By Dan Coulter
Recently, a mom contacted me and asked me about ways she could help her son with Asperger Syndrome enter the dating pool.
The question took me back to my own introduction to dating in high school. Like most high school boys, I was very interested in impressing girls. Here’s a quote from an entry written in my high school yearbook my junior year from a girl I liked, “…But don’t you change Dan, stay as happy and conceited as you are!”
Ouch. She wasn’t my girlfriend, but I did consider her a friend. Maybe she was angry at me the day of the yearbook signings, but there was an underlying truth there. I sometimes tried so hard to impress people that I came off as a know-it-all.
Actually, I had improved my Asperger-influenced social and dating skills a lot by my junior year. I had my first date shortly after I got my driver’s license my sophomore year. The girl was really cute. Her smile could light up a room. Hoping I was doing everything right, I took her to a drive-in restaurant, where the carhop who waited on us turned out to be her former boyfriend. It doesn’t get much more awkward.
But I later asked that same girl to go steady and we were together for more than two years. Our relationship was a crash course in male-female interaction that helped me learn invaluable lessons.
Based on that relationship, and others, here are ten suggestions I have for young men with Asperger Syndrome who want to decode Girlworld enough to date an inhabitant.
ONE: Be interesting. It’s much easier to get a date with someone if they are interested in you. If you have a special talent, use it to become good at something that attracts the attention of girls you’d like to date.
TWO: Don’t brag. Letting other people praise your accomplishments is much more attractive to girls and women than acting like you are your own biggest fan.
THREE: Work on your manners. Girls tend to appreciate a guy who knows not to talk with his mouth full, how to stand back and let someone else enter a door first, and how to keep his voice volume low in a crowded movie theater. It’s not just using good manners with her, it’s also how she observes you acting with everyone else. If she sees you using some basic manners and always trying to do the right thing, she’s more likely to be forgiving if you haven’t mastered other social skills.
FOUR: Get a girl mentor, or several. I made friends with girls in my high school classes who I could ask questions about what girls expected or would like. An older sister or even your mom can be a great source of information. Other guys can be helpful, if you can trust them, but girls have insights guys don’t.
FIVE: Find a girl with interests similar to yours. Maybe you both excel in a class. Maybe you’ll find her in astronomy club or in fencing class. Having something in common makes it easier to talk with a girl, so put yourself in situations where you’re likely to meet someone who likes what you like.
SIX: Get to know a girl before you ask her out. Put yourself in the girl’s place. The better she knows you, the less risk she takes in going out with you – and the less risk you take that you won’t have anything to talk about. Less pressure makes for a better first date.
SEVEN: When you ask a girl on a date, make it specific. “Would you like to hang out sometime?” is really asking her to pass judgment on you as a person. A girl who is not interested may say “Yes” in order not to hurt your feelings. It’s much better to say, “Would you like to go to (insert movie, concert or other event) on Friday night?” If she says, “Yes,” you’re in. If she says she is busy and suggests another night, you’re in. If she says she’s busy and doesn’t offer an alternative, it’s best to back off. If you wish, you can then wait a few days and ask her out again to a different event. If she doesn’t accept your second offer and doesn’t suggest an alternative, she’s probably not interested. You could wait a few more days and ask her out again, but two or three attempts without encouragement from a girl is a pretty clear indication that it’s best to move on and focus on someone else.
EIGHT: Listen, listen, listen. One of the biggest mistakes guys make is talking too much about themselves or their interests. This is a special challenge for guys with Asperger Syndrome. When you talk with a girl, make your point and then give her a chance to respond. If she changes the subject, try and talk about the new subject for a while. Assume that a girl cares as much about her interests as you do yours and her opinions are just as valid. She is not less or more, she is different -- in some interesting ways.
NINE: Don’t try to solve her problems unless she asks for your input. People often talk about things to help them think them through, or just to have another person sympathize. Pointing out what you see as a simple solution to her problem is not likely to earn you admiration for being smart. It’s more likely to make her frustrated because you think you’re smart enough to solve a problem and that she couldn’t. Especially if you assume you see the whole picture when you don’t. Responses like, “That must have been hard for you,” or “That’s a difficult situation,” are often likely to be well received. If she asks for your input, it’s a good idea to suggest solutions in the form of a question: “Do you think you could…?” This leaves the door open for her to give you more information if you’ve only seen the tip of the ice burg. Girlworld has a lot of ice burgs.
TEN: Be honest and don’t be afraid to ask questions. If you don’t understand some social nuance, being open about it can be disarming. You may want to disclose your Asperger Syndrome, but even if you don’t, you can always explain that you just don’t get something and ask for help figuring it out.
My first high school girlfriend contacted me not too long ago, and we shared some fond memories. One reason we had good times together was chemistry. If you’re willing to adapt and learn, and willing to seek out the right person, you can dramatically increase the odds of making Girlworld user friendly to you.
There are few feelings better than looking forward to a date, except being on one.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Dan Coulter is the author of ten DVDs about Asperger Syndrome and autism, including “Manners for the Real World: Basic Social Skills." You can find more articles on his website at: coultervideo.com
© Dan Coulter 2012 Used by Permission All Rights Reserved