WHERE AUTISM MEETS CULTURE.
When I was in Year Twelve, having learnt Japanese for the past four years, there was a Japanese exchange student in Year Eleven. We'd had two the previous year, and I had been asked to write a story about one for the school magazine. This student, a female, wrote about her introduction to Australian culture (not liking Vegemite was something I shared with her) and she said that a culture shock she experienced in Australia was that in Japan people didn't hug, kiss or even say, "I Love You," so she felt very ashamed when her Australian homestay Mum first kissed her.
When I went to Japan, aged 21, I remembered a Japanese woman, who was volunteering at a festival I attended, sitting with me while I had my dinner and during a show, who then volunteered me to wear a yukata. She took some photos and then I asked her if she'd be in a photo with me. When I was in Year Eleven at school, we had been asked to guess which words some of our classmates had chosen to describe their sexuality, and the guy who had to guess mine said, "frigid," and "virgin". I agreed with him and the teacher said, "What? You'd describe yourself as being closed and cold?" (As an aside, I didn't lose my virginity until I was 25 and the hardest thing was, one girl in my year became pregnant at Schoolies Week (okay, she was in a relationship with the guy, but my thought was, "What? You've just finished your school life and are in the first week of the rest of your life, and you're pregnant?")) and I wasn't interested in partying the week after I left school. I wanted to go to university, which I did. I wasn't the type of guy who could have had too much to drink and slept with a random girl. I didn't even go to my school formal, as I thought, "What is the attraction of wearing a tuxedo with a white shirt and a bow tie?" Anyway, getting back to my point, this Japanese girl rested her head on my chest and put her arm around my waist, and I was left not knowing what to do. I ended up putting my arm around her shoulder (okay, there was the height difference, but I was trying to be respectful). Even at school, when it came to dancing, I felt uncomfortable taking a girl in the waltz hold.
Those who've read some of my stories will also know that I'm a sex abuse survivor at the hands of males, and my response to the "Not all men," movement has been to give the analogy of two former POWs in Changi, one of whom forgave the Japanese, one of whom did not. One day, they were teeing off to play their regular game of golf, when the one who had forgiven asked how the other one's wife was. "She wants me to buy a smaller car," was his response. The one who'd just teed off told his mate that he'd just bought a Corolla 4WD, which horrified the other guy, who kept presenting memories of atrocities, which prompted the one who had forgiven to say, "Yes, but remember the guard who used to secretly give us his vitamin pills?" A few months later, the guy who hadn't forgiven the Japanese was heading out to play golf when he had a flat battery. The guy with the Corolla 4WD offered him a lift, and he rode in the Corolla 4WD and found it pleasing. His granddaughter also took in a Japanese exchange student and upon meeting her, thought, "The war wasn't her fault."
The only male doctor I'm comfortable with is a gentleman among gentlemen and is a specialist. Yesterday, when I went to hospital for an infusion, there was a young Korean nursing student who was male. Had the regular manager been there, and she'd asked anything, I'd have asked her to watch carefully and then come and see me. I bowed slightly to the Korean student and greeted him in Korean. If she'd asked me what she was meant to have seen, I'd have said, "Well, one reason I feel more comfortable amongst Asian people, even if I'm not Asian is that many Asian cultures are not tactile. I didn't touch this guy, but I greeted him in the traditional Asian manner. In England, you bow before the Queen as a form of subservience, in Asia, you bow, yes, social caste enters it, but to say, "I respect your space." It's like shaking hands in the West. I even said to a friend who is half-Lebanese that if I met her brother, it would be like Akio Toyoda presenting an award to a Beirut Toyota dealer, in that the Beirut dealer would have been advised, "Don't kiss Mr Toyoda on the cheeks, bow, accept the award and say thank you."
So, sometimes, even if there are different cultures, when an autistic person meets a non-autistic person whose cultural mores are more in line with their level of comfort, it can make for something more harmonious than two people of the same culture.
My paternal grandfather used to wish I would marry inside my own culture (I didn't marry) but had I married an Australian woman who wanted or needed a lot of affection, I would have been exasperated, but had I married an Asian woman who was comfortable with the occasional hand holding and maybe the occasional hug, it would have been okay. If I'd wanted to marry an Australian woman, she'd have had to have been autistic.