Originally published on Flying While Falling Down and republished here with the author’s permission.
Sometimes when I think about how long it took me to figure out my orientation and identity, I’m absolutely astounded.
I was raised in a very conservative (not necessarily political, but highly religious/traditionalist) household, and discovering these different aspects of myself has led to a curious kind of peace within myself.
One of the hardest realizations that I finally came to terms with was my aromantic identity. There’s seems to be an amazing amount of confusion about aromantics, in general, and aromantic asexuals, in particular.
I first heard the term “aromantic” at the same time that I heard the term “asexual.” However, I didn’t understand the differences between romantic and sensual attraction, so I immediately dismissed that as a category that would apply to me.
Finding out your identity can be confusing and is a highly individual process. So, the experiences I’m describing are only mine. However, I agree with The Ace Theist that personal stories are often the most enlightening when it comes to figuring out whether you really fit into a certain label.
1. Touching Was Only for a Privileged Few
When I was in high school, I had a very close group of five friends. Three girls and two boys. I was very physically affectionate with these people, and we constantly napped in a huge pile during gym class, hugged one another, wrestled with one another, and touched each other while talking.
Some of my favorite activities was listening to their heartbeat and matching my breath with theirs, or running my fingers through their hair and writing them notes.
When I transferred schools, I was devastated. I would talk to my friends every night before going to bed, for hours at a time.
At my new school, I didn’t touch anyone. Then, one day, I met a girl named Krissy.
Krissy immediately decided we were friends and forced such as hugs and arm linking on me. I remember feeling very angry about her unsolicited touch, even though I didn’t know I had a reason to be.
2. I Never Put My Romantic Relationships First
One of the original five friends is still my friend today. Over the years, we’ve been separated by distance, lack of communication (because of not having a phone), and other difficulties, but our friendship is still strong and we now talk nearly every day. I’m currently saving up for a car to go see him.
With every romantic relationship I got into, there was one recurring theme: My significant other had an issue with my friendship to this person.
Instead of spending all of my time with my significant other or doing couple activities, I was still making time to talk to my friend every day, for hours a day.
3. I Got Hurt a Lot by People Who Never Realized They Were Being Hurtful
During the years, I’ve seen a lot of my important people find romance and get married or engaged.
Invariably, it always resulted in a sharp decrease of quality time spent with, and affection received from, those friendships. Some of these hurt worse than others.
I wondered how people could possibly call me cold for not being “committed” to a relationship, while easily tossing aside their tried and true friends at a moments’ notice.
One very passionate friendship I had that was over eight years long ended this way. I loved my friend very deeply and she got a boyfriend, rapidly decreasing the intimacy between the two of us, as well as moving the boyfriend into our home.
I begged her to open up to me again, to keep me as an important person in her life, and she refused by saying that I was “just a friend” and not as close to her as her romantic partner. She added that I should be able to understand that and quit being so selfish and immature.
That isn’t the only time that that situation has happened, but it was the most painful.
4. I Longed for Intimacy, But All I Got Was Sex
After the aforementioned relationship, I was devastated.
This was about two years after high school and I’d also noticed the trend of romantic partners among my other friends. In my mind, it seemed obvious that if I wanted someone to stay with me and be intimate with, I’d need a significant other.
So, I dated. And it was horrible.
Any touch that I offered was seen as either sexual in nature or “clingy.” I was told that my petting and cuddling was an invitation for something more. I was told that holding hands and hugging was juvenile. Listening to someone’s heartbeat or spooning was a post-coital activity only, it was explained. My note-writing was laughed at or considered embarrassing.
“Sex is the only kind of intimacy,” they said constantly, in their words and actions.
I’d never felt more alone in my entire life.
I began seeking out sexual partners, hoping to feel less lonely. I wanted touch, craved intimacy, prayed for someone who understood. Within the year, I was pregnant and considered a slut.
5. I Hated Romantic Relationships, But Felt Resigned to Them
After my pregnancy, which was its own kind of horror, the friends I’d had before abandoned me. With the adoption of my son and the lack of emotional or spiritual support, I slid into a deep depression. Eventually, I found someone who I hoped would distract me from the pain.
Like all of my other romantic endeavors, the relationship fit me like a shoe that was too small. There were the regular intimacy issues and the expectations of sex. There wasn’t enough talking and touching and sharing.
I talked to what few friends I had left, and they repeated their arguments of my not being “committed” enough or being “juvenile.”
I told them about how I just wanted to be close to someone, without all of the compromises, and they just shrugged and said that that wasn’t the way things worked when you grew up.
It was a very lonely time.
6. It Made Me Happy to Be Me
For me, accepting the label of aromantic asexual felt like I was finally something other than an aberration to other people. I finally felt like I belonged.
However, I want to add that that wasn’t a lightning bolt “a-ha!” moment as much as it was a slow acceptance and increasing comfortableness with myself.
It felt like I finally had room to maneuver and that I wasn’t quite so raw from past pains. I felt good about myself for the first time in a long time.
And that feeling of liking myself and knowing myself, more than anything, was what made me realize that the aromantic asexual label was the right one for me.
Sara Roberts is a college student who works part-time as a freelance writer. They explore topics of feminism, writing, and sexuality on their blog, Flying While Falling Down, under the pen name Len Gray. A person of many interests, they currently live in Missouri with their father and two dogs, Greta and Jake.