No sooner had I published my next to last post (the last one dealt with mesothelioma, not with Asperger’s), than I received another comment. This time they took issue, not with the post, not with Ryo, but with me. For not teaching him better.
In that post I bemoaned the fact that I had not gotten my message across. The comment showed that I still hadn’t.
The comment was the usual criticism that Ryo had done wrong and if he had one quarter of a brain he could have figured out that he was doing wrong. Or at least have been able to agree with his accusers that he was wrong in pursuing Miss M.
Ryo had an IQ in the genius range, but with a big disadvantage in a neurotypical world. It was not a neurotypical brain. It just plain worked differently from what neurotypicals are used to.
For most of his life he didn’t realize this problem. In the beginning, he didn’t even know he was different. When he caught onto that, he still didn’t know how or why. Nobody had heard of Asperger’s until about the time Ryo reached adulthood. One psychiatrist somewhere along the way happened to mention that Ryo had some autistic traits, but even the good doctor didn’t know how it all added up.
Ryo knew he had Asperger’s before I did. I had never heard the term until he diagnosed himself. I did know he fancied Miss M but that was all I knew about it until the whole thing blew up. After all, it was between him and Miss M. It didn’t concern me, so he didn’t talk about it or ask my advice. He simply proceeded on his way, believing he was right and it was the other people who didn’t understand.
Recently I came across a copy he had given me of a letter he wrote to the woman who was to conduct the hearing they planned for this case. The full letter runs to three pages. I am reproducing only sections of it here.
“I came to realize that my relations had been damaged not only with Miss M but also with H and J, two people whom I held in the highest regard and whom I thought of as friends. Over the next several weeks, I alternated between deep despondency about my ruined relations with my three coworkers and a hope that I could win back their esteem and trust.
“Toward the end of March, EC sent around a notice about an upcoming concert. As he had done on one or two prior occasions, he addressed the email to an exclusive group consisting only of J, H, Miss M, and me. I was at once honored to be counted as part of such an exclusive and estimable club, and guilty that I was the reason it was essentially a lie. I also felt bad about the possibility that Miss M’s lingering uneasiness about me might hinder her full social integration into “our gang.” Prior to the troubles, I had noticed that Miss M kept to herself and rarely, if ever, joined coworkers for lunch or walks. I attributed this to shyness and perhaps to financial difficulties, but assumed that with time it would change. But now I worried that I myself, because of my terrible behavior a few weeks earlier, was an obstacle to the development of Miss M’s social bonds with her coworkers. I therefore decided it was time to break the ice, and made a gesture that would demonstrate my belief that she could function as part of the same social group to which we both seemed to belong.
“Of course, it is now quite evident that she—and everyone else—felt that the communications of late March were a continuation of the earlier behavior. To my mind, it was different because my earlier correspondence had been needy and desperate, begging for a dialogue to work out an apparent misunderstanding. Now I was proceeding from the observation that I had screwed things up so badly that all I could do was start over from scratch and let my coworkers know that I had nothing but positive feelings and was looking forward to building friendships.”
To a much earlier post on the same topic, I received the following comment:
What this story really illustrates is how a simple misunderstanding between two people from different “cultures” (Ryo, an aspie and Ms. M, a neurotypical), can escalate into tragedy. Everyone has heard the expression “the road to hell is paved with good intentions” and here is an example. Ryo was behaving in a fashion that, to him, was perfectly proper. He was trying to make amends for the offense that his past actions had inadvertently caused. He did not see himself as a stalker. His co-worker, coming from a different perspective, felt threatened. From her point of view, men that persist in trying to speak to a woman after they have been told to stop, have bad intentions. The real shame is that this whole episode was “criminalized” whereas a process of mediation might have brought the two parties together and advanced the understanding of both.
Not only did Ryo not understand, he never thought things were as bad as they were. All during his suspension and the trial, he talked about “When I get my job back . . .”
In the end, he didn’t get it back. Instead he lost it completely. This left him jobless and still confused as to exactly what happened. How could his hopes, his whole future, be wiped away so easily?
He spent a year looking for another job. He traveled to Washington, DC, thinking he would do better there. But the U.S. was in a recession, and he had left his previous job under the cloud of “sexual harassment.” There was no one to write a glowing recommendation for him.
Finally he gave it all up and took his life.