a woman and man sit on opposite sides of a bed. Both look distant and upset as if an argument or misunderstanding has happened.

Jalisco Never Loses: Autism, Loneliness, Relationships, & Learning to Lose6 min read

“Jalisco never loses” is a phrase that alludes to a person who never admits to having lost.

Editor’s note: Originally pub­lished in Spanish at Mi Cerebro Atípico, a col­lec­tive of autistic voices pub­lished in Spanish. Republished with per­mis­sion from the author, Barbara Herrán. Translation and editing by The Aspergian.
What’s the hardest thing about being autistic?

The loneliness.

You can be 41 years old and be “well-adapted,” and even have the hateful* title of “You Don’t Look Autistic,” and you’ll still be ter­ri­fied of lone­li­ness and iso­la­tion every day of your life.

Yesterday, I cried again in fear of lone­li­ness, but this time I was able to stop and reflect on what had trig­gered it:

Jalisco never loses.

Yesterday, my hus­band and I talked for more than three hours about the rad­ical posi­tions in fem­i­nist activism, a hot topic on which we did not end up agreeing. We moved from one issue to another and ended up talking about our way of com­mu­ni­cating.

The con­ver­sa­tion, which this post is about, went more or less like this:

Him: “But you don’t have to talk to me like you’re walking on eggshells.”

Me: That’s not true, even when I’m talking to you, I have to be careful not to step on my own eggshells. For at least the first two hours, I was careful not to use any of the exam­ples avail­able to me from my con­tact with the world of autistic activism because I know that the sub­ject of autism exhausts you and the con­ver­sa­tion would be over very soon if I intro­duced it.”

Him: “That offends me,” he said with a tone of voice, that while he was not aggres­sive, he was stri­dent and dis­tant to empha­size his being offended.

Me: “How can it offend you to be told that I like talking to you so much that I’m careful not to wear you out so we don’t stop talking?” I asked him as I felt a huge knot growing in my throat. Tears threat­ened to flood my eyes, and my brain was spin­ning at a thou­sand rev­o­lu­tions per second intensely looking for the exact spot where I HAD BEEN EQUIVOCATED, and I prac­ticed a bil­lion ways of explaining to him that I had not intended to offend him and all the thou­sands of pos­sible tex­tual com­bi­na­tions to say it CORRECTLY.

My fear was increasing, I was waiting for the classic dis­cus­sion in which the other person defended him­self (attacking of course), where I would try to explain over and over again how that was not what I wanted to say, and I tried with each of the pos­sible com­bi­na­tions of words that had occurred to me. I’d do all of this in despair, trying to be under­stood. That unfail­ingly always ended with a direct accu­sa­tion that I changed what I had said to make excuses, that I did not know how to lose, and that I was not taking respon­si­bility for my words.

Another person who would not want to talk to me again. Another person who would believe that I was Jalisco, and that my con­ver­sa­tion and pres­ence did not enrich his life.

Once again the lone­li­ness, the lone­li­ness after enjoying intensely and briefly the joy of having met someone who per­haps would love me.

I had tried so hard for that person to enjoy their con­ver­sa­tion with me, so much, but so much… and I fucked up anyway.

No matter how hard I try, I’m always going to screw up. And I’m always going to be alone.

Cue the shutdown.

It hap­pens to me every day of my life, with every person in my life. People in my life are like comets: they approach me like a promise of warmth, they know me and bother me, and burn me, and then they move away loudly and deci­sively, leaving me even more aware of my imma­nent soli­tude.

I began to think that it was wrong to be wrong, that I had to be per­fect in every­thing else, that it was the only way to make up for it. I had to do more, try harder, have more, study more, work more. I had to prove that I was worthy– if not affec­tionate, at least to be con­sid­ered a valid human being: “You don’t love me, but at least I’m con­ve­nient for some things.”

People with social dis­abil­i­ties are obliged to show that we are useful for some­thing, because not even affec­tion redeems us.

It doesn’t redeem us because every day they tell you that you are some­thing that is wrong, that you are offen­sive or harmful, that you are hurtful, and so it is not pos­sible to con­vince your­self that someone is going to love you, not even your par­ents.

Do not try to change your stripes, because you learn that no matter how many hours a day you strive to speak their lan­guage and under­stand their cus­toms, sooner or later you’re going to screw up– and they will not believe you when you tell them that you were trying so hard, because for them, it is easy.

You learn to be sad and to stay away from people. You learn to be afraid of them and to dis­trust everyone and every­thing. You learn to be quiet, iso­lating your­self even more.

Up to that point, the con­ver­sa­tion had taken place just as all my con­ver­sa­tions with other people have taken place. Fortunately for me, my hus­band is an incred­ible man.

With my hus­band the con­ver­sa­tion ended like this:

Him: What do you mean when you tell me that, “You do have to talk like you’re walking on eggshells when you talk to me”?

Me: That I have to do the con­scious and con­stant exer­cise of thinking about the way I say things and mod­er­ating the inten­sity of my inter­ests when I talk to you so that you don’t get tired and we can talk longer.

Him: For others, having to talk to someone “like you’re walking on eggshells” means you have to speak care­fully because the other person has an aggres­sive atti­tude toward you and could easily be trig­gered be explo­sively angry. And you know the autism thing is wearing me out because it’s some­thing I need to LEARN, and it’s tiring to learn, right? It’s not that I’m not inter­ested.

Me: “I know,” I replied, and for the umpteenth time I asked him to never, ever, stop being a part of my life.

I wish every autistic had someone like my hus­band, someone who has the active will­ing­ness to listen and hear them:

- Someone who makes a con­scious effort to remember that we speak dif­ferent lan­guages, espe­cially when it comes to meta­lan­guage** in its social form.

- Someone who makes a con­scious effort to remember that we love them and that we are trying as hard to accom­mo­date them as they are trying to accom­mo­date us, and that nothing is fur­ther from our inten­tions than to hurt them, even when they are deeply sen­si­tive to what­ever we have said.

- Someone who makes a con­scious effort to listen to what we have to say instead of auto­mat­i­cally becoming offended, to give us the oppor­tu­nity to rethink our dis­course to one that does not lead to mis­un­der­stand­ings.

- Someone who strives as hard as every autistic I know strives.

When every autistic in the world has at least one person who lis­tens actively… I will stop thinking that the word INCLUSION is a rude and cruel joke.

*Yes, “you don’t look autistic” is a hateful title, it is because it denies you sup­port and under­standing.
**Metalanguage is the com­mu­ni­ca­tion trans­mitted by the into­na­tion of the voice and other vocal com­po­nents of speech that do not depend on the words pro­nounced.

The Aspergian
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  1. Many males, regard­less of whether or not they are NT or ND, are touchy about behav­iors and objects that they think may indi­cate they are less mas­cu­line. Has nothing to do with whether or not it is so in reality, as the same things that will trigger denial, anger, changing the topic, and/or other defen­sive behav­iors are okay in front of men and not in front of women, regard­less of the rela­tion­ship. And vice versa. Things that trigger those reac­tions when in front of other males, don’t nec­es­sarily trigger the same reac­tion when dealing with women. In mixed com­pany you can some­times trigger a melt­down in an NT if he gets caught in the middle of this.

    Being a man is a big thing to men and boys, and it is usu­ally never made clear to men and boys as to what all con­sti­tutes being a man. The bound­aries get to be a guessing game, and NTs can be cruel to their own kind when they guess wrong.

  2. Yes, it is tiring to learn!

    Your hus­band is incred­ible because he leans into his tired­ness and his learning.

    And it is tiring and con­tentious to be vul­ner­able — to walk on eggshells and have other people walk on theirs and yours until they don’t know any more.

    “When every autistic in the world has at least one person who lis­tens actively… I will stop thinking that the word INCLUSION is a rude and cruel joke.”

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