Open Letter to John from Freshman Year

Dear John,

(I’ve always wanted to write a “Dear John” letter, ever since I was a kid, watching the TV show Dear John.)

I’m finally starting to understand why you were so frustrated that I couldn’t pick up on certain cues that you really didn’t want to hang out with me. I believe you actually said that “normal people would have gotten the hint” (I’m obviously paraphrasing from sixteen years ago, so forgive me if the exact wording is off.)

At the time, I thought I was a normal person. Or, at most, I could be a normal person if I tried hard enough. I now know that’s not true. While neurotypical (aka “normal) people can pick up on subtle social cues and react accordingly, I have trouble. I’m almost robotic in that way.

I have to have encountered a similar enough situation in the past, then go through my memory to see if I was told the right way to respond. If I’d never been explicitly told the right way to respond, I’d have to check my memory to see what people’s reactions were in the past. Mind you, due to my trouble picking up on subtle cues, I may never have known if something was ill-received!

I hear that “normal” people don’t have to check their memories; they instinctively know the right way to respond. You can see how much harder I have to work than a “normal” person in order to interact well with other people. Doing so much extra work takes its toll on both the mind and body, especially in a dorm setting where there’s no real place to get alone-time to recharge the cognitive-emotional batteries.

So John, while I’m sorry I annoyed you, and my behavior disturbed you, there’s little I could have done to prevent it (please note that I said “little,” not “nothing”). However, if you were as “normal” as you claimed, you consciously made the choice to be an utter asshole when deciding to finally spell it out for me, over AIM, calling me crazy, an insurance liability, and who knows what else. Don’t get me wrong; I do appreciate you spelling it out for me. It taught me a valuable life lesson, albeit one most people never need to be taught.

As it’s been sixteen years and you’ve most likely moved on with your life, I shall move on as well. If you do read this, or if anyone reading this sees themselves in John’s shoes, please try to be more understanding the next time you’re in a similar situation.


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