Parallel Play

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2007

In Parallel Play, Tim Page explores how a diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome explained a lifetime of restless isolation:

Oddly, the book that helped pull me into the human race was Emily Post’s “Etiquette,” which I had picked up in a moment of early-teen hippie scorn, fully intending to mock what I was sure would be an “uncool” justification of bourgeois rules and regulations. Instead, the book offered clearly stated reasons for courtesy, gentility, and scrupulousness—reasons that I could respect, understand, and implement. It suggested ways to inaugurate conversations without launching into a lecture, reminded me of the importance of listening as well as speaking, and convinced me that manners, properly understood, existed to make other people feel comfortable, rather than (as I had suspected) to demonstrate the practitioner’s social superiority. I revelled in Post’s guidance and absorbed her lessons. And, typically, I took them too far: even today, I would never dream of addressing a teen-age busboy in a small-town diner as anything other than “sir.”

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