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Tuesday, March 08, 2005


A central theme in my life of the past few weeks has been whether or not I am capable of making friends. Dr. Elmaleh implied to me that I wasn't, at least not without making changes to the way I approach other people, but then over the next week I got into several enjoyable conversations, not because I suddenly had motivation to talk which I hadn't had before but because the circumstances I was pushed into brought me in contact with people who I simply hadn't met before. God was clearly trying to let me know that I am not as socially inept as Dr. Elmaleh would have me believe. No sooner did I mention this to Dr. Elmaleh, than my opinion was reversed yet again. For a day or two later was the shul's dedication, and the few families which had contributed the most (including mine) celebrated by having a joint dinner for friday night. Never mind that there was so much social activity that I felt like I was on the verge of seeing blue screens of death in front of my eyes; when I did manage to pay attention, the conversations bored me stiff. I tried and failed to find an entry point into the discussion. On Shabbat, I tried to speak with one of the friendly kids on the block and found I had nothing to say to him.

I had also, at around the same time, gotten very frustrated with the fact that my entire class had been ignoring me since I joined the Academy a year and a half ago. I started considering confronting someone -anyone- in the class about this, but never did. And right around then, a few kids in my class started unintentionally proving to me that they had no grudge toward me but simply had never considered forming any sort of opinion about me. It was way back on the three-day trip at the beginning of this year that I attributed the lack of a connection with my class to a lack of common interests.

This didn't happen at the same time, but it should be mentioned nonetheless: there were several friends I made over the past year with people who like me were interested in videogames. Every single one of them has disintegrated. I don't know if they ever wanted to talk to me, but that seems like a moot point. After talking a little bit with them, I got bored and no longer cared if I ever saw them again. This has happened to me many times over the years. I still remember the last time I spent some time with a friend from elementary school. We sat around, each trying to think of something to say, and both failing: We had nothing better to do than talk, but had gotten sick of talking to each other. So if common interests aren't enough, than what is?

My questions were answered a week ago, when Marcus came for dinner. Marcus was my best friend in kindergarten. Yes, kindergarten, back when I lived in America. He and his family were visiting Israel and stopped by. A few words about Marcus: He is very hyperactive, talks about what interests him whether you care or not, and one of his favorite hobbies is bothering his two older sisters. The reason I say this provided me with the answers is because it did. Even though I had not seen him for a long time, even though we had almost no common interests, even though we acted differently and talked differently, my conversation with him was the most effortless and enjoyable I have had in a long time. Marcus showed me lots of star constellations in the sky, not because I had asked, not because I cared at all (I didn't), but because he cared. Other people might have hated that, but that's precisely why I like the guy. That's when it hit me- it doesn't matter whether you have common interests (although it's certainly nice). There are some pairs of people which can have a good time together, and most pairs of people who consider themselves friends can't. The former can and will have unconditional friendships, the latter will pretend they are friends just to convince themselves that they are satisfying their need for friendship.

My mother, in a rare moment of truthfulness, once told me that despite being friendly with many people, she doesn't think she has many real friends. I have none, at least which I am in contact with. The last time I had friends in my class was in seventh grade, when I was fortunate enough to have two very good friends: Tuvia and Yosef. When I think about it now, I think Tuvia had Asperger's Syndrome. He would talk nonstop about marine biology. I couldn't have cared less about the subject, but he talked about it because he cared and I cared about him. Yosef was bouncing off the walls sometimes for effect, and I cared about him too. Those were real friendships.

I asked Dr. Elmaleh to get me in touch with other kids with Asperger's Syndrome. I hope this goes somewhere.



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