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When Opposites Attract

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Redder is Better than Ever

Not long ago, a women at the l corner store asked me in Spanish if I like the color red. The shorts, sneakers, and hooded sweatshirts I I was a donning were all red. There are myriad reasons I prefer it one of which I gave her. My Spanish isn’t that great so I used Google Translate on my smartphone. I could have told her I like red because it’s a conspicuous color that enhances one’s appeal towards the opposite sex, but I opted not to. I may have elucidated I’m tired of being ignored feeling invisible, and red is the most likely color to make people notice you. I didn’t do that, nor did I expound how it makes me feel bold and confident. The answer I gave is because I hate the military, and red is the exact opposite color of green which is what the Army uses. I elaborated how I like orange because it’s the antithesis of blue by which the Navy and Coast Guard are represented.

Their Promises are Lies

This became my modus operandi after being diagosed with PTSD and having my claim for such shot down by the VA in the spring of 2015. My representative whose name I won’t mention gave me false hope the same way the Coast Guard did. He’d blow smoke telling me my story was convincing and cajoled me into doing questionable things to make it work. What he asked me to do was extralegal for a lack of better words, but I don’t care to get into that. The point is my advocate was no better than the armed forces and the military academy I attended in that he did nothing more than overpromise. Those things for which I hoped caused me nothing but heartache. The VA I suspect denied the claim because my circumstance wasn’t combat-related. Their rationale is it must not be real if if you weren’t pounding sand in Iraq or Afghanistan and didn’t see anyone blown to smithereens.

No Brotherly Love from Philadelphia

My dad sent me to Valley Forge Military Academy outside Philadelphia when I was 15. This was long before I was diagnosed with Asperger’s. My mother I was unable to live with at the time for personal reasons. My father was in denial there was anything amiss about his son. He’ll never admit he made a mistake placing me in the public school system in Long Island where there was relentless bullying. We checked out a school in Vermont for troubled kids during our quest. That’s where my father should have sent met, but he decided in his that wasn’t the right place for me. Valley Forge likes to champion itself as a prestigious institute. I’m sure my dad would say the same. Apparently, I was supposed to be impressed because the movie Taps was filmed there, and Norman Schwartzkopf was an alumnus. Knowing my dad, I surmise the real reason he sent me there was because he didn’t want to deal with me anymore. We would often remind me of the tuition because that made it easier on his conscience.

Oh No! Not Again, Please!

My tactical officers and the other personnel would browbeat me each day. Yes, I know what some readers are already thinking. Welcome to the military! Stop typing and listen! Some get it worse than others. No matter how hard I tried fitting in, nothing I did or said was good enough. Nobody spelled it out, but the adults in a roundabout way told me I was a slacker who could never do anything right. There was blatant favoritism everywhere I looked. The powers that be and my own father would look the other way when I was bullied by my peers as if I deserved it. They liked to blame the victim to alleviate any culpability. Their whole objective was to pound a square peg into a round hole. I asked to withdraw the first spring I was there, but my father refused. Not only that, but he registered me for a second year to dump his responsibilities on someone else. I wanted to be expelled, but I had nowhere to turn. At least that’s what I thought. I even pondered asking to be barred from re-enrollment, but the school counselor suggested that might look bad on my transcript. Eventually, my dad got the message and didn’t sign me up a third year. I even got to move back to Houston to live with my mom.

Nobody is Perfect

Many former cadets like going back there for alumni weekend the first Saturday of May but not me. It took me awhile to get over my bad experiences. I smoked my first joint with my brother’s friend after my return to Texas. None of my former classmates know I burned my yearbooks three years later while I dropped some acid. One of my clearest memories of Valley Forge was when one of the class advisers asked me what medication I was taking. Because I was supposed to respect the officer, I divulged that information though it was none of his business. He asked why I was there in the first place. Many times I’ve rehashed that conversation regarding what I would tell him now. My response would be, “Because my father wants what everyone else in this room does – a perfect child who never makes mistakes or asks questions and always obeys. He wants another cog in a wheel.”

Uncle Sam’s Confused Group

That sums up the military down to a T if you ask me. One of my biggest regrets ever was signing up for the United States Coast Guard. I was more or less forced to join when my mother threatened to cut me off otherwise. Her boss’s son was in the Coast Guard then. Therefore, my mom became an expert in the armed forces and deemed that wise. I was flunking out of college, so I understand her rationale. The part most disconcerting was when she instructed me to lie about having Asperger’s to the recruiter. She would justify it saying there were probably other people with undiagnosed Asperger’s in the military as this had reached the mainstream just three years prior. Both my parents knew an awful lot about military life for people who never served. My dad weaseled his way out of the Air Force during the Vietnam War. My mother, whose father was in the Army during World War II, thought it’d be good for me while she moved to Boston to start over. No matter how much I loathed my it and told her that, Mom’s response was “Just suck it up and deal with it.” Then she’d turn around and toot her trumpet to the whole neighborhood how fabulous she was because her son was serving his country after 9/11.

Not this Way, That Way

I don’t know if Mom regrets talking me into it, and I don’t care. She likes to remind me that I signed the papers. The Coast Guard and others would do the same thing. The military always finds a way to justify the means while railroading people. It wouldn’t do me any good to explain it to a veteran or a lifer. All they’ll do is guilt shame me stating there are troops coming home in coffins missing limbs or compare me to medal of honor recipients. Now I’m a disgrace to my country because I couldn’t hack it. Originally, I wanted to join the Marine Corps, but one of my professors talked me out of that. He made the right call. Mom tried to convince me the Air Force was a bad idea because I had Asperger’s, yet somehow the Coast Guard was better. The real reason I did the latter was because I knew America was going to war the moment George W. Bush stole the 2000 election. I was convinced even before 9/11. I saw that coming a mile away. I know the Bush family and the Republican Party not personally but I’m quite familiar with their politics. Most people think the Coast Guard has the easiest job because it’s the least offensive branch of the military. Little do the know, it’s also is the most active and has the highest suicide rate. They trained us for things that will happen not ones that might unlike the others.

Bon Voyage, Northland!

The eleven months I spent on the USCGC Northland were the longest of my entire life. Every waking moment, I was bullied and ostracized by my peers. My superiors gave me the most work and used me as the go-to guy while others got away with murder. They’d tell everyone I was stupid, that I was gay, that I was incompetent, and the whole shebang. Nothing I did or said would ever make them accept me or dissolve that black cloud over my head. The Coast Guard would do the same thing Valley Forge would which is gaslighting. Not only would they try to make me question my own sanity thinking I was going crazy. They tried to assure me there was nowhere else to go. A lot of abusive partners do this in marriages. I saw Gene Simmons do that to Shannon Tweed. He tried persuading her there was no other way but his, and her life would fall to pieces if she left him. If I couldn’t make it in the Coast Guard or Valley Forge, I would be a failure the rest of my life.

All Hat and No Cattle

The military likes to showcase itself as the only option the same way each organized religion claims to be the only path into heaven. It’s a form of mind control to subjugate people. Eventually, I faked my way out of the Coast Guard when they pulled the rug out from me the last time. My mother assisted me in that process. I don’t know if she did that to make amends for making me lie to get in three years prior, but she told me she was impressed in that I lasted longer than she thought I would. They thought they could break my will and force me out in under a year, but it took them three. That’s why I say everyone who’s bet against me in my life has lost (including the Coast Guard.) My second year at Valley Forge, my tactical officer whom I’ll call Colonel Briggs tried to promise me I wouldn’t last until the rest of the year. If only he hadn’t left in January, I would have loved to have rubbed it in his face that I lasted that long.

Dynasty is Falling

Because of my past circumstances, I despise every sports team from the East Coast and the South as that’s where the majority of my provocateurs and their favorite clubs were from. I loathe every franchise from Boston in particular because many were from that area. Watching the New England Patriots win a Super Bowl would only set me off. That’s why I love reminding Pats fans of that season they went undefeated and lost the New York Giants in the Super Bowl. That’s the only time I recall cheering for the latter. Sometimes I’d remind them of Spygate just to heckle them further. I live for the day Tom Brady retires and the Patriots’ dynasty falls. I enjoyed every waking moment when my Houston Astros eliminated the Boston Red Sox from the 2017 MLB playoffs before winning their first World Series title ever. Seeing the ‘Stros knock out the Yankees from the ALCS was even more fun.

Anywhere But There

After living in Long Island where I was an outcast and serving in the military, the only good memory I have of New York is the thin-crust pizza. That accent makes my skin crawl every time I hear it because my mind subconsciously associates it with vitriol and hostility. The same is true about Boston, Philadelphia, and the rest of those locales. The only time I cheered for the Red Sox was in 2013 after the Boston Marathon Bombing. I showed what little empathy I had left for that place because innocent people were killed. My experiences in military school and the Coast Guard turned me off from living anywhere on the entire eastern seaboard or the South again permanently. I can promise you this much. I’ll never live anywhere east of the Mississippi River should I ever return to the United States. That’s a big if whether or not I come back, and that won’t be until long after Trumpelstiltskin leaves the White House. They didn’t push me forward, but they damn sure drove me away. I’m surprised Valley Forge never had a class action civil lawsuit filed against them from the hazing. When I reconnected with some of old classmates a few years ago, they seemed so appalled hearing that from me like they didn’t see it coming.

Good Morning, Vietnam! Good Night, Saigon!

Without further ado, I’ve never stepped foot near another boat or ship since my departure from the Coast Guard in 2004. The only military base I’ve gone near was Camp Mabry in Austin where I did a one-day temp job. That last part is inevitable as it’s adjacent to a major freeway. Were it not for its proximity to Mopac, I wouldn’t be sharing that. Since the VA, Coast Guard, and Valley Forge made it clear I was just a number to them, army green and navy blue are just colors to me. If only those folks knew I didn’t become a failure or bum like they told me I’d be. The past four years I’ve been living abroad killing it as an ESL teacher. Two of them I spent in Vietnam, the one country Bone Spurs, Ted Nugent, Mitt Romney, and those other draft-dodging cowards were too chicken shit to go near. I wonder how some of my former commanding officers would respond if they knew I visited the War Remnants Museum and the Imperial Palace in Ho Chi Minh City and took pictures.

Remember, Remember in November

In every election mid-term and general since 2004, I’ve voted straight-ticket Democrat. That’s not just out of spite towards the military. My politics have always leaned towards the left. I’m not a one-issue voter to set the record straight. That the vast majority of military personnel are Republicans is happenstance. It’s too bad half of them don’t realize the GOP is using them as cannon fodder to make the fat boys fatter. I refuse to be anyone’s puppet. Living in Southern Mexico makes it more titillating knowing I’m on the other side of Trump’s proposed law. I hope and pray whoever wins the Democratic ticket in 2020 wallops Covfefe in the next election, slashes the defense budget in half, and pours it into education, healthcare, infrastructure, housing, green energy, and scientific research.

My True Colors Shining Through

Now the readers know why I like red and orange. They’re the exact opposite of army green and navy blue. Red is the color of communism while orange represents Agent Orange from the Vietnam War. Red is the color of love which heals all wounds. I start with my right foot in lieu of my left foot whenever I walk. That’s contrary to how they made us march in boot camp and military school. I hang my clothes facing to the right whenever instead of the left like they made us do in boot camp. I even do it in the opposite order. I still tie my shoes together, but I place them in my wardrobe with the toes facing in and the heels facing out rather than the other way around.

Less Than A Hairy Situation

I would have loved to grow my hair long, but I’m going bald. I shave my head because I don’t have the money yet to get a hair transplant. One day I’ll have it done in Turkey, a predominately Muslim country. Islamophobia was rampant in the military like toxic masculinity the latter of which being the genesis of my affinity towards purple. Because I’m certain many of them consider purple feminine is all the reason more for me to wear it. My thinning hair didn’t stop me from growing a beard I incorporated into my repertoire after moving abroad. I know facial hair is verboten in the military. That, my thinning hair, and the fact that it makes me look more Islamic are the catalysts behind that. To put it bluntly, I do as many things as I can the exact opposite of how the military wants. Life is too short to hold grudges, but that doesn’t stop me from doing what I want at the expense of my former oppressors.

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aspergers, autism, culture, health, living abroad, psychology, travel

Ready to Wear

 

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Photo by Hamann La on Pexels.com

What is Normal?

Most neurotypicals agree Aspies and auties have unusual behaviors regardless of their knowledge or lack thereof. One thing upon which the experts and dummies concur is we do things they find unusual. Some are for kicks while others are out of practicality. I’ve spent years trying to decipher what’s normal and never got anywhere. The closest thing which I could ascertain is average. Ordinary people don’t win the Nobel or Pulitzer Prizes, reinvent the wheel, or postulate scientific theories. They don’t create engineering marvels or artistic masterpieces, either. Society has this notion that everything typical is correct while anything unorthodox is improper. That’s what the media has told us all of our lives. Either that or they try to equate normality with perfection. Movies, TV shows, and commercials set unrealistic expectations for your everyday individual.

A Great Support Network

There came a point when I stopped paying attention and caring what others think. My unconventional repertoire was how some of my colleagues suspected I either was on the spectrum or had ADHD. One South African gal named Samantha deduced it before I told her as did another young woman from Mexico, Yael. When I inquired how they knew, Sam wasn’t too specific. She just noted some of my habits. She worked with autistic kids in her home country. Yael knew by my obsession with the show Vikings. It was all I talked about after I’d finish binge-watching it. Her brother in Mexico City has Asperger’s, so I suspect that made it easier for her to postulate her theory. What I respect about Sam and Yael is that neither spelled it out in front of everyone. I appreciate that they respected my privacy and didn’t want to embarrass or put me on the spot. Such a relief it was knowing someone who could comprehend my circumstance without me having to elaborate.

The Albedo Effect

That said, there are things I do most people find ridiculous but I deem practical. When I lived in Austin in the late 2000s, I wore dark colors during the late fall, winter, and early spring. Meanwhile, I donned lighter shades throughout the late spring, summer, and early fall. My major was geography in college. There I learned the meaning of “albedo.” That’s the ten-dollar word to describe which colors absorb the most heat and which reflect the most. Black has the lowest albedo meaning it consumes more UV rays than any other whereas white has the highest thereby reflecting the most. This explains why NFL teams wear white pants and jerseys at the beginning of the season and sit in the shade whilst visiting franchises don their dark colors and sit within the sunbeams. This creates a home field advantage making it more difficult for visiting teams. I’ve grown past this phase after moving to Southeast Asia where it’s hot and sticky year-round with only wet and dry seasons.

Somewhere Over the Rainbow

After watching Breaking Bad, I’m more inclined to wear colors like a rainbow with a different shade each day of the week. My predilection is to don black, brown, red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, gray, and white in that order. However, I’m of the mind to add pink and beige as those were other key colors from said program. Still that accounts for only twelve days, and my aim is to go through an entire fortnight. Thus, I’ve considered teal, magenta, sky blue, chartreuse, vermilion, and violet as the last two. Not only did I start wearing Wallabees like Walter White; I have an affinity for red sneakers. That I acquired from two Hollywood films. The first was one of Tom Hanks’s older movies, The Man With One Red Shoe, about some random guy with mismatched shoes being spied on by the CIA. The other was the mafia drama, Donnie Brasco. A character there by the nickname Sonny Red always sported red wingtips.

From Purple to Red, Getting Ahead

Sometimes this causes confusion as my wardrobe is not that diverse. Other times I’d want to wear just purple because that’s what Marie Shrader donned on Breaking Bad. Everything around her was purple besides her attire. She had purple furniture, dishes, and such. Or I’d want to wear red after I outgrew my purple phase. Purple made me feel safe and secure. I graduated unto red to feel stronger and more dominant. My rationale was that more women would notice me. Studies have shown red is a more alluring towards the opposite sex. I figured purple to them would make me look ridiculous. Also, I’d grown tired of being ignored and felt red would make more people notice me more. I was certain red apparel would make me fit in and decrease the likelihood of me having to live in the shadows. It never dawned on me that it can sometimes be too aggressive. Some people recommended I switch to blue or green to appear friendlier and more approachable. Hence, why rainbow solution seems more amenable in the long haul.

Such a Fool About Wearing Wool

I never liked wool due to sensory issues. It always made my skin itch. I got in trouble while attending military school due to my aversion towards wool. Sometimes, the uniform of the day was battle-dress uniforms with wool scarves which I deplored having around my neck. I would improvise and place my shirt collar in between to avoid being out of uniform and prevent itchy neck. I loathed my full dress uniforms not just because I felt like a toy soldier; the wool pants and blouse were distressing to say the least. Thus, the reason why I loathe crocheted sweaters and ponchos. I’m not a fan of turtlenecks because I like having my neck exposed. My cloth of choice is cotton. I’d rather wear a hooded sweatshirt comprised of that than any of the aforementioned garments. You will never catch me in any of those others without something comfortable like cotton or nylon underneath. My sweatpants, gym pants, blue jeans, and cargo pants were the most delectable things which I could put on on my lower body. Perhaps that’s why I’ve struggled living in Asia. Comfort is at the bottom of the priority list here. Keeping appearances is essential just like in the military.

Tie This One Down, Dude!

That said, there’s one trait from the service I adopted and kept as part of my routine. I tie my shoelaces into double square knots to make sure they stay secure. That was a requirement in boot camp along with tucking them into one’s shoes the latter of which I do also. That way they’ll never come undone or get caught on anything causing me to trip and fall. As asinine as I perceived most things they did in military school and the Coast Guard, few and far between made perfect sense this being one. I also avoid tying them too tightly so I don’t choke the life out of my feet. I didn’t learn to tie my shoes until I was 6. Before that all I craved was Velcro because that’s all I knew. I was too young to understand Velcro would deteriorate over time. Once I learned to tie my shoes, I was set. The same is true after I began formulating double square knots and tucking the laces into the sides. This I think they should teach to children in school and require of all athletes in my humble opinion.