The week following Valentines day is Aro Spec Awareness Week where arospec folks and their friends raise awareness and talk about aromanticism. Several tumblr blogs are hosting prompt challenges and posts, but this year because of time constraints I’ll just be making one post. I’ve touched on being aro before, but for this post I’ll try to get more in depth. I’ve been identifying as aromantic for about a year now. I found out about asexuality first, but because romance is so ingrained in our culture, including in several of the ace resources I was looking into early on, it took me some time to figure out that I was actually aromantic.
Being aromantic means I do not experience romantic attraction. In simplest terms it means I don’t get the warm fuzzy urge to date or be romantically intimate other people, but that description barely scratches the surface. I was cleaning out some old boxes on Monday and I came across a diary from the 7th grade and another journal from the 10th grade. I had only glanced at random pages but in diary entry I had written, “I don’t have any crushes” and in the journal from the 10th grade I had written, “I don’t like romantic themes [in stories] because I don’t understand them.” I didn’t even know aromantic was a thing until much, much later. I feel cheated for not knowing about something that is a core part of my identity sooner because it’s not something people readily know or talk about.
So what’s it like to be aromantic? Other than dreading most of February, of course. Well, for me (since everyone is different), I feel a little squicky about romantic interest directed my way and I find it rather dull in movies, but I like reading some romantic themes in a books as long as it’s not the main theme and isn’t a trope I’ve seen a dozen times before.
Since identifying as aromantic I’ve become almost hyper sensitive to conflicts in relationships. I’ve noticed people like to over romanticize the idea of growing old together, but my grandmother ended up developing dementia and my grandfather had several health problems right before he passed away two Thanksgivings ago so it really tore me up to think that my grandmother doesn’t remember him or is even aware that he had passed. I think that destroyed the romantic ideal for me to the point that I cringe whenever I see a couple arguing or bickering in public. My parents are going through a rough patch right now, too, where they are hardly even speaking to each other and they live in the same house. I understand that a lot of romantic couples are different in private and I’m only seeing one side of the relationship from an outside perspective, but when that one side I’m seeing always seems to be of a couple arguing or in conflict it makes me ask, “Why bother? That just seems exhausting.”
I was at a party with coworkers and two of them were talking to me about their relationships. One had just broken up with her boyfriend and she said it was liberating. She was now “allowed” to go out and make new friends and meet new people. My other coworker agreed that a lot of time is invested in spending time with their significant other and that can be constraining. She’s been looking up pages about “How to break up with your boyfriend” because she knows her and her boyfriend have different goals in life. She wants to move out of state and jump start her career and he won’t leave town while his mom is still sick, so they’ll part ways eventually. I kind of just stand there and nod along thinking, “I’m tired just thinking about it.”
I should probably clarify: Aromantics can still fall in love and feel love, but I think it’s a different “flavor” of love than what most people think of when it comes to romantic relationships. I think the major difference is the emotional payout. It would make no sense for me to form a relationship with someone and not get any emotional capital out of it. For me a “normal” relationship would drain my time and energy and probably even be harmful to me because I wouldn’t be getting anything emotionally fulfilling out of the relationship.
I can hypothesize what I would need to be in a relationship with someone. Rather than receive an emotional payout in the form of romance, I think I would instead respond to an emotional payout of loyalty because I know that’s an emotion I respond to very strongly. I think this also has to do with me being asexual because I don’receive enough of an emotional payout from sexual relations either. I think for me to be in a serious relationship I would need to work with my partner to get the emotional fulfillment that I need as well as provide emotional fulfillment that they would need and work out what boundaries we’d need to make that happen.
Honestly, that sounds like a LOT of work especially if I would have to explain what aro-ace means on top of all that. My biggest worry is people will hear “aro-ace” and think they shouldn’t even bother even though I’m not completely opposed to the idea of a relationship. I would just need special accommodations that a “normal” relationship doesn’t allow for. “Special accommodations” relationships are something I look for when I’m reading books and I feel myself drawn to them in literature. Movies and TV haven’t really made that leap yet and neither have online dating sites that I know about.
Speaking of “dating” that’s something else that makes me cringe for some reason if I think about it in context with myself. Another accommodation is I wouldn’t be comfortable with the terms “dating”, “boyfriend/girlfriend”, or “datemate”. I would probably be one of those weirdos that say “this is my [person’s name].” Naturally all this is speculation because I have zero dating experience. That was probably the biggest clue to my orientation because I figure if I really had wanted to date other people I would have found a way to by now. It’s a little embarrassing actually it took me so long to figure out I was aromantic. Obviously, the clues were there, but that’s why aro spec awareness is so important to me.