Last summer, while me and my friend George were sitting in my backyard taking turns smoking weed from a water pipe, he leaned back in his chair and pointed to me and said, “you know what Zach? For as long as I’ve known you I’ve always thought you were either autistic or had Asperger’s.”
“What?” I said.
“Okay not totally,” he said, sitting up, “but just like, looking at the way you interact with people and how you don’t get certain social cues and norms, you’re definitely somewhere on the spectrum.”
“Dude are you serious?” I said.
“Dude don’t get worried,” he said, sitting back and laughing, the pipe in the corner of his mouth making him look like the hookah-smoking caterpillar from Alice in Wonderland, “you could be a savant.”
Some smoke escaped his lips and fluttered up to the sky. His eyes trained on me. “You’re doing fine, socially. You’re just, like, kind of naturally socially deficient.” And then he laughed again and knocked me on the shoulder and passed me the bowl and said “dude don’t take it personally, it’s just something I’ve always known about you.”
I called my friend Ralph later that evening and he said, “George is an idiot. You’re not autistic.”
One time, when I was out to brunch with my older brother and cousin, we started talking about our jobs that summer. My cousin was working at a film company in Hollywood and my brother was interning for a PR firm. At the time, I had my own company, and so I had all these bright youthful inflated ideas of how the world would go after I graduated college.
I said stuff like, “well I’m not working for anyone now, and I don’t really want to work for anyone else. Not that like, working for someone else is a bad thing, but I think I want to be my own boss.” I wasn’t making enough money at the time to fully support myself, or drop out of college, but I was young and confident and so the words just kind of tumbled out of my mouth with pride. Plus I wanted to impress my older cousin.
My brother eyed me suspiciously and said something like, “so you think you don’t have to do the same things as other people? That’s really narcissistic of you Zach.”
I got embarrassed, and felt that the label was uncalled for, so I fought back. I tried to be rational, saying things like, “the first step in being your own boss is saying you want to be your own boss,” but my brother is a good arguer and he kept repeating, “okay, but you’re still being narcissistic” to everything that I said.
Our cousin sat there, quietly, as our conversation grew in intensity and then suddenly I killed it by shutting down and saying “I don’t know” to everything, my eyes fixated down at my breakfast burrito. “You don’t understand, never mind, I don’t know,” like Lil Wayne did in that video of him getting questioned by a lawyer. I was tired and annoyed at being called narcissistic and I figured my brother just didn’t and wouldn’t relate.
If you dream big and aren’t willing to work for it, I feel like that’s being entitled, narcissistic, delusional. But if you work hard for it, I feel like that’s a fair way to think. I don’t know, I don’t even really like myself that much so I can’t believe that I’m narcissistic.
My second relationship was a complete disaster. It was during my junior year of high school and it was with a Korean girl that I fundamentally did not connect with; she was extroverted and bubbly and I was a brooding piece of shit back then. I didn’t like her friends, specifically one friend of hers, Emily. Emily and I were in the same chemistry class, and she would always tell my girlfriend, “Zach’s so creepy, he always makes weird faces at our table from across the room.” Which I did, but still.
I would always ask my girlfriend, “why do you hang out with Emily?”
And my girlfriend would say, “I know Emily is shallow, but she’s just like, fun to be with, you know? Like we both LOVE Christofer Drew and we laugh at the same things and we’ve been best friends since like eighth grade.” But I hated the fact that my girlfriend was best friends with her because of what it suggested about my girlfriend.
One night, on the phone, I just kept dissing Emily to my girlfriend. “She’s like one of the most shallow people I know,” I said. “I don’t even get why you hang out with her.”
My girlfriend got fed up and responded, “okay well not everyone has a superiority complex like you Zach! You think you’re so much better than everyone…”
Then I said, “wow are you serious…that’s a complete misunderstanding of everything I’ve ever told you” and then I hung up in anger. I called her back 5 minutes later and we both apologized and made up, she took it back and I took back what I said about Emily.
I was thinking though, and the reason why I might have come across like that back then wouldn’t have been because of a superiority complex but rather insecurity. I compensated for how badly I felt about myself by clinging to the things which made me different than others, my interest in books and art etc, and holding them in higher standing than the things that other people liked.
I would never say that stuff about someone like Emily today, or even say that she was shallow, because what does that even mean? She just had different interests in me. Thinking you’re better than other people for any reason is one of the weirdest/most unattractive traits in a human being.
One time in college my girlfriend and I were hanging out in her dorm room. We fell into a low dark conversation and I said something like, “I feel like I just don’t feel attached to anyone, or I’ve accepted their deaths already so I don’t get hurt, or something.”
She said, “see that’s the difference between me and you, I feel like I could never think like that. I don’t know Zach, one time I got really high and went to my room and I wigged for like an hour because I started reading Wikipedia about sociopaths and then I got convinced that you were one.”
I protested, and she was quick to point out that she didn’t actually think I was a sociopath. But she qualified that by saying, “you’re just like, really detached, and you don’t get certain things about people…I’ve never met someone as detached as you before.”
But honestly I don’t think I’m any of these things. I was just really socially awkward/unintelligent as a kid and it shows sometimes to people who know me well, like a tumor on my inner thigh. They interpret it the way they interpret it, but I’ve gone a to a psychologist and my record’s clean.
All my other friends who I’ve told these stories to have laughed, and assured me that there’s nothing wrong with me. I talked to my friend Aaron and he said, “Trust me, you’re not a sociopath. You’re one of the most mentally sane people I know.” But maybe Aaron never said that, maybe Aaron doesn’t even exist, maybe my psychological record isn’t clean and I’m making all this up because I am a sociopath and I don’t want you to know it.
How would you be able to tell?