I had an awesome childhood, I’ve been told. I don’t really remember any of it. The only thing that I remember about my childhood is that I really like to dig holes. I would grab a shovel, go outside, and dig holes in my backyard all day while my brother and sister sat inside reading and furthering their education. My mom would try to get me to read books all the time. She’d be like, “Stu, don’t you want to read a book like your brother and sister?” And I’d be like, “No. I’m busy can’t you see I gotta go dig this hole!” She’d be like, “Why? What are you gonna put in it?” And I’d be like, “I donno, books? That’s not the point!”
See, she didn’t understand me. I thought that digging holes was something that people just did. I grew up in Illinois where there are all these rock quarries all over the place and you’d drive by them on the highway all the time and there’d be these huge pits thousands of feet deep. And I never thought that anybody was digging them for any particular reason, I just thought they were better at it than I was. I was like, “These people are professionals. These people understand me.”
Fittingly, one of the only books that I did read when I was a kid was the book Holes. Do you know that book? It’s also a movie starring the polymath Shia LaBeouf. I chose Holes for my third grade book report because I thought it sounded exciting. Because it was called Holes. I found the book a little confusing because what happens is this kid gets wrongly accused of a crime and instead of going to juvie, he goes to this correctional camp where they force him to dig holes all day.
I didn’t understand how digging a hole could be a punishment. I’d just been doing it for fun for my entire life.
You also find out in the book that the camp counselors are making the kids dig holes because they’re looking for buried treasure. Which was also weird to me, because that’s a reasonable thing for a kid to think, like, “I’ll go outside and dig a hole and maybe I’ll find treasure!” But I never thought that. The only thing that I thought I might find was some books that some other kid buried like a hundred years ago.
My favorite character in the book Holes is this kid named Hector Zeroni, who almost never talks but when he does, for a while all he says is, “I like diggin’ holes.” I identified with him, not only because of his affinity for digging holes, but because everyone else in the story calls him “Zero” and thinks he is retarded, which resonated with me. Now, I’m not mentally challenged, but a lot of people in my family think that I have Asperger’s, which at one time could have been mistaken for the same thing. In fact, I’m pretty sure that the kids in the story think that Zero has Asperger’s, but they don’t know what they call it and so they say “retarded.” Their words, not mine.
If you don’t know, Asperger’s is a mild form of autism where you’re not good at interacting with people and don’t pick up on certain social cues.
I’m not bad at picking up on social cues; I know what they are, I just ignore them. For instance, I’m not very good at talking to new people because I feel like I never know what to say back to them. They’ll be like, “Hey, where are you from?” “Chicago.” That’s the easy part. But then they’ll be like, “Oh cool! I was just in Chicago.” “Alright. Great.” “What part of Chicago are you from?” “Downers Grove.” “Oh no way! I have a friend who’s from Naperville!” “Okay.” “Have you ever been to Seattle?” Dude, what do you want from me? If you’re just trying to find places we’ve both been at different times, chances are we aren’t going to be friends. Like, we’re already in the same place at the same time. That’s how we’re talking to one another.
Sometimes, I just elect not to talk to people. At parties, I’ll end up playing solitaire on my phone because at least that way it appears as if I’m talking to people even if those people aren’t cool enough to be at the party. I’m super grateful for technology because I totally couldn’t get away with that with a regular deck of cards. I’d be laying cards out and someone would be like, “are you playing solitaire right now in the middle of a party?” And I’d be like, “No…I’m just talking to people who aren’t here.” I think solitaire is a game that was made for people who are alone, but it also works for people who are just lonely with lots of people around.
A quick side note: I know it’s pronounced Asperger’s, but I feel like Asperger’s is not a very nice name because it sounds like you’re saying ass burgers. Which is why I say aus-burgers. (I’ve been told that something like this is the premise of an episode of South Park – SORRY I don’t watch South Park!)
The reason why I know that people in my family think I have Asperger’s is because two of my cousins have it. And once I was staying over at my cousins’ house with my family over winter break when I was a freshman in college. And one morning my sister came running upstairs to the room I was staying in and yells, “Wake up! You guys are going sledding!” And then she leaves. And then she comes back in and says, “Oh, by the way…Mom thinks you have Asperger’s. And Grandma does. And Auntie Annie. They’re talking about it downstairs.” And then she runs away. So that was a fun Christmas. I received the gift of finding out what Asperger’s was from Google.
I’ve told this story as a joke on stage. And once I told it in front of a bunch of friends who loved it and ever since have given me shit for “being autistic.” I made the joke myself, so it wasn’t like they were being mean about it – it’s funny. But I thought I’d follow through with the idea and so I took this autism quiz. And then I told a handful of those friends to take it too, just so I could prove to them how not autistic I was. The test spits out a score 1-40. 34+: autism likely, 30-33: autism possible, 29 and below: no autism.
The results of the quiz were definitive! Most of my friends scored between a 1 and 15. I scored a 28. In other words, I just barely definitely don’t have autism! Boy, what an embarrassment for my friends! I sure showed them…finally, the validation I need.