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Part of it is the mechanics of communication - I'm really shy, I don't like telephones, I can never think of what to say to keep a conversation going, so they peter out. But that not knowing what to do next happens on a larger scale as well; I don't know how to keep a relationship going any better than a conversation, so it eventually fades out even if I don't do something to fuck it all up.
I don't know how much of my shyness is autism, how much is anxiety, and how much is just the personality I was born with. I think a goodly slab of it is learned aversion, too. When doing something leads, over and over again, to unpleasantness or discomfort or actual pain, you tend to not want to do it any more. That's why we spray water at cats when they jump on the dining table. So when an autistic person's reached out and tried to interact with other people over and over again, and for their efforts have been bullied and ostracised and taken advantage of, called a retard and a freak and told to fuck off and die, I think it's only natural that they'd be leery of trying again.
For all my alleged high-functioningness and the fact that I've interviewed people for a living, I suck badly at conversations. I just don't know how to keep them going. Interviews aren't like conversations; they have a specific point (usually) agreed by both parties, there's a clear separation and understanding of the two different roles, and they generally follow a fairly predictable path regardless of the subject matter. Conversations, on the other hand, are unpredictable and fluid - particularly the really scary ones where it's you and some stranger at a party or in a lift and they start talking at you and then you have to make words come out of your face in exchange or they'll think you're a bitch or a halfwit. It's some of the hardest, most stressful work I've ever done. I can't fathom that people do it for fun.
Being on the phone is even harder, for me, because you don't know what the other person's doing when you ring so you don't know if you're interrupting lunch or a blow job or a funeral or if you're going to wake them in the middle of a really awesome dream and then they'll forget their dream because of you. Plus you can't see the other person, so you don't know if they're rolling their eyes or flipping you the bird or holding the receiver away from their face and mouthing "it's this fucking arseclown again!" to the person beside them.
On a broader scale, I tend to be very timid at relationships. I don't like to make the first move, because I'm never sure if someone does actually like me or if I just like them and want to think they like me back but actually they've not even noticed me or even actively dislike me. (and I do just mean like in the liking sense, not 'like' like, because I don't do that.) Again, it's a learned defensiveness thing. The hand that doesn't reach out, doesn't get shat in.
A big part of it too is just exhaustion. I haunt a couple of online forums, but don't often post. I've got into the habit of read them late in the day when I'm tired, and while I have the energy to read, I don't have the energy to formulate coherent replies. The same thing happens with some emails - they get filed under 'too hard, I don't have the energy for this now', and some of them stay filed there for days or for weeks or forever.
And part of it, I can't explain at all. It's one of those autistic things that there just are no words to describe. Sometimes it's just... no. Too many clouds and strings and it's all too loud and fuzzy and there are no handles.
I do genuinely like people (sometimes), cherish the friends I have and wish I had more. I care about people, both ones I know and ones I don't, sometimes so much it hurts. I have a lot of love to give, and a lot of it gets poured to my cat and fictional characters because people are just so damn hard.
It's difficult. Really difficult.
But I do want to be friends.