Friday, September 23, 2016

Autism In Love

Disclaimer: this movie included some language and phrases I didn't appreciate. But it was just too moving not to share. Also, spoilers!

I didn't know what I was going to get with this documentary. I came away from it caring for all the subjects. I even felt like three were my close friends while a fourth was myself.

The Subjects:
Lenny (Leonard) - raised by a single mother, currently lives with mother & stepfather.
Dave - parents were not in the video. He has a scientific geared mind.
Lindsey - father was interviewed. She leans toward creativity.
Stephen - oldest of the group. He lives independent of his parents.

Lenny graduated high school a while back and does not have a job. He spends time playing video games, at diners, at the park, and talking to friends.

Dave & Lindsey met at an Autism convention in 2005. They were at 8 years dating when the documentary began. I'm not sure if they live together since Dave mentioned "she tucks me in at night." (That could go either way.) Dave works in physics. I'm not sure about Lindsey but office friendliness seems valued. Her coworker/employer was pleasantly surprised by her social adaptation level.

Stephen works the U.S. Postal Service. He does some kind of systematic work, which sounds relaxing. It seems like he is more interested in the work than the social aspect.

Love Life:
Lenny is single. He has one ex-girlfriend. But she wanted to make things more physical than he was comfortable with. Lenny also has a range of beliefs about romantic relationships that I don't necessarily agree with.
1) A man must have a job - I see the value but it's not a rule breaker to me at the beginning of dating. Courtship though is another matter. And if he loses the job, do they break up?
2) A man must make more money - honestly I'd love for the money to be pouring in and me to never have to move an inch. But I also believe in moderation and not working just for the money. If the man is stressed just to make a dollar more, is it worth it?
3) Women shouldn't pay for anything - while I appreciate the principle there and the natural, inborn desire men have to take care of their own, I don't agree wholeheartedly. Men should be able to pay for most. But to me a grown, adult woman should be able to pay for most, too. My general rule when someone else is paying for me, "if I couldn't afford it, I can't get it." However, the beauty about relationships, romantic or otherwise, is complementing each other. If both want to go out but won't pay the same amount, should the decision be affected by which gender they are?
4) Overall, a deep seated belief of inequality - men crave respect & women crave love. We aren't exactly the same. Those aren't the only things we need though. Men need love & women need respect, just not as intensely on the norm.

At 8 years dating, friends wonder why Dave & Lindsey aren't married yet. I personally don't think it's that long to date for a couple who both have a diagnosis that involves difficulty in developing relationship and communicating. They are so adorable.

Dave gives a beautiful math or science (as if I fully understand it academically) formula for love. L + P + 2T = % of love. L is for looks and physical attraction. But love has to last past those 3 years of lust so next is P for personality. The most important is how they treat you, so 2T. A person who rates high on based on their treatment of you has a better chance than based off of looks and personality alone. This is how Dave knows he is in love with Lindsey. Especially because the feelings have lasted 8 years.

Lindsey says despite not fully understanding each other, they make room for their routines and rigidity. They have been through a lot and their love is proven by remaining together. Lindsey faces love more emotionally than Dave. She knows she's in love with him because she wants to go at a pace comfortable for him even if it's not best for her. Lindsey feels that valuing the other person is love.

Stephen got married in the early 1990s. He lived with his wife, Edith, for 17 years until she was diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2010. She had surgery and has been in a different town recovering since. She has medical ups and downs. Stephen isn't very verbal so I couldn't gather how much he knew about his wife's condition. His mother said he hopes for the best and believes Edith won't die. He remembered all the dates, even what he said when they met. Stephen said he knows he loves her because he cares for her. He wants to kiss, hug her and wished her the best. Awwwww!

Other struggles in the film:
Lenny was obviously suffering from depression. He felt less important than his peers who are in college or have graduated from there and moved on to jobs. He was unhappy with his diagnosis and its affect on his life. Lenny's self esteem very low. As a result of this, at one point he went to a mental hospital due to concerns that he would harm himself.

Lindsey was trying her hardest to be content with what Dave was able to give her. However, she didn't feel assured of his love. They had discussed marriage a few years prior. She pretty much promised her acceptance whenever he was ready to propose. But Dave hadn't been ready before and during the documentary. It increasingly became a topic. Up to the point, that he went ring shopping.

Edith died in 2013. Stephen was asked if he was still in love with her. He said "no. When a person dies, you can't hug or kiss them anymore. So I'm not in love with her." I translated that as the romantic love has ended but he still loves her and treasures the memories. I don't know if that's correct or arrogant of me to assume, but I just don't think he could verbally express it. That doesn't mean he couldn't feel it though, which was the position the concept of the documentary took.

Lenny has a job at a grocery store. He seemed much more content with his life. I wish we got a closing interview with his mother.

Dave proposed to Lindsey! In a way that was perfectly them! She's teaching him piano and I couldn't have fangirled more.

Stephen is back at work after a few months. His parents said it was good for him to be back to a routine. While he was affected greatly by his wife's death, his ability to talk about her was encouraging. I don't know how long had passed when the interviewer asked. And I don't know if his way of communicating made it seem like he was coping better than he was.

My reaction to the subjects:
I hope Lenny continues to grow in self-esteem. Like his mother said, he's awesome. He just needs to realize it. I hope he learns that relationships, romantic or not, don't have to follow a rule book. That it's okay to write your own story.

Lindsey felt like a future me. She knows that she is struggling. But she faces it head on, bravely. And when she mentioned necklaces make her feel protected, like she has a barrier between her and the world, I realized that's how I feel about accessories, hair, and makeup. I'll give people something to talk about as long as it's superficial and not something that I'm self-conscious about.

Dave was amazing. I don't get science and math, probably because I tell myself that. But I could almost always understand him. I appreciated how blunt he is. I know that's a characteristic of the diagnosis but it felt like it was more of a characteristic of his, regardless of ASD. Excepting Lindsey, I feel like everyone always knows where they stand with him.

Stephen is how I wish I could be. He spoke when people are "supposed to". He can hold a conversation. He can convey his feelings partially and those who love him fill in the rest. I'm sure he has had difficulties in his life especially in the "olden days of heightened prejudice" and while dating. But as much as we can say that being unable to share your thoughts and feelings is a bad thing, there's a slight plus. No matter how much people push, they're only going to get so much out of you. With a person on the Autism Spectrum, any more gained is an indescribable joy. But as someone who can't stop talking, even when my thoughts and feelings really don't need to be shared, I'm slightly envious. The grass is always greener on the other side.

No comments:

Post a Comment