The Little Professors: On The Interests of Aspies

Cinematour.com is a site filled with nothing but pictures of movie theaters around the country and to a limited degree, the world. The site’s goal is to catalogue every theater from the mundane multiplex to the strange art house. The abandoned theaters are particularly intriguing. The site is, by and large, a site only for people with an obsessive interest in the architecture of movie theaters and maybe the movie posters of 2003 and 2006, which appear to be the years their photographers were most at work, though the site does continue to update almost daily. A resource for people with a very specific interest.

I bring up the site because it serves as the most perfect example of the minutia aspies are known for fixating on. This is a stereotype of the disorder and one that’s probably the thing most people bring up when they think about the disorder besides the awkwardness. We’re associated with being interested in things to an obsessive degree. When we get into things, we get deeply into them to a way outsiders could never get into. It’s proven true for pretty much every one I’ve met.

And honestly, with the interests, it’s always treated as such an oddity. Children are referred to as “little professors” because we really get deep into these things early. In my case, I was, as anybody who knows me probably would guess, a film expert from the word go. In fact, at age 7 I remember my parents playing a game where they’d quiz me on the films in the newspaper. I read the movie section from cover to cover. I was fixated on film then and still am.

I’m writing this entry because I want to discuss the misinterpretation that outsiders have. There is a belief that our interests inhibit us. They give us a wall that keeps us from connecting because we’re so fixated on our own little worlds. And I don’t honestly believe that. In fact, I think just the opposite. Our interests are the disorder’s lifeline to the outside world. And maybe it wasn’t this way in the past, but I believe it is now.

I come at this from a complex place. After all, I’m a film buff. I’m not rare, disorder or not. I actually know a good many people who are even deeper into this interest than I am. My interest is also an inherently social one. The act of going to a movie–I really prefer going to watching at home for the record–is the subconscious act of communicating  with others. We laugh, we scream, we cry because we want to interact.

And many of our interests are, in theory, not very social. An aspie who’s interested in trains or insects will alienate others. So we become unbearable to outsiders. My parents used to make me stop talking about film. We’re a cute novelty but we’re not very easy to deal with in long doses.

So how do I describe an obsessive interest like ours to an outsider? I’ve pondered this at length. I think the best way of describing it is to compare it to vision. It’s how we see the world. In my case, I definitely do view the world heavily through a filmic lens. My father used to call me out for talking as if in dialogue because that was what I knew. I do relate almost everything I see in some way to my interest.

And I think that’s how we all are to a degree. And by all I include NTs too. I’ve grown up around football fans and even if I don’t relate to their love of the sport, it’s pretty similar to my interest. It’s very very similar. The key is this: we really aren’t as good at turning it off. We are more or less stuck in that mode and it’s harder for us to get out. So yeah, we wind up being annoying.

But just because we’re annoying doesn’t mean I don’t think our interests are to be celebrated. I actually do. See, our interests often drive us to where we wind up in our adult lives. The aspie who loves bugs usually winds up as an entomologist. The train buff becomes an engineer. I wound up at a newspaper in part because of growing up reading the newspaper cover to cover.

Furthermore we don’t live in the world we used to. In the internet age, we’re able to find our peers around the world. I’ve recorded podcasts with people across the world. While I have mixed thoughts on the internet, at the very least it allows us to find others who think like us. I know a number of Bronies and that’s very much the case there. While the internet can be a terrible crutch–THERE IS A LONG ENTRY IN THE FUTURE ON IT–it really can help with connections.

I admit writing this entry proved unexpectedly challenging. It’s tricky to look outside yourself and study your personality. We also have such different interests. We aren’t an amorphous group. But we are all focused in our own ways and I celebrate that.

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