Yes, I find you attractive. No, I will not make direct eye contact with you.
Is there anything more romantic than your date staring at the wall behind you for the whole duration of your first date?
Perhaps it might be your Tinder date punctuating their sentences with erratic hand gestures that make them seem like some street magician trying to bamboozle you long enough to stick your phone in a glass bottle? All while sharing obscure facts about the Early Christian church with you, of course.
Sounds sexy, right? No?
Usually my aversion to eye contact and Darren Brown-style hand movements manage to come across as simple social awkwardness, but there is a reason for my eccentricity. Yes, I am a professionally diagnosed oddball; I am autistic.
The first “compliment” I get from people is usually some variation of “you don’t look autistic!”. It’s understandable. When people think of autism, they usually think of some male computer whizz who’s good at maths and loves science and technology, not a woman studying an obscure arts degree who barely passed foundation level maths.
“I do find you very attractive, I promise, even though I’ve been staring at the wall behind you for our whole conversation”
Disclosing your disability isn’t always the best pick-up line. After all, autism carries a lot of baggage with it. People tend to assume that you’re either an immature child trapped in an adult body or a cold, emotionally unavailable loner. There’s also this assumption that we aren’t interested in, or sometimes even capable of dating. Not necessarily a person you’d want to date. I personally think that it’s important for me to tell people about my autism, especially if there’s a chance we could date.
Letting my friends or suitors know that I have autism often helps them to understand why I act the way I do and saves them from being personally offended by my actions.
For example, I do find you very attractive, I promise, even though I’ve been staring at the wall behind you for our whole conversation. I also worry about my info-dumping about my special interests can make me come across as boring or self-centred, but I’m really just excited that you showed interest in my obscure hobby. I do care about what you have to say, but my autism often leads me to either dominate a conversation or completely check out.
“I find it hard enough to figure out if someone is letting me go ahead of them through a door, let alone figuring out if them asking me back to their flat is gonna involve something more than just movies and a cup of tea.”
I also like to let my partner know to avoid any potential misunderstandings when it comes to taking things further. Us autistic people are famously bad at deciphering innuendoes and hints. If you want to make a move, be direct. I find it hard enough to figure out if someone is letting me go ahead of them through a door, let alone figuring out if them asking me back to their flat is gonna involve something more than just movies and a cup of tea.
Autism is a disability that mostly affects your interpersonal relationships so of course dating while autistic is not a walk in the park. However, I’ve found that being honest about my disability and explaining what autism looks like for me makes it easier for myself and my partner. Everyone’s experience of autism is different, so it’s important to let your partner know how yours works and how your partner can support you. You don’t need to disclose it right away, but as things get more serious, it’s good to consider letting them know to avoid any issues in the future.
“Us autistic people have game, we’re just playing on hard mode.”
No matter what the stereotypes say though, dating is not off limits for autistic people. It might take a bit more work and things won’t always work out, but remember that dating is tricky for everyone.
Us autistic people have game, we’re just playing on hard mode.