Gift giving: How it does and does not work as a love language for me

I find the idea of love languages to be really interesting, and have wanted to learn more about them, but have mostly shied away from doing so, because romance repulsion. So this Carnival of Aces provided a really good opportunity for me to find a safe way to do so. I took the online quiz (singles edition), focusing on non-relationship-ey love. Familial love, love for friends. Even — love isn’t quite the right word, but some professional equivalent.

Before I took the quiz, I had thought maybe I have different love languages for giving and receiving love — giving gifts and quality time, respectively. Afterwards, well, my results might indicate that there is some truth to that, but reflecting on my thoughts as I took the quiz, I don’t think that’s the case after all.

As I took the quiz, I realized that not only do I find great joy in picking out just the right gifts for people I care about, but I also really like getting gifts. So I was surprised to find that I scored highest for quality time (11/12) with receiving gifts coming in second (8/12). Then I reflected on the questions some more. Many of the gift giving questions were about receiving small “just because” gifts, and I don’t want that. What I do like are relevant gifts given at meaningful times. For example, when my PhD supervisor gave me a little tiny felted flower pot with a bumble bee and a note inside saying “smile” and “you go girl” just before she left on sabbatical for a year (my research is on bumble bees). I was very touched and delighted by it. (That’s where the professional version of “love isn’t quite the right word” comes into this discussion.) Or when the Scottish dance class I joined while I was living in England for three months gave me a brooch (something I will wear as a Scottish dancer) on my last night with them. When my mom sent me care packages while I was away at university for my undergrad degree. All of these things are wonderful. And maybe quality time ended up higher because when I think too much about a lot of gift giving, it runs up against my hopes of being anti-consumerist. Which also goes along with carefully chosen meaningful gifts at significant times, rather than frequent insignificant gifts.

I scored lowest for physical touch, which I think reflects my difficulty in figuring out how non-romantic, non-sexual physical touch works more than anything else. I’d really like there to be more physical touch in my life. The few times I’ve managed it (putting my arm around a friend, sitting close together on the couch, etc.) it has felt really good in a “humans are social creatures” sort of way. Most of the time, though, it just makes me antsy, because I can’t quite figure out how to be sure I’m not sending the wrong signals, or even when touch is appropriate or not. Culturally, physical touch (beyond handshakes and brief hugs) between adults who aren’t in a Relationship isn’t something we really do in North America, so it’s difficult. But I’d really like to figure it out. 

Posted in Ace, Ace & Aro, carnival of aces | 1 Comment

Carnival of Aces Round-Up: Symbols of Identity

This is the round-up post for the March 2019 Carnival of Aces on Symbols of Identity. If I’ve missed your post, let me know and I’ll add it to the list.

Polyallsorts wrote about three ways she uses the ace colours in her life.

Sara K. wrote about the delights of dying in ace colors using the same natural dye.

Demisexual and Proud wrote about wearing her black ring in many situations and the layers of symbolism therein.

Elizabeth of Prismatic Entanglements wrote about the conflicts between ace symbols of identity and how the rest of the world interprets them, and how she’s navigated that.

Patience wrote about how symbols of identity can connect one with a community.

I wrote a collection of my recent thoughts on symbols of identity.

luvtheheaven wrote about why she enjoys having such an extensive collection of pride buttons and jewelry.


Thanks to everyone who participated!

The Carnival of Aces for April is on the topic of “The Five Love Languages,” hosted by luvtheheaven. The call for submissions is here.

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Thoughts on Symbols of Identity

I chose this month’s Carnival of Aces theme because I’ve had a bunch of thoughts about symbols of identity lately, and wanted to force myself to write them down. So here they are, in no particular order.

1. I started wearing a black ring this Fall, and I love it. I barely take it off, and it’s really become a part of me. (It’s silicone, so I don’t have to take it off for anything, and very light, so it’s barely noticeable. It also makes a great fidget toy…) But I have a dilemma. I’m not out to my mom, and I’m not ready to have that conversation. I’m afraid she’ll see it and ask about it when we’re on holiday together in a few weeks, and I don’t want to lie about it either. I didn’t wear it when I was home for Christmas, but I don’t really want to do that this time. So I’m not sure what to do.

2. I have my black ring for asexuality and a rainbow zipper pull on my backpack for queerness, but I don’t have a symbol for being aro-spec. Part of that is because I’m in the “classifying attraction as romantic or not romantic doesn’t really work for me” part of the aromantic spectrum, so I don’t fully feel comfortable using the aromantic flag as my symbol, and there doesn’t seem to be much else. I’d really like something more subtle, like the black ring. I’m totally fine with using the rainbow flag and having anyone see it and identify me as queer, but I’d rather be quieter about my aspec identities, and I feel like anything with an obvious pride flag striped design invites notice. I’ve looked at aro themed jewelry, but I’m not really a jewelry person, and nothing has jumped out at me.

3. What I really want most is something—a button, a keychain, a piece of jewelry, etc.—that combines all three of my identities in one item. My identities are separate enough that I want something to represent all of them, but intertwined enough that I want a single item.

4. A while ago I came across a tweet, which I didn’t save, but the gist of it was that “ace symbols and community culture, unlike those of other queer identities, are just about being silly and making jokes.” I didn’t respond on twitter, because I’m not interested in inviting these people in my life. But what I wanted to say was that ace culture is about a whole lot more than just “lol cake.” It’s about community. Sharing silly cake memes is a way to say “it’s you and me against the world” instead of feeling like “it’s me alone wondering what’s wrong with me.” The black ring is a constant reminder of self acceptance and of existence in a unaccepting world that mostly doesn’t know we exist. Flying a flag is about being proud of who you are.

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Guest Post: Pride in Colours

This guest post was written by Patience for the March Carnival of Aces.

Before I realized I was ace, I only had a vague idea of what LGBT+ even was. I did know a couple of people who were either lesbian or gay, but we never talked about the nuances of it. One of my best friends is lesbian, but for her the end of it was that she was attracted to girls which doesn’t feel close to my frankly chaotic thoughts on attraction and gender and what have you. I can’t remember my exact thoughts but I’m pretty sure that I knew that the rainbow flag was somehow connected to LGBT. However I felt no strong relation to that flag because, well, I didn’t think i was LGBT in any way.

These days I still don’t think of the rainbow flag as my flag, but I love seeing it around. During the local pride I was happy to see it flying from places that I hadn’t expected to see it. It seems originally to be meant for gay men (and I’m neither which may account for why I don’t feel a personal connection to it) it’s nice to have a sort of shorthand that encompass many different experiences. When I see a rainbow flag I take it to mean that those using it acknowledge experiences that fall outside the norm and when I see it used I feel more welcome in that space. Just the other day I was at a metal concert and one band had a t-shirt with the rainbow flag. In my experience audiences for metal concerts are often big dudes and being small and female-looking myself I don’t always feel that it’s a space for me. But seeing that rainbow merch, I suddenly felt that this concert was also for me (and another band saying “cowboys, cowgirls and cowpersons” helped a lot, too).

Turning more specifically to ace symbols, I love the idea of the ace ring and how it feels to me like a sort of secret message that says “you are not alone”. However, I am not consistently a person that likes wearing rings. I want to get a ring some time, but I know I won’t wear it every day. What I will wear everyday is wristbands, so I’ve taken to making my own. I sometimes lose one and I only finished the latest one recently. I really love wearing them because it feels like the same lowkey way of wearing some ace pride as the ring, but in a way that feels more right for me. And I know that at least one person have recognized me as asexual because I was wearing that wristband. Beside that one person, no one have actually asked me about it, but I like the colours purple, white, grey and black together, so there’s a further perk in that I can choose to come out if someone asks me about it, or I can just say that I like the colours. 

Usually I like the idea that you can wear ace symbols but still fly somewhat under the radar, but sometimes I also wish that there was a way to easily show that you are asexual. I haven’t found a way to casually mention to people who does not know what it means and our symbols are not so well known that just wearing them are enough to “come out”. 
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Weekly Roundup: Puzzle Pieces

I’m not very good at making these weekly roundups actually weekly… But anyway, here we are.

In the past couple of weeks, I’ve been watching Brooklyn Nine-Nine for the second time and enjoying Jake and Amy’s romance just as much as I did the first time. I’ve also been rereading some romance novels by my favorite romance author, and really enjoying them.

As someone who is sometimes romance repulsed, and often completely uninterested, I can’t help but wonder why it is that I am enjoying these things. In the past I’ve thought “oh, it’s mostly straight people romance that I’m repulsed by.” These romance books are about gay men and I’m a cisgender a-spec woman who is mostly attracted to women. It’s basically got nothing to do with me. But then along come Amy and Jake, and actually, the bit about being mostly attracted to women is a lie too, it’s more varied than that.

One piece of the puzzle is definitely that real life romance bothers me a lot more than fictional romance does. Another piece, which I just realized this week, is that the amount of chemistry, the believability, how much we see the romance (or the relationship in general) develop, how clearly the attraction is shown, how much of a connection there is between the people.

Amy and Jake have an incredible amount of chemistry. Jake’s whole expression and body language changes at key moments when he’s really feeling/realizing his attraction to Amy. They do this thing where they’re talking and they realize at the same moment how attracted they are. The romance books by that particular author (KJ Charles, if you’re wondering) are similar, though in a much less visual way. I can’t explain how she does it, but you really understand and believe that the characters are attracted to each other, and it goes way beyond the superficial descriptions you see in a lot of books. (Here’s an article about her writing that explains how amazing it is way better than I could.)

Either way, the TV show or the books, it really draws me in and gets me invested, whereas romance that’s less convincingly or believably or deeply written is much more likely to make me respond with disinterest or repulsion. It’s always fun to figure out more pieces of the puzzles of why I like what I like, especially when it seems contradictory.

In other news, I’m excited about this kickstarter project for an aromantic anthology.

Following up on the Queer Home thoughts, I bought this coat rack, and it is wonderful.


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Carnival of Aces Call for Submissions: Symbols of Identity

This is the call for submissions for the March 2019 Carnival of Aces. You can find out more about the Carnival of Aces in The Asexual Agenda’s masterpost here.

The topic I have chosen is “symbols of identity.” This includes things like the black ring, the ace flag/colors and other ace-spectrum flags, and cake, as well as any other symbols that you feel are relevant. Listed below are a few ideas to inspire you, but feel free to write (or create other media) about these symbols in any way that you wish.

  • Your personal feelings about any of these symbols
  • Which, if any, of the symbols you incorporate into your life and how
  • The function of symbols within the ace community
  • How symbols of asexuality are perceived from outside the ace community
  • Symbols you wish we had
  • Other symbols of identity (e.g. the rainbow pride flag) in relation to asexuality

To make your submission, provide a link in the comments below or email me at I will check for submissions each weekend at a minimum, so if I haven’t responded to your submission by the end of the weekend after you submit, please resubmit! I’m also happy to host guest posts; if you’d like to make a guest post just send me an email with the contents.

I’m looking forward to reading all of your submissions. Thank you!

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Apparently you do know it when you feel it

The split orientation model is useful, as far as it goes, but where it falls apart for me is when we try to understand what romantic attraction actually is.

Sexual attraction is much more straight forward. Basically it boils down to “you see someone and think you’d like to have sex with them.” (Where the word “think” can have mental and/or physical components.) Even though I’ve never felt this, I can understand it theoretically, because sex is a well defined thing. I know what sex is, and I’m pretty sure I’d recognise wanting to have sex with someone if I ever felt it, so I feel pretty safe saying I haven’t felt it.

But if romantic attraction is “wanting to have a romantic relationship or do romantic things with a person,” what is a romantic relationship? What are romantic things? An alloromantic person says they do x, y, and z with their romantic partner, and have feelings a, b, and c, and it is definitely romantic. An aromantic person says they also do x, y, and z with their queerplatonic partner, and also have feelings a, b, and c, but it is definitely not romantic. So apparently you know it when you feel it, and you know it when you don’t?

Which is where it just leaves me bewildered, because what? How do you know? This doesn’t even make any sense. I’m definitely attracted to people, sometimes, but I couldn’t tell you whether or not it’s romantic. So I decided that the concept of romance just isn’t useful to me in defining or understanding how I experience attraction, and mostly don’t use a romantic orientation label, though I’ve been calling myself aro-spec lately.

Except apparently you do know it when you feel it, because I can now definitively say I have felt romantic feelings (attraction? desire? that’s a whole different question…) about someone.

There’s this person I’ve been attracted to, in whatever mysterious way it is I’m attracted to people. We’ll call this person T*. Last week I was out for a walk, exploring a (nearly empty) public garden, and out of the blue I had a feeling of “I wish T were here right now,” and it was definitely a romantic feeling. How did I know it was romantic? I don’t know; it just was. In contrast, a few weeks ago, I saw an advertisement for an adventure park and thought “If T were here, I’d suggest we do that together,” and in retrospective comparison, it definitely wasn’t a romantic feeling that time.

Did I experience romantic attraction, or romantic desire? I would say romantic desire, except the feelings were definitely aimed at/in response to a specific person, who just wasn’t present. Anyway, the feelings were very fleeting, just lasting a few seconds, leaving me going “Huh. Was that romantic attraction? Apparently you do know it when you feel it. Weird.”


*Not their real name or initial, for privacy

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A Queer Home

To follow up on my last post, after spending Christmas (and then some) with my family, in the house of my brother and his wife, I spent a lot of time thinking about wanting to have a queer home, and what that means. In large part, I was frustrated and stifled by the overwhelming normativity I felt in their home, much of which was not specifically related to queerness or lack thereof. It wasn’t all bad, though. My brother does most of the cooking. One evening they sat on the couch together mending clothing (I did some mending too), and that felt like the complete opposite of normative. Here is what I wrote in my pen-and-paper journal while I was there: 

“I am left with the question… how do I create a home that is fundamentally queer? How far does my conception of queer as ‘rejecting all normativity’ go? What is normativity and what is simply things one needs to do, like cleaning the bathroom and managing your money? Does decorating with pride flags and pride flag themed things make a queer home?[1] What about a queer history coffee table book? Does the coffee table book make it normative, or is it the perfect blend of queerness and normativity that upends assumptions? Or is it performative queerness with no substance?[2] If I discard normative things, what do I replace them with? Is having less living room furniture, and a stack of floor cushions, because I like sitting on the floor, queer?[3] It’s non-normative, anyway.”

1. It certainly helps! But if everything is rainbows and ace flags, it could get overwhelming really fast.

2. I don’t think I want a queer history coffee table book, but definitely a bookshelf full of only books with queer (and ace and aro especially) characters. Add plenty of Ownvoices authors and it will have substance.

3. No, it’s not

All of this, though, is essentially about how the home looks. What I really want is to figure out how to make my home feel queer. Is having a home that looks queer enough to make it feel queer? If I live with a partner, how do I ensure that we are not just living out the (hetero)normative stereotypes? My thoughts so far amount to sharing the cooking, cleaning, household tasks, etc. equally, but that doesn’t feel like enough, somehow.


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Weekly roundup: The holidays and community

So apparently spending the holidays with three (married, allo) couples can lead to some uncomfortable moments. It wasn’t anything big, but just enough small things to add up to me feeling a lot more romance repulsed than normal. I don’t remember feeling this way last year (same group of people), but I hadn’t yet gone through my romantic orientation crisis and recognized my occasional romance repulsion. So maybe it did happen and I just didn’t realize it.

Then I left my family and went off to a big dance event for the New Year’s Eve, feeling like I just didn’t want anything to do with romance. There’s one other ace person in that community, and just knowing that I wasn’t alone helped so much. I don’t actually know her romantic orientation, and we didn’t talk about my feelings, but just being around someone that I could assume would understand and sympathize if I said something made a difference.

Community is important.

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AVEN Thread on Cake?

I’m sure I’ve read an old AVEN thread where the cake thing got started, and it isn’t any of the ones linked here.


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