It rarely, if ever, happens nowadays, but there was one day a year ago when I really wished that I could instantly paint myself the same color as the floor. It was one of those classes that I hate – I love literature, I just hate studying it, especially when I have to talk about a text with people outside of the group hearing it. This day, we were given a poem, which had been voted “Favourite English poem of all times” in a BBC poll: “If” by Rudyard Kipling, which you can find here. I guess I had a bit of an unintelligent day. To begin with, I still hadn't realized that the fact that the course was called “Text and Culture” meant that we were not just studying literature. Secondly, I didn't really know anything about Kipling, or about the cultural concepts we were supposed to link to the poem, so I actually had no idea what we were doing. Don't worry, I know more now. Because of this, I misinterpreted the study questions (Why do you think this poem was voted best English poem of all times? What does it really mean?) as “there are cheesy things to say about this, so go ahead”. I said something cheesy about “If”, but in reality, I had no idea what to make of it. Not because I found it difficult – I just thought it was silly and a bit boring. Was there something that I missed? Why say something so natural in such big words? Really, most of the 'ifs' of that poem seem quite normal to me, although exaggerated. I don't see it as an ideal way of living or some kind of definition of being a human, but I think I work like that to some extent.
Shortly after we got back into the classroom, I found out what was wrong. “If” is appalling. The “Man” is not a real human. I am not human. The poem describes a robot. Perhaps I was ashamed of having misunderstood everything, and of having forced myself to say something cheesy about "If", but I think the worst part of it was that at least three people then knew that I was one of Them. Those who don't show their feelings. It wasn't the first time I heard "not showing emotions" referred to as an extremely negative personality trait, but I believe this was when I finally understood that I am a cold psychopath by most people's standards.
Of course, I understood what it was all about after the teacher told us about Stiff Upper Lip ideals. I don't agree with those, no, and I don't think repressing emotions is a good thing either. I don't think of emotional expressions as signs of weakness, and yes, I cry too sometimes, and unless I do it in front of other people without being able to explain why, I am not ashamed of it. Fine. But it's not just about that – not showing emotions, regardless of the reason for not doing so, is ugly. Having a rational and analytical approach to emotional situations is ugly, too. That was what my teacher said that day, and it's very clear that this idea is basically everywhere (not least among aspies), but no one ever explains why. I guess this is something that shouldn't have to be explained. I have understood that decisions are supposed to be based on emotions. I have also understood that showing feelings and talking about them is an essential part of being a real, emotional human being. Unfortunately, I don't work like that, nor do I instinctively understand the beauty of it.
Although believe I am very emotional, I don't always know what I feel or why, and when I do, I sometimes have no idea how to make the appropriate facial expression. More importantly though, I don't actually understand the point of sharing my feelings with others. What would they do with the information? What's in it for me? I prefer to wait until I know how I would like to solve the problem, and then say what I think about the situation rather than flap my arms and scream about how I feel. If they can't help me and my feelings have nothing to do with them, they don't need to know how I feel, right? And what exactly does it mean to "talk about feelings"? I am sad. Very interesting.
My nasty habit of rationally analyzing the situation and think of solutions without getting stuck in a cloud of feelings has actually helped me solve conflicts quickly, easily and with respect for the emotions of everyone involved, but I guess I should stop saying that. Even the one person who always understands me and my weirdness seemed to think that was really disagreeable when we discussed it.
This is probably the one part of the human grammar that I will never really learn. All I can see in the “emotional” ideal human is selfishness. Does anyone ever see beyond their own beautiful feelings when reacting appropriately emotionally? I don't think I've ever seen it. To me, that constant emotional fever, the helicopter-like gestures, the screaming, which is what I see every time someone claims to be “showing emotions”, are just confusing.
And I guess no one will ever explain these things to me.
(Yes, I had some wine, and yes, I am indeed very tired).