Tuesday, January 29, 2013

A Chosen Identity

We had the pleasure of a house filled with loving friends a couple of weekends ago.  It was an impromptu gathering that began with the mention that I was cooking, and ended up with a small herd.  Some were among "our regulars", others were first timers.  Among them were a college aged guy and gal we've known casually for a couple of years now.  They fit right in with our "island of misfit toys".  Ours is an eclectic group.  The single thread that unifies them is that they are ours.  

The young lady who was new to our gatherings expressed an interesting concern to me.  She'd heard much about Nathan from the couple they came with.  She was worried about whether Nathan would like her or not.  To say I was touched was an understatement.  I didn't have the heart to tell her what I was thinking:  "Of course he'll like you.  You're hot!  Being sixteen and male trumps Asperger's all day every day!"

Fast forward to the following Tuesday, and our first trip to school after the MLK holiday.  Because our "visitor" was concerned, I discussed our little party with Nathan.  "Did you enjoy your time with her?"  "Yes Dad.  She's a nerd like me."  "How do you know she's a nerd?"  "She likes superheroes and other nerd stuff like I do Dad."  That settles it.  She's a nerd too.

I did my best not to laugh.  He sees himself as a nerd.  He's not Nathan the Autistic, or Nathan the kid with Tourette's, or even Nathan the gentle giant.  He's Nathan the Nerd.  He likes his chosen identity.  I could tell that discussing it made him quite happy.  If he's happy, I'm happy.

Nathan's view of himself has concerned me for a number of years now.  He refuses to talk about whether he understands that he's "different" or give many hints that allow me to quantify his understanding.   The topic surfaces in interesting ways from time-to-time, mostly as a need to know that we don't see him as somehow inferior.  It dissipates as quickly as it surfaces, and he's done with the topic.  I successfully suppressed a laugh at his chosen identity.  I also managed to keep from staring at him in wide-eyed wonder.  He seems to dislike the two equally.

Nathan has chosen an identity that he likes and that has nothing to do with those things that make him "different".  We may all live through this after all.

Not to worry MDW.  You're all good in Nathan's world.

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