or 2) Brush off the invitation with a quick “yes” or “no” or shrug and smile to signal that you have everything under control, so to speak.Or 3) If you need his help or input on something socially inappropriate, warn him that you want to break the private-public boundary by first asking “Actually… can I tell you about a problem I have?”Unfortunately, those of us with medical or mental health problems are at times just unable to maintain the private-public-private boundaries to everyone’s comfort, or it really increases their suffering when we do.  Or others break boundaries for us with disrespectful/condescending questions or comments; reminding someone to “behave yourself at the meeting” might be an example.  This blog comment might be seen as an example of condescending.  I guess it’s better to error on the side of too open/inappropriate/disrespectful rather than too locked up in shame though.

  23. Azduros
    Azduros says:

    I know this is wrong to say but I am so glad I am not you.

    Get your tooth fixed woman.. I know people who have died from that nasty pus getting into the blood stream.

  24. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    Wow. This is so disturbing. I had no idea. But I love that you provided links! Thanks.

    Since most bulimics never stop, there should be public service announcements about how to do it right. I always thought I was taking care of myself by brushing my teeth. The irony is that most bulimics are women who want to do what people tell them to do — if you tell them rules for throwing up, they will follow them. Penelope

  25. Zoomtiger
    Zoomtiger says:

    I’m a recent reader, new to your blog, though I have heard about it for some time.  I want to say that this post was fantastic!  I love how direct you are and honest, and how you strip away the bullshit.  I am reading you now, to see how “aliens” actually can get ahead since I am a person who does great work often even in the corporate world, has many talents and some accomplishments to show (though not nearly enough for what I can do), but also doesn’t always “fit” although I try.  Thanks for hanging in there through your own tough times and writing. 

    On another note, do pull that tooth soon!  Don’t put if off. I had one and put if off, and was in pain for awhile and when it was pulled, I had NO PAIN. It took a few seconds, maybe not even 30 for the Dentist to pull it and once it was done, I wish I had done it sooner.  I need to take my own advice again, BTW- which is funny, since I now have another tooth that needs pulling from grinding.  I grind my teeth when I sleep and wear a night guard often, though obviously in the past I have not always done so.  I am very poor now, but will go to a Dental college as I did in the past, to get it done.  I suspect you can get the money covered easier than I can, so please do take care of it!  That’s my advice to you! 

    Thank you again for all the wonderful advice, here! 

  26. Uj22222
    Uj22222 says:

    There is something about this post that sounds a bit juvenile.  Do you allow yourself to think of yourself as a child, and if so, do you somehow take secret pride in that fact?

  27. Deena McClusky
    Deena McClusky says:

    I am okay  with small talk among people I actually know, but among strangers it is supremely uncomfortable. I meet new people constantly for my job (many of them famous) and I’m fine if I am interviewing them or taking pictures of them, but randomly chatting them up is still oddly terrifying.

  28. Vicky
    Vicky says:

    As a person with AS, I’d like to comment on a few of your points:
    Point 4: Re acknowledging that you make people uncomfortable.  Maybe you mean ‘accept’, i.e., quietly to yourself.  Do you mean ‘say it out loud’?  Since I myself cannot do small talk (other than my ‘secret, sneaky method’ of doing small talk’) I would suggest not saying out loud that you are aware that you make people uncomfortable. But do accept it, and don’t let it get to you.

    Point 9: Explain yourself…again, I don’t believe we AS people should venture into that ‘talk more’ territory. Gets us into more trouble, generally.

    And Point 6: Talking about pain.  Yes, don’t talk about your own pain, it does scare (or turn people off), however, my ‘secret, sneaky method’ of doing small talk includes talking about pain. To successfully pass, at participating in small talk, treat it like a dance.   If there are only two of you doing the small talk thing, DO ask (if you are closer than strangers), here is my script.  I am only showing MY lines:

    Hello

    Ah…yes

    ohhh….

    (note: do they now seem relaxed? Ok, now lower, and slow your voice, and ask, “How is your back/wrist/knee doing?”  note: people love talking about their pain, and they ALL have pain.

    Note: do NOT comment on what they say, other than to reply: Ah….yes  They will think you care, and are  involved, and will be happy.  Do say something from the list though.

    Yes, ok, nice to see you again.

    It works for me….and no one catches on.

      • 2011rmbecker
        2011rmbecker says:

        There’s something to it, I think, otherwise how would they know about your “back/wrist/knee” problem?  It takes some effort to remember even a little detail like that.

  29. sandra carol
    sandra carol says:

    My daughter is 17 and just about to face the world, I am saving posts like these to give her an ‘in’ on the normal.  Wish There was someone like you writing when I was a kid. Would have helped me not terrify most of the poor people I had to deal with.

  30. sandra carol
    sandra carol says:

    My daughter is 17 and just about to face the world, I am saving posts like these to give her an ‘in’ on the normal.  Wish There was someone like you writing when I was a kid. Would have helped me not terrify most of the poor people I had to deal with.

  31. nowgirl
    nowgirl says:

    Okay, so the thing about the guy not appreciating the Jelly Roll pens?  This is actually not a rule you broke.  This is why they pay for you to come to the meetings.  You’ve got a sensibility they need.  They just aren’t always aware when they need it.  Not getting it about the coolness of Jelly Roll pens is a big blind spot.  (I am totally serious.)

    If your company leadership was 60% women, they would get it. (Are you the only woman in the meeting?  Just from the Jelly Roll comment, I’m guessing you are… at least, you’re the only one with any seniority.)

  32. Lori
    Lori says:

    omg. yesterday my friend was shaming me about not going to the dentist for 13 years (and the last time i was there, the dentist told me i had a cavity i needed to have fixed and set an appointment which i promptly canceled). another friend of hers has a terrible fear of dentists and had been ignoring an abscessed tooth for months/years and it just got so bad she finally went and they told her she has a tumor on her jaw. and she has to have that removed before they can even fix the tooth. ye gods.

    and i’m still not going to the dentist.

  33. Karelys Beltran
    Karelys Beltran says:

    love the part about the cows. shows a sweetness and realism about you. i’m pretty sure realism is the word i want to use but Engish rules are so confusing! meh!

  34. Roberta
    Roberta says:

    Ha! Cow tipping! I haven’t heard that phrase in ages. I used to work at a night club in the Catskills and one of the “shecky” comics always had a cow tipping joke.

  35. Alkdjf
    Alkdjf says:

    its better to brush your teeth a half hour after you vomit because the hard enamel is softer after consuming or regurgitating.  brushing right after throwing up brushes away the most important part of your teeth

  36. Alkdjf
    Alkdjf says:

    its better to brush your teeth a half hour after you vomit because the hard enamel is softer after consuming or regurgitating.  brushing right after throwing up brushes away the most important part of your teeth

  37. Alkdjf
    Alkdjf says:

    its better to brush your teeth a half hour after you vomit because the hard enamel is softer after consuming or regurgitating.  brushing right after throwing up brushes away the most important part of your teeth

  38. Heart4tikkunolam
    Heart4tikkunolam says:

    Awww, Pen
    I just love you! You keep using those jelly rolls and take that jet as often as you can (people tend to climb down off of their proverbial crosses when they sink into sumptuous leather seats and don’t have to sit next to strangers–amazing, isn’t it?!). I do hope your bulimia is as well-managex as it can be; I know it’s a lifelong struggle but the thought of you hurting yourself was harder to think about than the detailed description of the tooth…which appears to be well-covered in the comments, so the only thing I’ll add is that, while perhaps not good before a board meeting, some kick-ass painkillers can do wonders for post-op pain…and if you’re like more moms than you can imagine, you put a few of those away for days when the kids and the hubby are driving you insane :) I hope Mr. Good Behavior, while he seems well-intentioned, wanders over to this post to read your thought about there not being a company if there was not a Penelope (refraining from telling him that earns you a gold star for good behavior in my book. I did like the comment about getting out from behind the camera…but if there are cute guys hiding behind the lens I don’t like this plan either (I could be wrong but I sense you would agree). Kudos for braving the purple! Have you ever had your colors done? I, too, love the basic black…but I discovered that the right colors can really lift your mood. Finally (I know, finally), I saw a commenton the Hebrew letters and I would love to see a post about the deeply-rooted tradition of questioning, analyzing, and debating in Judaism–and perhaps being from a Jewish tradition and having Asperger’s is unique in many quintessentially Jewish double-edged sword sort of ways (and no better time to celebrate that uniqueness than Sukkot). I hope you celebrate your own uniqueness once in a while, too, Penelope. You are leaving an indelible mark on the minds, hearts,and lives of sooooo many real people through this virtual medium!

  39. MJ
    MJ says:

    Also, if you have an oral infection, you probably have horrible breath – the breath of death. Not good for the business or other people – take care of yourself and all will benefit.

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