My friend has just told me that she takes 50plus vitamins and I am laughing at her, again. I am driving her back from a coffee break after a morning walk and we have been talking about catching colds.

To be honest I find the whole “catching” an illness notion annoying because most of the time the bacteria and virus are around/on us and it is more about our body being able to stop an illness developing. But I get side-tracked.

I have already laughed at my friend for taking vitamins, now I am laughing because she is taking age appropriate vitamins. She thinks I am laughing because she is taking so many supplements and clarifies what she has said but I tell I know what the 50plus means. I am not quite sure of the actual sequence of events but it goes something like:

  • Friend: Why are you laughing?
  • Me: I am autistic, I laugh at inappropriate things.
  • F: But you understand boundaries so you can’t just play the autistic card (my translation).
  • M: I suppose I find taking vitamins absurd. There is no need for it with a healthy diet. I think the whole 50plus thing is a marketing gimmick.

The implication then is that I think she is stupid for taking vitamins, and I am laughing at her foolishness. She is an intelligent well informed person so perhaps I could justify this position but at the time I don’t have the space to process that or the offence I may have caused. As I try to reconcile my position with saying that it is what she believes that is important, there is a niggling doubt at the back of my mind. Do I understand boundaries, or am I being deliberately mean?

After dropping her off, I consider my sense of humour. There are times when I know I have laughed when nobody else has. It might be that somebody has died and I am laughing at the crazy situation they died in whereas everybody else is hung up on the first bit; a person has died. The issue is that I don’t know why I find it funny at the time, I just laugh and notice nobody else is. It is only later that I might be able to come up with a coherent reason. I might.

I don’t have a good memory for these things but I think my humour is usual based around pointing out the ambiguousness of a statement and exploiting it to “take the mickey” out of someone. On the walk we are talking about keeping our weight under control. Another friend is talking about eating too much chocolate. I mention not buying biscuits and crisps so I avoid eating them. My friend mentions that it is the calories in alcohol that she is aware and that she likes a bit to drink each evening. We explore what her likes are. Her husband likes red, but she prefers white. She mentioned drinking prosecco earlier and I point out the difficulty in opening a bottle of fizzy wine and not finishing it. We establish she likes to drink a bit of white wine in the evening.

Another friend says something along the lines of a small amount of wine is probably good for you. I chip in that it all depends on your definition of “a bit”. We really don’t know how much “a bit” is. This produces some laughter. My friend and I banter a bit, me implying she is an alcoholic and her trying to clarify what she said after I have twisted her words. The group laughs for a few minutes before the conversation shifts onto other topics.

At the time I wouldn’t be able to tell you why I implied she was an alcoholic but in hindsight I suspect it was my attempt to highlight the dangers of regular drinking on livers that the professional classes seem to be rather prone too. A glass or two of wine with every evening meal and a bottle or two at the weekend is an easy long-term way of destroying your liver. I wouldn’t want anybody to go through a liver transplant if it could be avoided even if one was offered, which is far from likely is you are an addict, intentional or not. I don’t think my friend is an alcoholic and I feel safe making fun of her because she knows me very well but the whole boundary issue means that I have doubts.

It seems my so-called humour has come out of subjects I feel strongly about. In these cases it was that regular casual drinking can lead to liver disease and that vitamins are a waste of money for most people. Is this true of all my humour? I think I tend to pick up on contradictions too but I am not sure I turn that into humour. That is not the point though. I think the difficulty is that this sort of humour can ignore people’s personal beliefs and riding roughshod of people’s beliefs can be hurtful. It could actually be simpler than that. Not listening to people’s beliefs can be hurtful.

This is difficult country for me. I have needs and I have opinions and it can harm me not to express them. I don’t express myself to harm anybody else but I can see how it might. The problem is that I am not a mind reader. I can’t tell what your reaction is unless you tell me bluntly and even then, I may not be in a position to be able to process that emotion. In difficult situations I tend to shut down to protect myself and when I do that, emotions can take a long time to filter through. They have probably been registered but until I have peace and quiet to restore my emotional processing, they are hitting a defensive firewall.

But this isn’t what happened today. I wasn’t in defensive mode, if anything I was in offensive mode which seems an interesting word to use. To be offensive is to attack something, but to be offended is to be annoyed at what somebody has said to you. This all feels rather uncomfortable. Was I attacking my friend to get my point across? If so it was done unconsciously, but that doesn’t make me feel any better about it. I hate this. I try to keep my opinions to myself unless somebody asks for them but they obviously leak out, not least through humour in this case. I don’t want to be en-guarde all the time since it can’t be done but I am not sure that that inner me is somebody I want to let out.