I’ve never had a lot of use for men as friends. As a gender, men have many flaws. As a man I like to think that men have redeeming qualities. I do think that most men have redeeming qualities that endear them to other men, but it is difficult for me to see what possible redeemable qualities men hold for women. This is a question that I often ask many women: what is it that you see in men? Most often the response to this question involves social conditioning. We go through states in life. When we’re young the opposite sex has “cooties” for instance. The definition of said term having never been properly explained to me, I will not hazard a guess here. I think it is fair to delineate from this social context that an environment exists when we’re young where social stigma encourages us to “stay tribal” if you will and it becomes beneficial to mix and run with only your own sex.
As we get older our relationship with our gender changes and we begin to look outside the tribe for, if not an entirely fulfilling, at least a more meaningful relationship with a member of the opposite sex. If memory serves me correctly it was around fifth and sixth grade that these gender-centric relationships began to change. Elementary school, at least for me was divided into the bad years and the not-as-bad years. At the elementary education facility where I went to school the building was separated into two sections – one for k-3 students and the other for the 4-6 grade students. Each side of the building had a corresponding playground. The playgrounds were designed to correspond with activities that kids from each age group were expected to play or at least learn how to play. Having experienced both sides of the playground I can say now that the k-3 side probably would have been more fun than the 4-6 side if I had decided to spend any amount of time there. When I was on the k-3 side however, I used to journey to the 4-6 side of the playground because most of my friends were older than me and they were thus on a whole different playground than me.
Even at a young age I was shocked by how different the two sides of the playground were from each other. The k-3 side was, at least on its face, much more guarded. There seemed to be many more authoritarian figures present on the k-3 section of the playground than on the 4-6 section. People also treated each other differently on the 4-6 side than they did on the k-3 side. Girls weren’t nearly as segmented away from the boys on the 4-6 side. Also, the boys were engaging in activities that I enjoyed much more than the jungle gym. The 4-6 graders were playing football and had a higher set of monkey bars – which wasn’t beneficial to someone like me who was renowned for my short stature – but I nonetheless found it fascinating that monkey bars could reach the height that they did on the 4-6 side of the playground.
One of the more disorienting things about the 4-6 playground was what I called the “kill zones.” At the age of eight I had developed a working knowledge of the American Civil War and I noticed that throughout the playground there were large yellow lines which we were not supposed to cross under any condition. I remarked to one of the teachers that their attitude towards these markers was similar to that of Confederate guards at the Andersonville Prison Camp and this particular teacher merely shrugged and replied: “well, at least we’re not the Germans.”
What I liked most about the 4-6 lot was the emphasis placed on football, which has always been my favorite sport. It wasn’t until later on in life that I would realize that my love of football was guided as much by hormones as it was a love for the game. On the 4-6 side of the lot, football was the main event. The boys played and the girls watched. On the k-3 side some people threw the ball around but everything was highly regimented and controlled by the teachers who actively patrolled the playground.
The boys did their things on the k-3 lot and the girls did their own separate things while on the 4-6 lot both genders came together to either play or watch the football game. Being a kid I was probably just as drawn to the fact that the 4-6 lot was a place that a k-3 student just shouldn’t be as much as anything else. I never was one for following rules. But much of the allure came not only from the fact that going to the 4-6 lot wasn’t something a k-3 student was supposed to do as much as it was to hang out with the girls, which was something that might as well have been forbidden on the k-3 side of things.
One of the interesting things that I always thought about whether I was on the k-3 lot or the 4-6 lot was why whatever activities we were engaged in had to occur on the pavement. There were a variety of fields just beyond the playground, they were all within sight of us when we were playing on the pavement, but they were never used. The reasoning for this that was given was that just as one could not go beyond the lines on the pavement which were beyond view of the teachers we likewise could not go out into the field where we would also be out of view of the teachers. What made little sense to me however was that there were few teachers monitoring activity on the 4-6 lot, so really, what did it matter if we went into the field to play football (where it would also be far safer to play as well?) The answer, like many things in life, is liability or plausible deniability depending on who you ask.
The school is liable for everything that happens on its grounds, so it makes sense to set up borders that control your movement because the school doesn’t want to get sued. Likewise it also makes sense that teachers would not want to be responsible for any “rough” behavior that might take place in the fields. What made little sense to me at the time and continues to confuse me is how playing on concrete is safer than playing on grass. The short answer to this, I think, is that the teachers could monitor you on the concrete whereas they wouldn’t be able to see everything that was going on if they were in the field.
As I mentioned earlier I actually preferred the K-3 playground, at least in the abstract, to the 4-6 playground. The reason that I always wanted to go to the 4-6 playground had less to do with the playground itself and much more to do with what was happening to me in my K-3 years. I have never been good at math, let there be no doubt about that, but my parents had instilled on me at a very young age a life-long love of reading that continues to this day. Therefore from the start of my education I enjoyed a considerable advantage in my reading skills to that of my contemporaries, but my math skills always left much more to be desired. I floated through first grade without any problems, but second grade was a whole different story. My second grade teacher insisted that there must be something wrong with me because I never listened to her. My father would later speculate that she might have been upset that she couldn’t control me, a theory I find to be more and more correct the more I think about it.
At the end of the second grade my teacher insisted that I be tested to see if I had a learning disability. My parents, always putting what was best for me before a more reasonable conclusion could be reached (i.e. this woman was crazy) agreed to let me be tested and no one was happy with the outcome. The tests didn’t tell us anything we didn’t already know. I was bad at math, good at reading and okay at just about everything in between. The solution that the adults came to was to put me on Ritalin for four years. Whether or not this helped anything is still an open question. Judging by my recent diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome however I find it difficult to believe that any rational psychologist could have missed all the warning signs. Looking back however I realize what probably threw them: I have always been good at one-on-one conversations and have never had a problem speaking truth to power. Undergoing those tests had made me feel like a social outcast however and rather than dealing with the ridicule I decided to seek understanding by seeking a new environment. All through the third grade I spent recess running from the K-3 playground to the 4-6 playground and it was in the 4-6 environment that my relationships with men and women were forever changed.
Whatever judgment was made of me in those years seemed to always be made on some formative aspect that I had no control over. Whether it was my height, which seemed relatively short in comparison with many of those I surrounded myself with or my youth in which case I was almost always the youngest of those around me, it has occurred to me now looking back with the benefit of hindsight that few judge you on merit but on things over which you have little or no control. Many are casually dismissive of this fact despite the overwhelming evidence that boys rarely form positive judgments of each other at this or any other age close to it. The only people that ever stood up for me at that age were girls. Boys on the 4-6 side of the playground played rough and not just out on the field, they were rough when I had to jog back to the K-3 side of the playground.
One kid used to run back with me and try to get in a good ‘kidney shot’ that is a punch below your lungs but above your hips. That was an incredibly painful blow to absorb. Parents never want to admit that their kid could be a bully either which only serves to enable those kids, but I remember walking home one day and this kid who seemed to get a real kick out of punching me on a daily basis decided to throw a rock at this six year old girl who was walking front of him. Her brother was walking with her, something this kid either didn’t know about or didn’t care about. This kid was an eighth grader, he didn’t normally walk his sister home from school but he did that day and he beat the bejesus out of that prick and I fondly recall smiling all the way home and even for several days afterwards.
The general bullying that occurred on the 4-6 playground was either casually ignored or mildly encouraged by the two male sixth grade teachers at the school. It was a rare sight for me, to see a man in a job that was, at least in my eyes at that particular state in my life a profession dominated by women. Even my gym teacher was a woman. On the 4-6 playground the two sixth grade teachers would take turns playing football with the kids and they were generally intrigued by me not just because of my relative youth but because of my speed, quickness off the ball and the physical way I dealt with those trying to cover me as a receiver. Since the teachers always played quarterback they’d advise me on how to take down multiple kids in coverage.
“It’s not a penalty if nobody sees you,” one of the teachers advised. I never took this advice to heart, something that seemed to disappoint them, but I had no interest in being a dirty player even at that age. I didn’t do this out of the goodness of my heart however. I felt compelled to play fair because that’s what one of the girls said she liked about me. Unlike the other guys I wasn’t picking fights she said and being a guy I wanted to be liked by girls. Plus, the girls always had sway with the boys on that side of the playground so the more friends I had that were girls the less trouble the boys would make for me in general. This would be my formula for survival all the way through my college years.
There was also the experience of growing up with Grandpa that weighed on my heart through this experience. I didn’t want to mistreat others because I saw with frightening alacrity through my life the way that some people treated Grandpa and it wasn’t pleasant. Watching anyone get discriminated against is something I’ve always had a hard time dealing with. Grandpa’s advice had always been to take the initial onslaught, wait for them to make a mistake or misjudge you and then turn the tables on the other person. Grandpa had always been very good at this but this was because he had so much experience. Grandpa spent his entire adult life on crutches. That kind of experience hardened him against the methods utilized by bullies and probably helped me make my way through a fair amount of fights as well.
A weird thing happened when I went from third grade to fourth grade. As third graders we had been at the top of the totem pole on the K-3 playground. We had to go from top to bottom in under a year. Worse for me was that the allure of being the youngest kid on the playground wore off because I was now surrounded by kids my age on the 4-6 lot. Luckily I still had a built-in fan base from the previous year when I was the youngest kid on the playground. The effect was minimized however due to the fact that the kids that were in my class were largely unresponsive to the cares of others.
It was tough fitting in here because I had existed in this world prior to my classmates and they were obviously envious of this fact. They weren’t just envious that I knew the people, the ground, and the games, what they were most envious of was the fact that I knew the girls. It is here that the gender divide seemed the most pronounced. Where girls might ask a girlfriend to introduce them to a boy she likes, men look at everything as a competition and if someone can prevent you from getting something that you want they won’t run from the challenge. It has been my experience that no one will pass up the chance to deny you an opportunity.
For a brief time in the fourth grade I was marginalized because of my purely platonic relationships with fifth and sixth grade girls. There was one kid in particular who was a real asshole. He lived about a block away from me on the other side of Fred’s house. Fred was a man in his late ‘70’s who suffered a number of hard falls earlier that spring. I remember that winter my dad and I would go over and shovel his driveway. One day Fred’s wife stopped me and slid some money into my pocket but told me not to tell my dad because he’d never accept it.
“Besides,” she said. “I know you’ll spend it better.” Adults have a way of interacting with kids that other kids just either don’t understand or don’t want to understand. I think this is because most adults remember what it was like being a kid while other kids don’t have that experience to look back on yet. Fred died after the snow thawed and his wife outlived him by over a decade though she suffered from Alzheimer’s in her later years. Aaron, who lived behind Fred, was just a “no good, very bad kid” as my grandmother used to say.
“If there is one ounce of virtue in his body he’s yet to show it,” she would say. I later found out, purely by accident, that Aaron’s parents were vicious alcoholics. I used to think that the bruises he showed up to school with came from messing with the wrong kid, but later I learned that his father had a vicious temper. I should have realized that something like that was going on when only his biological mother showed up for school events. His parents had divorced and it seemed like his mother was the rational one. One day when we had indoor recess (because it was raining outside) Aaron was walking down the hall when I was talking to my friend Amanda.
Aaron liked Amanda, which was bad news for me as he shoved me into her as hard as he could. When I turned around and put my hands straight out in front of me to break my fall I was mortified that they landed on her chest. She didn’t seem to mind, but I sure did. Aaron started laughing but whatever joy he was to get out of the event was relatively short-lived as I grabbed him and beat his head into a bench until one of the sixth grade male teachers was able to pull me off of him. Had those two very large men not been there to stop me it is very likely that I would have done very serious damage to his head and possibly could have killed him. This is the first time at least in my memory that I ever displayed any Autistic tendencies. My hatred for Aaron in that moment was real. My anger was uncontrollable. I couldn’t have stopped myself from hitting him had I tried. After this barbarous event made its way through the grapevine I was given a brief respite from the teasing and bullying but this would prove to be quite short lived indeed.
Looking back on this period in my life now it feels like it should have been fairly simple to see my Autistic tendencies or at the very least – my emotional despondence from kids “my age” – it is important to remember however that parents are quick to say: “oh, I remember being like that at that age.” Both of my parents have certain Autistic symptoms of their own and both likely exhibited many of the same behavioral traits during their childhoods as I did in my childhood. After the rigorous testing that followed the second grade for me I was put on Ritalin, which was a fairly common drug to be prescribed at the time, as it was much easier for psychiatrists to see symptoms of ADD than it was to see symptoms of Asperger’s.
I think it was around fourth grade that I began to start acting like Luke from Modern Family. I had real trouble getting up in the morning and I had an even harder time remaining focused on things throughout the day. The trouble with putting someone like me on Ritalin is that it can overcorrect the problem. I obviously did have some symptoms of ADD and it may have been beneficial to slow my brain down during the four years that I was on it, but it was very difficult for me to sustain energy for any length of time when I was on it because the drug used up so much of my energy just to try and remain focused. I have always been a very high energy person. Just ask my grandfather, who spent so much of his time during my childhood trying to slow me down. It is remarkable in hindsight the things that he was able to get me to do and I often wonder if my scholastic achievement wouldn’t have been higher if he had been living with us.
I do think that the love my mother had for her father was strong enough that we likely could have helped him and I know that I never would have protested my best friend moving in with us. The problem was time and money unfortunately. Both my parents worked very hard to sustain the life that we had and as I think it should be apparent by now I was in no condition to take care of anyone as I could barely take care of myself. I think it would have been very difficult for Grandpa to live with us, but it wouldn’t have been impossible. I don’t think my mother ever wanted to impose any of her family upon my father despite the belief I have that he will always support her in whatever she does. The relationship that my parents have is all the more remarkable when I consider the two kids they had to put up with – neither of which was even close to being normal.
There were two entrances to the school from the 4-6 lot; one was by the tetherball poles near the bees nests that I avoided because I’ve always been deathly afraid of bees, the other was fifty yards removed from the K-3 playground. I called the fifty yards of pavement that separated the K-3 lot from the 4-6 lot the “kill zone” after the arbitrary posts placed at the famed Andersonville prison camp during the Civil War. Not even my teachers understood why I used that term, but I always told everybody the story about how Confederate prison guards would shoot Union soldiers who got anywhere near the kill posts, which were about three feet from the edge of the camp. This was probably excessively frightening and weird for someone my age, but it was at this time that I began my lifelong fascination with everything related to the American Civil War.
My friends all lived on the tetherball side of the playground, which was an area that I tried to avoid because of the aforementioned fact about my fear of bees, but I remember throwing the football around there in the morning anyway in that general vicinity. That area of the playground was also the only part of the playground that had an extended area of grass away from the pavement that wasn’t considered completely out of the sight of the teachers, so it was natural that we would play there and wait for my other friends to arrive. My best friend from the 4-6 grades was Ryan. He was the only friend I had at the time whose parents weren’t divorced, something that for whatever reason was what drew us together initially. We had the good fortune of being in the same class for both fourth and fifth grade, but not in sixth grade which was also the year that he moved away and wound up going to a different school. Why ones parents would move during the last semester of the last year their kid was at a school is still difficult for me to fathom but it was what they did nonetheless.
Fourth grade was basically an extension of third grade for me, as I had the same teacher in fourth grade as I did in third grade. No, I was not held back a year (though my mother at least strongly considered it) there was one teacher that was made a fourth grade teacher when another fourth grade teacher left to become the Principal at a school about a mile away from our own. The teacher that was the logical choice to move to fourth grade was my fourth grade teacher and I thus had her not only for third grade but fourth grade as well. The one thing that she did exceedingly well was teaching math. I have always been terrible at math, yet I have always hung out with people who have had some at least overlapping strong mathematical abilities in a subject such as economics. This led me to, later in life, become very interested in economics and somewhat good at coming up with forecasting models. None of this helped me in my ongoing war with mathematics as a basic subject however.
I have just recently learned that I am not that bad at mathematics in the abstract, I’m just really bad at applying mathematics. I actually understand the principles of mathematics extremely well. I can probably recite most of the key mathematical properties from memory for instance, but ask me to use a formula to solve a problem and I’m done for. This is very similar to the problem I face in the world of economics. I understand macroeconomics and how macroeconomics affects economies of scale and I can understand microeconomics and how microeconomic designs are supposed to work, oftentimes I can even visualize the flaws within these systems. For the life of me however I can’t quite understand how the two fit together. I have the same problem with Algebra. I understand Algebraic principles, models and ideas, but I don’t understand how or why people put them into practice in the way that they do. The puzzle pieces for me simply don’t fit. Some of my economist friends tell me that these two problems may be related but they can’t be sure and neither can I. They seem relatively close in their relationship to one another, at least in my mind.
I was extremely fortunate in fifth grade to have both a teacher that I liked and a class that I seemed to fit into. I remember for the first time actually interacting with other kids my age and not feeling completely out of place. I didn’t have a ton of friends, but I did have a larger than normal amount of acquaintances. Acquaintances in this sense simply means people who didn’t want to rip my head off, which seems to be the default setting of those who probably are relatively indifferent to you or someone like you. Exactly why I seem to elicit such strong reactions from people is something that I’ve never quite understood. I think that in some ways it emanates from the antagonistic style of speaking that I can have at times or it might also have something to do with my relatively abrasive style of interaction. I’ve never been a good listener insofar as most people understand that word. I do actually listen, which is apparently something that most people are not supposed to do, and I was chastised for that quite a bit in sixth grade, but I have always identified with what Robert Caro described as LBJ’s way of “listening at you.” If I was listening to you I was, in all likelihood, sticking my head out to get my ears closer to your mouth and yes, that likely is just as oft-putting at it sounds, but not at all unusual for someone with Asperger’s.
There was a very conversational method that was utilized by my fifth grade teacher and I think that may be one reason that I felt at ease in her classroom. I like the conversational model as there are many things that I bring to the table in a conversational atmosphere and it is easy for me to draw lessons in this environment. However, I am aware that I can be a difficult person to be around insofar as I will always say what is on my mind even if it is to my own detriment. I don’t know why I do this. Some call it being boldly honest but really it is just rather condescending. I continue to interact this way even today, though I am at least conscious that I tend to do this.
My father used to tell me to “speak up,” “stop mumbling,” and “look at people when they’re talking to you.” I have never been able to do any those things and it has always been incredibly embarrassing to me that I could not do these simple things. What’s worse was that growing up I wouldn’t want to go with my dad to do certain things because he would always yell at me about these things. Whether we were at a restaurant ordering food or out at a social gathering, he has either never realized that he does this or has let the fact that I am not able to do what he is asking me to do get under his skin to such a point that he yells at me without thinking about it. All three of these things: mumbling, lack of eye contact during conversation, and nervousness around others are all classic Asperger’s traits.
Sixth grade was really hell for me. It was a transitional phase for everyone as sixth grade was the last year that we spent at this particular school. After sixth grade we went on to middle school, which was separate and different for many of us. Students would go to one of three schools depending on where they lived, which seemed unfair to me because a lot of my friends would be headed to a different middle school and I would never see them again as they would, in all likelihood, go to a separate high school as well because the same system was used in assigning high schools. I have often wondered what made sixth grade so difficult for me and the conclusion that makes the most sense to me is that for the first time there were no students that were older than me at school.
My friends were always older or younger, but being in sixth grade I didn’t see any point in making friends with anyone younger than me as I was going off to a different school the following year. It was a very sad time in my life. Sixth grade is also the time in my life where Grandpa had to move far away. He had decided or rather his Polio had decided for him that he could no longer live by himself unassisted. Rather than seeing him every weekend as I had currently been doing I now only got to see him once a month. It was a very difficult transition for me. I remember cleaning out his apartment and going by all the old places we used to play and just breaking down in tears. I remember moving day because my parents would get frustrated that they couldn’t find me. Truth be told I never wanted to be found. I just wanted to fade into the woodwork, now my best friend was gone and all my other friends were going away to different schools, I was alone in the world and no one, I don’t care how introverted they are, actually enjoys being alone in the world.
On the playground things got rough for me too. Other kids were more reluctant to play by the rules when covering me in football and getting hit on the pavement hurts a lot more than getting hit on the grass does. I also didn’t have my built-in relationships with girls to back me up. Gender was now working against me as most of the girls my age didn’t really care for me. The girls that did like me were younger and didn’t carry the clout to make a difference where I was socially. This became quite difficult for me to do deal with, so much so that I broke down and cried uncontrollably one day. I remember my teacher coming up to me and saying something to the effect of: “I think that things are bothering you more than you realize,” to which I was kind of shocked that he was only realizing that at that moment. What was worse in my mind was how he handled the situation.
He knelt down beside me on the bench and shielded me from the other kids; at the same time he looked back at them in an effort to control their reaction. I was surprised that he didn’t sit down next to me and tell me some story from his childhood that I could relate to. That’s what they always did in the movies and I figured that that was what he needed to do in that situation to successfully respond to my emotional needs. I was kind of surprised when it didn’t work out that way. I wasn’t surprised by the reaction of my classmates. Kids at that age are incredibly judgmental and many times just downright mean. I was so over my head socially that I spaced out for the rest of the year and was relieved when school finally got out not because I was excited for the start of summer but because I was happy that the horror had finally ended. Almost every day in sixth grade had felt like I was constantly getting attacked by a horror movie. The only thing that was missing was a butcher’s knife or chainsaw but the villains were already there.
I don’t blame my parents for missing the diagnosis of Asperger’s when I was a child. How would they have known to look for something that was considered extreme at that point in time when assessing my problems in school? Indeed, I didn’t begin showing signs of full-blown Asperger’s until my eighteenth birthday. It should be made clear that Asperger’s is difficult to diagnose in anyone because those who are affected by it can get quite good at covering it up. Asperger’s sufferers are, as a group, highly intelligent, if socially inept people, so it should come as no surprise that they can and would want to cover up their symptoms. No one wants to be different at that age. Some don’t even want to be different when they’re adults, I know during my early twenties I wanted nothing more than to be a “normal person” whatever that meant.
Around my twenty-fifth birthday however it became exceedingly obvious to me that I was anything but normal. People my age were in jobs that they by and large loathed and many were in committed relationships as well. I had not had an abundance of long-term relationships; in fact I had not had many relationships that lasted very long at all. I began to wonder why this was and whether this was something that was unique to me or whether this was part of something bigger. It was when I was around twenty-five that I began writing extensively and because of this I also rediscovered my love for books. As a rule you should spend about twice as much time reading as you do on the internet. Don’t worry if you don’t do that, it’s something that you have to work at, but now that I’ve begun enforcing this rule I’m reading about five books a week. That’s about how many books the average writer should be reading at my age, I’d like to read closer to ten books a week, but I’m glad that I’ve gotten to five.
My psychiatrist used to say that I “enjoyed being alone” and everyone used to agree with his statement including myself. I never gave it any thought until I reached an equally lonely period in my life when I was twenty-five, but I, like everyone else on the face of the earth, need to have contact with the outer world. We are social beings and we need to have some sort of interaction with other people just to remain sane. Relegating yourself to interaction with one or two people is a recipe for emotional disaster.
I joined a writer’s group when I was twenty-five, something that I would recommend to every young writer. Having supportive people around you who do something similar to you is important. If you have something like Asperger’s, which inhibits your social skills, this will be a difficult step; I know it was for me. All social encounters are difficult for those of us who have Asperger’s and the question thus becomes: does the net benefit of getting involved with something I’m passionate about exceed the risk of me being socially embarrassed? If you ever want to get anything published the answer to that question will eventually have to become: “yes.” It’s really difficult to write anything that you would want someone else to read if it hasn’t been edited by at least three people. Three is the number that I use for all of my term papers and other collegiate work that I turn in and I think it provides enough analysis for you to understand where your strengths and weaknesses are without sapping every ounce of your self-worth.
Writing is a very personal experience and it is not something that one should run into blindly. I can’t tell you how many times people read my writing and say: “oh, I can do that” only to find that there is a very big difference between writing and writing well. I know a lot of people who can write, I know few who can write well. On top of that I know even fewer who have the patience to read through their work and edit it for their audience. Editing is what separates an amateur from a professional writer. Any amateur can start a blog, some people can even make it look professional (I like to think I did an alright job), but you need to be more than a writer to manage what you do. You need to become a content manager as well as a writer and editor. You need to understand what people want to read. You also need to understand what you want to get out of writing.
Personally, I use writing as a kind of therapy at times. It’s a way for me to talk through various points in my life, but it isn’t always this way. There are times where writing serves a political purpose. My voice speaks for more than myself even if I think it only speaks for me. Writing is expression and expression has different meanings to every individual that consumes that product. Whether it’s a piece of art, a poem or a story, a recipe, a mixed drink or various baked goods, everything in our world can be a vehicle for expression we just need to find out what it is that is best able to tell the world what we want to say. I’ve found writing and it works well for me. What will work well for you? The only way to find out is to try different things and be open to new and different things. A friend of mine is fond of the phrase: “wear as many hats as you can fit on your head” so I will plug her expression here with the hopes that your mind, like your heart remains open for once it is closed nothing can get in and there is little that can get out.