Posted by: E (The Third Glance) | January 1, 2012

“Oh, so you’re like the female version of Sheldon Cooper!”

I was out to dinner with one of my graduate school classes a few weeks ago (sponsored by the professor), and was sitting at the end of a table with a few of my classmates. We got onto the subject of being picky eaters (as one might, in a fancy restaurant with a multiple course meal), and after some conversation, one of my classmates said “Oh, so you’re like a female version of Sheldon!” (from The Big Bang Theory) Well yes, I am, and I am not, too. I like to describe myself that way sometimes, because it helps people to understand me better, and gives them an idea of where I’m coming from without me having to go into one of my rehearsed (and never well-received) long lists. That show has done wonders for those of us who are “stereotypical aspies” – people watch the show and they realize that there are people in their lives who are like Sheldon, and that they deserve to be treated as people too.

The Big Bang Theory is my favorite TV show, and the only one I watch in general, since I don’t have a TV and I get overwhelmed by most shows anyway. I love the show because of Sheldon, and have, believe it or not, learned a great deal about how to interact with people from the show, by learning from Sheldon’s mistakes and successes, since they are often spelled out for the viewer explicitly. I keep being told by people that the show is not actually about Sheldon, but about Leonard and Penny, but for me it’s all about Dr. Cooper. Although there are some things that I don’t like about the show (for example, how the women are portrayed*), I really can relate to Sheldon’s struggles to understand and interact with the world around him. Sheldon and I are alike in a lot of ways…

We know random facts that we like to (verbally) spew out during conversations. I’ve been described before as a “walking encyclopedia”, and I know that sometimes it’s given as an insult, but I am rather proud of it. My brain is a giant supercomputer. I gather facts and data throughout all of my day-to-day life, and I file it away. I am able to recall many interesting facts about things based on keywords. No, not everything I have stored in my brain is remarkable, but usually it is relevant. I am told by my friends that they always learn something when they’re talking with me. I am proud of that, and I strive to learn something from whoever I am talking with as well.

We are very particular about our food and our “spots” and our clothes. Sheldon’s spot is defined by where the air moves in his apartment. My “spot” is designed so that I am not taken by surprise as often when sounds happen. In a classroom, this means I find a place where I can concentrate on the professor and learn to filter out the other noises. In my office (which is shared with 8 other people), I have a back corner desk, where I can look out across the whole room, and am able to prepare myself for when a door opens or closes, or a person moves around. We are both clumsy and not move around rather awkwardly.

We both need a “sarcasm” sign. One of my friends and I developed a little hand signal that she gives me if someone is being sarcastic to me. I’m grateful for this in conversations, but she’s not always there. I wish there really was a “sarcasm” sign. Or that people spoke in italics. I am also ridiculously ignorant when people make sexual references, though through keeping a long list of things that people say that I don’t understand and looking them up on urbandictionary.com, I am caught unaware less often these days. And I do have a bad habit of stopping conversation to ask what something means when I get lost. We both have a desire to be friends with people, but don’t often go about it in a very “acceptable” manner.

We both are hyper-literal and mistake the meanings of many figures of speech, but those that we have mastered, we use quite often, and sometimes inappropriately, because, in fact, we haven’t mastered them at all. We use large words that most people don’t understand. We both have extreme issues about lying and have an obsessive need to tell the truth. We have scripted-sounding language, and are vested in our routines, and we get lost and confused when something changes. We have little stereotyped rituals and behaviors that must be taken to completion. We are both have above-average intelligence (though I am probably not quite as smart as Sheldon), and are extremely dedicated to our fields of science and our special interests. And we both go about mastering social interaction clumsily, and by rote, often to whoever is watching’s great amusement.

But then again, I am not like Sheldon, and constantly work extremely hard “pass”. I have learned to control myself in many social situations. I am able to stop my stims and behaviors mid-way, if there is a need (though at great cost to my brain’s functionality), or not start them at all. I do not actively point out everyone’s faults around me, even when they’re glaringly obvious (though sometimes I mess up), and I don’t say things like “I’m smarter than you” aloud. I like to think I have mastered some of the finer parts of human interaction. And I am certainly not nearly as obnoxious as Sheldon can be. But I really enjoy the show, and am so happy to see a character in pop culture celebrated, rather than ostracized or infantilized for his quirks. Wouldn’t it be an amazing world if we didn’t have to play the social bullshit game** all the time and could just be, the way that Sheldon is portrayed? I know the show isn’t perfect, but it’s pretty good, and that’s a step in the right direction.

*Another post for another time. There will probably be several posts about The Big Bang Theory…

**The Social Bullshit game is a concept a friend and I came up with my freshman year of college to describe neurotypical social interactions.

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Responses

  1. I enjoy the big bang theory very much. The only things that really annoy me about the show are A) the way women are portrayed, as you mentioned and B) how Sheldon is supposedly very intelligent yet also makes many offhand sexist and misogynistic remarks.

  2. Greatly enjoyed this post. I’m also a young woman who has often had issues with my autistic traits and my family have even compared me to Sheldon. Luckily I’m now at the point where I’m completely comfortable with it, guess it’s a learning curve we all have to take!

  3. Oh my God!! Yes!! Finally; somebody else who is a lot like Sheldon!
    Before I even knew The Big Bang Theory existed, there were around five people who would tell me that I am just like Sheldon. One day, my frenemy showed my season 2 of The Big Bang Theory. It took me about 15 episodes before I started to like it, but by then I also noticed that I am in fact like Sheldon in so many ways:
    * I almost never understand sarcasm.
    * All of my conversations must have closure.
    * I am quite picky about certain things, one of these being where I sit and I want things done my way, which is why I hate group-work at school.
    * Though I love to be around others, I also love my alone-time. I could be having the best time with the very few people I enjoy being around, or be equally happy at home, doing my own things.
    * I am very opinionated.
    * I rarely use slang words, but I actually understand some slang words that others do not understand, probably due to the fact that I am an American living in Australia, but then on the other hand, there is a lot of Australian slang that I just don’t get!
    * I correct people’s grammar whenever they make a mistake and love to have my grammar corrected when it is wrong at times.
    * I have been called crazy or weird by just about every person I’ve ever met, even though I am sane. However, I “overreact” to just about anything(if you ask me, my reactions are completely acceptable).
    * I take quite a few things that people say seriously/literally,
    * I talk A LOT.
    * I find most Internet memes incredibly stupid.
    * Although I do not go about announcing random facts to other people, I find them very interesting and always want to know more.
    * Even though I don’t know much about science, I am interested in evolution, geology and once read the magazine ‘New Scientist’ and found it fascinating, but haven’t been able to get my hands on another copy.
    * I worry about a lot of stuff.
    * I think highly of myself and truly believe that I am superior to most people out there, but I do not go around bragging about myself and how great I am. I actually hate it when people do that.

    There are also many other little things that make me a lot like him, such as the scene where he went off to return the Star Wars sheets because they are too stimulating for him to sleep. I feel the same way about my bedding; I don’t want anything stimulating, so I just like to sleep in white bedding. There are also a lot of things he says or arguments he makes that I relate to. I can’t think of any quotes in particular, but there have been many times where Sheldon would say something and I would just be thinking “YES! That’s right! I couldn’t agree more!!” and the other characters would just roll their eyes or argue with him. In real life, when I get into an argument with my frenemy, the only response she ever seems to come up with is “You’re being a Sheldon!” and then she stops talking, which I find really fucking annoying because as mentioned above, my conversations need closure. I am not kidding- I have ended up screaming at my mother and sister far too many times just because they won’t end the damn conversation. I think I’ve actually permanently damaged my vocal chords after one fight, because ever since then, my throat has been hurting constantly. I’ve been talking minimally and quiter ever since. (Now I’m thinking of the episode where Sheldon was using his computer to talk to people in order to save his voice, ha ha ha.)
    So many people who I know dislike the way Sheldon behaves, which makes me feel a bit sad, knowing that they think I’m just like him.

  4. Um, I made a mistake with my last comment. Do you think you could not publish it? I accidentally put my email as my name! Please, could you just not publish it? I don’t want people to know my email address.

    • I can also change it so that your name appears and your email doesn’t. 🙂 Would that be ok?

      • Yes, that would be great, thanks.

  5. Me too… so many commonalities. Although, I think the show is not very accurate about how Aspies get treated by others. I get treated like s&^t and always have : ( Very isolated with extremely few exceptions. Have even been treated badly in education so very delayed getting my degree here!


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