(There’s a cliche in the UK about children watching Doctor Who from behind the sofa because it’s so scary, at least for a family programme. For Doctor Who fans, that’s kind of the litmus test of genuine terror.)

I didn’t blog yesterday as not much happened. Today I had weird dreams, overslept and went into a panic about Shabbat (the Sabbath) and the Yom Tovim (Jewish festivals) in the next few weeks. I did some work today. I’m working from home on Monday, but I worried about oversleeping and not working enough, so I thought I would do some work today and tomorrow, but it’s been a bit of a rush. I’m about to do a little bit more, although I won’t do much Torah study today. I might have to leave writing next week’s devar Torah (Torah thought) until Thursday evening. I usually like to have it almost finished by then, so I can just proof-read it and send it, as I’m usually tired from work, but I can’t see how I’m going to get the time. I do at least know what I’m going to say (unlike the week after).

I am going to the rabbi’s house tonight for dinner. I’m a bit nervous about this, although I surprised E by saying that I’m usually OK talking to rabbis without additional social anxiety from their position, just ordinary social anxiety of talking to anyone. I’m not sure why that is, probably because I’ve been talking to rabbis from a young age and I know they’re just people, usually with a corny sense of humour. Usually quite laidback too. I know some people who leave the frum (religious Jewish) community complain of strict upbringings (or abusive upbringings, which is something else entirely), but most frum people I know are laidback, often surprisingly so. I find it’s hard to get frum people to commit to things because they often have a “Whatever, we’ll work it out eventually” attitude. This always seems at odds with how I think religious people should behave, which is precise and even a little anxious. Maybe this is something to do with trusting in God that everything will work out. Or maybe it’s just my Yekkish background. Yekkes (German Jews) are stereotypically precise, punctilious, and the only Jews who are remotely punctual. I’m actually only one-eighth Yekkish, but I feel a strong affinity for the stereotype.


E found me an article on autistic burnout! It doesn’t say much I didn’t already know, but it’s useful to show family and it’s reassuring to be told that it’s “a thing.” It’s unclear on the thing I’m unclear on, which is the extent to which autistic burnout is a short-term thing triggered by a few hours of that can be alleviated by a few hours of rest and sleep or a long-term thing somewhat like depression that sets in after weeks or months of stress and can last indefinitely. My feeling is that it can be both, but I don’t think everyone agrees.


After I saw my rabbi and told him about my autism, I sent him the article I wrote about being autistic in the frum community. He really liked it and asked if I would like him to circulate it in the community. I’m not sure what I feel about that. I can see pros and cons. I don’t have time to list them in detail (maybe next week), but I can see big pros in starting a conversation about autism and neurodiversity in the local community and maybe finding some more understanding and support at shul (synagogue). On the other hand, telling literally everyone in shul seems scary and awkward, and I could end up defined as “that autistic guy,” at least for a few years until I become defined as “that frum author who writes a lot about sex.”

14 thoughts on “Behind-the-Sofa Scary

  1. My mother (not Orthodox) told us when we were young about how all the Orthodox families were always perfectly ready for Shabbat, the tablecloth was pristine white and perfectly set, the children were clean, helpful, and well-behaved, and there was a sense of perfect calm going into Shabbat. (I think she had an agenda.)

    I repeated this to my now husband and Orthodox mother-in-law first time I came for Shabbat and they laughed in my face because getting ready for Shabbat in their house was always crazy – everything last minute, nobody calm, everyone in a manic, mad rush. Just another example between what I thought frum Jews would be like and what frum Jews were actually like (and of course there is a huge range – plenty of frum Jews go into Shabbat like my mother’s idealistic vision).

    Enjoy dinner at the Rabbi’s house! Shabbat shalom!

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      1. There was this frum community Yahoo group for my area (this was like 2010 or something), and one woman was very passionately trying to convince other women to be “chatzot ladies” with her and be ready for Shabbat at chatzot rather than candlelighting/after the 18 mins. Apparently, this is supposed to be more spiritually desirable. But I have no idea how much this caught on!

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  2. That stereotype seems like it fits Germans, period. Although I hesitate to rely on stereotypes, there are reasons why they exist. That’s wonderful that you’re dining at the rabbi’s and that he was impressed with your article. I would think about whether you want it circulated though; as you noted, there are pros and cons. Personally, I think the pros outweigh the cons, but I’m not the one dealing with the repercussions.

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  3. I know the feeling of burnout that just won’t go away. I’m going through something like that right now. I have lots of vacation time due at work and my boss keeps reminding me I should take some time off. But I know that taking time off won’t help. Within an hour of my first day back I will be feeling exactly as I do right now. So I will have fallen behind on my work for no good reason. Fortunately, I have a project to think about that will be using a different part of my brain for a while — and which doesn’t involve interaction with other people.

    I don’t remember watching Doctor Who from behind the sofa. But my mum loves to tease me about how I would hide behind the sofa whenever someone I had a crush on was on TV. One such crush was Gerry Marsden of Gerry & The Pacemakers (gawd knows why.) I would have been really little then.

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