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"Being Socially Retarded"

[written November 23, 2004]

I think I must be socially retarded.

Well, not retarded. Maybe just socially feral, because I was raised by academics. Which is kind of like being raised by wolves and then being found and returned to mankind. Except that the wolves wear stitched-elbow blazers and quote Shakespeare verbatim.

Do you know how long it took me to figure out that when people say, "We should do something," that it really doesn't mean that we WILL do something? Years. Fuck all, and here I thought these people were just being flakey when really they were being perfectly sociable.

In "The Cable Guy" with Jim Carrey and Matthew Broderick, there's a scene when Chip (Carrey) finishes installing Steven's (Broderick's) cable and invites him to come see the master satellite where the company's feed comes in. Steven says something along the lines of, "Sure, we should do that," and Chip immediately shoots back, "How about tomorrow?" at which point Steven realizes that Chip is clingy and naive, and is taking him literally. Steven tries to back out of it and Chip catches on. "Oh, I think I've crossed the line." Steven apologizes guiltily and says, "No, I didn't mean it like that..." to which Chip fires, "Okay! Pick you up at seven!" and runs off.

It's pretty fucking creepy that I'm sitting here identifying with Chip, a guy with dependency issues. But, call me crazy, I was raised to take what people tell me at face value. You know. There's language, and then there's LANGUAGE.

This might explain why I'm so horrible with women. Underneath conversation, there's another layer of signals and flags with intricate shades of meaning affecting the course of the dialogue. It's been shown that two people talking will go through a mediating process as they talk where they assume the same talking speed and vocabulary level. Finding compatibility.

Well, there's also some tugging and pushing going on, too. Almost subconsciously testing to see what the other person's limits are, based on phraseology and vocabulary. This is the shit I'm bad at. Which is funny since I'm employed as a linguist. If someone tells me, "We should," then I read it as "We will, soon, while our meeting is still fresh on our minds."

In the movie "Garden State" with Natalie Portman, Portman and the main actor have joined his friends in jumping into a heated pool at night. Everyone jumps in except him, who hesitates because he can't swim. Later, he bashfully tells Portman how he missed out on a lot of kid things when he was young. Well, I feel that way too.

I feel like I've developed slowly. Physically I'm pretty thin, which at 6'1" and 185lb. makes me weaker than a lot of Army counterparts. Also, I don't think I started thinking about things seriously until I was almost out of college. Certainly I've learned tons about life after having joined the Army. But much has been gained from those who are younger than me yet have done a lot in their younger lives in terms of figuring the world out.

Like I said before, I was raised by academics. I think I was also coddled too much. My mom took care of my affairs for too long. I always had available everything I needed to make life easy. Yes, I was spoiled.

Am I blaming my parents? Of course not. Being spoiled is something every child should find some pleasure in. But I didn't take responsibility for myself until well after my peers did. I'm playing catch-up.

It feels like everything in my life before maybe 21 or 22 was a blur. Like some TV character's bio that I happen to remember but it's pretty hazy memories because they really weren't that important to remember.

But my friends, they all have the best stories to tell from their childhoods. About how they went on this adventure and that adventure, about their exploits, early victories, their days of scrapping and fighting. I feel like le grand Meaulnes's friend, living vicariously through him.

I remember some miserable days hiking with my family in rainy England, losing some GI Joe figure in the yard back in Ohio, and I remember Marlyce...vaguely. It's all so scattered into small fragments. I've been meaning to go back to my hometown to see if I can recall anything more. I will probably do that on the next four-day weekend.

I remember Jessie. She was the tallest girl in grade school. She also had the biggest breasts. That wasn't why I had a crush on her though. It was some early sign of my weakness for tall women. (imagine my meeting Ruth Riley, the 2003 WNBA finals MVP center for the Detroit Shock!) Anyway, so one day when I was maybe 12, I got on the schoolbus after school. The bus was full by the time Jessie got on, and the only seats with one space left were mine and the one behind me. Well, Jessie sat down next to me, and me, being a dumbass little boy with a crush on her, decided to go with the coolest option at the time, climbing OVER the back of the seat into the seat behind us, as if I were DISGUSTED by her! Christ, what a sign of things to come! Just push away all that makes me happy, genius!

So...want to know why else I'm retarded? Okay, maybe I'm not the only one with this problem, but are you ever, like, looking at someone when you're having a conversation with them and you fucking forget WHERE to look on their face?

My brain just goes stupid all the sudden and then instead of looking generally at the other person's face overall, I'm staring at one of their eyes. Which is probably freaking them out pretty bad because for one, I'm probably cross-eyed, and also they'd get pretty self-conscious that they had a big fucking piece of lettuce on their face or something!

Talk about frustrating! Eventually I just start looking away, at the floor, and that probably just makes the other person think I'm totally bored with them!

Well, I'm going to make a deal with you. You fucker. I mean. Umm. I'm just going to tell the person I'm talking to that I don't know where to look on their face. They'll understand. Perhaps. Maybe they'll be like, "This Turner guy, he's a real straight-shooter. He doesn't pull any punches." And then I'll get promoted, or I'll get free tickets, or I'll save money on car insurance with Geico.


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