He jumps when touched unexpectedly, gets agitated when the party volume rises and enjoys watching nocturnal life in Central Park. No, he is not my pooch, he is the twenty-something year old in the romantic comedy, Adam. I wouldn’t exactly call this movie a comedy since I found little to laugh about, not even when Adam attempted to wash windows in a suction adapted space suit. But I was fascinated by the developing relationship between a socially awkward engineer and the nurturing kindergarten teacher who moved in next door.
As a mother of a college student who also struggles with Asperger’s Syndrome, I was rooting for Adam. Please, please, please let Beth take care of this sweet, albeit nerdy gentle soul, make him happy- let him know that he is lovable. And she does…she coaches him for job interviews, signals when its time to limit fact driven monologues and orders their romantic gourmet dinner to go so that Adam could enjoy his meal on a quiet park bench.
I want a girl like this for my son, whom I will call Mark. Like Adam, Mark prefers the outdoors and doing things with others such as building a boat rather than – conversing. He may not pick up social cues such as when Beth bumped her laundry cart against Adam hoping that he would help her carry it upstairs.
Perhaps one of the greatest challenges to overcome is that people with Asperger’s Syndrome often do not like change, new people or places. Mark may frown and avoid eye contact until hours after settling into a new social situation. Then he gradually begins to sit closer to people and ask a question or two. This style can be intimidating to the opposite sex, but as Beth found out the rewards of persistence are plentiful. Her Adam was committed and never told a lie. My son Mark was a very good listener when his former girlfriend had problems and is strong enough to carry a canoe or backpacking gear for two. He is funny, clever with his hands and has a mathematical mind that will someday earn a good salary.
Like the biblical Adam who wore no clothes and enjoyed a life of simple pleasures- people with Asperger’s Syndrome lack pretense. Adam the movie character emerged from a cocoon like existence when his protective father died leaving him in need of a coach and ally. But can or should a girlfriend wear all these hats? That’s a tricky question in a complicated world because we live in a society that highly values independence and social competency. If devotion and honesty are given equal weight to assertiveness during the dating game- there will be opportunities for guys like Adam and Mark to strike gold in relationships and there would certainly be many happier mothers out there, too.