Jun 20, 2012 0 Share

The Big L

Man sitting alone on bench at dusk.

For many Aspies, that's loneliness. 

In a MAD Magazine satire, a character says “I don't need anything ... or anybody!” The guy next to him asks him something like, “So how do you feel?” The first guy replies, “So lonely I could die!” 

Well, for many years that was just the literal truth for yours truly—right down to that last part. 

Even to this day (which I do realize I'm lucky to have lived to see) I ask myself, more often than I'd like, “Why can't I have more friends, like everyone else?” (Note to self: Try not to OD on people's group Facebook photos. Or their Wall posts and comments describing their fun times together.) 

When I read about top high schools actually asking seniors—and their teachers and counselors—not to publicize which colleges have accepted them, to avoid hurting the delicate feelings of those who didn't get into Harvard or Yale or Brown (all of which rejected me, by the way) or wherever, I have to laugh and shake my head. Never mind that we're talking about places including Horace Mann and Bronx Science—if you go to school there, you already beat the odds (not to mention many competitors). 

I'm living proof that even if everyone else enjoys acceptance and personal affirmation beyond your grasp, and parades it every day like it's nothing—which it is to them of course—you might even find a way to survive. 

Memo to some of the top high school kids in New York: Grow up, gird thy loins like the men and women you like to think you've become, and get some perspective! You are spoiled brats who know less about suffering and rejection than my dog does. And I haven't got a dog. 

Meanwhile, yes I know that no friendship is always smooth sailing, and sometimes friendship entails sacrifice, conflict and even breakup. 

Depending on how I'm feeling, sometimes that sounds to me like telling a kid with leukemia that everyone else gets a sore throat and runny nose once in a while, and some people even get the flu. 

Then a little voice pipes up: No, Jeff, in your case it's not leukemia, you self-pitying disgrace. More like lung cancer after decades of smoking four packs a day. 

Counterpoint: Either way, leukemia or lung cancer with good friends and most people liking you may be better than what we've got now! 

If all this sounds like an echo from years and decades ago, to some extent it is. Way down deep inside this happily married man, multiple-time Toastmasters officer and father-to-be is still the desperately and inconsolably lonely, sad and frustrated child, adolescent and young man.