Valentine’s Day as a Newly Identified Aromantic

Last week it was Valentine’s Day, and I spent most of the day feeling very grumpy about it. This is a departure from tradition for me. In the past, I’ve either felt very indifferent to the day, or bought chocolates to share with friends/dorm-mates/house-mates. This year was different. “Ugh, romance,” I thought. “I don’t want anything to do with it.” And that just confirmed my feelings of aromanticism. I felt repulsed by the very thought of having a romantic relationship. Except then I looked at the Valentines linked to in this post, and one of the wtf-romantic ones (now I’m not even sure which one) made me think “Oh yeah, I do identify with that. So now I’m confused.”

I used to think, “Okay, I’m not sure I understand what romantic attraction is. I mean, when I’m attracted to someone I usually can’t even figure out if I want to act on that attraction (or how to), much less whether or not it’s romantic. But if I was in a relationship and my person wanted to call it romantic, sure, I’d be okay with that.” I think part of what made me so grumpy about Valentine’s Day was realizing I felt so repulsed by something that used to make me just roll my eyes and say “Whatever.”

Now that we’re back to normal levels of amatonormativity in my life rather than Valentine’s Day levels of shoving it down my throat, while I feel a lot less repulsed by romance, I’m still not sure I’d be willing to call a (hypothetical) relationship romantic.

All of these things, though, I’m pretty sure are not mutually exclusive. I can be an aromantic who isn’t quite sure what romantic attraction really is, but is sure she doesn’t experience it, and is sometimes repulsed by the very idea of romance, but sometimes not. Just as being open to having sex does not make an asexual any less asexual, being open to calling a relationship romantic doesn’t make an aromantic any less aromantic.

Then, on that very grumpy Valentine’s Day, I avoided social media all day, my ace friend messaged me a picture of the really lovely ace necklace she’d just bought herself, one of the girls in my 4-6 year old Scottish dance class gave me a hand-made Valentine, and I found this perfect bumble bee button. By the end of the day I didn’t feel so grumpy any more. I’ll just try to remember for next year: don’t go on social media on Valentine’s Day!

 

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Reading Relationships as Romantic (or, trying not to)

I am trained to see any relationship as romantic. To read a book, watching growing emotional closeness between two characters and interpret it as a budding romance. How do I retrain my brain not to do this? How do I train myself to read relationships as significant but not romantic when that is possible? How do I even find the language to think or talk about relationships in this way?

And, can I express my dissatisfaction with the way the word “relationship” is used, culturally. It has so much social connotation of romantic-sexual. It excludes so many other types of important relationships.

If our language doesn’t even have the space to talk about non romantic-sexual significant relationships that are something different than friendship, how can there be space for these relationships to exist in our culture?

Anyway, I’m reading Letters to an Android right now and enjoying it.

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Aromanticism and My Identification Journey

I am on the verge of identifying as aromantic, and that is scarier than I think it ought to be.

Before I figured asexuality out, I identified as bisexual. Figuring out that that was a thing I could be was somewhat difficult. I spent about two months going back and forth: “I’m attracted to this woman. Does that mean I’m lesbian? No, that can’t be right; I’ve been attracted to these men, too. Does that mean I’m straight? No, that can’t be right, there’s this woman.” Then I sat myself down to figure it out, and had the “Wait, I can be both! Well, duh!” moment. And then there was a great feeling of rightness. I didn’t struggle with any of the things that people talk about struggling to accept — that it’s okay to be attracted to the same gender. 

I became increasingly uncomfortable with the -sexual part of bisexual. Somewhere along the way, I encountered the term asexual, and wondered if that fit me. An asexual person is someone who doesn’t experience sexual attraction. “What even is sexual attraction, anyway?” I wondered. And, “I don’t know, but I’ve been attracted to all these people, so I guess I’m not asexual.”

Then one day my girlfriend (of a few months) broke up with me, and I was as relieved as I was broken-hearted. I said to myself, “maybe I really am asexual,” because I was relieved that I didn’t have to try to make myself feel things that I didn’t feel; I didn’t have to try to fit myself into a mold, that I’d just realized in that moment of relief I really didn’t fit into. So I found my way to AVEN and started reading a thread on what sexual attraction is, and it quickly became very obvious that yep, I’m asexual. Again, though, identifying as asexual was pretty easy. I never felt the brokenness that a lot of Ace people describe. I don’t wish I wasn’t asexual. It felt very natural to identify as ace.

Once I wrapped my mind around separating sexual and other types of attraction, that was pretty okay. Romantic orientation and attraction is much more confusing and complicated, but I let my understanding of myself develop over time. I wasn’t too worried about not having a precise label for my romantic orientation. “Asexual and definitely attracted to people of any/all genders (by then I’d rejected the notion of a gender binary) in some way or another” worked pretty well. A lot of this piece on greyromanticism really resonated with me. I wasn’t sure I wanted to add a romantic orientation label, but I did tend to think of my romantic orientation in this way.

About a year after identifying as Ace, I decided that queer really suited me. The lack of specificity meant that I could use it for the “attracted to people of any/all genders” aspect, without having to claim myself panromantic, or use any sexual attraction labels. So I am queer and ace, in an intertwined way.

I used to think that if I was in a relationship, and my partner wanted to call it romantic, I’d be okay with that. But lately, the more I think about romance, the less I want to have to do with it. Maybe I’d like a QPP, or an intimate friendship, but I’m pretty sure I don’t want to live with such a person. I imagine having my own house one day, and filling it with friendship and love and delicious food, and nieces and nephews over all the time, and that sounds wonderful. 

But I’m scared. I feel like I’m facing the future without a map. I’m scared that I won’t be able to convince my family that getting married is not the only way to a happy life. I’m scared that I won’t ever manage to create that house full of friendship for myself, that my shyness will get in the way. I’m scared that maybe I’m wrong, and I really am romantic, but I just don’t understand. I’m scared that I’ll always be an outsider in a world of romantically bonded friends. I’m scared that one day I won’t be content to enjoy being attracted to people without doing anything about it, but it will be too late. The spectre of “you can’t know if you haven’t tried it” hangs over me, because that one relationship was before I figured out I’m ace, much less that different types of attraction can happen separately. What if I’m shying away from romantic relationships because I haven’t properly managed to separate romantic and sexual attraction in my brain, and I can’t conceptualize a romantic relationship in which the other person isn’t also interested in sex?

So, I think I am aromantic, but accepting that identity is so much harder than all of the previous ones have been.

 

 

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