Autoblography Part 3: Welcome to Kindergarten

By Shamus Posted Monday Aug 29, 2011

Filed under: Personal 277 comments


It's the first day of kindergarten, and I am terrified. September 1977. That green thing is a name tag, which someone has fastened to my shoulder instead of the front of my shirt. It rubs against me and pokes me in the face all day, but I never try to move it. I mean, I guess it’s supposed to be on my shoulder for a reason, right?

Yes, those pants are ridiculous, even by the fashion-deficient standards of the day. This actually becomes important later.

Being born at the end of August, I am very near the age cut-off date for starting school. I could either have began school in 1976 and been the youngest kid, or wait until 1977 and been the oldest. Mom looked at my social skills and concluded that I needed another year. And so I begin my school career at age six. Even with the slight age advantage, I am still unprepared and unable to relate to the other kids.

As I enter the classroom, I see jumping balls for the first time. You know, these things:


I am transfixed by them. There are only three of them available, and we're only allowed to play with them for a few minutes at the beginning of the day. By the time I arrive at school, other kids are already using them. I’ll usually stand there by the play area, hoping someone will just… I don’t know… offer me one? Or something. I don’t know how this works. What are the rules? Everyone else seems to know how to get a turn.

Do I ask? Maybe I should ask.

“Can I use the… bounce… ball? Those things over there? Can I use those?” I ask nervously, pointing. The teacher, like all non-Mom adults, terrifies me. She’s about the same age as grandma. (Fifty-ish.)

“Of course,” she says, slightly annoyed. “Go ahead.”

I return to my spot beside the play area, but nobody offers me a turn.

One day I come in to find one of the balls unattended. Hands shaking, I get on and begin bouncing. It's wonderful. How high can you go on this thing? I've always wondered, but I never see any kids going for height. They just bound around in a circle. Can you go fast? How long can you bounce?

“My turn!” says a little girl.

I stop bouncing and look at her. Is she talking to me?

“My turn!” she says again.

My face goes red with embarrassment. I was taking her turn! I didn’t know it was her turn. I don’t know how this works! Nobody explained it to me. How do you get it to be your turn? I get off the ball and sit down. I never try to use them again. I don’t want to be stealing people’s turns, and the whole thing is simply too stressful for me.


“Shamus! Go wash your mouth out with soap!”

I look up at the teacher. I have no idea what to make of her demand. I don’t know what I did wrong or what I said. I have never heard of such a thing. She’s never said this to any of the other kids, and I don’t know how to respond. I stare at her and wait for clarification.

“Go!” she snaps.

There’s a little private bathroom adjoining the classroom, so that the kindergarten kids don’t need to use the public restrooms designed for the bigger kids. I go in and shut the door. There is a bar of soap here. I look at it and try to make sense of what the teacher is saying to me. I know soap tastes bad, and that I don’t want any in my mouth. I decide to stand in here for a few minutes, and then come back out. Maybe she will have forgotten about it by then.

I open the door and peek out. She’s preoccupied with another student. I slip out and return to my seat. She sees me.

“Did you wash you mouth out with soap like I told you?” she demands.

I nod. It’s a lie. This is the first lie I remember telling. She accepts my word on the matter, at least enough to stop bothering me with this mouth-washing business. It never comes up again.

We sit at tables, in the same seats every day. At my table is another boy. Across from us are two girls. In the middle of the table is a coffee can full of crayons. One day when the teacher gives us some work, the boy snatches the can away and hugs it to his chest.

“Hey!” one of the girls protests. “Give those back!”

“Only if you kiss me!” he grins.

Wow, really? That’s a strange thing to ask for. I've never heard of such a thing. But the girls giggle when he says it, so… I guess he said it to amuse them? The next time we need crayons, I snatch the can away and demanded a kiss.

“Eww!” says one girl.

“No way!” says the other.

I release the can and nudge it away, red-faced. I’ve somehow messed up. I didn’t even want a kiss. (Why would I? Ew!) But I can’t figure any of these people out. I didn’t know the rules, or why they find some things funny, or what things make them happy. I'm just trying to fit in through imitation. I want to get along with them the way they get along with each other, but I can’t seem to make it work.

This shot is a little more candid, and the expression on my face is probably a lot closer to what I was wearing for most of the day.  It wasn’t until I scanned this picture that I noticed all the little details. I assume that’s Mom’s reflection on the right, taking my picture.  Check out those cars. Sure, they were ugly as hell, but they made up for it by being heavy, which helped us all get rid of all the extra gasoline that nobody knew what to do with.
This shot is a little more candid, and the expression on my face is probably a lot closer to what I was wearing for most of the day. It wasn’t until I scanned this picture that I noticed all the little details. I assume that’s Mom’s reflection on the right, taking my picture. Check out those cars. Sure, they were ugly as hell, but they made up for it by being heavy, which helped us all get rid of all the extra gasoline that nobody knew what to do with.

We’re learning our numbers. The teacher explains to us how to make each numeral. At one point she says, “Five is like an upside down two, except… blah blah blah.” Five is like an upside down two? Interesting. Is there a reason five is like an upside-down two? Is there a relationship between these numbers? I wonder if any more numbers are like other numbers, except upside down?

Sometime later (Days? Weeks? So hard to get a sense of time at this age.) it is discovered that I am making my fives wrong. She sits down with me and tries to straighten me out. She has me make a five. Remembering her instruction, I carefully reproduce an upside-down two. She draws a five for me. Has me look at it. Then I draw another upside-down two. Then she makes ANOTHER five, has me trace it, and then I make another upside down two. She gets more and more angry each time. My hand is shaking. I just keep saying to myself, “Upside-down two, upside-down two” as I draw the numeral. I know this is what she wants. She said so. I guess she she doesn’t like how my curve is kind of… not very neat. I try each time to make it better and better, and she grows increasingly irritated with me. “Look!” she snaps, “Just like THIS!” I’m red faced and frustrated. I don’t know what I’m doing wrong.

Eventually I am sent to a special class. I still don’t know why. (Nobody ever tells me anything. They just tell me to go places.) Once a day I leave the other kids and go to a different room. A small room. Sometimes I’m the only student. Sometimes there are one or two others, although they’re not from my regular class. One day I am given a special test, using a machine*. I finish the test and the teacher doesn’t explain to me what what was being tested, why it was being tested, or how I did. It’s just a random thing I had to do for no reason.

* It wasn't a computer, although someone from a later decade might glance at it and think it looked an awful lot like an Apple II, except the “keyboard” was just a row of eight buttons. The screen wasn’t a CRT, it was a projection, like a slide viewer.

Despite this, the machine captivates me. It reacts when I press the buttons. The image changes. It prompts me as the next image appears. It makes no judgments and I can intuit what I need to do just by looking at it. Unlike these confusing people that tease me and laugh at me and make incomprehensible demands of me, this machine has discernable rules. It’s unlike anything I’ve encountered in my life. Like a TV, it has information. Unlike a TV, it responds to my actions.

I use the machine only twice in the school year, probably at the end of some sort of evaluation period. But the device captivates my thoughts every single day. It's a long walk from my regular classroom to the area where my special class is held, and I always spend the trip wondering, will I get to use it today? Oh, I hope I hope I hope…

Man, if only I could use that machine every day. That would be the Best Thing Ever.


From The Archives:

277 thoughts on “Autoblography Part 3: Welcome to Kindergarten

  1. Jack says:

    Wow, this reminds me scarily of High School – trying to fit in through doing the same crazy things other people do, then being called a weirdo. Eventually I realised that, being a Geek anyway, taking up RPG’s would be the way to go and joined a group. Hopefully things get better soon in your story.

    1. Gravebound says:

      Same here. The most vivid remembrances were the looks of absolute disgust and revulsion the girls would give me ANY time I said ANYTHING. Looks of pure, undiluted hatred. Thanks, girls, for my current awkward conversations with any female, wondering when I’ll say something and triggers “the look.” (I think they grow out of it mid-twenties when they realize being vapid and bitchy isn’t a worthwhile life-goal.)

      1. Mari says:

        To be fair, you boys weren’t exactly bastions of acceptance either as I recall.

        1. kmc says:

          Yeah, seriously. I used to go into sixth grade every day (having been quite a lot like Shamus and gone to school with the same people for five years already at that point), and the popular boys had decided that my best friend and I should now be called Fido and Odie. I don’t remember which was which. So they pretty much used to shout that at me whenever I walked past, in between trying to do things like stand at the water fountain while I was drinking and trying to steal a kiss when I looked up. I naturally assumed the goal was to then go around and tell everybody that I liked them and that it was completely gross. To this day I don’t think I’m wrong. However, I think it’s interesting that many adult males still think it’s acceptable to blame “women” or “girls” for their social problems and geekhood, when I’ve never heard a single adult woman be anything but glad she went geeky. I’m not going to apologize as though I’m the cause of your problems, and I’m not going to think of you as the cause of mine. And please don’t call all under-twenty women bitches until you’ve met most of them, which it sounds like you’re not comfortable enough to have done.

          1. Lord Nyax says:

            That was…uneccesarly hostile and a little cruel. Can’t we all just agree that humans, in general, are very cruel to those they find different or weaker/less popular than themselves?

            1. Heche says:

              I think it was the appropriate response to a guy who’s willing to denigrate an entire chunk of the population just because of their age and gender based on his poor experiences.

          2. Gravebound says:

            “I'm not going to apologize as though I'm the cause of your problems”

            Well…uh…nobody said you should? (unless you went to my high school :P)

            “And please don't call all under-twenty women bitches”

            I’d just like to say that bitchy, to me, is not the same as calling someone a bitch (it’s like bitch-lite). But, in my experience, ALL of the teenage girls I knew were vapid, and yes, look-down-their-nose-I’m-better-than-you-how-dare-you-breathe-my-air bitchy. No geek girls anywhere at my school; they were all shooting for popular, date-a-football player status. I lost three female friends between middle school and high school because it was no longer acceptable for them to be seen talking to me.

            “And please don't call all under-twenty women bitches until you've met most of them, which it sounds like you're not comfortable enough to have done.”

            FYI, that sentence: incredibly bitchy.

            1. Octal says:

              Okay, here’s what’s wrong with what you just said:
              *Explaining how the nasty, insulting thing you said is slightly different from the thing kmc paraphrased you as saying doesn’t actually make it any less nasty or insulting.
              *”Bitchy” doesn’t mean something substantially different from “bitch”. It’s just a different form of speech. It’s nitpicking in the extreme to say that when you say a woman is being “bitchy” (i.e. “acting like a bitch”) you don’t mean that she actually IS a “bitch”. It’s also missing the point.
              *You just called a woman “bitchy” for criticizing your use of the word “bitchy”.
              *You’re the one who said you’re not comfortable with women and that your interactions with women are “awkward”. Why do you think it’s wrong for someone else to mention that?
              *”Well…uh…nobody said you should?” But you did blame an entire demographic that includes her for your problems interacting with women. Generally, when you blame someone for something, that carries an expectation that they’ll apologize or somehow try to make up for it. You don’t actually have to say “this is your fault and you should apologize for it” for that to be true.

              1. MrWhales says:

                All of you stop nao. I’m trying to get to the good commentary on the actual post and not a whine-fest.

              2. Simulated Knave says:

                So saying “you’re being silly” means that I think someone’s silly all the time? “That was a stupid thing to say” means I think someone’s stupid all the time?

                Damn. I’ll tread carefully from now on.

                Of course, since I’m evidently the only person who realizes that when using “girls” as a form of address it doesn’t necessarily refer to every woman in the history of the world, I’m probably insane anyway.

              3. Atarlost says:

                Gravebound’s use of the term is normal in some circles. Not exclusively male circles either.

                Bitch has shifted in meaning when not delivered as a direct epithet. Except in rap music for some reason where it retains its strongly pejorative meaning because of the misogyny of the subculture.

                Bitching, as it was once explained to my by one of my sisters, is incessant complaint, essentially a synonym for kvetching used by those who don’t speak Yiddish. And while I’m not aware of a “kvetchy” construction if there were it would mean the same thing as bitchy apart from the lack of gender restriction.

            2. Gale says:

              The funny thing is, I get worked up when people say things like Ccesarano did, below, but when I hear the kind of shit you’re saying? Completely nonplussed. The subtle stuff can be insidious, y’see; it can contribute in unpleasant little ways, when you might not even think it’s that big a deal. On the other hand, you’ve quickly made it clear that you’re nothing but a grouchy ol’ misogynist, so I don’t even need to worry that somebody might accidentally take you seriously. Good times.

              1. Neil D says:

                Pedantic post of the day: “Nonplussed” means “perplexed”, which (unless I’ve completely misunderstood) I don’t think you meant.

                1. Gale says:

                  …Bugger. I can’t believe I’ve gone this long without actually knowing what that word means! Good catch, thanks for pointing it out.

                  1. Neil D says:

                    Glad to be of service! For what it’s worth, I think most people who use that word think that it means “unimpressed” or “unsurprised” (including, at one time, me). So it’s very easy to pick up the wrong meaning by correctly interpreting the context in which it is being used.

                    1. krellen says:

                      I think, before too long now, ‘nonplussed’ will actually mean what we all use it to mean. We’re far enough removed from the roots of the language that we no longer see “plussed” as meaning “informed”.

                2. Nathan Sanzone says:

                  In North American English, a new use has developed in recent years, meaning “˜unperturbed'””more or less the opposite of its traditional meaning: : hoping to disguise his confusion, he tried to appear nonplussed . This new use probably arose on the assumption that non- was the normal negative prefix and must therefore have a negative meaning. Although the use is common, it is not yet considered standard.

          3. ccesarano says:

            However, I think it's interesting that many adult males still think it's acceptable to blame “women” or “girls” for their social problems and geekhood, when I've never heard a single adult woman be anything but glad she went geeky.

            Note that the following is amateur sociology based on observation and personal experience and is in no way taken as a factual belief, just theory.

            It seems to me that there’s less pressure for women to “act normal” in society as a whole. Any time I’ve seen a woman confess some level of geekitude, people are accepting (especially when surrounded by guys who all read comic books, or play video games, or watch anime, or are obsessed with fantasy/sci-fi, etc.). They may do the whole “God, I know, I’m such a geek” thing (even when discussing something as simple as being a major fan of LOST, a successful mainstream show on a mainstream network), but the typical reaction is either a bunch of guys that are suddenly that much more interested in speaking with her, or another geeky girl in the room suddenly has another woman to go and geek out with.

            The typical background of such women tends to be “I always got along with guys better than girls” and, from the girls I’ve known, a tendency to have a mother that just wishes they’d be a “normal” girl for a change.

            Interestingly enough, alpha-female competition in a group of geeky women is often different than typical female cattiness. It is often enough toned down and perhaps less back-stabby or dramatic. Possibly more subtle.

            Being a geeky guy is different, though. Even my other male friends that I talk video games with or some such joke about taking away my man-card because I don’t know one car from another, or could care less for sports, or whatever male thing is going on lately. Basically, it’s still shameful to be a geek.

            This has been made worse as my brother and sister apparently really want me to start dating again, and one of the top things mentioned is I “need to stop talking about video games so much”. It’s basically a forbidden topic when it comes to talking with women to them. Yet I find this an unfair assessment, as 1) I tend to be approached by friends in public situations to discuss games, and 2) I still find it complete crap that anyone can discuss any of their passions, but video games are still a no-no. There’s other baggage to this that I won’t go into.

            So from all angles I’m still feeling public pressure from society that being a geek is bad, whereas I’ve seen society welcome the she-geek with open arms. Add the additional problem that male geeks are in no shortage, yet I’ve gotten used to most interesting she-geeks having a 75% chance of being taken and in a relationship, making dating awfully troublesome. Even worse, how does one approach a geeky woman and set himself apart from every other geeky guy that has approached her?

            So it seems it would be a lot easier for a female to be glad she is a geek than a guy. Of course, honestly, I love being a geek. It feels like I’m in a community that just has something no other does, and going to conventions only feeds that love. Did society somehow force me to be like this? Well, if it did, I give my thanks.

            (Sorry for the entire tangent, this sort of topic tends to be one of many I put too much thought into).

            1. Gale says:

              It seems to me that there's less pressure for women to “act normal” in society as a whole.

              Uh-huh. Is that so. Then why does this:

              The typical background of such women tends to be “I always got along with guys better than girls” and, from the girls I've known, a tendency to have a mother that just wishes they'd be a “normal” girl for a change.

              Sound so damn similar to this:

              Even my other male friends that I talk video games with or some such joke about taking away my man-card because I don't know one car from another, or could care less for sports, or whatever male thing is going on lately. Basically, it's still shameful to be a geek.

              You compare a man not being interested in sufficiently manly things, and having his masculinity questioned as a result, with a woman being interested in insufficiently womanly things, and having her femininity questioned as a result, and you somehow conclude that having the same interests is tougher for men?

              It seems easier to be a woman and have unusual interests because you’ve only ever seen the male side of the equation. And instead of even wondering if women have similar experiences, your first assumption is that it’s just that much harder for men.

              Oh, and this is a real gem:

              but the typical reaction is either a bunch of guys that are suddenly that much more interested in speaking with her, or another geeky girl in the room suddenly has another woman to go and geek out with.

              You think this is unequivocally a good thing? You think this is what acceptance looks like? You don’t think that maybe she doesn’t want to suddenly have a bunch of (often socially awkward) men crowding around her, all filled with the hope that finally there’s a woman who won’t find them creepy because of their hobby?

              You don’t think that the whole reason the other “geeky girl” in the group is so excited to find another woman to geek out with, is exactly because it’s not a barrel of laughs being in the middle of a bunch of men constantly making dirty jokes about her and all secretly hoping to get in her pants one day, but she has to put up with it because it’d be hard to find another group of people who share her interests, and even if she did, they’d probably be just as bad as this lot?

              Do you think that it’s a coincidence there are so many more men than women in such groups? You don’t think that the huge gender imbalance might have anything at all to do with the fact that being involved in geeky stuff is harder for a woman, in part because of social pressure from other women admonishing them for not having a feminine hobby, and in part because of the ingrained atmosphere of misogyny that such fandoms so often have?

              I confess. I haven’t approached this from a completely unbiased perspective. I already knew that this:

              It seems to me that there's less pressure for women to “act normal” in society as a whole.

              Was bullshit, from the moment I read it. It didn’t really matter what anecdotes you offered to support it, I knew I’d be arguing against them, whatever they turned out to be. This is because, instead of taking my own experience as a man and drawing conclusions about what it’s like to be a woman from that, I’ve talked to women about what it’s like to be a woman. About the little social cues and memes that I have not grown up being taught to recognise, and thus do not immediately see. About the expectations women are expected to live up to, the standards they’re taught to conform to.

              You are a man. You do not know what it’s like to be a woman. Thus, if your experience leads you to an idea you want to discuss (such as “I haven’t seen women experiencing the same problems I have, vis-a-vis having uncommon interests”, for example) you phrase it as a question. You say “This is my experience, what can you tell me about yours?” You do not say “This is what it’s like being a man, while this is what it’s like being a woman; it’s tougher on men, right?”

              You want advice about being more attractive to geeky girls? You could try harder at not saying sexist things. That’d be a start.

              1. Alex the Elder says:

                Your abusive tone discredits you and your opinion. You will never convince anyone, no matter how correct you are, as long as you talk like that. Venting and persuasion are not compatible activities.

                1. Octal says:

                  Whoops, where have I seen this before? That is a pretty low threshold for “abusive”, too.

                  You’re also wrong. Venting and persuasion are not incompatible. Just because you’re not convinced by something doesn’t mean that nobody else ever would be; some people don’t even realize something matters until they see someone get angry about it.

                  1. Alex the Elder says:

                    Venting and passion are not the same thing. The latter propels your cause; the former denigrates your audience. You can tell which is which by what you’re focusing on. Watch cable news sometime – the network you think is a conspiracy to stupefy and take over the country (flip a coin if it’s both of them) – and see whether the shouting and namecalling change your mind about anything.

                  2. Simulated Knave says:

                    It was very persuasive. I was persuaded that while ccesarano is somewhat misguided, Gale’s got a chip on her shoulder and looks for excuses to get it knocked off.

                2. Gale says:

                  Oh sure, I could be polite. I could meet a short-sighted statement with courteous disagreement. I could validate casual sexism by treating it like a reasonable perspective. I could imply that the harm inflicted on women by the relentless body-policing and misogynistic gender-essentialism our society constantly subjects them to isn’t plain and clear and evident, that their pain is up for fucking debate.

                  Or, I could get pissed off. I could make it plain as day that some guy being the butt of a few jokes among his buddies is not even in the same order of magnitude as the constant pressure on women not just to be “normal”, but to be impossibly perfect. I could make it absolutely clear that it doesn’t matter how politely it’s phrased, or how gentle it is in tone; sexism, on any level, is not remotely acceptable, and does not deserve your patience or your kindness.

                  It’s the little things that support the big things. I will not stand for either.

                  1. Alex the Elder says:

                    Those are the only possibilities you can think of? Arguing from data, using the words of the person you’re addressing to invert his own point and guide his thinking, building understanding rather than crushing dissent, these things never occur to you? Rereading your previous post, you do do some of that, but first one has to wade through the insults, and the natural human response to attacks is to put up defenses.

                  2. Simulated Knave says:

                    Because, of course, dismissing people’s problems because they’re not as big as your problems is awesome in the other direction. It doesn’t create angry people at all. I mean, you’re not angry, right?

                    1. Shamus says:

                      Yeah. This thread isn’t headed anywhere that will be entertaining or edifying.

                      Let’s just drop this and move on.

                  3. Aelro says:

                    While you are right in that ccesarano cannot know how easy or hard being a woman is claiming the reverse and diminishing and dismiss any male problem as “being the but of a few jokes” is equally sexist.

              2. SyrusRayne says:

                I like you.

            2. Jeysie says:

              Add the additional problem that male geeks are in no shortage, yet I’ve gotten used to most interesting she-geeks having a 75% chance of being taken and in a relationship, making dating awfully troublesome. Even worse, how does one approach a geeky woman and set himself apart from every other geeky guy that has approached her?

              Er, wow, I wish I lived where you did, because around here, us geek girls never got approached by geeky guys at all. Every geeky girl I was friends with had the same problem; we were all boy-crazy but couldn’t get a date.

              Getting male friends, sure, that was no problem. But guys never asked us on dates, and if we asked a guy out it was always the same thing: “You’re a nice girl, but I don’t like you that way.” And all the guys I asked out were fellow geeks like me, so it wasn’t a case of just being mismatched.

              It wasn’t until I turned 28 that I finally met the second person ever willing to go out with me. (My first was when I was 16, lasted only a month, and was doomed to fail from the start.) And it ended up being another geek girl instead of a geek guy.

              And when it comes to non-romantic things, while I’ve never gotten outright picked on for being a geek, I am always treated oddly. When I was a teenager, I was the token geek of the group with the “odd hobbies”. When I got older I turned into… the token geek of the office group with the odd hobbies. I even once had a coworker tell me that I “shouldn’t put myself down like that” when I told her I was a geek, and when I told her no, I liked being a geek, was convinced it was a sign of low self-esteem.

              So… yeah. My experience as a geeky woman has been that we’re not so much accepted as it is that the dismissal we get just happens to be more low-key.

              1. Alex the Elder says:

                From what I know of my fellow male geeks, it’s not that they don’t WANT to go out with you, it’s that they have no idea how – how to ask, how to conduct a date correctly, how to express precisely the correct level of romantic interest to come off neither cold nor creepy, etc. A lack of social skills is one of the defining traits of geekdom – a geek with smooth, polished social skills isn’t a geek, he’s a multimillionaire.

                1. Jeysie says:

                  If guys didn’t ask us out because they were scared, then they sure were stupid, because all of us were so boy-crazy and desperate that “Hi, I think you’re cute” probably would have been enough for us to be incredibly interested.

                  And it’s pretty obvious that the guys I asked out didn’t want to go out with me, as “You’re a nice girl but I don’t like you that way/think of you as a sister” isn’t the sort of thing you say because you’re scared, it’s what you say when you’re not interested.

                  As it is, whenever it’s claimed that women have their free pick of partners and it’s easy for them to attract men, and that geeky girls are particularly desirable, I’m never entirely sure if I should call BS or if that means I’m a freak. Just that my experience is that I couldn’t get a date any more than geek guys say they can, and often was given the same sorts of rejection lines.

                  1. krellen says:

                    I wish I could meet these women that actually have the courage to be the ones to do the asking. Having to make all the overtures yourself gets really exhausting when you’re introverted and geekily inclined.

                    1. Grampy_Bone says:

                      I was at a school dance with a friend who kept saying this same thing. “Why do we have to be the ones to ask girls to dance? Why can’t they approach us?”

                      Five minutes later, no joke, this girl walks up to him and asks him to dance. He says no immediately and she slinks off all hurt and rejected. I ask him why he didn’t want to dance with her and he says sheepishly, “oh she’s not my type.” The girl was pretty cute by my standards. What a dumbass.

                      Ladies, you have my deepest sympathies.

                    2. Armagrodden says:

                      In middle school a girl asked me to go to a school dance with her. I actually did like this girl, and had been advertising that in the clumsy, possibly creepy way that I was wont to use. At that moment my brain locked up, and I was so terrified because I had no idea what comes next that I turned her down. She ran away crying and her friends looked at me (rightly) like I was a horrible person. I sometimes wish I could take that moment back, if only so that she wouldn’t have to wonder what she’d done wrong or why I was rejecting her.

                      I guess what I’m trying to say is there’s no extent to which a woman could meet me halfway that my own cowardice and social maladjustment couldn’t mess up (and in fact, I think my subconcious takes it as a challenge). So I echo Grampy_Bone’s sympathies (and if Jen Bailey is reading this, offer my deepest apologies).

                  2. Grampy_Bone says:

                    I’m going to go ahead and say that the idea that being nerdy makes women dislike you is completely imaginary. Guys like to seize up this one area of their lives and then play the victim and feel sorry for themselves rather than face a possibly painful truth. I can honestly say that I’ve never had a woman pursue me or reject me because of my love of D&D. Attraction just doesn’t work that way.

                    I was dating this girl who had a “best guy friend” who hated me, said I was a loser, completely wrong for her, etc. I told her he was probably in love with her, to which she replied, “Yeah I know.” I asked her why they had never dated and she rattled off this whole list of reasons, one of which was “He plays a lot of videogames.” I laughed and told her *I* play tons of videogames, in fact I bet I was a bigger gamer than he was. She shrugged and said, “Yeah but you’re different.” I asked how I was different and she said, “You just are.”

                    People don’t know what they are attracted to. Not really. And men are no better here. Whenever a guy says he wants a geeky girl, that statement should have an asterisk at the end and a footnote that reads: *by “geeky girl” he actually means “geeky supermodel.”

                    The first three things a man notices about a girl is her looks, then her looks again, followed by her looks. After that comes her attitude and how she carries herself, and then in a way distant sixth place comes common interests. Having similar hobbies gives you more things to talk about, but your biology doesn’t care. It’s strictly optional.

                    When a male rabbit meets a female rabbit he doesn’t go, “Hey do you like lettuce? Wow! Me too!” They just smell each other’s pheromones and get busy. Humans are the same way, but somehow its considered impolite to say so.

                    1. Jeysie says:

                      Maybe that explains why men constantly end up with wives who hate their hobbies and treat them like crap instead of being intelligent and dating women who accept them for who they are.

                      Though I feel like looks can’t be that big a factor. At the risk of sounding catty, I’ve seen girls just as plain-looking as me that still could attract boyfriends. On the flipside, some of my geek girl friends were quite pretty and still couldn’t get a guy.

                    2. Will says:

                      The term “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” is very much a literal statement. Different people have different standards of beauty. Personality is also extremely important; a girl who is seen as outgoing and fun is much more likely to have men interested in her than one who is seen as quiet and withdrawn, or one who is seen as an asshole. The same rules apply for men too.

                      Note that when i say personality i don’t mean ‘who you are deep down in your heart’ or anything like that, i mean the impression you give people after talking to them for five minutes.

                    3. Adam says:

                      Grampy’s being overly simplistic in the extreme, but he’s not wrong about his basic point.

                      I’ll add that one of the reasons Grampy might have got on with that girl instead of the guy is that he might be a well-rounded individual.

                      Look: video games are pretty ubiquitous now. There is nothing special about being somebody who likes video games and has the latest equipment.

                      Whether that’s a mark against you has more to do with whether that aspect of your life is part of a well-adjusted, well-rounded persona, or if you instead actually identify yourself as a “gamer” or “geek” – i.e. advertise this stuff as somehow an integral part of your identity. Which, yeah, can definitely and I feel legitimately be unattractive to others, even creepy depending upon how integral it is.

                    4. Jeysie says:


                      It wasn’t a problem with personality on the part of me and my friends. We never had problems being friends with guys; we just couldn’t get guys to like us. And one geeky friend in particular was not only pretty but very fun and cheery in a bohemian sort of way. I always thought it was absolutely nuts she couldn’t get a guy. (And in retrospect I think I probably had a crush on her I just didn’t recognize as such at the time. My girlfriend reminds me of her in several ways. Anyhoo.)


                      So I guess I’m the only one who finds geekiness attractive? Part of why I love my girl is because she’s a geek like me, so we actually understand and enjoy (or at least appreciate) each other’s hobbies and personality. Or is looking for actual compatibility just a woman thing? I swear you men confuse the heck out of me when it comes to romance. You don’t seem to have any logical consistency/patterns.

            3. Mari says:

              OK, I have to say this because I’m a geek girl, raising two other geek girls who are now in their teens. It is not easy to be a geek girl. It is in fact quite as difficult and uncomfortable for girls as it is for boys. There was intense pressure for me to conform from pretty much all areas of my life. My family didn’t get why I couldn’t be appropriately interested in cheerleading and sports and makeup and nails and things. My peers so completely ostracized me that I spent my final 7 years of school in total social isolation. My ONLY social outlet was the people at the gamer store or at SCA events, most of whom were adult geeks.

              As far as dating and geekiness, I never found being a geek all that helpful. Maybe the guys were that much more interested in me but they sure as heck didn’t show it often. And believe me, I was desperate enough to take ANY sign. When guys did tend to notice me it wasn’t to ask me out to dinner and a show, if you know what I mean. Of the 4 whole men/boys I actually dated, two were abusive predators who were less interested in my geek cred than the fact that I was socially isolated, hungry for affection, and had “victim” written all over me. The other two, I had to make the first move. Repeatedly. In a highly aggressive manner.

              Now, watching my daughters grow up as even bigger geeks than I was (a lot of things I didn’t discover until later in life such as anime and manga are everyday parts of their life) I’m seeing them be even more isolated from peers. They’re mocked for their love of anime/manga, ostracized for their ability to play video games which don’t involve glitter or ponies, taunted for reading fantasy and/or horror literature, you name it. One of my kids spent three years being called a “witch” and a “voodoo priestess” by most of her classmates for doing a book report about a fantasy novel (“A Wrinkle in Time” no less). Boys in her class refused to touch classroom materials after she had touched them because they might “catch the Japanese.” The other kid has, since early elementary school, been the recipient of “don’t speak to HER, she’s WEIRD!” to the point that she literally has NO friends of either gender. When new kids at school attempt to ignore the general warning, they become targets of similar ridicule until they give up their misguided attempt to be nice to the weird kid. She was friends for a while with a boy who ignored the social stigma. It didn’t end well, though, because she beat him at a video game a couple of times and he not only stopped speaking to her, but started rumors that she’s – I’ll avoid using the word that’s been tossed around at school here – of an alternative sexual orientation.

              1. ccesarano says:

                I want to say thank you, Mari and Jeysie, for being much more civil. I know a lot of people don’t like being told they are wrong, but I love talking to people with different life experiences from me so I can learn. This is a tough sort of topic to discuss with other people, and I figured Shamus’ blog would be a more welcoming place to do so.

                For Jeysie, I think location may play a big part of it. At my College, I saw plenty of nice girls my freshman year become massive attention whores and huge teases by time I was graduating. Others that weren’t attention whores just didn’t seem to care one way or the other about who they were friends with or what the gender ratio was. It was joked about, but never really complained about. Maybe they just never complained to me.

                Mari, your anecdote about your daughters actually taught me something else. I’ve been arguing with my brother for years now that school bullying and such is more dependent upon region and the sort of people there than age. Yet he believes people just aren’t picking on nerds like they used to. Our age difference is six years, but evidently his being 32 and my being 26 has created that much of a gap. Your story presents the idea that maybe I’m right, and it isn’t about the time. There are some places where growing up with certain interests or a lack of certain skills is just harder.

                This is why I wanted to make sure I noted that I wasn’t spitting out actual beliefs, just observations. I have a limited world view, and the only way to expand it is to compare and contrast with the world view of others. Thank you for responding in a civil manner and teaching me about your own life experiences.

        2. Jarenth says:

          What’s that? I couldn’t hear you over all the cooties.

      2. ccesarano says:

        When I was in grade school I lived in a small town, and my typical interactions with the lady-folk were entering a room and hearing them all in unison go “Eeew! It’s Chris Cesarano!”

        Then I moved in 7th Grade, expecting the same clash against jocks and cool kids and to be reviled by women folk, only to find a bunch of kids that LOOKED like cool kids and were also of the female folk type, and yet they enjoyed Final Fantasy and Pokemon like I did and didn’t really play Mortal Kombat, which up until that point had been everyone else’s “best game evaaarrrr”.

        Needless to say, I said and did a lot of embarrassing things in late-middle and early high school, trying to figure out how to talk to ladies. It wasn’t until College that I finally reached a level of normalcy with everyone else. Yet the damage is done. I’m 26 years old, and even when encountering the cute girl behind the counter at GameStop my inner-geek shouts “G-G-G-G-G-GIRL!”

      3. Raka says:

        That’s… kinda hostile, Gravebound. Unless the girls of your youth were uniquely malicious, they were presumably treating you that way because you were behaving outside of The Rulebook that everyone else just seemed to collectively intuit, but was a complete mystery to you. And sure, that sucks; and sure, it’s not exactly a wise or mature response social nonconformity. But c’mon. They were kids, too. Why is it unreasonable for the world to respond negatively to your apparent refusal to play by the rules? Your behavior was presumably just as inscrutable and unsettling to them as The Rules were to you.

        I’m not speaking from privilege, here. I was one of the weird kids. Napoleon Dynamite was profoundly uncomfortable for me to watch, because he was basically a watered-down snapshot of my entire high-school experience. And yes, classmates and teachers were much more cruel than they had to be. But they didn’t understand *why* I was behaving the way I was. Hell, they didn’t understand why *they* behaved the way they did themselves; having socialized instinctively, they never had to analyze the rules and reasons and motivations the way I did.

        And I did. Eventually. Like most people in that situation, I found my own solution that’s partly learning to translate, partly learning to fake it, and partly finding a more accepting environment. But finding that solution was my problem, not the world’s. And the baggage and bitterness I still have (and I do) stopped being something I could reasonably blame on the people in my past right around the time that I was able to see myself with some degree of objectivity.

        Maybe I’m reading too much into it. It just seemed like you’re still pissed that “the girls” didn’t cheerfully alter their entire paradigm of socialization to conform to yours… which is the exact unreasonable expectation they had of you.

        1. LadyTL says:

          No one expected cheerfulness but it is not unreasonable to feel animosity towards people when they give you out right hostility for no good reason other than you were different. It was wrong of both the kids and the adults in charge of those kids to encourage hatred of people who are merely different and I speak with experience too since I was the picked on kid as well.

        2. Gravebound says:

          “Maybe I'm reading too much into it. It just seemed like you're still pissed that “the girls” didn't cheerfully alter their entire paradigm of socialization to conform to yours…”

          Actually, everybody seems to be reading too much into it. I didn’t expect them to conform to how I acted; I acted pretty normal, never talked about comics/video games/etc, just the topics at hand. I think it was because I was chubby, had thick glasses and bad hair that I became this pariah. I just wanted them to treat me as well as they treated the other nerds/geeks/goths/stoners: with indifference.

          And I wouldn’t call it “pissed”…looking back, it just seems kinda’ odd. People are, maybe, reading my post in a super-serious tone, but it is meant in a sort-of resigned, ‘oh-well’ way.

          1. Gale says:

            Everybody’s reading too much into it because you made an unqualified statement about all women trying to be vapid and bitchy for the first twenty years of their lives. Saying that it’s supposed to be interpreted in a “sort- of resigned, ‘oh-well’ way” doesn’t encourage a more charitable interpretation, either.

            Question: are you surprised about people seeing something in your comment that you didn’t think was there, or are you surprised about people reacting strongly to your comment because you didn’t think it was a particularly controversial thing to say?

        3. ccesarano says:

          I wouldn’t call it “not playing by the rules”. When I was in pre-school I was, as far as I could tell, a normal kid. Yet there was a group that I always tried to play Ninja Turtles with (I loved that show) and they refused. They claimed I “didn’t really like the show and was just pretending”. They wouldn’t believe until one day I came in wearing a TMNT shirt and pointed each one out to them. THEN I was able to play with them…for a day. Then they shunned me again.

          I don’t know why they did it, but I don’t think they did either. We were kids. We were peculiar and just learning. Yet as kids grow up, old memories and even grudges keep those feelings alive. When I moved away I met a bunch of kids that never knew who I was, so it was a fresh slate.

          It’s like College. When people go to College they feel like they can “find who they are”. The truth is, you are now free to act as you want without anyone else’s preconceived notions of who you are getting in the way and making you question yourself.

          Nonetheless, there certainly are people that carry those memories with them. I look back on my childhood and shrug that I was made fun of. I mean, I DID become a weird kid over time. In sixth grade my best friend and I used to pass the time by very vocally humming and “singing” video game music, or reading Garfield comics out loud. That’s not something normal sixth graders do. We were weird. Does that justify what others did? No, but considering no one was mature enough to understand proper etiquette, it’s not surprising they lashed out against us. After all, at some point in our lives we’ve done the same. Anyone I know still bitter about the past is more than glad to point out how “stupid” or “foolish” others are, marking their differences as a point of pride.

          It instead comes off as conceit, and they are now the same vicious person those kids were. Only now they’re adults, and they have no excuse to behave as they do.

      4. Perseus says:

        Women are kind of like animals because they can sense fear/discomfort. And aren’t good with computers.

        1. taellosse says:

          Let me preface this by saying this is not directed at you, Perseus (I’m pretty sure your comment is meant to be facetious), you’re just at the bottom of the thread here.

          Holy crap, pretty much this entire thread should be killed with fire. That’s some truly epic cross-gender hostility going on there. I was gonna rant at you all equally, but decided that wouldn’t be productive either. Suffice to say: chill out people. It’s pretty unlikely that anybody reading these comments is responsible for the anguish you suffered growing up. Odds are, they suffered their own, and you’ve got a lot more in common than you do differences.

          1. Perseus says:

            I was half-kidding, but what I said was technically true (at least generally speaking). You’re right though, if someone reads Shamus’ blog they’re not likely to be bullies.

          2. Shamus says:

            This is what I was going to say.

            I’m sorry I was away all afternoon and couldn’t douse this thing before it got bad.

            Besides, this thread is about MY ANGST, not YOURS! This is all about MEEEEEEEEEE!

            More seriously, please do chill out.

            1. blue_painted says:

              (I might get flamed and/or banned for this but …}

              “My inferiority complex isn’t as good as yours.”


          3. CaptainBooshi says:

            I agree that this thread went way too far, and would have been better cut off much earlier, but I’m also going to add that you shouldn’t try to pretend the two sides are equally in the wrong here, either. It started with someone saying all women under twenty are malicious and cruel, and was responded to by saying that one person was being misogynistic and idiotic. I mean, Perseus here just insisted that claiming all women are like animals and also not good at computers is “technically true,” which is just… horrible.

            Just because both sides are ignoring the commonly held rules for discussion in these threads doesn’t mean that one side isn’t being far, far greater a-holes.

            I’m not interested in saying anything about the arguments here, because this discussion deserves to die an ignominious death, but it’s just one of my pet peeves when someone tries to act above it all by equating sides that aren’t actually equal.

            1. Perseus says:

              I said “generally speaking.” So no, not “all” women.

  2. Dnaloiram says:

    Wow. A “special” class because your fives simply didn’t look right. That is terrible.

    Did you get the soap thing for asking the girl to kiss you? That is also terrible.

    Did you go to a terrible school?

    1. Shamus says:

      I’m sure the class was for more than just inverted fives. I made everything backwards.

      I have no idea about the soap. Most likely I said a Bad Word?

      1. Slothful says:

        I had one of those “special” classes too. Writing was hard for me as a kid.

        1. MintSkittle says:

          I was/am pretty bad at writing, being left-handed with no one to teach me properly. At least I didn’t have it as bad as my maternal grandmother, who was forced to write with her right hand despite being left handed.

          1. Flakey says:

            Same thing happened to me. My brother and I are both left handed, but I write with my right, after being forced to learn that way, by the teacher. Luckily the teacher had retired before my brother got to the school, and so he writes left handed.

            It leads to some bizarre situations like someone seeing me write for the first time, and going I thought you said you were left handed. Also my writing never going to qualify for calligraphy.

      2. kmc says:

        Ooh, here’s my favorite “I don’t know what’s happening around me” story from school. They put me in a gifted class because I guess I was the “right” kind of weird as a kid. But then we had a fancy new computer program to teach us math. Which was on macs. And we used DOS at home. I couldn’t for the life of me figure out how to use the damn thing, because the UI never made any sense. I kept getting wrong answers and failing assignments when I never even meant to choose the answer that got entered! Long story short, the teacher told me I didn’t belong there if I too dumb to even do math.

        1. SolkaTruesilver says:

          I think forcing Mac on youths is the most severe crime against education imaginable.

          People, we have to take a stand and stop this madness. More and more children are victim of Mac educational program every day, scarring them forever.

          1. krellen says:

            No one forced Macs on youths. Apple gave away computers to schools; IBM did not. That’s all there is to it.

            1. Jason Cole says:

              Microsoft gives away free education licenses to public schools here, and many of the tax-funded religious schools get free Macs. Adobe gives away their stuff too. The schools should probably accept cash donations, and then pick products based on merits, since the company is trying to get kids raised on its product, so the children will depend on the product for the rest of their lives.

              1. Shamus says:

                I’m sure Krellen is talking about the 80’s, when Apple was giving away computers and IBM wasn’t. This would have been well before Microsoft rose to power.

                1. Amarsir says:

                  And had Apple truly ingrained themselves during the 80s, they wouldn’t have had such an abysmal 90s.

                  1. SimeSublime says:

                    Here(Perth, Australia)there was a promotion in the early 90s wherein for every $X you spent at a certain major grocery store chain, your primary school would get a free Mac. I remember our school going nuts over this, and having weekly competitions for the class who brought in dockets with the highest value, or the class whose dockets were longest when stuck together etc ect. I think we managed to get one for each class, which between 30 or so students meant that you hardly ever got to use it and from what I remember it was a useless piece of trash anyway. But they were the only computers the school had for years.

                    All in all though, we had an Amiga 2000 at home that was superior to it in every way, so the only thing the promotion succeeded in doing in my case was to turn me off macs.

            2. Nick says:

              Actually IBM does give away (or at least heavily discount) selling computers to schools in my community, but that’s probably atypical as it’s for the school right next to an IBM development site :D

              1. BenD says:

                Note tenses and Shamus’ comment above.

            3. SolkaTruesilver says:

              It was a joke…

              1. blue_painted says:

                They want you to believe that … as they fit the iJack into the back of your neck!


            4. noahpocalypse says:

              Everyone at my high school has iPad 2s, and the twenty-something computers in the CTE lab have Windows 7. That’s irrelevant to the subject matter, as the iPads were private donations, but I felt like contributing something. (Even if it’s not really a helpful contribution.)

              1. MrWhales says:

                Wait, were the ipad 2’s given to the school to give to the students? If that is the case I want to know where you are so I can easily kill off the monetarily frivolous first. No offence to you i hope.

      3. Mersadeon says:

        I had to go to a special class in first class, too. For… well, we were eating apples. Just as a present, the teacher gave every one of us an apple. Since back then, I only ate apples when they were cut, I asked if she could cut it. She did. But it took so long, I wasn’t able to finish the apple before the next lessong began. So this apple was in front of me. I knew the exposed parts would get brown. That would be a waste. And she didn’t say we would have to stop in the next lesson – it was just, everyone else was finished. So, why not take a bite? Well, special class for me it was, for a few days. They couldn’t teach me anything there, since I already knew what they tried to teach (this “Fà¶rderunterricht” was normally ment for the kids that were not fast enough.).

      4. Ambitious Sloth says:

        When I was young I moved from Illinois to Ontario and then to New Jersey at the start of seventh grade. I had never been good at adjusting after moving and because of this slow adjustment I was placed in a “special” class designed for slower kids or ones that had trouble learning. It wasn’t till I had past three different tests and nearly finished my sophomore year in high school that my “personal counselor” decided I was done with the program.

        I’m a little bit bitter because the whole thing held me back a little and kept me from getting into some classes that I really wanted to take.

      5. CaptainBooshi says:

        I got sent to a special class because although I excelled in class, I picked up part of a Boston accent from my dad while I was learning to talk. My school insisted that my incapability to pronounce r’s meant there was something wrong with my speech development. Years of special classes did diddly-squat, and even today I still have faint echoes of the accent.

      6. blue_painted says:

        From observing primary school teachers here in the UK, most likely the child next to you said a bad word and the teacher just guessed wrong when deciding who the culprit was.

      7. Winter says:

        In elementary school we did these tests for math. You would have 1 minute 30 seconds to do X number of math problems. The problems were simple enough, just basic addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division–and in addition to that, each of the tests was set. That is, you could take them several times and the questions never changed. The only problem was there were a lot of questions. The hardest test, i remember, had 80 long division problems on it–as in “44/30”. The test had more time allowed–two full minutes, actually! Which is, well, a bit less than two seconds per problem.

        If you are thinking “what are you talking about? That’s impossible!“, you’re right… kind of. Because it was just the same test over and over until you passed everyone just memorized the correct answers (we got them back after the first test, so everyone had them). Then they just went through and wrote them down without even trying to answer the questions, and eventually people mostly got them correct.

        I didn’t.

        I made a horrible mistake. I asked the teacher how i was supposed to complete the test, and was told to do the problems. I asked if i should memorize it (which was completely obviously what everyone else was doing) and was told no, don’t memorize it, do it for real. I knew this was stupid and insane, but if that’s what they wanted then that’s what they would get. I never passed it–or, indeed, most of the other versions of these tests. I was put in remedial math–a “special ed” class–and told i would never be able to do math beyond algebra. (There were some other factors too, but this was The Test that would determine what would happen to you.) They strongly discouraged me–even pushed me away–from pursuing anything resembling math, and said i should really think about simpler jobs that i was more suited for. (Because i was so stupid, right?) When i couldn’t pass the remedial math classes (sooooooooooooooo boring) they were basically ready to throw me out.

        At the same time i was in these classes i was in the local math league.

        I was in Academic Decathlon and won multiple medals in math at a state level.

        I passed college calculus courses and have even tutored them.

        I am a computer programmer.

        Hell, i play video games and in competitive communities i’m famous for being able to churn out fancy math analysis of games. (Think: stuff like WoW players developing spreadsheets to maximize DPS or whatever, except i don’t play WoW because that would be awful.)

        This is probably not some unique burden that i ran into in school, but that’s kind of the point isn’t it? When the system not only doesn’t educate people but actively works to thwart people from becoming educated i think it’s safe to say there’s a problem. But then, that’s the entire purpose of school, as i see it: to thwart education and crush the natural human interest in learning. It’s all very distressing.

  3. Zaxares says:

    Re: The Kiss Story – Welcome to the sinking realisation that most of us guys have when we discover that we don’t belong to the lucky category of guys who are handsome enough to flirt with girls and have them like it. ;)

    1. Adam says:

      But… you were adorable! Who was your more fortunate classmate? Leonardo Dicaprio?

  4. Zagzag says:

    This stuff probably doesn’t sound that weird to you, because you remember it. But when I read this it makes me think of just one thing. Are you still sure you’re not autistic Shamus?

    1. Shamus says:

      I’m certainly a (seemingly) normal adult now with normal social abilities, but the definition of “autistic” has always been a bit nebulous to me.

      So, I don’t know. I hesitate to say one way or the other,

      1. I have a son that is autistic. Highly functional Asperger syndrome. Now autism is a spectrum. It not something you have or don’t. There are a range from what we saw in Rain Man with Dustin Hoffman to .. well normal people. Many computer programmer and geeks, myself included, may have a touch of autism.

        The big sign that you need to treat a child for autism is that the engage in “bad” behavior for basically no reason. My son is highly functional and capable of normal school work in many of his subjects even back in kindergarden. But because his autism rewired his brain he was highly sensitive to stimuli. The best way I heard it described was as if you had to walk around all day with a set of stereo headphones turned up full blast and expected to behave normally.

        The result is that my son would just fly off the handle, and/or be unable to concentrate to do any work. And for extra points I had to learn distinguish between behavior that resulted form his autism and those that were just because he was a kid. The main difference is whether the behavior made sense in the context of the current situation or not.

        As bad as it sounded, you tried to do the work when asked as any child would. So at this point I doubt any autistic behavior you had was a factor.

        The problem seemed more on the teacher’s end. I feel bad for anybody undergoing this. The first half of first grade was pretty hellish for me. But my mom is pretty smart, and a teacher herself, and got me out of there. The main problem is that I lost much of hearing and while hearing aids helped it still nailed part of my language processing so I always needed help. My mom and the teachers at the new school (another public elementary in the same town), were pretty good at explaining what they were asking me to do. So I was lucky in that regard.

        I think I remember the machine you were using, they had these punch card, film things that they put into it. Like you I found the machine fascinating.

        1. Seth Ghatch says:

          I myself have aspergers syndrome and though I used to remember kindergarten fondly. Apparently I was treated like shit. Though I don’t remember it, I was sent to some other room with two or three other kids because I acted differently than others? My mother’s explanation was that “I refused to blindly do what they told me.” So my kindergarten experience was pretty close to yours, only I don’t remember the bad parts. (I was convinced that I had the best kindergarten teacher in the world for 6 years of my life).

          1. noahpocalypse says:

            I always thought my kindergarten teacher was fantastic and really nice until a few years ago, until my mom told me she (the teacher) tried all year long to make me write with my right hand (I’m a lefty) and reprimanding me for constantly reverting. Also, my older sister forced me to play school with her while she was learning to read when she was in kindergarten, so I began kindergarten with basic reading abilities. The teacher wouldn’t acknowledge that I was, in that aspect, far ahead of most other students. So I suppose my kindergarten was spent staring at stuff in the room, whispering to other kids, and seeing nothing wrong with doing so because I wasn’t learning anything new. (I guess I hadn’t yet considered the effect that might have on their education.)

      2. Actually, it seemed to me when reading that the teacher was bonkers, a telling a young kid to put soap in their mouth? Is it just me that see the danger of suffocation ?

        Anyway, it’s certainly not autism, although who knows, there are subtypes/terms like “High Functioning – something something” *shrug*.

        My guess is that you are a rationalist, and rely heavily on logic when interpreting the world.

        Am I right in guessing that at times you felt like an alien visiting earth?

        1. Kdansky says:

          I can totally relate to these stories though. I also found most people’s behaviour as children (and teenagers!) completely bonkers. And truth be told, it is. Blackmailing someone by stealing the crayons? Demanding a toy for no reason? Both of these examples are irrational, and only work because of unwritten social rules (and/or plain power-abuse), usually way more complex than most people ever realise.

          And then there is the gigantic number of people who are just plain stupid. People who don’t understand that making no effort in school does not pay off or for example smokers. Nobody in their right mind would smoke (very expensive, without gain, and costs you a decade off your life-expectancy, it’s just bloody stupid), yet half the planet does.

          Most people still are all but insane to me, I just don’t have to deal with them any more.

          1. krellen says:

            I’ve never made any efforts in my schooling (actually, the one time I did make an effort was to cheat, and I got caught and disproportionally punished) and got almost all As. What good would effort have done me?

            1. Scott (Duneyrr) says:

              I had a similar attitude in school. When I was in elementary, I was touted as ‘gifted’ even in a magnet program. I’ve coasted along on a better-than-average ability to pick up on new things until I ended up where I am now… just like everyone else!

              1. PSJ says:

                I also just coasted along through primary and secondary school doing very well. I never really had to work and ended up skipping a grade in elementary school, I was in the highest courses in high school and got 2360 SATs (writing lost me the 40 points), but around the beginning of my senior year of high school, I realized that I was just wasting talent by not actively pursuing studies. I may be young (Freshman at Princeton) but I would definitely argue that innate “talent” (more likely good early-developmental exposure to learning) in addition to good study habits and individualized attention will get you more opportunity than skating by (e.g. if I hadn’t started doing private research my senior year, I would be at Penn State rather than Princeton).

                1. Aldowyn says:

                  … Dang, you beat me and I got the highest score in the (1000 kids) school. And you made it into Princeton.

                  You’ll probably never see this, but props dude.

            2. Kdansky says:

              You’ve already optimized the “don’t fail school” part. I’m not talking about you. ;)

              But for those who drop out because they cannot get their shit together to bother to learn basic math and writing and then spend the rest of their lives flipping burgers, it’s different. That is just a really bad judgement call on “what should I do with my time”.

            3. Robyrt says:

              As a fellow gifted but lazy former student, I now realize I should have started applying myself to real-world stuff when I reached the point of school success without effort. Instead I wasted a lot of time.

              When I read “Special class,” I thought of sitting in the back of the sixth grade math class at age 7 when the teacher explained that if you divided a number by 1/2 it actually got BIGGER. My mind was completely blown.

              1. decius says:

                I reached a point where I could do everything that I knew was allowed in school with little effort. I had a few great teachers who managed to introduce me to some of the stuff that I could do if I really tried, and that made a lot of difference in those subjects.

                What we really need in primary education is to get rid of the system that teaches every student at the same rate, and replace it with a system that requires equal effort out of each student.

                1. Aldowyn says:

                  Umm. You try designing a system like that.

                  It won’t work, or you just solved one of society’s biggest problems EVER.

                  Sure, that’s the goal, but that’s practically impossible.

              2. Gale says:

                I remember being taught about the “one divided by half equals two” thing. I plain refused to accept it for days. I kept asking why it would work like that, and kept being shown the page in the math book which sets out the rules, and kept asking why that would make sense, and kept being told that it’s just how it is. My teacher at the time was wonderful, but couldn’t understand what the problem was. It just didn’t make sense! It doesn’t matter how you cut a cake, it’s still one cake! You can’t cut increase the number of cakes there are by cutting it!

                It was about a week before I had this huge epiphany. “Wait, if you’ve cut a cake into two pieces, then each of them add up to 100% of the original cake. But… You also have two pieces of cake, each of which add up to 100% of an individual [piece of cake] item! OH MY GOD. EVERYTHING I KNEW IS A LIE.” It was like looking into the raw fabric of the universe! I was completely baffled as to why nobody else in the class, in a whole week, had ever had an appropriately euphoric response, when we were being taught the arcane secrets of existence itself!

                Possibly my happiest school-related memory, right there.

                …Which doesn’t speak well of my school experience, but what the hell! ARCANE SECRETS OF EXISTENCE!

                1. Helseth says:

                  I remember this feeling :)

                  In 6th grade (that’s roughly 12 years old in Russia) we’ve learned geometrical axioms. I was like “Well, I can prove theorems with these, this is kinda neat”.

                  But then, three years later, we started to analyze the axioms properly.

                  And it became clear that the axioms pretty much define everything: what is a pount, what is a line, etc. Change them a little, and geometrical objects can suddenly change shape to something weird.

                  We were very impressed. It was almost like having a spell for changing bread into toasts – and then suddenly learn that with proper modifications you can use this spell to change anything into anything!

                  And playing with algebraical axioms was even more fun :)

              3. krellen says:

                It took me until deep into my 20s to learn and develop the social skills to allow my introversion to operate in normal society, because there were never “introvert lessons” in school (largely because, as still seems to be mostly true today, society assumes extroversion exclusively), so the only “real-world” work I was comfortable working on in school and beyond was working computers, which, today, frankly has me tracked into a field I’m not that excited about.

                I’ve always known I didn’t get the same wow out of technology as the other geeks around me – they’d go off babbling about the technical specs of their latest graphic card and I would have no idea, nor interest in, what they were talking about. But because computers were easier than people and no one bothered to teach me that there were ways to cope with the stress and exhaustion I felt from people, I spent a lot of time with computers.

                I’m in my mid 30s now and I still don’t know what I actually want to do with my life. I just know it isn’t something in the computer field – yet I find myself forced to use the computer skills I have developed to pay the bills while I try to figure it out.

                (Incidentally, when he’s older (he’s two right now), I’m going to try my darnedest to pass those coping skills on to my friends’ son to whom I am “uncle”, because I know my life would be a lot better had I learned them when I was younger.)

            4. guy says:

              Effortless success buddy!

        2. BenD says:

          Based on Shamus’ age and my own, I have extrapolated that at the time of his entry into school, spanking (and ruler-smacks) had not very long ago exited public schools. At that time, many [older] teachers sought viable alternatives, having no instruction or experience with classroom management without access to corporal punishment. Lists were made of what teachers couldn’t do (one might read ‘striking students with hands or objects’) and things that weren’t on that list (‘require student to put soap in mouth’) were “allowed”.

          TL;DR: Shamus’ teacher obviously was not blessed with the necessary patience for teaching K-2 students, but she was also part of an era where washing a mouth out with soap was probably an acceptable punishment.

          1. StranaMente says:

            Thinking about it I got to the same conclusion.
            On one hand Shamus seems pretty stubborn, on the other these teachers weren’t really patient or able to work witch children.
            Children often think funny things, and have a fuzzy logic of their own. I think this is how you define children anyway. He hasn’t the experience or the cognitive abilities to understand most things, and sometimes he has to work with white lies of the adults or misconceptions about things.
            If you question a child about some thing you’ll get the idea.

            The thing that really amazed me is your memory, Shamus.
            I can’t recall almost anything before 10 years old. And even after that my memories are fragmentary at least until 14.
            And I’m not even sure that the few memories I have of myself before 10 are real, figments, or something in between.

      3. Lanthanide says:

        Probably the only way you’re going to get a useful answer to that question is to ask adults (eg, your mother) who knew you as a child. These adults would have to be at least somewhat familiar with autism as it is understood today to get any reasonable guess as to one way or another.

        Even if you did have some autistic traits, you’ve certainly adjusted to them now as an adult. So the whole discussion is pretty academic.

        Autism is quite highly hereditary though, so reflecting on your daughter’s behaviour could shed some light, too.

      4. Drew says:


        read the preview that amazon has availible at least.

    2. Sleeping Dragon says:

      Autism is such a… difficult word. It’s not really a matter of IF you are autistic but to what extent. And I mean for everyone, every single person on the planet has some 0.0001% of autism (it’s not really measurable like that, I know. Primarily below certain point it’s not really called autism anymore). I know I am somewhat below the “clinical autism,” and far as I’ve been told a lot of geeks (roleplayers in particular) are above the average. Reputedly the fact that geek culture “accepts or even glorifies escapism” has appeal to us, after a while there is the extra factor of people with similar problems being there. As for Shamus, not my place to talk really.

      1. kmc says:

        You know, I’ve always wondered about that. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that there’s an imbalance, sort of, when it comes to autism diagnosis, like there may be with ADD diagnosis and all that. Okay, let me try to make sense for a second–it’s just that, so many people are familiar with autism now, it’s really easy to see those traits in people, but I’m sure plenty of kids go through life just being treated as stupid or slow when they simply need some different way of interacting, especially with teachers and classmates. Shamus’s story sounds very familiar to me, but I spoke well, read early, and was friendly and outgoing with familiar people. I just hated change (still do to this day, to the extent that I’ll get in a bad mood if traffic means I have to wait to go to the grocery store) and I always felt like an anthropologist around my peers. Probably, though, some of them felt the same way and I’ll never know.

      2. Jeysie says:

        Eh, personally I’ve always found that whole need to claim that lots of people, especially geeks, are somehow autistic to be on the same level as claiming every hyper kid has ADD: Utterly bogus, and part of an annoying trend of believing that if you’re not 100% normal, you therefore must have a disorder.

        We’ve forgotten how to accept that sometimes people are weird or awkward because that’s just how they are; no mental disorders required. I’ve always been socially awkward and never been able to figure out the “social rules” myself, but I’m not going to go around blaming it on a mental disorder.

        (For that matter, I’m glad I grew up in the 80s, as I was a super-hyper kid. If I’d grown up now they’d probably have claimed I had ADD and shoved pills down my throat.)

        1. BenD says:

          Well, on the flip side of that, there’s also an increasingly large camp arguing that autism isn’t a ‘disorder’ at all. It’s a name for a type of function that occurs to some degree in all humans, and is troubling when it’s the major or only type of function a human has available.

          1. Sleeping Dragon says:

            This was largely what I was aiming at. The thing I meant was that geek culture, I was told, appeals strongly to many people with mental traits that, when amplified, are characteristic of autism. I imagine most traits become disorders when pushed beyond a certain extreme. The entire problem is in defining at what point individuality turns into a disorder.

            1. Jeysie says:

              I guess I just feel like I hate this new trend where everything that isn’t 100% “normal” has to have a fancy label. Used to be an awkward person was just awkward; now we have to give it a special word and act like it’s a big fancy deal.

              I’m a social awkward variety of geek because I naturally think very logically, practically, and linearly, & thus things that operate more intuitively and holistically (like, say, people) confuse the hell out of me. I know I don’t have a disorder or any traits of one or anything silly or fancy-labelled like that, it’s just the way my personality is and always has been, and unfortunately I got unlucky and I’m in the minority of personality types on the planet and the planet runs along conflicting personality types instead.

              Heck, I wish my social awkwardness was a disorder, as maybe then I could take a pill or therapy or something and have it go away.

              And most people who are awkward are the same way; they just have that sort of personality perfectly normally. Why do we have to always act like any personality that doesn’t fit the societal norm means it’s a latent disorder of any level? It’s silly, and almost a little insulting, like there’s something wrong with you just because you weren’t born with the “right” personality. Rubbish, I say.

    3. Jjkaybomb says:

      His story seems very normal to me. Just because he was unable to relate to other children doesnt mean he was mentally incapable of it. Just… a bit more unprepared, maybe? He liked to keep to himself, so other children were running around, learning a few more rules… Learning from older brothers and sisters as well. I doesnt make him autistic, it just means that other things interest him.

      1. lurkey says:

        Exactly. I can bet my hat that Zag up there is a bloody extrovert; their and theirs “not extrovert = mentally deficient” attitude, ugh.

        1. Lanthanide says:

          As someone who is definitely an introvert and has a few aspergers tendencies, I think you’ve gotten completely the wrong end of the stick.

          Also I don’t think anyone has said “autism = mentally deficient” except you.

          1. lurkey says:

            …only I didn’t say that either.

          2. Leonardo Herrera says:

            That’s a pretty thin strawman, huh?

      2. Sem says:

        I have to agree here. In kindergarten, from day 1 I was the kid that was always alone reading a book in the corner. It wasn’t that I actively disliked people but there were no overlapping interests at all with the other kids. My only hobby between 8 – 16 was reading books (at 16 I got my first computer …).

        Even worse, as a huge introvert may need for social interaction is very low so I had very little drive to fit in. It also didn’t help that I liked being different and saying black when others said white purely to jump start a discussion.

        As a result my social skills suffered accordingly (on the plus side I can read about twice as fast as most people and became very nearsighted in my left eye and farsighted in the other). However, over the years I got better at it. I made some geek friends in high school, got some more friends at college and work also helped.

        My point is that low social skills don’t need to automatically mean that you have autism. Mine were low because I just wasn’t interested and like most things, practice makes perfect.

        1. Raka says:

          This was very similar to my experience. Basically, if someone is able to outgrow/outlearn the behaviors and reactions that typify autism-spectrum disorders, then they probably don’t have an autism-spectrum disorder. Some of us just start learning to socialize much later than normal.

        2. Destrustor says:

          I was very extraverted as a kid, often displaying extreme reactions to the slightest provocation, which understandably made me the funniest kid to bully/annoy. Then after a particularly awful year, the perfect combo of changing schools + going from elementary to high school meant I could start with a new, clean social life. I decided I’d have none of it. I willingly became a social ninja: avoiding almost all social interactions and never attracting any attention. If socializing had nothing but bullies to offer, it could forget about me.
          I’m still recovering from the total and sudden abandonment of my social skills(few friends, awkward in public, etc)
          I consider myself to be free of disorders save for a slight lack of social skills, but I suspect people in high school must have seen me as quite weird. It was a choice a bit like yours, only slightly later.
          I can read quite fast too since I spent EVERY lunch break in the library, alone.

    4. James Pony says:

      It does sound like Shamus had a thing.

      But then again, almost everyone has a thing. And with some exceptions, things aren’t a big deal. Unless you ask “society”, then it’s all stop-the-presses, declare-martial-law, call-in-ex-KGB-“interrogators”-to-find-out-why-a-boy’s-favorite-color-isn’t-blue, deploy-national-guard-to-beat-hippies-with-sticks.
      And obviously, regardless of any thing that he may or may not have/have had, it clearly doesn’t hinder Shamus.

      I’m curious about running these posts through my mother, who has extensive pedagogical education and experience, although for any relevant results more details might be needed.

  5. Sleeping Dragon says:

    Edit: Maaaan, wall of text. I guess these posts strike some personal chords and get me all worked up.

    Aaaand this is what is wrong with the education system (not only in US, I mean in general). I mean the source of the “weird 5” problem is obvious when you describe it. I can imagine it might have not worked if she simply asked “why do you draw it this way” but a bit more looking into it could easily reveal the problem. I mean, it probably wasn’t the only thing, probably lots of stuff like “doesn’t play with others often” and other such nonsense but even if they did think you had problems that required some extra attention (again, I can understand the teacher can’t spend half a day with a single kid working through his problems and let all the other run rampant) at least make it more, I dunno, friendly for lack of better word, not “bah, just go to that room and get out of my hair” and send you to a special class where you sit by yourself or with kids that you are probably even further alienated from than your own class (a great way to work on communication issues I’m sure) not understanding the reasons or the purpose of why you’re there.

    Heh, it makes me somewhat uneasy to admit that at 28 I am still doing the “sit on the side and wait for someone to notice me” and the imitation thing. Obviously I did work out a certain comfort zone far as social norms are concerned over the years but I still panic when I am supposed to/feel I should move out of it. One of the things that give me pause nowadays? Friendly insulting. The whole “yeah, but you’re ugly,” “yeah, but you’re stupid” thing. I find it funny when others do it but I can’t for the life of me work it out myself. It did help that I socialised with geeks mostly, I could bluff my way through a lot of interactions with quotes, references and puns in this way. Nowadays it’s mostly people I’ve known for years so when a new person is introduced to the group they are the ones who have to learn to fit in rather than me.

    1. Mari says:

      I’m 34 and still “fit in” by sitting to the side and/or imitating. Oh, and the solution to the not being sure how to do the insulting one another thing? Play it for laughs. “Yeah? Well — so’s my — momma?” and wait for the lulz. Because, yeah, I’m not so good at the insult exchange either. Somehow playing up the socially awkward response seems to work. But it might not work for men. You guys have some wholly other kind of interaction with insults that is completely outside of my comprehension.

      1. Newbie says:

        Insults are easy. Say something calmly that makes no sense then smirk. If the other person asks you when the hell you meant you laugh at them… works every time.

        The best response is just: “I bet you do…” (Of course when it fits).

      2. Patrick the Angst-fueled rage says:

        Reply to every comment, criticism or insult with:

        “SO’S YOUR FACE!!”

        1. krellen says:

          In my social circle, the response is “No, you’re <thing>!”

          1. decius says:

            That’s what she said.

            1. Jeff says:

              No, you’re what she said!

              1. krellen says:

                See? It works wonderfully.

                1. Michael says:

                  SO DOES YOUR FACE.

                  And now the circle is complete.

        2. Destrustor says:

          “Less than your face!” is much better. And the one I’d use. Its like a +1 right-back-at-ya.

        3. xXDarkWolfXx says:

          I reply to everything with “Your MOM’S ” which leads to much exasberation from my family.
          How they havent disowned me yet is a mystery to me.

      3. Timelady says:

        Chalk me up as another one for the sitting off to the side/imitating crowd. (And notice that my first post in this comment section is basically “me too.” :P) We should all get together and have incredibly awkward and unpleasant social gatherings!

        1. Tse says:

          Me, too! But I seem to have found a way out. Humor. The dirtier, the better!

        2. Kacky Snorgle says:

          I often take the opposite tack: my coping strategy is to exaggerate my geekiness, becoming a sort of parody of myself. If you’re a *little* bit geeky, they look at you like you have three heads; if you’re far and away the biggest geek they’ve ever seen or heard of, they just laugh and go with it.

          An unfortunate side effect is that, unlike many of you, I don’t interact well with other geeks: in such company my coping strategy fails utterly. It turns out that I don’t know the “rules” of geek society any more than the rules of society as a whole…. I still don’t have a good workaround for this.

          1. Sleeping Dragon says:

            Yeah, around “normal people” (aka: mundanes) I tend to shield myself with my hobbies. So far didn’t work that well for jobs but meh. I find dealing with geeks much easier because, like I said, I can often try to dodge with a quote, or a reference or derail the conversation with a quick “by the way, what did you think about the BSG ending?” or something ;)

          2. kmc says:

            I feel the same way! Actually, the best way to describe the way I feel is on Family Guy–there’s a scene where Chris has gotten some perfume for the girl he likes but he sprays it in her eyes, at which point she runs off saying something like “Never talk to me again!” And he just gives this strangled shout of “Why am I so awkward?!” That’s pretty much how I feel inside all the time. I do a good job of hiding it–I have to, anyway. First as an Air Force officer (you’d think you’d understand the social rules! but nope), now as an engineer (again! but no, I’m always super awkward). Mostly I try to get around it by not having friends longer than a year or two. Honestly, it’s not a good strategy…

      4. Velkrin says:

        Insults are fairly straight forward. Guys will jockey for the position of ‘Alpha’ and therefor need to bring down other males in order to raise their own standing.

        By making an insult that their fellow male is unable to think of a response to they increase their standing. If their target is able to respond with an acceptable comeback within a reasonable time limit (~4-6 seconds) then the target retains their position, and in the case of a particularly good comeback, increases their standing.

        Insults among friends are typically not meant to be offensive to the target, and thus will normally be limited to things that all parties involved will assume to be false (eg: fornication and one’s mother, mocking or challenging of one’s skill at an activity, questioning the gender of one’s date [see: Dude looks like a lady]). Truthful things may also be invoked, provided enough time has passed that the event is considered to be humorous by all parties (eg: that time you ran screaming from the room because [insert thing here] landed on you).

        Men may also engage in insulting fellow friendly males in the presence of their lady friends in an attempt to trigger the female’s protective/nurturing instincts. For the male trigger of this response see: Clutzy and/or shy women.

        Bear in mind that men are expected to ‘get over it’ when insulted and as such will suffer cumulative reductions in standing if they fail to shrug off an insult within a reasonable time limit.

        When a male’s physical prowess is challenged they are expected to ‘prove it’ to the challenger and anyone else who heard the challenge. Bear in mind that men are a prideful bunch, and will typically attempt to play off any failure to a physical challenge as intentional. Much like cats.

        Tune in next week when we discuss how a male’s vehicular transportation relates to the plumage on a bird.

        1. Epopisces says:

          Ha! So true. I would note that some of these behaviors (or their hallmarks) can be found in any large group, regardless of sex. My church youth group had more females than males, but the same sort of jokes were made (mostly at the expense of the Youth Pastor’s mother, who found it all hilarious).

    2. ccesarano says:

      Reading this actually reminded me that times haven’t changed all that much since Shamus was in Kindergarten. In fact, reading this suddenly makes one see why he’d homeschool his own children.

      It seems to me that teachers have a habit of not asking kids why they do certain things. My niece is one of those kids that is always caught retaliating, and since that’s all the teacher saw she gets in trouble. It’s usually not until my mom or sister pick her up from Daycare or school that anyone actually asks her why she did something, and surprise surprise, it’s because someone else struck her, grabbed a toy from her hands, etc. Though there are times where my niece will get hurt, but then just wait until “the right time”, such as two or three hours later when everyone is watching a video and she decides to hit the offending child hard in the back of the head.

      It also reminds me of being in first grade, where teachers constantly told you to “sound it out” when you spelled a word. I was trying to explain going to “Universal Studios” during my summer, but I never spelled Universal before. So I asked the teacher for help and she said “Sound it out”. So I spelled Yooniversall. She told me again to sound it out, and after a few tries she finally got me to spell Universal. I was frustrated and shouted “That’s Uh-niversal! That’s not what it sounds like at all!”

      I don’t like to bad-talk teachers, especially since I have teachers for friends and New Jersey is currently making villains of anyone involved in the public education system, but damn are most teachers stupid.

      I just find it funny that, across three generations (your childhood, my childhood and my niece’s) and all these “advancements” in childhood learning and education, no one has figured out the most basic and fundamental concept of asking a child why. Man, what a racket.

      1. Alexander The 1st says:

        Ack, I can’t find a video for this, but I’m reminded of the Animaniacs “Whhhhyyyyyy?” *Insert answer here* “Whhhhhyyyyyy?”

        At least, I think that’s the show it’s from. I can’t find reference to it.

        Someone please find a clip of it – Youtube’s not making it easy to find…and I could’ve sworn it was from that show.

        1. ccesarano says:

          It was the blonde girl and the dog. I think her name was Mindy. Or Mandy. It was certainly the more annoying Animaniacs skit.

          1. Alexander The 1st says:

            Which is why it stands out.

            Yet I still can’t find the scene…

            I thought it was the female Animaniac character who did it though…that’s the thing that got me stuck, I guess.

      2. krellen says:

        On the flipside of asking why, it’s been my experience that when an adult tells a child the why of something they’re asked, they’re far more amenable to doing that thing as well.

        At some point, of course, you don’t have time to explain why, but if you’ve made it clear that there is a why and you’re not just being arbitrary about your demands, things work out a lot better. When a hear a parent say “because I said so”, I wince.

        1. Alexander The 1st says:

          You know what’d be a better solution than “Because I said so”?

          Choose a topic you’re fairly well versed in, and back-track it to the question:

          “To understand why, you need to comprehend the mechanics behind quantum physics. First, we have the…

          …*Fifty minutes later*

          And that’s why you have to eat your vegetables before dessert.”

          Sure, it’ll probably turn the kid away from trying to learn said subjects, but it’ll get the point across – we could explain why, but it’s faster to say “You won’t understand the intricacies regarding the human requirement to eat vegetables. Because I said you need to eat them, you need to eat them.”

        2. ccesarano says:

          If a parent says “because I said so” then they either need to learn WHY they’re doing these things themselves (WHY WHY WHY WHY WHY) or figure out how to simplify their words and thoughts so that a child can get it.

          Which is easier said than done, as kids won’t always believe you.

          “Angelina, stop jumping on Grandpop’s couch”.


          “Because you’re going to break it if you keep jumping on it like that.”

          Child stops for a moment, staring into space, then smiles and continues to jump.

          “Nuh uh”

      3. Gravebound says:

        “In fact, reading this suddenly makes one see why he'd home school his own children.”

        When I was in second grade my mom home schooled me. When I went back the next year I was so far ahead of everybody, I just coasted until Sixth when we started learning new stuff. All that knowledge and I got to sleep in every day and only do school work four days a week most of the time. :/

        The only reason I went back to public school was it was too much work/stress for my mom.

        1. PSJ says:

          I was homeschooled for 4th and 5th and did the exact same thing :)

          1. Aldowyn says:

            6th, 7th, and 8th, and I coasted at least until… 11th grade? 12th in some subjects. I think by 12th grade all the classes had at least SOMETHING new. (Math was finally actually hard for the first time in my life, mainly)

            So yeah, we’ll see how college goes (some coasting in freshman year, partly on purpose because I can)

      4. Simulated Knave says:

        I would just like to say that I think that someday, your niece will be a great world leader.

      5. Zukhramm says:

        This remind me of one time in school. I wrote the name of a character from a book (one that had been read to me so I had never actually seen the word written), it was a made up fantasy-sounding name and not a real one so I had even less reason to know how I was supposed to spell it.

        Anyway, the teacher looks at my paper and asks if what I has written is correct. I answer “no”, but I understand that she’s doing this because there’s something wrong and I quickly realize there should have been two Ts and not one. She asks again if it’s correct, and now that annoyed me a lot. I had already admitted to not knowing that it was wrong (although I did, but that was besides the point to me) and she knew it was so out of spite I again told her “no”.

        She just accepted that and let the name remain incorrectly spelled. Which did nothing but annoy me more, I was wrong and she withheld the information. I did not understand what the point of school or a teacher was if she was going to do that.

    3. SimeSublime says:

      Isn’t the intention(if not the execution) of the special class so that a teacher can spend half the day with a single kid working through their problems?

  6. deiseach says:

    This is all very nice, but it’s really just a prelude to “Part n: When I Met Heather”. I’m going to cry like a baby when I read that

    1. Patrick the Angst-fueled rage says:

      Only if cheeseburgers and fries get you teary eyed….

      1. Alexander The 1st says:

        What if we’re allergic to mustard and that’s how we react? :p

        1. Dragomok says:

          I’m sorry for ruining the joke. When I was writing the comment below my browser didn’t show your comments.

          I just wanted to heeeeeelp.

    2. Dragomok says:

      I’m pretty sure Shamus has already mentioned that they met while he was working in McDonald’s, but I can’t fin… Oh wait, here it is. Point five.

  7. My own experience with kindergarten wasn’t quite so Kafkian, but it wasn’t pleasant either. At least in my case, I can trace that back to my loving, but sadly overprotective grandmother who kept me away from other kids at an age where I was supposed to start learning how to interact. It doesn’t take autism to cripple a kid’s social abilities.

  8. MalthusX says:

    This kind of reminds me of one of my own childhood quirks. When I was a kid, I tended to treat the word of adults as gold. Everytime I expressed an interest in an activity or hobby, my parents would shut it down. Now, I realize that they were trying to see how badly I wanted it, but then I just assumed that they were being honest, and that it really was bad. I felt that if I said anything on it again, I would be making trouble, or even seen as misbehaving.

    1. kmc says:

      Oh, gosh, you know, this is exactly the kind of thing my mom talks about now, how you try to do one thing as a parent and your kid will interpret it a completely different way, and you have no idea until they’re grown and they’re like, “Why did you never let me do anything I wanted?” or something. Now I’m about to have my first kid and I’m just thinking that I really hope I don’t leave him with a complex, but I know it happens to pretty much everybody. With my parents, they were always trying to teach me to be independent, but it kind of backfired. I wanted to join the Brownies because I thought their uniforms were really cute, so my parents told me to call the local troop and ask about how to join. Okay, but Brownies are the precursor to Girl Scouts! I was too young to be a Girl Scout. Which means I was too young to overcome my fear of rejection-by-stranger, especially after finding the number and calling an adult out of the blue. So I never said anything about it after that. I kind of learned a lesson that doing new things was scary and it was better to just keep doing what I always did. Or the time I was really bored in school (ha, which one?) and my parents suggested I ask my teacher if I could do higher-level math instead of my regular assignment. Naturally, he didn’t take me seriously, and then he gave me extra work that he said I could do if I felt like it in addition to my regular homework. That was the last of that, either. And there’s no way they could have known, because it’s not like I told them! I just assumed they knew. It’s gotta be tough, even for parents/teachers with the best intentions. Which isn’t everybody.

      1. MalthusX says:

        I feel your pain, and I also do want to make mistakes with my kids (though I should clarify tht, in general, my parents were great) should I ever have them. I think the only thing we can do is to try and remeber how we saw the world when we were kids, and to try and keep that in mind.

  9. Jjkaybomb says:

    Wow, you remember that much about kindergarden? I can barely remember anything from those early years.

  10. A real ladies man! What little I remember of those days, I also recall lady troubles, mostly with regards to gender identity. I got that girls were different physically pretty quick, but I never really could wrap my head around why those differences were so important. To wit:

    I played w/ lil green army men right, like a good lil boy does, but the leader of the army men was one of my sisters barbie dolls. She lead the charge for all military offenses cause in my mind, it made sense that a woman some 10 times larger than the men surrounding her would command authority.

    Y’know I don’t think I ever did get out of that habit of seeing ‘people’ instead ‘man/woman’…cept High School. Then it was ‘people’ and ‘girls I couldn’t have’. :P

  11. Brian says:

    Sheesh, that sounds like a HORRIBLE teacher.

    1. BenD says:

      I say this above but to reiterate: sounds like an outdated teacher to me (the idea that she’s 50 points to this also). Punishment rules in schools were changing at this time and she was left without the tools she relied upon for classroom management.

      Also, it sounds like she lacked the patience for K-2, but maybe Shamus was just that trying. ;)

  12. muflax says:

    Wow. That brings back memories. Not getting adults. Weird, changing rules.

    I went to kindergarten in East Germany, just after the fall of the Berlin wall. Lots of chaos, everything was changing all the time. Schools were being reorganized or renovated, teachers didn’t have any idea really what lesson plan to follow, all so confusing. I think I changed school about every 2-3 years. Good thing was that we kids got left alone, mostly. I spend most of my childhood being ignored by adults who were way too busy worrying about keeping their jobs and so I could just run around, get dirty, hunt some aliens.

    The writing. I really remember the writing. At first, I was taught to write “2”s in cursive with a kind of loop at the bottom. Then, second grade I think, the teacher made some off-hand comment, “Oh, they reformed the system, it’s now acceptable to just use a flat line.”, and a bit later, “You have to make it clear you’re writing an “h”. If the last segment isn’t neat enough, I will think it is a “k”!”. So of course I thought, that’s a great optimization! I will now write my “k” almost like an “h”, and simplify my “2”s! For some reason the teacher didn’t like that. I never understood.

    Or worse, expecting me to have some skills I never acquired. Somehow everyone knew how to ride a bike or swim. I only learned the first at the age of 9. I still can’t swim. Magically, everyone else could. “Class, we’re taking a bike trip to a nearby farm!” But… how did you all learn that? No-one told me. Did I miss a class? Am I invisible? Your demands make no sense!

    I ended up in hospital quite a lot. I often had head-aches and sometimes would faint. (I was just weak. Still not much muscle. And I needed glasses. Somehow no doctor noticed for years that I couldn’t see clearly. Still don’t like doctors to this day.) But no-one tells children anything. Lie in this bed, here are some toys, see you tomorrow. I didn’t know why I was there at all, but 2 days in, a nurse gets angry at me because I’m just playing in my pajamas all day, I really should get dressed and join the class they are offering. But no-one told me to! Can I just play? I like playing. They gave up and let me. Maybe they thought I was a little slow.

    Somehow I managed to maintain my little isolated bubble of close friends until I was 12 or so. That only made the transition so much harder. What really gets to me is not so much the absence of rules, but rather the sudden no-fun behavior that I couldn’t even imitate. Why are you people doing so many weird things? You’re going out with Christine? You don’t like your parents? Wait, now you’re smoking?! I… I just… what about aliens? Look, I brought my laser gun, wanna run through the hills and.. oh, you’re hanging out with her. Hey, we can all hunt… oh right, just staying at home, talking, I understand. Yeah, I don’t think I wanna come. I’ll be in the forest if you change your mind.

    I’m now 25 and I still look at my peers and think, what are you doing?! What about the aliens? What weird priorities you have!

    Good thing the internet came along. … I think I’m spending too much time away from dirt nowadays. I guess I’ll run a bit through the forest now.

  13. SougoXIII says:

    A great read Shamus. It’s good to know how did your love for computers started. Kinda make me sad for not having anything like that when I was little :).

  14. MOM says:

    I love the comments. Shamus has such great readers. I remember his K teacher- she wasn’t the best.

    1. tengokujin says:

      I love how people related to Shamus in real life pop out and add more context. Thanks, Shamus’s mom! (At least, I think it’s Shamus’s mom)

      1. Skeeve the Impossible says:

        That is his mother and I am his youngest brother. I will share this with everyone. These stories show that my brother was…less than normal. Some would say cool. I never knew Shamus at these young ages. All i knew of him was his older high school years. I thought my big brother with computers was one of the coolest guys I knew. So as all little brothers I imitated him. I would listen to the same music as Shamus. “so what did Shamus like” i asked myself. The answer was obvious. They Might be Giants. So i started listening to them as well. This i thought made me cool. The funny thing I came to realize years later was the fact that maybe my brother wasn’t as cool as i had thought. (by the worlds standards, but i say smeg to that) and the fact that he listened to They Might Be Giants was a good indicator that he wasn’t cool. The irony always made me laugh

        1. PSJ says:

          I could never understand a world where listening to They Might Be Giants isn’t cool.

          1. decius says:

            Not to put too fine a point on it, but I can understand that world. I just would never live in it.

        2. Mari says:

          Pardon me while I marvel that you managed to work my favorite TV series, my favorite band, and one of my favorite book series all into one post.

  15. Thor says:

    This is a good series and I love this post in particular. You have so effortlessly put my school life into words. Well done.

  16. SolkaTruesilver says:

    Ahh… Social Behavior. I had so much trouble learning these “rules”. I was always really sad and angry people never told me about these “rules” (“Me First!”, “My Turn!”, etc..).

    And that’s not only the silly rules young kids make up on the fly to fit their whims, it’s also the actual social rules in society. For some weird reason, until reaching adulthood, I never seemed to be able to reason why something should be done and why something shouldn’t. I had to be told the hard way (usually preceded with a slap).

    Good thing is, now I can mimic acceptable social behavior very well (and since I hate breaking rules, I now behave better in average society than many people). Thing is, there is always this little time where I happen to stumble a situation where I am abso-freaking clueless.

    I guess I am lucky that girls told me I am “charming” (this is a post-20 yrs old development), ’cause I certainly have no clue why.

    I NEED A MANUAL! I really hope my kid, if (s)he’s like me, will be asking social-related questions to me, and I really hope I’ll remember what it was when I didn’t had a clue about social interaction, so I can explain what’s a good thing and what’s not.

  17. Tamayn says:

    I do actually love that other people had moments of complete confusion when in kindergarten. The worst part is how bad it makes the kid feel, like he or she’s stupid or doing something wrong. Then again, I was always that kid that was terrified to do something that was against the rules.

  18. Newbie says:

    I am slowly coming to the conclusion I might be the most well adjusted reader of Shamus. I have never had problems with other children I ignored most until high school where I got a group of friends and muddled through without hassle.

    College I found people who just decided I was a cool guy to be around, interestingly I still ignored them often enough.

    Only one point in my life was awkward and that was trying to trust adults. I didn’t like adults in my life at 4 – 11 I only liked one other person besides my parents and that was a teacher I found out later was trying to get me into a classification of a disability (I forget what it was) the symptom of which was being too trusting. Adults are stupid sometimes.

    1. psivamp says:

      Your gravatar makes you look nervous to be in such company. Perhaps you have some kind of anxiety about your supposed well-adjusted-ness.

    2. albval says:

      Trust me, adults are stupid. I’m a father of a soon-to-be-teenager, and I hear this all the time:-)

      Otherwise I’m with you. Reading through the comments has made me wonder if life in a society really is this hard to grasp and I’m just extremely lucky to have managed it all!

      Like you I haven’t encountered many social problems during my life, although I must say I didn’t understand most teenage girls when I was fifteen – but I don’t understand them now either. Luckily I grew older.

  19. Slothful says:

    Shamus, did you really not have any experience with kids your age before school? That’s a lot of things to throw onto a kid all at once.

    1. Shamus says:

      I did. I was at the daycare center every day until I began school.

      1. decius says:

        What did you do in daycare? How many people’s names did you know (kids or staff?)

        I didn’t realize until well after I was out of school that it was normal to know the names of the 30-100 people that you shared a class with. My circle grows very slowly.

        1. krellen says:

          Shamus just finished telling us what day care was like.

        2. BenD says:

          I knew that this was normal when I was in school and yet I couldn’t do it. I would know 10 names within my classroom at best. It got worse in middle-high school, with multiple classes and more students – I might have known the names of 4-6 students per class.

          I remember maybe 10 of my high school classmates by name now (I’m in my late 30s). I bet most people do better.

          I still suck at names.

          1. Nick Bell says:

            Learning names is influenced by the size of your class and the pool from which those students are drawn. My graduating class had 106 people in it, the vast majority of I had known since kindergarten. I knew the names and faces of everyone in my grade, and most of those above and below me. You just saw the same people every day, in every class, for thirteen years. Ten years later, I can still recognize most people I graduated with and pull their name given enough time.

            If you came from a graduating class of 1000+ students, it is much harder. More so if your high school is conglomeration of smaller middle schools, which are themselves collections of even smaller elementary schools, as is the case in larger cities. There is not the constant repetition to learn people and their names.

            1. decius says:

              No, I didn’t mean everyone in my graduating class. I knew the name of about three people in my math class.

              1. CaptainBooshi says:

                It would sometimes take me half the school year to remember all my teacher’s names, so I can appreciate your pain here. I’ve worked in a place with maybe 20 people for 2 years now, and I still can’t remember the names of people I talk to every day, but don’t call by name or get the chance to be reminded of their names.

          2. Kdansky says:

            Names are easy. Just write them down on your Smartphone and put a description of the person next to it, with place and time of first meeting. Surely, I am not the only one who treats names just like vocabulary, by writing them down and learning them. They don’t come natural, so I make an effort. Nowadays, I usually surprise people when I know their name after having met only once one year earlier. They think I can just remember. I know I have read and memorized their name once a week since I met them.

            If you think that’s crazy: It’s so little effort to someone who went to university and learned to speak multiple languages. If I can commit tens of thousands of words to memory, surely a few dozen names will pose no challenge.

        3. Shamus says:

          Wow. That’s an interesting point. I remember this sense of amusement or exasperation from the staff because I never knew anyone’s name.

          1. Kacky Snorgle says:

            One of my two memories from my stint in preschool:

            During playtime, I needed to get the teacher’s attention for some reason, but she was watching what some other kids were doing in another direction. So I walked up to her and…

            Hey! Hey, you!

            Are you talking to me?

            Yeah, I need–

            You do not ever address a teacher as ‘hey you’!

            Oh. Sorry. I need help with–

            First you address me politely, by my name.

            …Okay, what’s your name?

            You know very well what my name is! You’ve been in my class for weeks!


            Everyone here knows my name! Class, what is my name?

            By this point she was shouting loudly enough that everyone in the room had stopped playing to watch her, so they all immediately replied with her name. I was amazed–I had no idea how they knew….

            (My other memory of preschool is much happier, involving a time when I finally got the building blocks to myself for long enough to build a tower reaching above my head. It eventually fell on me, but that was much nicer than having some other kid knock it down.)

    2. acronix says:

      I`d say it`s pretty common. I didn`t have any experience either. The difference being that I really didn`t do anything unless the authorities asked me to.

  20. kingcom says:

    You seemed to have gone through similiar things to myself to be honest. I found lego-like materials at kindergarden and spent as much of my time playing with them as I could. I was advised at the age of 18 that I had Aspergers Syndrome, most of the things quoted as symptoms are what you describe, socialisation through imitation, inablility to naturally distinguish between hard facts and fluid concepts etc.

    Luckily its one of those things that becomes less significant as you age and go through more social interactions. Your always behind but you get a bit better at hiding it. Will be interesting to see how this develops in your life.

  21. AngryPanda says:

    “But I can't figure any of these people out. I didn't know the rules, or why they find some things funny, or what things make them happy. I'm just trying to fit in through imitation. I want to get along with them the way they get along with each other, but I can't seem to make it work.”

    This makes want to cheer and cry. It is comforting to see how other people can have the exact same problems and how this might even be common. It is also disturbing to see that normnal people have no idea how to handle it and just make it worse and worse in each case.

  22. Jeremiah says:

    I’m impressed by how much you remember! I’m 10 years younger and I’m not positive I could remember that much about kindergarten.

    I just remember taking naps and having snack time after and one time the teacher let me keep sleeping and I missed snack time!

  23. Patrick the Angst-fueled rage says:

    You know….I’ve been listening to people try and figure out Shamus for as long as I’ve been alive. Everyone trying to give their opinion as to what is “wrong with him”. At one point I remeber being dragged into some half-assed therapists room and asked a bunch of questions about Shamus so that I could shed some light onto to his social….impreclevities. It annoyed the absolute s**t out of me that everyone was so concerned why he didn’t talk much, or get along with other kids or blah blah blah. I got along with him just fine.

    The answer today is the same as it was back then. There’s nothing “wrong” with him, he just doesn’t like you. Maybe there’s nothing “wrong” with him, maybe all of you are just a**holes.


    And to hell with the stupid chick and her crayons. Let me know if you can think of her name. I’ll wait for a nice hot day and place a box of Crayolas on her dashboard…

    1. SolkaTruesilver says:


      I think that’s taking it one many level above what Shamus intended… no?

    2. Shamus says:

      A shrink asked you about me? I had no idea.

      Was this at Irene Stacey? Because that place is in a future episode.

      1. Patrick the Angst-fueled rage says:

        Yes….and Mr. Markle. And I still want to fire bomb Irene Stacy… jerk-offs.

        1. Alexander The 1st says:

          Is this next episode?

          The plot thickens…day by day. <_<

          *Twiddles thumbs*

          1. Ander the Halfling Rogue says:

            *whispers to kid next to him* Uh, I should probably know this one, but who’s Patrick? Brother or something?

            1. X2-Eliah says:


            2. Alexander The 1st says:

              If you want, check out the D&D Campaign. I think that’s where I first saw his posts.

              Or was it DMOTR? One of those two.

            3. Ander the Halfling Rogue says:


    3. Knight of Fools says:

      It comes from the human need to classify things. “Geek”, “Jock”, “Normal”, et cetera. I don’t appreciate it much either – Things just are, and we should act accordingly.

      Some professionals are too interested in figuring out what mysterious syndrome, taught to them by some monotone bookworm in college, is afflicting a child, when the child really doesn’t suffer from anything at all. They’re so sure that they know everything, that nothing beyond what they know exists, that the child has to be classified as something under their narrow range of understanding.

      It makes me upset, too. Things just are. People do stuff differently. Stop trying to classify it.


      1. Jeff says:

        Kinda like ADD.
        No we don’t/didn’t have ADD, you’re just more boring than paint drying, now shove off!

        1. Knight of Fools says:

          I guess this is where I say, “So’s your face”? Since that’s what the cool, non-boring people say?

          Also, the conversation about ADD is hanging around comment 4, Mr. Jeff. I don’t believe I even mentioned it.

          1. kmc says:

            ^.^ I think Jeff was agreeing with you, and I think the “you” of the “boring” comment wasn’t directed at you specifically. I think it was directed more at a generic teacher or other random adult whose failure to capture a young person’s interest could result in an incorrect ADD diagnosis, when in fact the person is just boring as hell and doesn’t want to admit it.

            1. Knight of Fools says:

              I think I understand, now. Looking at it that way, Jeff’s post makes a lot more sense, and I agree.

              The “So’s your face” bit was referring to his post way near the top, though. I was trying to be funny (Not insulting), but it turns out he wasn’t talking about me. My bad. :S

          2. Atarlost says:

            Ooh, is this going to be another silly insult chain?

            “The interesting stuff happens behind the forehead, at least for some of us.”

  24. Patrick the Angst-fueled rage says:

    And for the record, I think those pants kick EFFIN’ ASS. If I could find a pair of 38’s, EXTRA WIDE bell bottoms, I would rock those every trip to the store, every trip to mall and every single casual Friday. Those Multi-colored slacks could single-handedly turn casual Friday’s into Kick-ass-melt-your-no-wrinkle-dockers-wearing face off.

    Joseph and his coat of many colors won’t have s**t on my pants.

    1. krellen says:

      This and other comments from your family here have convinced me that you have a pretty awesome family, Shamus.

      1. Meredith says:

        Agreed. I love how the family are responding to all this.

    2. Zombie Pete says:

      Those pants look like you just arrived in 1977 from the year 1973, which I believe Jame Lileks called the nadir of fashion. The youngsters won’t get it, but there was a huge gulf between those years, style-wise (depending on what area of the country you were in, I suppose).

    3. eaglewingz says:

      Yeah, those pants have nothing on the picture of me I have stored away in a deep, dark corner of the closet.
      Purple, red, and pink plaid, bell-bottomed like the Cracker Jack sailor’s.

    4. Skeeve the Impossible says:

      i want shamus to wear those pants and his 10,000 Maniacs shirt. That would be excellent

  25. Friend of Dragons says:

    I got through school mostly by keeping my mouth shut (and reading a book, more often then not), and I’m still like that a little. If I come up with something I feel is worth saying, I’ll say it, but I never really got the hang of the banter that most people just seemed to pick up naturally. I’ve been getting better at it, and I’m perfectly chatty with close friends and the like, but otherwise I’m still “the quiet one” when I’m in a group of acquaintances I don’t know that well.

  26. psivamp says:

    The only thing I remember about kindergarten was kissing a girl under a table — a girl I would later run into in fifth grade and make a complete fool of myself for remembering. That and somebody sat on me.

    If only I’d remained that smooth with the ladies…

  27. Airsoft says:

    Wow, I really can’t remember much about my time in preschool, only small things like sticklebricks, and some of the kids there, I also remember once wishing for a few months that I could learn gymnastics, so that I could flip over everybodies heads while they queued up to go outside.
    I was a bit unfortunate that I shared many teachers with my sister, who had gone hrough the school a couple of years before me, she was quite a problem child so the teachers instantly assumed that I was going to be just as problematic, they treated me differently from everyone else which only led me to be more alienated, my reaction probably only reinforced their assumption.
    Just writing this has helped me remember so much stuff. Wow, I hated preschool, it was horrible.

  28. Harry says:

    I don’t think Shamus has autism or Asperger’s or whatever. When I was a kid, when I went to primary school (I live in the UK and we don’t really have Kindergarten), my teacher – who taught us everything from French to Maths – was only really qualified to be a PE teacher. He got on great with all the kids who liked sports and kicking balls at things. He didn’t much like me, though, because I hated sports, liked to read books, didn’t talk much to other kids, and sometimes corrected his spelling.

    So anyway, one parents’ evening this guy told my parents that he thought I had severe autism. He didn’t have any training in diagnosing such a thing, he just decided that I probably did, because as I said, I was an introvert. Now I’m not saying that having autism is a bad thing – but before you tell a kid’s parents that their kid has it, you better be pretty damn confident in yourself. Long story short, I got taken to a psychologist, who told me in no uncertain terms that I did NOT have autism, and that I was just a bit shy and withdrawn. But it was a frightening experience – I didn’t understand what “autism” was, and I thought something was wrong with me.

    At the end of the day, armchair psychologists don’t have any right diagnosing others. A couple of blog posts really isn’t enough to go on. When a kid’s parents suspect that their child’s mind works in a different way to most others, then that’s time to take the kid to a psychologist, but even then, they shouldn’t assume it’s autism until the PSYCHOLOGIST says so.

    tl;dr – Shamus probably doesn’t have autism. He was probably just a shy kid. People saying he might have autism are just trying to help, I know, but unless you’re qualified or have a child who is/are yourself autistic, you’re in no position to say that kind of thing.

    1. Perseus says:

      I disagree. Between the inability to cope with changes (people&cars), trouble understanding others, and rigid literal thinking (5&2) it’s very likely that Shamus was at least a little bit autistic at that age. That doesn’t mean he hasn’t gotten over it though.

      1. LassLisa says:

        Right, but the way we handle labels like ‘autism’ isn’t like ‘shy’ – oh, he was shy as a child – it isn’t thought of as something that wears off. Someone who was diagnosed as autistic as a child is still going to be called ‘autistic’ as an adult, however high-functioning they might be.

        So if you want to say “your behavior and thinking as a child shared a lot of traits with autism”, consider saying that. Shortening it to “you sound autistic” conveys something much stronger.

    2. Ben says:

      I have an ASD (Asperger’s), and while it is not my major, I have studied psychology at a college level. SO while I may not be a proffesional psychologist, I am not exactly an “armchair” one either.
      The reason Shamus probably also has a similar ASD is not simply because he was shy, awkward, or was constantly being corrected by the teacher.

      In the case of the 2/5 problem, the teacher was relying on teaching by example. When the child made a mistake, she would personally perform it the correct way, and expect the child to mimic her until they got it right.

      People with ASD range from having trouble with mimicry, to being completely unable to copy the behavior of the other party.
      This is because the circuits in the brain that accept nonverbal inputs of that type is either not fully formed or not present at all. If you measure the activity of the brain electronically, those areas simply do not light up when they would normally. That brain matter is instead re-purposed for other tasks.

      This in turn results in many of the symptoms used to diagnose ASDs.

      Here are the diagnostic Criterion for Asperger’s, of which all 3 have to be met in addition to 3 Criterion which serve to prevent misdiagnosis of a more serious disorder. (I.E. the child does NOT have delayed ability to speak, The child does NOT have a lack of curiosity, The child does NOT have an even worse disorder which takes precedence.)

      A. Qualitative impairment in social interaction, as manifested by at least two of the following:

      (1) marked impairment in the use of multiple nonverbal behaviors, such as eye-to-eye gaze, facial expression, body postures, and gestures to regulate social interaction

      (2) failure to develop peer relationships appropriate to developmental level

      (3) a lack of spontaneous seeking to share enjoyment, interests, or achievements with other people (e.g., by a lack of showing, bringing, or pointing out objects of interest to other people)

      (4) lack of social or emotional reciprocity

      B. Restricted, repetitive, and stereotyped patterns of behavior, interests, and activities, as manifested by at least one of the following:

      (1) encompassing preoccupation with one or more stereotyped and restricted patterns of interest that is abnormal either in intensity or focus

      (2) apparently inflexible adherence to specific, nonfunctional routines or rituals

      (3) stereotyped and repetitive motor mannerisms (e.g., hand or finger flapping or twisting, or complex whole-body movements)

      (4) persistent preoccupation with parts of objects

      C. The disturbance causes clinically significant impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.

      In Shamus’ case A is extremely obvious. The teacher’s nonverbal teaching method was completely ineffective, and he was unable to reciprocate socially.

      B is less clear cut, but his problems with dysgraphia seem to stem from B.4, and a case could be made for B.1 based on his response to the electronic testing. (I know I took to computers at first sight as well, and I’m still working with them.)

      C. Is usually the make or break criterion, and is the reason adults who have learned to work around their problems can no longer be Diagnosed with ASD.
      Shamus ended up in special classes, thus he was occupationally impaired.

      So as far as I can tell Shamus definitely could have been clinically diagnosed at age 6. Even if he may not be diagnosable now.

      1. Shamus says:

        Very informative, thanks.

        1. Kdansky says:

          Shamus is insane and will give us cooties!!

          /runs off screaming

      2. Retsam says:

        What exactly does B.4 mean? Like, for instance, always taking apart pens and pencils could be considered a sign of Aspergers (in conjunction with the other signs listed, obviously)?

        1. Ben says:

          Generally it means that the person has a tendency to focus on minutia at the expense of the big picture.
          Sometimes it also includes being unable to separate parts of things based on relative importance.

          So if you tell your child with asperger’s to “clean their room” before dinner and then leave them unsupervised, there is a good chance that when you come back an hour later one of 2 things will have happened.

          A. the child will have only cleaned about 4 square ft, which will be completely immaculate, and will still be scrubbing that same spot until it is absolutely objectively clean.
          B. the child will still be standing where you left him, having cleaned nothing, swamped by the sheer impossibility of the prospect of cleaning the entire room to the standards of child A before dinner.

          To this day I still have trouble with certain types of schoolwork where the choice of scope for the assignment is left up to the student. My work tending to vacillate between excellent A level work, and unfinished F’s.

  29. Meredith says:

    It makes me so sad to read about little Shamus not being able to get on the bouncey balls. I have to admit, though, that I still occasionally react that way to unfamiliar situations. Sometimes it’s easier to leave than figure it out.

    About your special classes: I hate how school systems, and adults generally, don’t bother to explain things to kids. They’re much smarter and more resilient than we give them credit for and they deserve to know what we’re doing with them.

  30. Mersadeon says:

    Well, about that kiss thing… Since everyone is posting their personal “childhood moments” about that topic, here is one of mine. ^^
    I had a crush on a girl back then – must have been second or third (german, primary) grade. So I remembered what I had seen on television – that you only share Rollo with your loved ones (those chocolate thingies with caramel inside. Yum.). I tried to share it with her. She didn’t want any. Well, I was embarassed, but it was ok – I mean, maybe she just doesn’t like caramel.
    But… she wrote a little love letter to one of the guys in class. He was the most athletic one. Also, he was mean and dumb. He read it to the whole class and laughed at her face. And all I was thinking was “well, if she had written that letter to me, I wouldn’t have laughed and read it to everyone.”

  31. Jarenth says:

    Wow, Shamus. I wanted to make some sort of joke here, but:

    But I can't figure any of these people out. I didn't know the rules, or why they find some things funny, or what things make them happy. I'm just trying to fit in through imitation. I want to get along with them the way they get along with each other, but I can't seem to make it work.

    I can only say, I’ve been there. I’ve been there for longer than I care to remember. I still occasionally visit that place, where things happen and I can’t figure them out on my own, yet everyone seems to assume it’s easy and nobody wants to tell me what the deal is.

    On the plus side, you seem to have figured out the ‘things people think are funny, and/or make them happy’ bits quite well.

    1. Mari says:

      I like to think Shamus was just ahead of his time. His sense of humor was too sophisticated for those other kindergarteners.

  32. X2-Eliah says:

    Eh, this brings up similar feelings on my part.. Kindergarten wasn’t a very happy place for me. My mom was actually a teacher there, but for 3 years or so I was shifted in a parallel group.. Luckily, she arranged that I’d get in another class where the teachers actually watch the children and stop them from fighting etc (wasn’t in her class as the management didn’t permit it).. Tbh nowadays it’s really crazy there – some teachers still keep a good rein on the children, but there are a few that basically let the kids go wild, and it’s more or less a jungle society there – the kids fight, punch, kick each other, scream, fight again, etc.. So, er, yeah, basically I got lucky in that my mom – working there herself – knew where to put me.

    But even then.. I guess I was the quiet odd kid that never did quite fit in. Not to say that my experiences were as bad as Shamus’s, but.. eh, it’s really similar. One difference being, I think, that I took [b]all[/b] criticism / rejection from other kids as *my fault*, and none of theirs. Every odd glance or side comment I felt guilty of – heck, just hearing raised voices, or arguments, I somehow felt it was because of something I’d done.. And, er, frankly that legacy stayed with me up until 9th/10th grade in school – 10th grade being when I finally got in a class with cool people, and got a chance to gather some self-esteem.

    Anyway.. As far as all the comments about autistic tendencies go.. well, what of it? Doesn’t matter if he was, is, or was not. Right now Shamus seems like a pretty cool & successful guy – at least from what I can gather from the blog and his internet-presence, he’s perfectly normal.. No, scratch that, not normal, but perfectly fine ^^ – ‘normal’ is such a useless derogatory term. In any case.. the problem with being a kid is that the shy ones get pushed away, and thus turn even more shy due to rejection – it’s a self-feeding loop, and it’s very, very hard to break it or turn it around. Impossible when you’re a kid. The teacher’s in kindergartens are supposed to take care of that – not to let anyone be made an outcast.. But, well, there are good teachers and there are bad ones – sounds like Shamus got saddled with a bad one.

    P.S. Also.. Kids are damn cruel. Kids in school, circa 9-13 years old, have evolved that ability to over 9000 :(

  33. Joe Cool says:

    Reason #314,159,265 I’m glad I was home-schooled.

    1. Paul Spooner says:

      It isn’t a solution to every problem… and it creates a few of its own… but I feel the same way. I wouldn’t want to put up with more public “education” than I’d have to. College was quite enough infuriating stupid all by itself.

      When I was in Junior College (all three of my brothers and I went to the JC instead of High School) I had a conversation with one of the other (much older) students that went something like this:
      “You’ve never been to High School?”
      “Aren’t you bummed you missed out? You didn’t get the High School experience!”
      “Well, what did I miss out on?”
      “You know…”
      “No, I don’t; I’ve never been to High School. What am I missing?”
      “Parties and drinking and stuff!”
      I couldn’t bring myself to respond.

      1. Aldowyn says:

        Dude obviously doesn’t know what high school actually IS good for.. And I bet he was expecting the same from college.

        Anyway, I believe that it would be extremely difficult to fully replace the social learning one gains from high school. Like it or not, you are almost certainly going to have to deal with people, and I don’t see how any home-school group could effectively do that the same way.

  34. Alex says:

    Oh man, do I understand what you mean.
    It was probably the most incomprehensible thing about school. I didn’t live close to anyone, we had a house a couple miles out of the way. Doesn’t sound like much, but all that forest makes quite a barrier to other people. We were in northern Virginia, in one of the more populous counties, and I never had anyone to play with, growing up. I had to schedule times for friends to come over a week in advance. I couldn’t go out and meet people because there weren’t any within walking distance, that I knew of.
    Because of this, I never got a chance to read the Book that carefully explains the Rules of Engagement when dealing with other kids. This is a blessing and a curse. A curse, in that it took me a LONG time to Get It: it’s not who you are but what you look like and who talks to you. A blessing in that I realize that this same Book is the ONLY thing these people rely upon. It makes them narrow-minded. They rely on it daily. I can look around and see that ALL human social interaction is defined by your elementary school years. The same rules apply.
    There is pretense of civility, but one need only watch an argument. 95% of people argue to win, not to learn. As such, they see it as a competition, and try to attain dominance. This is the Art of Rhetoric: the art of appearing right without being right. The art of winning the war and the battle by sacrificing intellect and truth. In short, looking like the bigger monkey. It doesn’t matter who has the best facts or the best figures; the one who appears right, IS right.
    Take a look at kindergarten, take a look at politics.
    Tell me I’m wrong.

    1. MisteR says:

      The art of Rhetoric is not about “sacrificing intelligence and truth”. Far from it. Like a Dutch comedian insisted: “Only true things work on stage”. In other words, Rhetorics is only a tool, which can be misused like all others.

  35. webrunner says:

    When do you get to the part where you convince that robotic dragon to give you the key to the bunker?

  36. I have mild dyslexia, which made my first years of school pretty…interesting…
    This was a time before dyslexia was easily and commonly diagnosed and just before the big boom of calling all children ADHD
    I’m sure I was mound of frustration for my teachers
    My parents were called in and they were told that I had a learning disability and could not share a class with the other children because I required too much of the teachers time
    I would have to be sent to “special” education
    My mom outright refused to admit me to the classes and haggled a trial period with the teacher
    If my mom promised to tutor me every night, I could stay in my regular class
    She would tell me, “you’re not a dumb kid, you just learn differently”
    My mom tutored me in reading and writing, my dad tutored me in math
    I had a lot of trouble following verbal instructions and would get easily confused and frustrated (I still have this problem today)
    I could never make sense of what I read, because the words were different from the top of the page to the bottom
    I’d look at a word like “THE” and if I saw the word again, I couldn’t recognize it…it was a new word I’d not been taught
    My math skills were below average because I couldn’t understand how 2 numbers magically became a 3rd number
    Finally I could read by taking multiple passes over the same sentences over and over until it would form something that made sense
    I learned my math by memorizing the methods to get the answers, and just having faith that the answer was right
    And now I’m the semi-functional adult you see today


    P.S. I was born late and had to take kindergaten the following year, thus being a year older then everyone else…still didn’t help

  37. Tse says:

    I had the opposite problem in elementary school. Sometimes others didn’t understand ME. For example, after being called a piece of shit (oh, the joys of the first 4 grades), I replied that if I am a piece of shit the school is not for humans, but for pieces of shit and everyone in it is one, all the students and the teacher. This was followed by the other children telling on me for calling the teacher a piece of shit!?? And they really thought I did. They couldn’t even follow simple logic. OK, maybe not that simple, but still…
    P.S. What I disliked about the teacher (it was the only thing, she was good at her job) was always being corrected when I said/wrote something about “plants and animals”. According to the teacher and the textbook it is supposed to be “plants, animals and humans”. I knew that, but I simply disagreed that humans aren’t animals (I still do). I actually remember this being my only “mistake” in a lot of tests.

    1. Methermeneus says:

      Wow, those are some annoying teachers. I recall occasionally hearing “plants, animals, and humans,” and thinking, aren’t humans just a type of animal?, but I don’t think I ever had a teacher ride me for not separating humans from animals. In fact, I think I brought it up once, and the teacher said something like, “Well, yes, but since ‘humans’ means us, some people think we’re special enough to mention separately.”

      On the subject of teachers marking you down frivolously, though, I did once get a detention when a teacher got annoyed at me for not changing “Enquirer” to “Inquirer” on a newspaper-related assignment. Not only had I already agreed to change it (she was upset I didn’t change it on the spot), but I now know that my word choice was actually correct in that situation. She also once took my notebook and gave me detention for writing poetry instead of reading when I’d already read the assignment. (That time, she just kept me for five minutes before throwing my notebook at me and telling me to get out: just long enough to miss the bus home, so I had to stay for the duration of a detention anyway, either to catch the late bus or take the hour and a half walk home, and she didn’t have to sit around for two hours watching me. Actually pretty smart of her.)

      I do love your first story about what pieces of shit everyone was. I might have appreciated it at that age, but no one really talked to me back then, even to make fun of me.

      1. Tse says:

        Actually, I wasn’t marked down, just corrected. Again and again and again….. The teacher felt she couldn’t mark me lower for 1 small mistake, especially if it’s the only one.

        1. Methermeneus says:

          Ah. In that case, odd teacher, but at least a nice one.

        2. Kdansky says:

          Reminds me of my first class about religion. (Don’t start a flame-war!)

          Priest talks about Genesis. I ask “and where are the dinosaurs?” to which the priest answers “Dinosaurs are a myth.” to which I react by not going to that class any more, because he’s just full of shit. :)

          1. kmc says:

            Lol! I think teachers of religious subjects are just as prone to error as teachers of any other subject. I remember asking quite a number of questions in Sunday School as a kid to which the answer I received was something along the lines of, “Be quiet and believe harder.” And believe me, these were questions that any religious authority who is secure at all could answer easily, and even use for discussion. Teachers certainly haven’t universally mastered the art of communicating with children, and they as a group often miss opportunities to actually teach. Funny, that.

      2. Jeff says:

        I’m pretty sure the school would be liable for more or less abandoning a child like that, depending on your age at the time.

        1. Methermeneus says:

          The teacher in question was my sophomore lit teacher; enough students stayed after school for clubs or sports or just to hang out with friends that I’m pretty sure there was no question of abandonment, especially in a school that size. (My graduating class was ~800 students.) It was just a sheer pain in the ass. Weird thing is, that was only some of the crap this teacher gave me, but the next year, when I had a class that happened to be in the same room as her desk, she acted like I had been her favorite student and we were pals.

  38. Methermeneus says:

    Longtime reader, first time commenter. I’m just really not good at joining communities, even online ones; somehow I feel like the social rules I’ve had to deal with in the real world should apply online as well, so I feel weird jumping into what seems like someone else’s conversation, even to join a comment thread or a forum discussion. Nevertheless, I feel like you put a lot of yourself into your blog, but rarely as much as you are now; in this series I feel like I should give something back.

    I think I might have had similar experiences in school had I been just slightly less lucky. First of all, I was born in June, so my parents didn’t have the choice like yours did; I was the youngest kid in school, and that’s that. Nevertheless, my parents were together, which gave them more time to spend with me, and with their help I could read, write, count to ten, do basic addition and subtraction before I got to kindergarten. This also jump-started my love of reading in general, which extended even to my text books, at least until I learned how to use a library. (Weird thing: I didn’t encounter picture books until after I’d already been reading for some time. I was enamored of the concept of telling a story without words and read all the picture books in my school’s library in first grade. I wonder if the librarian thought I couldn’t read? Would she have been surprised to know I already liked Beverly Cleary and Judy Blume? I imagine this may also have paved the way for my enjoyment of comics. That and the X-Men cartoon series.)

    I really have no idea how good or bad any of my teachers were because I never had to learn anything from them until high school (with a junior high exception for French); I’d generally already learned what they were supposed to teach us either at home or by reading ahead when I was bored. Between this and my tendency to fade into the background, I never really had any disciplinary problems until my family moved to Bedminster in fourth grade; there, I was so far ahead of the class that I got so bored with homework that I just wouldn’t do it. This habit, unfortunately, followed me to high school. I’d wind up doing my calculus homework in lunch, after I finished eating, and my French teacher, vexed at how well I spoke and wrote in class, versus how bad my grade was from lack of homework, would occasionally shout, “Je veux te tuer!” (“I want to kill you!”) while making strangling gestures with her hands.

    I think I might have had similar social difficulties; certainly, I never interacted with other kids much, nor did I have any idea how to, but unlike you (or most people, I think), I really didn’t care. My take on it, even in kindergarten, was that anyone who didn’t want to play with me probably wasn’t interesting enough to play with. It probably helped that my neighbors were “popular kids” and (probably because they got along well with my brother) stuck up for me once when there was potential for bullying. Again, pure luck of circumstance may have saved me from the difficulties you faced. Possibly the biggest bit of luck was that I tended to be able to find one friend to talk to. In preschool there was this kid named Jerome; I have no idea what became of him after that. In kindergarten until fourth grade, there was James (I’m avoiding last names since I don’t know him anymore, but his initials were JET, which I always found cool). Of course, the fact that I can recall in first grade playing virus-and-whatever-kills-the-virus (I was a vaccine for a while, but when James upgraded to HIV I had to become bleach or pure heat; he won when he retreated to the bloodstream, where either bleach or heat would kill the patient) is probably an indication of just how weird we were, and just how bad life would have been if I had cared what anyone else thought of me.

    In Bedminster, I found out what you did so much earlier: Other kids are assholes; when you don’t know an adult, what they demand of you makes no sense, and doing it makes no sense; and when the adults don’t know you, they can’t comprehend any reason you might not be doing something except that you’re not good enough. For my part, I was surrounded by incredibly cliquish kids, and not only was I the new kid who didn’t fit into a clique, I didn’t want to! Others shunned me and tried to bully me (here it helped that I was aggressive enough to shove back; they tended to claim they won, but I didn’t care what they said so long as I knew they were wrong).

    The teachers tried to assign me work that made no sense. We had vocabulary lessons. Vocabulary? Didn’t we learn words from reading and talking? What was this vocabulary nonsense? I didn’t bother doing most of it (I think the lessons were called “Wordly Wise,” a wonderful pun for the adults, but for I don’t think most of the kids had ever heard the phrase “worldly wise” before, so what was the point?), and got detentions for it. Go to detention for not doing homework? What a novel concept! And in detention, they didn’t say you couldn’t do anything, but that you had to sit quietly and read or do homework. This is supposed to be punishment? I read the Prydain Chronicles and The Lord of the Rings in detention. I also read my entire Reading textbook, so I wound up doodling during Reading, which meant my teachers thought I just wasn’t doing the assignments, even if I could answer the questions at the end of each passage. After a week of having the teachers stop me from answering questions in Math and Social Studies because I needed to give the other students a chance, I stopped raising my hand at all. The teacher didn’t want me answering questions, right? Thereafter, they thought I wasn’t answering because I couldn’t.

    I started getting sent to the guidance counselor. “Are you having trouble at home?” Well, no, not really. “Are you sure there’s nothing you want to talk about?” No, seriously, I’m just bored. Can someone teach me something new please? Every time I went to the guisance counselor, they couldn’t think of any possible problem except maybe I was having trouble at home. I have no idea why this was their go-to answer. In retrospect, I probably technically was: My father was out of work and slipping into alcoholism, my mother trying to hold a job for the first time since they’d been married, but that was tangential to my life and not contributory to my problems; I just didn’t give a damn about school anymore.

    I realize that most of the parallels in my life to yours are late enough that they should probably be a comment to something somewhere in parts 4-6 of your autobiography, but this is where it touched me enough to post my own experiences. I hope I wasn’t too long-winded and the fact that I didn’t commend directly on your story (all of my opinions seem to alrady be covered in earlier comments) doesn’t offend.

    1. Methermeneus says:

      Apparently the time to edit my reply has elapsed… Um… Just assume there’s an asterisk after “I read the Prydain Chronicles and The Lord of the Rings in detention.”

      *Also, A Wizard of Earthsea. Since I encountered the related (and actually earlier-written) short story The Rule of Names in an eighth grade text book, I wonder just how far ahead of the class I really was. I also wonder what librarians thought of me, reading YA books in high school. I spent so much time reading above my level that, like with picture books in first grade, I didn’t realize until much later just how good the stories were in books meant for people my age. Books written for tweens and young teenagers tend to be engaging for the simple fact that most kids that age don’t like to read, so only the most entertaining (or fad-related, but those I tend to avoid) get published in hopes of catching someone’s interest. I still pick up a good YA-level fantasy novel(la) when I get tired of reading classics in dead languages.

      1. decius says:

        For reference, a discussion held in open comments or fora is normally open to input from any person who is interested, subject to the posting guidelines and common standards

        1. krellen says:

          Yeah, there’s a lot of things that I don’t say here that I might say in a more intimate setting of friends; don’t feel like you’re butting in. We all know we’re posting in public, and what that entails.

          1. Methermeneus says:

            Oh, I understand that intellectually. I just have trouble with multiple levels of etiquette. I tend to be a bit formal, just to be on the safe side, and, well, you can imagine how misanthropic that makes me seem on the internet.

            1. decius says:

              For this type of discussion, formal is very appropriate. Remember, when the space owner (Shamus, here) makes the space available for posts, they are specifically inviting readers to post there. You have been invited to share your thoughts on the blog post, or on the thoughts that others have shared.

            2. Jarenth says:

              I hung around this website for about a year and a half before I’d built up the courage to start saying things. You’re not alone in this, is what I’m saying.

  39. Irridium says:

    Reminds me of my first day of High School. I eventually just stopped trying with everyone. Still had my circle of friends, but everyone else was just… “there” to me.

  40. Nick says:

    I never really fitted in at school either, but that was probably more to do with my parents moving around a lot, making me always the new kid in the school. Couple that with some naivety and natural shyness and you got a kid who would, at playtime, find the wooden pyramid and sit in it with a book for break times.

    I’ve never really considered myself autistic but I do find it hard to intuit social rules and interactions very well. Also I’m completely clueless romantically speaking, but then I’m not exactly handsome so that’s probably never going to be an issue (kinda resigned to bachelorhood forever at this point)

  41. Aquin says:

    I remember being a pretty terrible kid. I did whatever I wanted (regardless of teacher input), I ignored kids and frequently told them to get lost. If anybody tried to confront me, I usually punished them right in the face. I remember getting so pissed off at teachers, I would just walk home (I got picked up by a cop once at the age of 5.)

    I spent *every* single day, from Grade 1 to Grade 6, sitting outside the Principal’s office. I spent more time in isolation with counselors in the library than I ever did in a classroom. I always knew precisely what I would learn and anybody that argued was ignored or attacked.

    I never tried to fit in; I got mad when other people couldn’t do things my way or keep up. Man, I had no respect for authourity, it was *crazy*. But I was always so confident and learning the syllabus material was so easy, the teachers learned to leave me alone. I was like that for years and years; I didn’t even have any real friends until I was a teenager.

    I can definitely say that early uppity attitude really cost me. Sure I knew a lot of math, computers, and science. But literally any other topic and I was like an alien visiting from another planet. I still have trouble learning the simplest social tasks.

    I never had to deal with bullies, I never cried because I didn’t fit in (I never wanted to), etc. It all led to a different sort of awkwardness that made for an easy childhood. My current friends all have a similar Shamus childhood. It’s funny they all eventually grew into witty responsible adults. I guess I better do that too. Just not today. :P

  42. Mike Has Answers says:

    This is invaluable as a record of an autistic child’s subjective experiences. These kind of accounts are rare since autistics by definition have a hard time relating their experiences. We’re lucky Shamus grew out of it so well.

  43. Destrustor says:

    Your reasoning with the bouncy balls, that example of the way you think reminded me heavily of the way I reason, even to this very day. I know things but am baffled by the rules behind them, especially in “people” situations.

    1. krellen says:

      We do all realise that Shamus was breaking no rules there, and the little girl was just a selfish brat, right?

      1. decius says:

        I think that there actually was a ‘my turn’ system going on there. I’m not sure if that girl was following the rules, making them up, or breaking them, but the observation would have been the same.

        1. LassLisa says:

          Right – the system might have been “you get a turn by persuading the other kids to give you one”, but that’s still a system that Shamus didn’t understand. And there are rules to how you get people to give you things, even if they’re flexible and inconstant rules.

      2. Jarenth says:

        Well, ‘selfish brat’… I just had this image of a little girl, used to ‘taking turns’ with the other kids, asking in her own way if she could play now.

  44. Dwip says:

    To echo many, these are some insanely interesting posts (and comments), and Shamus has an awesome family.

    “Eventually I am sent to a special class. I still don't know why. (Nobody ever tells me anything. They just tell me to go places.)”

    …and that line basically sums up my entire K-8 experience. What’s going on? Why am I doing this? Who are you people? I don’t even know, and won’t really figure it out for another fifteen years or so.

    Only much, much later did I figure out that the reason they kept sending me off places was probably more to keep me out of the classroom than anything else. I probably should have skipped a grade or two (I was a ferociously smart kid, apparently), but didn’t have anything like the social skills for it. In the meantime I was an enormous discipline problem (No joke, I spent at least half of 1st-2nd grade standing against a wall in the office. Also I was stubborn) purely out of boredom. This eventually evolved into a sort of system where I did what they wanted me to, then did my own thing when I finished whatever dumb assignment it was. Probably should’ve done more talented and gifted stuff, but joys of rural schools, there wasn’t a lot.

    I seem to have missed a lot of the barbarous social interaction common to kids. I’m not sure if this was just because I was oblivious or blocking it out or what, but my perception is that because it was a small rural school and I had a class of the same 30 people K-12, we came to accomodate each other fairly quickly without (too much) fratricide. It was a K-8 grade school, so we had the older kids around for that sort of thing anyway. The group 3-4 years ahead of us were real winners, too. Not inconsiderable number of people who used to call me four eyes on the playground are now murder victims or in prison. Funny how that works.

    The damnable thing about it all was that I didn’t realize until I was 20-something that I was actually a pretty well-liked kid among my peers all the way through high school, nevermind that I liked to run around and make dinosaur noises at recess. The whole “I invited you to my birthday party so you should invite me to your house/birthday party” thing unfortunately never really made sense to me until much, much later. Ah well. Sorry about that, classmates.

    Silly people and their silly social interactions.

  45. Sozac says:

    Love the comments. Especially, since I grew up more or less the same way. The difference for me was mainly moving. See, I learned the important rules of how to socialize a little late. By then I have grown up with mostly the same kids who already labeled me as a nerd just because I wasn’t as good at socializing. However, when I moved to Florida I had a better idea oh how to socialize and the main thing is that everyone does it differently. For me socializing consists of asking questions and listening, not focusing on myself. For other people they talk a lot about themselves. I have a lot of friends who talk about life in general a lot. So yeah when I became the “new kid” I was able to have an easier time making friends.

  46. Thomas says:

    I’m amazed at the detail you can remember this in. I’m only 19 and my only real memory of infant school is a sense of fish-fingers somehow connecting with saying grace

    1. Michael says:


      Pretty much the only things I remember from Elementary School are big [negative] events: Grandfather died, broke my arm, dog bit my nipple off, stabbed in the eye with a screwdriver, etc.

      I marvel at the memory of some people.

  47. Davie says:

    This is bringing back memories of my time around that age. My clearest memories were of not ever knowing what the other five-year-olds were talking about (what was a star wars?) and somebody hitting me in the face with a toy school bus for no reason at all. I did not understand small children, even being one myself. I did have a very nice teacher though, who never told me to defile my mouth with soap.

    Now in my case, my antisocial tendencies led to my parents homeschooling me, which it’s safe to say is a pretty terrible way of dealing with someone’s antisocial tendencies.

  48. Rick says:

    Shamus, I hope you don’t mind me asking, but did you watch Prison Break?

    The show’s protagonist, Michael, has “low latent inhibition”. From the wikipedia page: “a condition in which his brain is more open to incoming stimuli in the surrounding environment. As a result of this condition, he is unable to block out periphery information and instead processes every aspect and detail of any given stimulus”.

    This might explain how you so easily (by all appearances) can break down the world into sets of logical rules. Instead of a beautiful landscape you see rules governing the curves, steepness, surface, climate, river flow, tree types, moss, leaves, tectonic movement and asteroid gravity.

    In the show they explain that instead of seeing a lamp, he sees screws, filament, wires, glass, rods and cloth.

    We might all be able to do this if we sit down and examine for hours, but it appears that seeing the secret code of the rules comes naturally to you. While we understand it if you explain it, you reverse engineer everything back to it’s original rules.

    This could all just be because of your role as a software engineer and writing passion, but a great deal of it may come naturally.

  49. Amarsir says:

    I suspect Middle School may be the most gut-wrenching for you, Shamus. I can only describe it as a time when everyone’s horrible to everyone else, but can’t see it in themselves. So many stories here already bear that out. I figure you’ve hit a well-adjusted adulthood if you regret the things you did more than the things done to you.

    To wit, in 6th grade one of a popular girl’s cliquemates came up to me and said “Stephanie XXX likes you, you should ask her out.”. This made NO sense to me as I certainly considered myself king of the geeks. (In hindsight the “king” part was at least as accurate, as people legitimately did follow my lead and I was too self-absorbed to even notice.). I didn’t know how to react, so I didn’t. Over the ensuing days more people gave me that message, some who wouldn’t have been in her circle, so I became convinced it was a setup at my expense. Because everyone but me is a jerk, right? So I did what you should always do to insults and turned a cold shoulder, to the extent of flat-out ignoring Stephanie until the whole thing went away.

    To this day I still have no idea if it was genuine. I went to a different high school so no mature conversation could ever have happened. But to this day I feel horrible because the embarrassment I would have felt by getting “fooled” is nothing compared to how awful I treated her if it was real. I don’t even care about the 8th grade boy who bullied me that year, but being mean when I was just playing defense is one thing I really do regret.

    1. Adam says:

      “I figure you've hit a well-adjusted adulthood if you regret the things you did more than the things done to you.”


    2. Jarenth says:

      I had an eerily similar experience in middle school (I was… 11 at the time?), and I regret my anxiety and resulting rather-bluntness to this day. Well, maybe not regret, but I do sometimes wonder what would’ve happened.

    3. kmc says:

      Ugh, middle school… I have a couple of friends who are now middle school teachers and I don’t know how they do it. Everybody was a complete jerk in middle school, and I absolutely include myself in that. And I had always been an extra-sentimental, friendly, soft-hearted kid, but I just remember saying and doing things that were really awful. The only consolation (and it isn’t much) is that everybody was trying to figure the whole thing out, so we were all socially… spastic.

  50. MrWhales says:

    Shamus, I have to say that I am really jealous that at whatever age you are you can remember your childhood. I can’t remember almost anything from before I was 9 or so. Maybe before my own mom develops some memory-problem (Alzheimer’s is in every woman on my mom’s side) I’ll ask her to write down as much as she can about it. That way maybe it will trigger anything I can remember.

    Thanks for sharing Shamus, and for maybe giving me a link to my own past. I look forward to reading the rest of your autobiography

  51. Delve says:

    This is eerily similar to my own experience as a child. Though I seem to have lost access to memories prior to about 3rd or 4th grade and precious few of those, most of them bad. Oh well. Be happy you still have those memories. I wish I could remember back that far that clearly; it might help me with my kids as they begin entering grade school this year.

  52. Veloxyll says:


    That’s all I have to say about that.

  53. Nick says:

    Those last few paragraphs sound somewhat like the hacker manifesto.

  54. ENC says:

    My mum’s an integration aid by choice. Yeah… way too many educators out there that have no idea about kids or Autism at all, and just treat them like a normal kid and that everything is THEIR fault even if they don’t understand because CLEARLY THEY SHOULD (by the teacher’s view), that using regular disciplinary actions can somehow fix the problem, then proceeding to get angry when it doesn’t. You can imagine how the kids feel (imagine Shamus’s scenario except feeling far more guilt and this can potentially happen throughout your entire school life).

    Then you get the ‘normies’ that just know how to act due to parents that usually just left the kids to their own devices and gave them lots of social interaction around adults.

    Thankfully for me, I swapped schools due to unrelated reasons (teachers were crap at teaching) and everyone was much nicer at my new school of 1800 for High School.

  55. Pingback: Newsy Stuff
  56. It’s fine to be shy, and confused, and a little bad in school because it’s your first time! You just have to react with it.
    I like to go to school, better than home-school, because then I get to go with my friends. But I think you should be home-schooled, or stay in the special class until you get better.

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