The following is part of my Pride Fridays series for the month of June. The first post can be found here.
I didn’t grow up knowing I was different.
Scratch that, I knew from an early age that I was different in a lot of ways.
But it never crossed my mind that my sexuality was one of them until the latter part of high school.
There had been guys I liked. A few mild crushes. But where the other girls in my class went from boyfriend to boyfriend–often incapable of being without one for more than a few days–I never felt the compulsion. In four years, I dated one person for three months. We broke up because I could tell he was going to say he loved me, and I….
Didn’t feel the same way.
I cared about him, sure. He remained a good friend, and we still talk occasionally, though he is now married and lives out of state. I’m glad he found someone who returns his feelings.
I just couldn’t.
It’s hard for me to describe being aro/ace. To me, I just live. I’m existing. There’s nothing special about it, because unlike a lot of people on the LGBTQIA+ spectrum, I’m not seeking a mate. I’m fine as I am. I’m not looking for my other half because I’m a whole person on my own. I find that concept rather baffling, actually.
It’s kind of like breakfast.
When I was a kid, my mom always made a big deal about breakfast. I had to eat a good breakfast before I left for school. Oatmeal, cereal, pancakes or waffles if I was really lucky. On weekends there would be cinnamon rolls, or a fry up with eggs, bacon or sausage, and cheese. If we were really in a hurry, it was toast with peanut butter, hastily consumed while running out the door, or Poptarts.
But the thing is, I can’t eat when I first wake up. I don’t feel hungry. In fact, a lot of times I feel vaguely ill. So while I was conditioned to know it was right and proper and normal to have breakfast before school and that it would be best for me in the long run, I always had to force myself to eat.
I usually wound up with cold cereal, because it was all I could get down when I first woke. The problem with cold cereal is that an hour later you’re hungry again, so in school I would be starving by 10am, but I wasn’t allowed to have a snack. It was against the rules. It brought me no joy or satisfaction, but it was the way things were, so I had to do it.
I feel like sex and romance is the same thing. I was raised thinking that it was right and proper and normal to be in a sexual male/female relationship. That a normal, well-adjusted person would go to school, get a college degree, get a good job, get married, and have kids.
But as much as I cared about that highschool boyfriend, the relationship made me realize I’d rather be on my own. We didn’t want the same things. He wanted a full English breakfast, and I was stuffing a granola bar in my bag for later.
The further I get from my upbringing, the more my horizons have opened. I’m not ruling out that I will one day find an English breakfast kind of relationship. Maybe it will be with a man. Maybe it will be with a woman. Maybe it will be with someone who identifies as trans or nonbinary, or something else altogether.
It took a long time for me to come to that conclusion. For a long time, I thought I was broken. I didn’t even find out asexuality was a thing until college, and back then it was considered a very black and white identity, not a spectrum. Because I didn’t fit the very narrow definition available at the time, I thought there was something wrong with me, so I ignored it.
That was over a decade ago, however. On the whole our understanding of sexual identity and attraction has changed and broadened. Marriage is an equal right.
I think in a lot of ways aro/aces are swept under the rug. Just because we aren’t waiting to order our breakfast, people think we don’t want a place at the table. Just because I don’t want your sausage doesn’t mean we can’t have a nice conversation while I drink my tea. Maybe later I’ll have a salad or some chocolate cake.
After all, there’s more than just cold cereal on the menu now.