Love or Obsession: When a Person Becomes an Aspie’s Special Interest


An except from Twirling Naked in the Streets and No-One Noticed…


According to the DSM-IV diagnostic criteria for Asperger’s Syndrome (AS), having an “encompassing preoccupation with one or more stereotyped and restricted patterns of interest that is abnormal either in intensity or focus” is a core symptom of AS.

I’ve had many special interests/preoccupations/passions/obsessions through the years beginning as young as three years old. My three year old self was completely preoccupied with baseball; my fifteen year old self—boys, or more precisely a boy.

That is not an unusual preoccupation for a fifteen year old girl, but what we need to look at is the intensity and focus. When focused on an interest or area to the exclusion of everything else, and everyone else in your life, is this not considered obsession? For the autistic person our obsessions and passions are soothing, calming, a place to hide, decompress, regenerate—a place of quiet peace. But what happens when your special interest your obsession is a person?

Love can be joyous and healthy but obsession can be seen as unwanted attention, smothering affection, and in the extreme…stalking. To make matters worse, the mind-blind teenager will usually never know if she steps over this line. How much is too much exactly?

The first few months were perfect. We cruised the neighborhood with the windows down, wind in my hair—and his, which was possibly longer than my own. My friends faded into the background of my mind, nothing else mattered, no-one else existed. I was in my one friend, one person allowed in my life at a time mode—other people were far from my thoughts.

I went to school—ok to the candy store, went to work, and hopped into this car at night to drive around. I wanted to stay roaming the neighborhoods like that all night long, but he needed to meet his friends. Every night around eleven o’clock he dropped me off at home and left to hang out with the guys.

At first I tried to be accommodating, to make him happy. I needed to be home before midnight or my father would flip out anyway I told myself. But as time went on it became harder, and harder to let go—to understand this strange need for his friends. Why not just stay hanging out with me? What was wrong with me? I began to take it personally, not understanding that others may have feelings and needs different than my own. I couldn’t see it; I couldn’t understand it; his behavior made no sense to me.

“If you loved me, you’d stay!”

On New Year’s Eve we had a fight. He didn’t stay. I called and left messages on his voicemail like a crazy stalker, hung-up and redialed again. The return calls never came. What did I do?

For the next few months I could think of nothing else.

He wouldn’t even speak to me, giving me no reason at all.

I began dating someone else, just to keep my mind off things and keep myself occupied. Make no mistake about it; he knew all about my obsession with my ex-boyfriend, and how I desperately wanted him to dance with me at my sweet sixteen. Why that boy hung around me I’ll never know.

It had never occurred to me that I was hurting someone’s feelings, how could I if I was truthful with them? He knew that if my ex showed up at my Sweet Sixteen party, that it would be the end of things. I told him I would let him dance with me on my birthday if you know who doesn’t show up. I was still holding out hope. I’d invited him, and I thought maybe just maybe he would show-up and surprise me—and he did.

The night was a blur after that, we were back together and that is how it would always be, wouldn’t it? I’d never considered any other scenario in my head—ever.

These relations were all encompassing; I wanted to spend every free moment together and assumed that he wanted that too.


The Baseball Obsessed Pre-Schooler

An except from Twirling Naked in the Streets and No-One Noticed…


“I don’t have any narrowly focused special interests, no all-consuming obsessions—not during childhood.”

I protested my diagnosis, but only for a moment.

     I knew all the players; I knew their numbers.

I knew the line-up; I knew all the stats.

I knew the TV airtimes; I didn’t miss a game.

I knew the route to Copperstown, NY, where the Baseball Hall of Fame is located, although, we never made the trip. I had a map.

Baseball was my obsession. I was four years old.

During “practice,” the times that my father and I played ball in the driveway, I was coached by one of my three baseball men. Dad and I threw the ball back and forth.  When I threw to him I was pitching and Catfish was right there telling me how to stand, where to look, and how to lift up my leg like he does on the mound at the stadium.

When Dad threw the ball to me, I was a catcher. I did not stand up straight like other children did to catch the ball. I crouched down as per instructed by Thurmon. I positioned my glove between my legs, adjusted my imaginary face place, and prepared to catch the ball.  I was extraordinarily talented according to my “coaches,” my “friends.” I was not a modest child.

Since I needed pitching and catching coaches, it makes sense that I chose a batter from the team to coach me when it was my turn to hit.  Reggie taught me how to stand with my feet squarely facing home plate, where to position my hands on the bat, and continually reminded me to keep my eye on the ball.

I wonder what my father’s role in all our baseball playing was.  Did he know he was just the guy who needed to throw that ball to me, catch when I pitched it back, and run after the balls I hit with the bat like Lou Piniella did in the outfield—or like Graig Nettles, number 9, on third base? My coaches taught me everything I needed to know about baseball—at least in my mind they did.

In return for all their help, my three baseball men accompanied us on family outings, ate dinner with us, and I often was reported making them hot dogs for lunch. This is also when my extensive baseball card collection began, Yankees only of course.

1979 was a sad year for baseball. Thurmon Munson died in plane crash, and Catfish Hunter retired. Two of my three baseball men were gone. My imaginary friends did not outlive their physical lives, or the Yankee baseball careers for that matter.  But—1979 was the year the Yankees picked up Dave Righetti.

Dave Righetti; number 19.

Righetti started pitching for the NY Yankees in 1979, and although he did not become one of my imaginary friends, he rapidly became my favorite player.  In 1981, Dave Righetti was assigned number 19, the day of my birth, thus started my lifelong obsession with the number 19.

I was wrong. I did have special interests and all-consuming obsessions even when I was very young.