Apparently it is a well-known fact around the world that here in England we have an inordinate preoccupation with the weather, and a conversation rarely goes by without it being referred to in some way, especially between strangers when you don’t know what else to say. It is, it appears, the ultimate ice-breaker, a safe way in which to connect with other people, even if only for a moment. It’s as if you’ve touched base with another human being and discovered that you’re still one with the rest of the world: you didn’t metamorphose into some hideous creature, devoid of human sensitivities, in the middle of the night. Nope, it’s okay: you weren’t transformed into an autistic.
Now, here’s the thing. This discussion about the weather that people engage in so frequently, and which seems often to lead onto more interesting topics (I mean, how many ways can you find to describe the fact that it’s been pissing it down with rain, yet again, especially during what we laughingly describe as our summer?!), is one which I have taken to its literal limit. When I talk about the weather, I talk about the weather. And when I stop talking about it, that’s it. The conversation, such as it was, is over. Unless I happen to have a back-up topic in mind with which to extend it. Otherwise we’re done.
As a method for engaging in that thing called “chatting” it is totally bloody useless to an autistic. I don’t know why I keep trying, really, because I’m hopeless at it. And the truth is I find it really quite boring, but I have this persistent misguided idea that it’s somehow what is expected of me, in order to be considered polite. God knows how the person feels on the receiving end of one of my weather forecasts!
The person whom I most frequently deluge with my climactic enlightenments is my veg lady. This is my nickname for her: she is not actually a vegetable (just in case you’re THAT literal!) I visit her farm stall once a week in order to buy vegetables, and every week I try to engage her in dialogue by discussing the weather. The thing that confuses me is that she is quite friendly towards me, but she isn’t actually very forthcoming in the conversational department. She responds to my clumsy attempts to chat, but if I don’t say anything then she just leaves me to get on with choosing what I want.
Now this is actually ideal, due to my inability to multi-task (especially if one of the tasks is talking). But instead of being relieved and grabbing the opportunity she has offered to not have to stress myself to be chatty, I find myself even more desperate to try to keep up the interaction. I can’t seem to get into my head that she won’t be offended if I do nothing more than buy what she’s selling, and bugger off so that she can get on with the rest of her day!
I do wish that I could either shut up around people or, if I’m going to speak, at least speak as I normally would to someone I know well, where I don’t feel I have to pretend to be anything other than what and who I am, and I can talk about the things that interest (or obsess) me. Like yoga, for example. Or pole dancing. Pole dancing?
Yes, my newest obsession is with pole dancing. I haven’t taken it up – yet. That would either require that I have to go for lessons somewhere (an absolute no-no), or that I buy myself a pole, which you then erect (pun definitely intended!) in your home, hopefully without bringing the ceiling down on your head the moment you launch your whole body weight onto the thing, swinging with wild abandon like a chimpanzee – only with less control. And less finesse.
And then you follow on-line video lessons. This, in a manner of speaking, is what I’ve been doing, minus the pole – and minus actually following them (which is rather difficult to do without the pole, as you can well imagine). Instead I’ve been doing the Lisa version, which involves watching a lot of different clips from a variety of teachers, and then imagining myself pole-dancing. You don’t get much physical benefit, or a feeling of empowerment, which is what it’s supposed to be about (and you thought it was about sexually titillating men in clubs!), but then you don’t end up collapsed on your back; dislocating your shoulder because you were over-keen to get on with being able to clamber round the thing like a monkey in heat; or suffering severe friction burns to your groin area.
I now find myself drawn to lamp posts when I’m out walking, with an overwhelming desire to fling myself at one and see if I can perform a fireman’s spin, back-hook spin, or a kick-up invert – vaguely a la Gene Kelly in ‘Singin’ In The Rain’: though I don’t ever recall seeing him hanging in mid-air upside-down, his legs astride the lamppost with his arse sticking out. Funny, that, how you don’t seem to get any men doing it. Do they not find it empowering too? Perhaps it’s the shoes ...
As a conversation initiator I don’t know that this would go down too well with the general public. I think it more likely to bring it to a clanging halt, unless you happened to be talking to a professional pole-dancer. Or a fellow amateur enthusiast. And I’m not quite sure how you would follow this topic, what flow of ideas would spring forth for a lively discussion – lap-dancing, perhaps? Or stripping for a living? Perhaps the benefits, or otherwise, of working in the adult entertainment business? Or maybe romantic/erotic literature – also on my list of newly-acquired obsessions. Do you see a pattern here?
But no, it’s not about sex. It’s just about exercise and empowerment. That’s why they wear those high-heeled shoes.
At least that’s what everyone says it’s about, if you read about it on the web. And it does sound quite reasonable – all that hanging on with your arms and legs, not to mention spinning wildly around, equates to a full-body work-out that’s more fun than pounding the gym. Not to mention working on your balance as you totter about on your four inch heels. Have they not heard of yoga? You get to work on your balance without the threat of falling off your mountainous heels and breaking your neck, or of spiking yourself, or someone else, in the eye.
But then I’m so gullible I’d buy sand from the Arabs if I lived in the desert, and they offered an even barely-rational reason as to why I should. Like the fact that imported sand is better than the home-grown stuff ‘cos it has anti-ageing properties that will make your skin look younger if you mix it to a paste with camel spit (no water in the desert), and slap it on your face every day. And once you’ve bartered with the Arabs for the sand you can practise your chatting skills, by talking about the weather. Not much to talk about there then. Unless you’re into camels. Or sand.
"Do you believe in Magic?" asked Colin.
"That I do, lad," she answered. "I never knowed it by that name, but what does th' name matter? I warrant they call it a different name i' France an' a different one i' Germany. Th' same thing as set th' seeds swellin' an' th' sun shinin' made thee well lad an' it's th' Good Thing. It isn't like us poor fools as think it matters if us is called out of our names. Th' Big Good Thing doesn't stop to worrit, bless thee. It goes on makin' worlds by th' million - worlds like us. Never thee stop believin' in th' Big Good Thing an' knowin' th' world's full of it - an call it what tha' likes. Eh! lad, lad - what's names to th' Joy Maker."
From 'The Secret Garden', by Frances Hodgson Burnett
"There is no way to happiness - happiness is the way."
The Dalai Lama
"If you don't stand for something you will fall for anything."