People are strange when you're a strangerSometimes I feel like I'm just a visitor here, and I don't really belong. I don't look all that different from the rest of them, and I speak pretty much the same language, but I feel sometimes like I'm just a bit out of phase with this place, this time, this culture.
Faces look ugly when you're alone
Women seem wicked when you're unwanted
Streets are uneven when you're down
When you're strange
Faces come out of the rain
When you're strange
No one remembers your name
-- "People are Strange" by The Doors
I never quite learned the ropes. I don't quite know what clothes to wear, or how to wear them. I really never learned the knack of making friends in a town where I have few or none. I'm not very good at playing social dominance games, or "shmoozing". And, in fact, I'm just horrible about maintaining casual friendships and emotional ties. Most times I just simply forget. It's not that I don't care, it's just that it somehow slips my mind. There was a mention on Slashdot quite some time ago about someone's theory that geek brilliance is a mild form of autism. Geeks are cousins to Rain Man-- they are expert in a narrow focus of field, and are especially deficient in social skils.
I'm not sure if I buy the autism thing, but it would explain a few things, I think. I am great with technology, but people seem pretty strange to me most times. I've talked to some people I've managed to befriend, people to whom navigating social networks is as easy as hopscotch, and they tell me that they just have a sense for things.
They pick up cues and things that I just seem to not get. At least, that's the documented phenomena for autists-- they literally don't understand facial expressions or recognize people by those faces. This has been shown by brain energy usage measurements taken via MRI between normal and autist young adults. The scans show normal brains firing in certain areas in response to recognized faces, and certain emotions, where the scans show autist brains no more moved by the appearance of a face or strong emotion than they are moved by the appearance of a potato.
Is it that I don't get them, or that I just never learned them? Or is it that I never learned social skills because I'm missing some perceptions that others have?
Maybe I miss a certain twitch of the eyebrow, or a cock of the hip, or a position of the arms. On the other hand, I've been shy almost to a handicap in my history, and even now I'm a bit habitually reticient. And the state of my mind, when I'm busy being shy, is one of over-empathy. I'm thinking fearfully about what I think you might be thinking about me. And sometimes it's pretty accurate, what I'm thinking that you're thinking.
What a mess. I feel alienated and don't seem to know what to do around everyone, a Stranger in a Strange Land. Yet on the other hand, I seem to have myself too open to everyone, and question myself into infinity.