Am I missing something?

Since my wife and I both have autism, sometimes we misunderstand each other; sometimes we get the wrong end of the stick; and sometimes we are simply incapable of understanding the other’s point of view.

I live with my wife; I have kids with her; I spend practically every waking moment with her; but after the conversation I just had with her, I’m pretty sure she lives in a parallel dimension where up is down and black is white, or I do. I have no comprehension of what just happened.

She rushed into the lounge, her face aglow with excitement. ‘I’ve just realised something,’ she said.

‘Oh, yes?’ I replied, eager to hear what it was.

‘You know the alphabet? If you count seven letters above A, you get H.’

‘Yes.’

‘And if you count seven letters above B, you get I.’

‘Uh-huh.’

‘Well, if you count seven letters above C, you get J.’

I waited for more, but no more came. ‘And?’

‘Well isn’t that amazing?’ she said.

‘Isn’t what amazing?’

‘That if you count seven letters up from A, B and C, you get H, I and J.’

I frowned. ‘Still not seeing the significance.’

Her smile fading, as though talking to an idiot, she said, ‘Seven letters above A is H.’

‘Yeah, I get that.’

‘And seven letters above B is I.’

‘Yeah, and seven letters above C is J. So what?’

She sighed. ‘You’re not getting this.’

‘No, I’m not. Seven letters above A, B and C are H, I and J. Why is that significant?’

‘Look,’ she said, starting to lose her patience. ‘If you put the numbers A to G in a line, and then on the next line put H to N, all the letters on the second line will be seven in front of the letter above.’

‘Yeah.’

‘Well, that’s amazing, isn’t it? I just figured that out.’

‘You figured what out?’

‘That H, I and J are seven letters ahead of A, B and C.’

‘I’m still not understanding why that’s significant.’

‘Because, like, mathematicians could make algebraic equations out of it.’

By now, my frown was so deep my eyebrows had merged with my moustache, and she got even more annoyed.

‘What?’ she said. ‘You knew that seven letters in front of A, B and C are H, I and J, did you?’

‘Yes. I don’t get why this is news to you.’

‘Because H, I and J -‘

‘I know,’ I said. ‘They’re seven letters in front of A, B and C, but so what? Why seven? What’s the significance? Do they spell something out? Do they mean anything?’

‘No, but seven letters ahead of A, B and C are H, I and J.’

‘So what? Three letters in front of A, B and C are D, E and F. Four letters ahead are E, F and G. What’s interesting about that? What the hell are you talking about?’

She was very cross by now. ‘I’m talking about how, if you put the letters A to G in a line -‘

‘I know! The second line are all seven ahead! So what? Who cares?’

‘You’re just not getting it!’ she cried.

‘No, I’m not, because you’re not explaining it, you’re just repeating it!’ I cried back. ‘Why seven? If you make a line of three letters, the next row will all be three ahead; four letters, they’ll all be four ahead. Shit, we don’t even need letters. Three in front of 1 is 4; three in front of 2 is 5. Look at your phone – every number on the second row is three ahead of the first row. Who cares? Why exactly does it matter!?!’

‘Because if you choose a letter and go seven ahead, and pick the next letter and go seven ahead of that, they’re next to each other!’

‘Of course they’re bloody next to each other! If you go ahead any number of letters, from one to twenty-four, they’ll be next to each other! Twenty-four above A is Y, twenty-four above B is Z. So what?’

‘You just don’t want to admit it’s amazing because you didn’t come up with it.’

‘Come up with what? That some letters in the alphabet are ahead of other letters in the alphabet?’

‘No, that seven letters above A, B and C are H, I and J.’

‘But that’s not – that doesn’t mean anything.’

‘Not to you. I think it’s quite a profound idea.’

By this point, I wanted to rip off my own arm and beat her over the head with it. ‘That’s not profound. It’s not even an idea. That’s saying what you see. The sky is blue. Who cares? That’s half an idea. You need to say, the sky is blue and therefore. You have to provide significance. Meaning. Like, neo-Nazi organisations often put 18 in their name because 1 and 8 are the letters A and H, which stand for Adolf Hitler. Or, it’s called the alphabet because the first two letters are alpha and beta. That’s interesting.’

‘Well, I’m still pleased with myself for coming up with it.’

‘Well, you go and be pleased, then. I’m going to try and figure out what planet you’re on, because it definitely isn’t mine.’

And, try as I might, I still can’t figure out what the hell she was on about.

Am I missing something?

5 thoughts on “Am I missing something?

    • I definitely heard Laurel, even trying to hear Yanny, I could only hear Laurel! But there again, I was only ever able to see a blue and black dress…

      The weirdest one I’ve come across is by Rhianna, where the same line sounds like two completely different phrases depending on what you’re expecting to hear (warning: Not Safe For Work due to swearing):

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  1. You have such a great writing style – it really made me laugh…was that the intention? I don’t get your wife’s point either but I suppose in life there are things that get one person hyped up or excited which another just has no interest at all. Earlier in the conversation, you could have said “oh cool” or “interesting” and left it at that but then you wouldn’t have written the article and made me smile 🙂

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    • Hi, yes I had hoped it would spread some amusement! I still don’t know what she was So excited about and I’m too scared to broach the subject again! Think I’ll leave it as one of those mysteries of marriage…

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  2. Hi Gillan, I suspect that you failed to appreciate the excitement she felt for ‘discovering’ something that she had previously never considered. By effectively belittling her ‘discovery’ I believe you were inadvertently allowing your ‘greater’ intellect to patronise her, minimising her excitement and therefore alienating her from yourself.

    This may be uncomfortable to read and, if you are anything like my autistic self, will cause you to tend towards feeling guilty. Don’t go there!

    I was diagnosed in my mid-forties with Asperger’s. I was an engineer but somehow found myself teaching Mathematics, Computing, Technology and Physics to 11 – 18 year olds. Here, I discovered the enormous benefits of celebrating every success, every exciting discovery, however small in my mind. For me, as a natural explainer, and incidentally a strength for many Asperger folk, this was a logical step to help young people to understand my very thorough, and sometimes long, teaching expositions.

    The benefits of this understanding went further than teaching my students . I was able to develop better relationships with my own children, and adults, through this understanding. My 11 grandchildren love me with all their hearts and this is something of never dreamed possible thirty years ago.

    This simple understanding has been the biggest driver in my live and most successful ‘rule’ I have had in dealing with the schism between my understanding of social ‘reality’ and the actual reality. Celebrating others achievements, however small, helps you to share in the positive life experiences of others and Asperger folk can only gain from that simple acceptance. In time, our positive reactions become almost NT automatic and this brings me joy as I share in somebody else’s.

    We all need to be praised for our successful steps in life, however small. Failing to do that, whether we think it is ‘logical’ or not, WILL breed resentment from one and an increasing lack of respect from the person who puts them down. This will spiral into unworkable relationships.

    I am 62 today and am reflecting on many things that I have experienced over those years.

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