If you watch Jeopardy!, you’ll know that the current champion has won about a week’s worth of games handily. Matt Jackson has blown his competition out of the water, and unlike other winners of his ilk, is actually likeable. The Man hates it when someone wins so much the other people don’t even have a chance, but this guy… he really kind of likes him.
It’s not because Mr. Jackson is very sociable or says clever things or is funny. In fact, he’s not. I have a sneaking suspicion he may be on the spectrum. When it’s time to smile, he smiles, albeit a bit forced like every school picture that has come home with The Boy. When he’s in the game, he’s impatient for Alex Trebek to read the next clue. When he’s wrong, he blinks and looks like you just shot his puppy.
And after the show, when the contestants stand on the stage in a semicircle and talk to Alex, he stands furthest away and says little.
Who knows if the guy is on the spectrum or not. I certainly don’t know him as a person. He may just be a bit socially awkward, as many Jeopardy! contestants have been. But I’ve been rooting for him because I find him charming. Not ever having been too socially adept myself, I always root for #teamquirky, because those are the people in this life who will not bullshit you.
So when I read a friend’s FaceBook post where he said he liked Mr. Jackson, found him creepy because he doesn’t blink, but liked him, and saw others responding with comments like “he has a very creepy smile. Something just seems off,” and more comments talking about how he will likely murder Alex Trebek in his sleep, my heart hurt a little.
You assume someone is psychotic because they are not socially adept? People who are different from you make you think something is “off”?
Maybe I would be saying those things, too, if my son weren’t on the spectrum. But I doubt it. Because I was that kid who only thought of the right thing to say after someone walked away. I was that kid who hid my teeth when I smiled (and probably looked a bit creepy). I was that kid who wore a big yellow fuzzy coat to school and got mocked for it (even though it was so cool).
I get so tired of the meanness, the pettiness, the judgy. They say it comes from insecurity. They say it comes from ignorance. I think it comes from laziness, bad habits, mediocrity, and the fact that people just don’t grow up anymore.
I said and did stupid things when I was a kid. I was a kid. Then I grew up.
There’s a whole lot of different people on this planet. You can either be open to that difference, or you can be closed to it. Guess which one is more fun?