Friday, 21 February 2014

Sandtraps of Social Convention

My husband has been looking at Be Different: Adventures of a Free-Range Aspergian and he mentioned a particular scene.  The author was on a date at a fancy restaurant and was served asparagus.  As was his custom, he picked up the stalk and started to mince it with his teeth.  (The visual I have is rather like feeding a log into a wood chipper.)  It was only after the tenth piece or so that he noticed his date looking at him in horror and after a few moments of wondering what was wrong, he guessed he must have tripped over what was socially acceptable.

It got me thinking because this is something I worry about with my boys.  I don't want to quash their individuality but I also don't want them to lose opportunities because of social disgust.  And sometimes, there are so many quirks and oddities that, as a parent, I have to pick which ones to tackle.  Which leaves the others out there like potentially dormant traps.

Social acceptedness is very important yet it is also one of the most difficult challenges to directly address.  If we see someone behaving in a peculiar fashion, most people will not confront that person directly.  Instead, they whisper about it to their companions and begin a slow withdrawal from the peculiarity.  For someone unable to read the cues around them, this leaves them in a baffling isolation and they will often conclude that there is something inherently wrong with them since no one ever seems to want to be around them.

Manners and social conventions are often illogical and arbitrary, but necessary.  Which is how I've always presented them to my boys.  This is just what we do, a non-optional social protocol.  I'm hoping that recognizing that they don't make sense will help undercut some of the inherent resistance. 

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