A few things happened in the last few days that help illustrate the difficulties some Aspies have in translating from neural typical speak.
I was sautéing some mushrooms, onions, red bell peppers and dill in margarine today to eat with my baked potato. (it was really good, you should try it). My 14 year old Aspie came in and stated, "That smell is much more tolerable than what Dad used to make for breakfast". She immediately followed this up with, "That wasn't insulting was it?" She does this a lot. She enjoys having a larger than average vocabulary but so desperately wants to avoid hurting anyones feelings.
So I asked her what her intent was with a series of questions. On a scale of one to ten, one being awful, how did she rate the smell of my mushroom, (a four) and how did dad's smell rate, (a one) This I knew. We all hated the smell of his one time favorite breakfast. Was she trying to say that she liked my mushroom smell or was she saying that it was barely tolerable but still better than dad's?
I assured her that while she could say anything to me, she might want to follow her grandmother's advice: If you can't think of something nice to say, don't say anything at all. I also told her that if she complimented something she really didn't like , she needed to be prepared to have that person, make that dish for her in the future. She wrinkled up her nose at that one.
A bit frustrated now, she said, but isn't the truth always the best option? Wow, how to answer that question coming from your teen. Then I remembered something. We had just watched an episode of Star Trek, Next Generation. The crew was watching Dr. Crusher and Lieutenant Barclay perform a scene from Cyrano D'Bergerac. It wasn't going well for Barclay as he stumbled with his lines. When the scene mercifully ended, the crew all clapped enthusiastically and yelled Bravo. Cmdr. Data (an android who strives to be more human for you non-trekkies) looked on with a puzzled look on his face. He turned to Cmdr. Riker and stated something on the order of, why are you all clapping, his performance was barely adequate. Riker responded, "Data, it's Polite"
I also relayed to her a conversation I recently had with her dad. He was wearing a pair of parachute pants and a white Tee shirt. I told him, they made him look like a clown and he should never wear them again. Normally that would be considered extremely rude and I am sure my inlaws would point to it as further proof that I am a sub-standard wife. But my dear husband has been married to me for over 36 years and knows more about Aspies than most people. We have long since come to the understanding that we will be honest with each other when the old question, "Does this outfit make me look fat?" comes up. If you don't want the truth, don't ask the question. We both appreciate, knowing what not to wear out in public.
So what to tell her about telling the truth. I wish it were an easy question. I told her to ask herself, what she was trying to achieve with her statement. If she was trying to compliment someone, then by all means say something. But that brought up another problem. As stated, she has a large vocabulary and it is growing everyday, but sometimes, she uses her new word improperly. This means that her statement can come out several different ways
1. She could be using the word properly and the person she is talking to might also know the proper definition of her word (a good thing)
2. She could be using the word wrong and the other person may know the proper usage. (bad thing)
3. She may be using the word correctly but the other person may not know the word. Which could lead to the other person being hurt because they have the wrong impression of the word, or they could feel like she is trying to show off how smart she is and trying to insult the other person's intelligence. That one bothered her the most because she never wants to hurt someone's feelings.
Sometimes it's best not to say anything.
I left her to think about all this. She came to me a little later and said, "Why can't everyone speak the same language? Why can't blue always be blue?"
It never is you know. Blue is always different. Honesty isn't always the best policy. And the rules are always changing.