30 April 2008

"It's Herpes. You Get it From Sex"

I have a client that has Asperger's Syndrome. One of the symptoms of it is being unaware of social boundaries or appropriate behavior; often individuals with it simply do not know how to function socially.

In addition to this, she also has the Church Lady Syndrome. While my other clients with Asperger's are genuinely sweet souls that are simply trying to learn the skills that will allow them to fit into the world of employment, she is actually very judgmental and stubborn. Needless to say, it's difficult to coach someone that is constantly reprimanding me.

Last week when I arrived for my meeting with her, she was already there waiting in the lobby. Our appointment was at 10:00, and I arrived at 9:50. I said hello to her and told her I'd be out to get her as soon as I settled in and got the computer up. I called her back at 9:57.

As soon as she walked in and sat down, she told me that I must have gone the wrong way in traffic and that if she'd taken that route, she'd have been, "later than you."

"Our appointment was for 10:00, R, and we actually started a few minutes early."

"Well I've been here since 9:30, and you weren't".

"Right. That's great that you're early, but that doesn't mean that I was late."

"But I was sitting here, waiting for you, and you must have taken the wrong way because you weren't here when I was."

"R, our appointment was at 10:00. If we were starting after that time, I would have been considered late, but the fact is that I was on time and you were simply early."

"Well, you should always be early. You should know that if you're supposed to be teaching people how to get a job."

I stopped myself then; the woman has lost so many jobs because of her inability to function within a work environment--I knew that arguing this point was mute.

At today's appointment, the first thing that she did when she sat down was say, "I see you have a sore." The snarky woman living in my head replied, "Really? Hadn't noticed."

Instead, I told her that yes, I did and explained that I had drank lemon water and that whenever I have citrus, I end up with cold sores. To which she replied:

"Those are herpes. You get it from sex."

At that point, I was leaning over into my briefcase, pulling out her file. Initially, I told myself, "She did.not.just.say.that." I sat up ramrod straight in my chair and looked pointedly at her.

"No, R, there are many different strains of herpes and what I have is not the one associated with sex. I've had them since I was a child."

"No, it's herpes and you get it from boys." 

I tilted my head and bit my lip.

"I think I'm more familiar with my medical conditions than you, and actually, you saying that is completely inappropriate. That is not something that you'd say to a fellow employee or colleague."

"Well, whatever you say, I know how you got it." Her eyes challenged mine as I sat there for a few moments; a battle waging within my head. It was ugly.

In one scenario, I asked her if she knew how a person would get a black eye.

In another, she had a conversation with the person that referred her to me, talking about Jenn, her case worker with herpes that was always late.

In another, I just laid my head on the desk and cried.

I ended up telling her that discussing this issue was not in any way pertinent to what we were doing that day and that we needed to move along. She accepted this with a self-satisfied smile--certain that she'd just put her slutty placement specialist in her place.

When we ended our session and I handed her an appointment card, she visually flinched when she took it from me with her fingertips. 

"Well, I guess you better take care of yourself for our appointment next week."

"Thanks R. I will."

I glanced up from my case notes and she was still standing there, looking at me. For one second I thought that maybe that was her way of caring, that she was concerned for me, that despite her delivery, she was just trying to help, and there I was, judging her, thinking very unkind thoughts about her.

"So that you won't be late anymore or get anymore herpes sores". (Not even "cold sores", but "herpes sores".)


flutter said...

You are hysterical.

Kimberly said...

Love it, you nasty pirate whore! Great post.

Blog Antagonist said...

Good gravy. You are a patient woman.

That makes me scared for my youngest son who is borderline for an Asperger's diagnosis.

I guess I better explain to him about herpes.

Terri said...

oh, oh, oh, I would have been steaming, but I guess you can't really do much about it eh? and yep, I think lots of sores and the hooker boots would just send her OVER THE EDGE! ;o)

Amy Y said...

Wow. That conversation made my skin crawl. I'm impressed by how well you handled yourself ~ I find myself frustrated and tongue tied in those types of situations and often can't say anything at all.

I don't see how a lady like that will be able to function in normal society as an employee!! Maybe at McD's? Good grief.

Jen said...

Is it wrong that I giggled at this just a little bit? My own darling son is an Aspie so I found something familiar in this woman's rigidity. I just hope my boy never thinks it's ok to tell someone who's trying to help them that they have herpes sores.

Candy said...

How on earth do you deal with that? I wonder how her face would have felt beneath my fist. I know, I know, she has problems...but ugh...to be so self-righteous. I am absolutely not cut out for social work, but thank goodness people like you exist.

Trenches of Mommyhood said...

I think you should have leaned over and kissed her on the cheek with a big smackeroo.

Or punched her.

Either one.

Andrea said...

How you managed to bite your tongue is beyond me. I would have gone to request someone else be her placement coordinator as soon as she left. I know it's part of her condition, but that kind of baiting and provoking is one of my peeve buttons and I couldn't handle it. You're a bigger woman than I. Figuratively speaking. I bet you'd look great in hooker boots.

painted maypole said...

she sounds very difficult. you were very restrained.

Julie Pippert said...

God love you, for real.

I can't tell you how many arguments my brain had with itself, some of which are probably really Not Nice, while reading this.

How essential high ability to read social cues is.

How being differently abled can be considered in a situation like this, or should be.

What people who aren't differently abled but act like this have going on.

I know a lady so much like this. i swear she starts every sentence with "Dear" and ends every sentence with "Bless your heart." She's told me everything from I'm too fat to too thin to should do my sofa slipcovers differently and everything in between---it's all allowed because it's *true.*

This also hits on the "fairness" theme at Hump Day Hmm.

This lady is allegedly normal so why do people become so tolerant of her and her hurtfulness---even leaping upon the tiniest point of rationalization, such as she's got a bunion or something---and then so judgmental on others who do less.

Perceived value I think.

Chaotic Joy said...

I am very thankful that I don't have your job and that the only belligerent people I have to deal with in mine are, occasionally, my own offspring.

AND I think you handled this situation smashingly.

A Single Mom's Life said...

LOL that is great. I work with people with disabilities and some of the things they come up with.

amanda said...

As if you were not self conscious about the damn thing to begin with, right? Fortunately you can chalk her lack of tact and flexibility to her asperger's. I recently saw a patient of mine in the rehab (he had run into traffic and suffered horrific bone breaks) and asked him what had happened to his roommate. He responded "He died. It was his time." Clearly someone had said it to him and he held on to it...

luckyzmom said...

Bless you for putting up with people like her. The cloud above my head when dealing with her would have been XXXrated. And I thought you just said that my coldsores are from citrus. Now which is it, childhood or sex.

jeanie said...

Hmm - its awfully hard to emphasize the "engage filter before applying speech" rule, when she has (in her mind) put you in your corner.

Hmm - I wonder why she has a problem with working with a bunch of people...

Jen(ni)/Fern said...

Oh my goodness, you are a saint. That's how my 5-year-old talks to me (not about herpes and sex, but the judgemental snotty tone) and I can barely hold my shit together.

Bon said...

oy vey.

i giggled. you wrote this fabulously. and handled it very professionally.

now stop your slutting around and start being on time, will you?

Jonas said...

"Hmm - I wonder why she has a problem with working with a bunch of people...

Jeanie nailed it.

Jonas said...

"Hmm - I wonder why she has a problem with working with a bunch of people...

Jeanie nailed it.

Christine said...

dear god, woman. you have one tough job there!

Kelly said...

At least she didn't look at you, purse her lips and say, "Well isn't that special?"

(You are remarkable for maintaining composure and restraint.)

Jayne said...

Just found your blog and I'm enjoying it :)
Sometimes the only way to get through to Aspies is to furnish them with a pile of independent,unbiased written evidence and tell 'em to read the whole lot.

bgirl said...

i had such mixed feelings reading this. it's funny yet sad. thank god you kept your cool and how sad for her, yet so much is beyond her control, she's simply wired differently. you are a saint.

my little dude as ASD which like Aspergers, comes with social challenges. i'm constantly adding to his script, editing and hoping he can continue to be flexible and open to novel ideas, prompts and help that doesn't fall in his memorized frame of reference.