253. Diagnoses

An old friend, JN, visited today – all the way from Holland. During dinner, consisting of pizzas, in the bedroom/Jay’s room, he confided that he had tested himself for Asperger’s. The result was ‘positive’.

I had long felt that there was indeed some kind of ‘block’ in his social skills, which is one of the factors used to ‘measure’ Asperger’s.

I’ve also long been a no-fan of fuzzy BS diagnoses of behavior, esp. since these are so much shaped by the current medical regime and the values of the times.

But still … he had a point. And more importantly, he felt he had a point himself and that this insight at least gave him some better understanding of the cause of problems on the workplace and in life in general.

He is married with three kids and has had several jobs. So JN is by no means an outsider in ‘regular society’, although he is currently without a job. But again, I guess that kind of evaluation borders on the fuzzy …

In any case, after he went back to his uncle where he stayed during the Denmark trip, I found myself wondering what this changed about our friendship.

The answer is, of course, that it doesn’t change anything. The part of our relation that is strong because we have something in common, particularly our values, remain. The part that is weak, I suppose, does not change, and it is to do with how much we like to communicate and share from our lives, at least long-distance (by email, for example).

But I accepted long ago that JN was a bit of an introvert, and it didn’t make it less good to be with him (and his wife and kids) when we were together in realspace, from time to time. We have been to Holland. They have been to Denmark. We see each other about once a year on average. And then work on a little app-project together. And discuss politics from time to time by mail, but that is about It.

Giving yourself a diagnosis, and sharing it with close relations – friends, family – can be a dangerous thing. It can lead to all sorts of assumptions about something vital changing in the relation, or fears.

But in this case nothing really changes, except perhaps our level of understanding. We have a new angle to explore, but what was good is still good and what lacks still, well, lacks. And I don’t need any friendships to be perfect on all accounts so those ‘lacks’ are just nuances that make for a more interesting picture.

I never expected JN to be so communicative as myself, esp. on social matters, emotional matters.

And yet today he just did, in a very personal way, in a very trusting way. He may have done it in his usual dry, somewhat professorial manner, without overt display of emotion. But that doesn’t masque what was underneath, and what kind of trust it took for him to confide this matter to us – about himself.

And that is what matters. Not the diagnosis. In fact, I’d say the diagnosis that supposedly describes ‘why’ he is socially introvert or whatever just gave an opening for us to have a closer and deeper friendship.

And the world still turns …