I like lining up objects.
Like a few other "quirks" I have, I didn’t recognize this as an autistic trait until I thought I might be autistic and started researching the traits in more detail.
On the weekend, when I sit down for breakfast in front of the TV, I have to line up my liquid vitamin supplement, smoothie, water glass, water bottle, and carrot sticks by height order, or I can’t relax because it’s all too disorganized.
Even when I’m watching a program with no advertisements, I can’t put the TV remote on the table because its bulky size just doesn’t "fit" with the other objects and looks unsightly. So I put it by my lap instead, out of my sight line.
One of my cats has now realized that one of the best ways to get my attention is to sit on the table when I’m watching TV and hover dangerously close to my neatly lined-up objects whilst staring at me. Shooing her away doesn’t work, so I am then forced to invite her onto my lap simply to get her out of my sight line and reduce the risk of her flicking tail distributing cat dander into my pristine glass of water.
When I stay in a hotel I have to immediately clear away all of the leaflets and cardboard signs they have littering the tables into a drawer because I can’t stand the clutter; it’s just too disorganized.
I can drive my romantic partners a bit crazy because I request to change rooms in 50 percent of the hotels I check into if the room or the view isn’t perfectly symmetrical. I just can’t relax in a wonky room or a room with a "blighted" view.
Same applies to restaurant tables. I can’t sit at a table in the middle of a busy thoroughfare because I can’t have waiters or diners bustling around my personal space. So I will frequently request to change to a quieter area.
Same applies to drinks. When I was younger my favorite sandwich was a ham, cheese, and pickle sandwich. I would happily eat that sandwich every day but would get very upset if it was just a ham and cheese or just a ham and pickle sandwich; I wouldn’t like it at all. As an adult my favorite alcoholic drink is a rum and coke; like the ham, cheese, and pickle sandwich, this relatively simple drink seems to cause me a huge amount of issues.
I can’t just have a rum and coke. It has to be "dark rum, full sugar coke, three quarters coke/one quarter rum" and absolutely no ice. I can take or leave the slice of lime.
When ordering this drink myself I will make sure it’s made as above. About 50 percent of the time the server will put ice in before tipping the drink away and making it again without ice (ice dilutes the flavor, so I won’t drink one with ice in).
On a date this drink will go back about 75 percent of the time, as they rarely get it right. These days I can generally tell within five minutes whether a date is going to go well based on whether they get that order right.
If they can remember those little details I will like them more, because unfortunately there are lots of little "details" that need taking care of for anyone who dates me, and someone either gets them and just handles them with ease or they get agitated; and I’m not going to be interested in anyone who gets agitated.
So, if they put down a glass rammed with ice, chances of a second date are looking slim. Often they put the drink down and then remember I said no ice, and go back and get another one.
With this one there’s still hope.
In case you’re wondering why on earth these women bother — because I get details, I am extremely good at looking after someone else’s "details."
If someone I’m dating has any of their own quirks or quibbles, I just go with the flow because I understand that taking care of details reduces stress and that means more time spent enjoying the evening.
As a result I do often end up dating other extremely fussy "perfectionist" type women because they "get" my details, I "get" theirs, and we generally have a very nice time. I’m not sure if that’s everyone’s idea of romance, but it works for me.
LYDIA ANDAL is an autistic British journalist, author, and advocate who works to promote a more human view of autism. Copies of Am I Autistic? A Guide to Autism & Asperger’s Self-Diagnosis for Adults (April 2) can be preordered at AmIAutistic.com