April 24, 2021

Fascination with a topic is all well and good. But what happens when autistic fascination gets directed at another person, who may or may not be autistic themselves?

If it’s reciprocated, I call that love. Mutual fascination creates a safe space to express desires, communicate boundaries, and explore each other as complex, flawed, evolving humans. It’s invigorating, and comforting, and beautiful.

If it isn’t reciprocated, I call that unrequited love. It’s a magnetic draw to the ways in which your beloved embodies your values – a wish to be absorbed into them, or them into you. When you can’t, the waves of unfulfilled curiosity get channeled into vivid imagination, or diligent research, or wrenching pain – or all three.

If it’s temporarily reciprocated and then withdrawn, there is nothing harder than trying to stem the avalanche of wonder that has begun to accelerate. Sometimes it takes years.

I’ve experienced non-reciprocation in both forms: immediate and eventual. I went through that seven times, before my first long-lasting reciprocation – my boyfriend of the past three years.

I know the highs of being in the presence of someone praiseworthy, and the lows of being ignored or rejected by them. I know how the depth of the lows can raise the height of the highs, like savoring the taste of crumbs when you’re starving.

If any of this resonates, I have one reminder: What you are experiencing is in your own mind. It isn’t that the other person is so amazing – though that may also be true. But your intense experience of their amazingness is built into your own brain wiring.

You are designed to discover something, latch onto it, and explore every last corner of it. If that thing isn’t giving you the access you need to let your fascination run free, keep trying to find another option.

Maybe it won’t be a person. At least, maybe not yet. Whatever it is, please don’t give up until you find it. I’m rooting for you and your beautiful, focused, fascinated brain.

P.S. I write from my personal experience as an autistic. What I share is not a substitute for advice from an autistic medical professional. Also, some of my opinions have changed since I first wrote them.