People half my age are getting married in the frum (religious Orthodox Jewish) community. I think the daughter of our neighbour just got engaged (there’s a party going on there at the moment and I can’t think what anyone would be celebrating on an evening in The Three Weeks except a vort (engagement)), and certainly the son of someone from shiur (religious class) just got engaged today. Both must be in their early twenties at most, perhaps even late teens. It is hard to feel happy for them, although I try. I just feel that I really missed that boat. I feel simmering resentment and loneliness, which is irrational (it’s not like they’re the reason I’m not married) and unpleasant. I try to feel happy, but I can’t. I’m expected to feel happy for everyone else, but never for myself. It’s not like anyone is even trying to set me up with anyone. This is why I feel resentful when people praise the closeness and supportiveness of the frum community. It never seems to support me.
I know I’m supposed to challenge my negative thoughts for CBT, including my “I’ll never get married” thoughts, but the evidence in favour of being single forever seems a lot stronger than the evidence against, even though I doubt I could convince my CBT therapist, not least because one needs a detailed understanding of the frum community to understand just how broken I would be considered, which my therapist doesn’t have. Women in the frum community could reasonably expect me to pray with a congregation and study Torah a lot more than I do as well and any woman wanting a family would require a more substantial income (or any income). More than this, my experiences with my friends – those who have stayed friends and those who have given up on me, often angrily – has shown me that only someone with issues similar to me own and who is willing to see me as a source of support for herself as well as being someone she would have to support could bear to be with me for a prolonged period. This seems unlikely to happen, based on past experience, and even if it did, it is doubtful that two people with serious issues could afford to marry each other.
A theme of today has been, “What is weird?” At CBT I spoke about feeling weird while doing my CBT homework (asking for help in a shop and shaking hands with and talking to the rabbi after shul (synagogue)). I felt somewhat weird doing the first of these (because the shop assistant didn’t understand what I wanted) and perhaps the second too (because I felt I wasn’t responding to him the right way). My CBT therapist felt that the other people involved would probably not have seen me as weird. She said my homework in coming weeks will involve doing things that will deliberately make me seem weird, so that I can see it is nothing to worry about. This reminds me of the yeshiva in nineteenth century Lithuania that used to send its bachurim on foolish errands, like asking for eggs in a hardware shop, to teach them not to care what other people think about them.
I’m not sure how I feel about this. When I’m in therapy, it seems fairly logical that I’m not particularly weird and that other people are mostly too preoccupied with their own stuff to care about me or even to really notice me. Also that I have no objective evidence that I will never get a job or get married. But outside of therapy I feel objectively weird and that my autism makes me objectively weird. Plus, it seems there is a lot of evidence that I will be unemployed and single forever, but that my therapist disallows it because it is (I admit) somewhat circumstantial rather than full-blown logical PROOF that would stand up in court. Who cares if it stands up in court? It’s enough to make me miserable even if it is circumstantial.
Maybe it even feels like a choice: I can get over the depression with CBT or I can be diagnosed as autistic (and therefore objectively acknowledged as weird), but not both. I want to get over the depression, but I feel I am on the spectrum and should be diagnosed as such. Does that make me weird?
The therapist had a better point saying that worrying about being unemployed and single doesn’t actually achieve anything and is pointless.
When I was growing up, a lot of people said I was weird, some to my face. It became part of my self-image. Even people who did not call me weird directly (e.g. adult authority figures) tried to socialise me out of behaviour that I would now consider normal autistic behaviour, making me feel that if I was “just myself” I would be seen as weird by everyone and I would have to change to fit in.
However, all this said, I still feel that I am objectively weird, at least within my community. I think it is objectively weird in the community to accept evolution and an old universe, to think the Zohar was not written by Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, to watch Doctor Who and especially to care about it enough to write a book about it. Some of these things might be permissible privately, on a small scale, but doing/believing all of them is pushing things. For example, I remember a shiur a few years ago where there was an argument of sorts between the rabbi and some of the congregants over whether tzedaka (charity) should only be given to Jews or to non-Jews too. I felt that people disagreed a bit here, although the rabbi was pretty adamant in his view, but to dissent on other things, or too many things, was not right. I don’t know how to explain this to my therapist.
Related to this, I just watched episode three of I Claudius. I’m enjoying it more now that Claudius is an adult in the main part of the story and not just the framing narrative. I empathise with Claudius, who stutters, twitches and limps as well as seeming clumsy and stupid. He is advised to continue doing this to avoid seeming like a threat in the literally murderous imperial court of Rome. I don’t do all of those things, but I empathise with being the outsider who is seen as weird and unmarryable. At the end of the episode, he gets married. As he and his bride stand up to be blessed by the priest, everyone bursts out laughing at the fact that she towers over him. I could hardly watch it, it felt so painful and real to me.