12 November, 2010

11. My Year of Flops

At the Onion AV Club, Nathan Rabin writes a series (which is now also a book) called My Year of Flops. Rabin watches very unsuccessful movies and rates them as Failure, Fiasco, or Secret Success. I am interested in the idea of people being "flops." A good example is Stephen, described above. Like most people with significant developmental disabilities, Stephen is written off by many normal humans; and a professional could have a great time studying Stephen and writing about all the "social skills" he "lacks." However, Stephen does connect to people, does affect other people positively, and is well-liked. Stephen is a Secret Success.

The opposite of flops, of course, are blockbusters. Some normal people--and I would argue that these are the people who could actually be termed "superneurotypical"--come off to other normal people as really nice, trustworthy, decent, competent, etc. They just hit all the buttons that make normal people feel at home. (And people with autism who are trying to fit in may try to have the same reaction to blockbusters that normal people do.) Blockbusters can be rated as Success, Fiasco, or Secret Failure.

One time when I was thirteen, all the Spanish classes in my grade went on a field trip to a Mexican restaurant. The table where my only friend was sitting was full, so I sat at the nearest table to her. The people who sat down at my table included a boy named Michael who was a Secret Failure. Michael asked why I had to be sitting at their table. I responded "I thought it would be amusing" (this is hard to explain but it's kind of similar to when George Takei said that he wanted to have sex with Tim Hardaway--the idea being that if someone thinks you're disgusting, you try to take ownership of that).

Michael said, "Well, I think it would be amusing if you fell out through that window." (There was a large plate glass window across the restaurant.) I tried to distract myself by writing a poem on the flyleaf of the book I was reading, but Michael carried on in this vein for the entire meal, describing different ways that I could die or become injured. Later my mom made the mistake of repeating this to the mom of another kid from my school. The other mom replied, "I believe that Amanda thinks she's telling the truth, but Michael is a really nice boy."

Michael went on to go to Georgetown and will probably live the rest of his life without anyone finding out he is a failure. I on the other hand actually think of my younger self as a failure for doing things like using the word "amusing" when a more standard word for someone my age would have been "funny." I also used the words "quite" and "suppose." Seriously! What did I think was going to happen?

In addition to using the wrong words, I was also kind of a douche at that age. For example I did (and still do sometimes) make jokes about things that other people were sensitive about. I didn't think about how this would hurt someone's feelings, and I still feel bad when it happens now. But I've never told anyone that I think they should fall out a glass window, so I think I am fairly categorized as a fiasco, not a failure, even though I am a flop.


  1. I feel like a flop, though I'm hoping someday I can morph into a sleeper hit.


    Oh man! Talking funny! I totally did that! I still do that, although now people seem more accepting of it for some reason. Maybe when you're college-educated it makes people more tolerant of your advanced vocabulary and your willingness to use it. That and I've found ways of making non-standard language use funny.

  2. Most people tend to think that if someone is nice to them, that person is objectively nice. It doesn't occur to them that someone could be nice to some people but not others.

    That "she probably thinks she's telling the truth" stuff is fucking infuriating. Personally, I would rather just be accused of lying than have someone say something that insulting about me.

  3. I mean, obviously it's possible to be mistaken about certain things, but I don't think whether or not someone repeatedly told you to kill yourself is one of those things.

  4. I like the idea of people being flops and blockbusters and secert success and secert faliures, but you're not a flop. No one can write such a cositently interesting blog and be a flop. BTW, I also recieved my fair share of teasing for my vocubalry as well.

  5. Writing is not related to flopping, I'm a failure re:humans so I'm a flop.

  6. A friend sent me this poem. It might help.


    I thought it was hilarious. I'm trying to figure out why, and it had something to with the exacting "three-fourth wrench", how I can imagine being this young man at the end, and how I FEEL I've known people like him, and am glad to see it written down.

    Note: I really like the book you flyleafed. Through spareness the character's personality really comes through, and I love that sort of writing. It's the kind of writing with a lot of space given to each object and lets you relax and focus. Maybe it's because the narrator in that book was anxious, but I knew how they felt when they described the light on their sister while they were distressed--or at plug in pretty well. It sometimes seems like the narrator needs to be abused, crazy, or somehow a little dissociated for me to get them. Maybe that's what the story is essentially about: a dissociated author writing back to their crisis, but getting stuck in a really intense, sensual echo chamber?

  7. I'm actually NT, but your post reminded me of two things. The first was that, as a 3 year old, my mother got a kick out of how loquacious I was ("Mother, do you think we could plant chrysanthemums in the garden? They would look lovely.") The second was that in middle school, I couldn't tell the difference between people being nice to mock me and people being genuinly friendly. Boys in my class used to come to where I was sitting at lunch and tell me "I love you." I didn't know what to make of it, but my sister had warned me beforehand that they'd do this to be mean, so I'd slam my book on their hand. A lot of those guys were the "Golden Boys" who later went to prestigious schools. They got a lot nicer to me in the years between, but I don't really know whether it's because they changed or because they decided I was funny.