Friday, July 16, 2010

A Little Too Much Information?

“Hey,” my boss addresses me one afternoon, walking up behind my chair, “so I've noticed that this order's been going on for a long time...”

The opportunity to make a joke, to make someone laugh, to gain that positive reinforcement through amusing my friends and colleagues, is just too much to resist. And so I shoot back, without any forethought whatsoever and loud enough for most of my coworkers around me to hear: “Your mum goes on for a long time!”

Now, had this been between two friends in a non-work situation, it would have probably been hilarious. At least, in my experience it would have been. I've noticed that people react to 'your mum' and 'that's what she said' jokes with more enthusiasm than most other jokes, no matter how often you quote them and how overused they've become. But to my department manager, in the professional setting of an office workplace, this was probably in hindsight not the cleverest thing that could have come out of my mouth.

For an Aspie, I think I'm a pretty social person. By this, I mean that I can enjoy being around people and I like having friends. I'm not an entirely solitary creature, though I do enjoy my time alone, and if I am around people or in social situations for too long I will crack and have a meltdown. But when I'm at work, for the most part, if there are people around me, I have a tendancy to become very excitable and enthusiastic, overwhelmed with my surroundings and the hustle and bustle of my busy yet very chatty and sociable department. We're sort of like a work-family – we're all different, but accept each other's quirks. Which is probably why they find me and my odd habits and outbursts and suchlike extremely entertaining.

A while ago, someone made a 'your mum' joke. From what I can remember it was a pretty good one, when I analyse it from a language point of view. I laughed, as did everyone else. Someone else made one later on that day, and it became a ridiculously overused habit in my department that we would crack 'your mum' and 'that's what she said' jokes back and forth during the work day, when our boss was out of earshot.

And so, when I made the joke to my boss, my mind automatically made the connection between the 'your mum' joke and the hilarious responses I would get from my colleagues, and I imagined she would also laugh. However, the entire department went quiet and my boss just sort of stared at me, and told me that it was innappropriate for the office and, if we were going to make jokes, to do it quietly.

'Your mum' jokes are now, for the record, officially banned from our department after someone from sales got offended overhearing one of them. Probably one of mine, since I have a habit of talking a little too loudly at work.

The point of this blog post is to share with you a habit I've noticed with myself, which I'm pretty sure is linked to my Asperger's, and that's what I call the “TMI Syndrome”. TMI – or Too Much Information, if you're not familiar with netspeak – is a probably I've always had, for as long as I can remember. It might be closely linked to the same urge that encourages us Aspies to talk... and talk... and talk... and talk about a subject no one around us is particularly interested in. I became obsessed with the video game Final Fantasy VII in high school, and it was literally all I would talk about. My small group of friends must've been SO ANNOYED with me! But I believe the same thing that encourages us to keep going – or won't allow us to stop – is responsible for the fact that I have no idea if what I am about to say is appropriate for the situation or not.

Somewhere in my life, I made a connection that being cocky, witty, sarcastic – generally, a douchebag – was an attractive quality in a person. I cracked a few one-liners (language patterns are easy to work with once you figure out what makes a one-liner funny!), and people responded well to the fiesty me. Heck, all the characters on TV and in video games and movies that people fall in love with are like that! However, my brain obviously associated/associates that sort of rude, fiesty comeback and sexual innuendo with a positive reaction, because now... I can't stop. There's no proofreader between my brain and my mouth, and so not only are random babbling speeches coming out, most of which I get confused with halfway through or attempt (and fail) to backtrack when I realize how stupid it sounded, but I'm also making comments or sharing stories that are usually extremely inappropriate. People often end up getting frustrated with me or taking offense, because they doesn't realize that I'm just trying to be humerous and 'bond' with them via barbed wire comments, and they assume I'm just being an asshole.

Another great one was when one of my coworkers was late to a meeting. My department manager asked us where he was, and I responded with a laugh, “Maybe he's in the bathroom, changing his tampon?” Needless to say, any laughs from my coworkers were obviously hidden, and my boss gave me a stern talking-to afterward about my professionalism. But I had heard my friend cracking that very same joke whilst we were watching TV at my place a few days beforehand, so I had no idea why it hadn't had everyone reeling in laughter during that meeting!

A counsellor at school once described me as an “excited puppy”, who just gets very overwhelmed and overexcited with all of the stimulation around me and bounces around, and doesn't realize that my playful nips are sometimes painful. But looking at it again now, I see it more as I have no idea exactly what is appropriate for a given situation and what isn't. My room mate helps me pick out clothes to events, dinners, even just social gatherings, because sometimes I'll break down and have a meltdown, I'm so frustrated about what to wear. I have no idea what is the expected style of dress, how formal or how casual, so I often end up over- or under-dressing. I always won costume competitions at school because I would overdo everything. I had no idea it 'wasn't cool' to over-dress for costume competitions, and would spend the day feeling proud of my mum and my hand-made efforts, whilst the other kids would point and snicker in their half-arsed costumes or no costume at all because they were 'too cool' to dress up for a silly school fancy dress day.

Anyway, the point of this blog (because I have a habit of making them extremely long) I suppose is to reach out to other Aspies who may have experienced this sort of “TMI Syndrome”, who say things without thinking, who confuse when is or isn't appropriate to say a certain thing, or who end up babbling about things they really shouldn't with other people, especially strangers. I tell the truth far too much, and I always divulge too much information, and I wish I could say that it makes me keep my mouth shut, but when I become too overwhelmed or overenthused by a social situation, I literally can't stop myself from babbling.

I suck at ending these things, like ending conversations, so I guess I'll finish it here with a joke.

...Just like I finished your mum last night! ;D


  1. I loved this post, although I don't quite get the joke. Maybe it's British humor? ;-)

    I sometimes call myself the queen of TMI. It DOES feel like you just can't stop! Words gush out of my mouth before I can catch them. When I'm around a lot of activity or large groups of people, I get really excited and have a hard time reigning it in.

    Well, here's a link to one of MY posts. Hope you like it. 8^)

  2. I did, I liked it a lot!

    'Your mum' jokes are very... eh, they're big right now. Very popular to take something someone says and turn it into a 'your mum' joke. For example, I could say 'your MUM has a hard time reigning it in!'. They're usually innuendos and don't always make sense, which is why it's easy to amuse people with them.

  3. I don't think the 'your mum' jokes are a big thing in the UK - I only know about them from Americans online and American TV shows. But I know what you mean about being oblivious to how something that works in one context won't work in another. I've made jokes that go down really well in one context and are met with silence in others!

  4. "how do you explain that you have a disorder that sometimes makes it impossible for you to even consider facing the outside world, especially when your manager doesn’t have a clue about anything autism related, despite you attempting to explain the symptoms and how they affect you?" That really sums it up!