Pride Month: Aromanticism

This month’s Carnival of Aces is featuring gray-aces and demisexuals so I won’t be making a submission, but it’s still an awesome topic so don’t forget to check out the round up at the end of the month (I certainly won’t). Instead for Pride Month I want to touch on some aromantic nuances I missed in my last post.

I’ve identified as aromantic for about three years now. It was a little harder to settle into my aro-identity than my asexual one because I like the idea of romance and I was holding on to the hope that I would still “find someone”. The hardest thing was having to shift my reality to match my new understanding of how relationships work and don’t work when you don’t experience romantic attraction. Even in the asexual community romance is a vivified topic in conversations and I end up feeling left out.

Since I’ve realized that I was actually aromantic I think it’s an actual wonderment that I didn’t realize it sooner. A lot of my core traits that earlier on I associated with asexuality are actually aro traits. The biggest one is I have never dated. Like, never ever. You’d think after 20 plus years I would have at least experimented with dating or at the very least gone out with somebody. Coworker, friend, classmate, anybody, but it just never happened and I never actually wondered why it never happened until I was 25 when I realized that not-dating was actually kind of weird. I once randomly flipped open my diary from middle school and right there on the page read “I have no crushes”.

I think it’s harder to come out as aromantic than asexual because for some reason people have a really hard time (in my experience) wrapping their head around lack of romantic attraction. There are pretty much zero cannon, positive aromantic representation in media. Asexuality at least has a small handful media examples and more and more people are becoming aware of the topic. Headcannons are great and all, but I want something I can point to and be like, “See? I’m like that”.

I was involved with an online writing club for about five years which is currently disbanded because we all have lives and stuff now, but it’s still one of my treasured experiences. We all worked on a group story for about three years and then kept supporting each other’s writing for about another two years before finally drifting apart completely (because, again, lives and stuff). One of the dudes was trying to write an aromantic character who was going to be the lancer for his story’s hero. It’s a popular technique in hero-esq stories to give the hero a second-in-command that also acts as a foil. For anybody who doesn’t remember your high school Shakespeare unit:

In fiction, a foil is a character who contrasts with another character – usually the protagonist— to highlight particular qualities of the other character.

Meaning if the hero is a hot head, the foil or lancer is calm, cool, and collected. If the hero is naive and optimistic, the lancer is a jaded veteran. If your hero is a passionate soul willing to sacrifice the greater good for his girlfriend, your lancer is a cold-hearted bastard who doesn’t know what love is. …Wait. What?

I have to give him points for effort, but he got the aro thing completely off the mark. Despite my best efforts, the dude would not take my constructive criticism that aromantic =/= not knowing what love is. Our point of contention was that the “aromantic” character “didn’t understand why the love interest was so important to the hero”. Like. Dude. It’s not rocket science. Also if your hero is putting the greater good at risk for a dime-a-dozen, non-fleshed-out-and-obviously-written-by-a-dude female character, it’s not just your lancer that’s going “wtf?”. Your audience is also going, “wtf?” If the “aromantic” lancer doesn’t think the girl is worth sacrificing the greater good for you probably need a better female character than the cardboard cut-out you propped up and expected us to like “because she’s pretty”. Just saying.

The reason I find most romantic subplots boring isn’t that I “can’t relate” or “don’t know”, it’s because they are LITERATELY. BORING. Occasionally when I’m cleaning my station at work the tv in the dinning area will play some late-night drama series and for some magical reason I always catch whatever series is playing in the middle of a romantic subplot. Granted I don’t know the characters or the story, but those “romantic” scenes feel a) forced like they’re only there to appease some network executive quota, b) the dialogue it unnatural (seriously, nobody talks that), and c) sometimes they are a little rape-y. One scene I caught the woman says, “no”. There were clear signs of rejection going on and the dude still ends up kissing her and she’s kissing back because she didn’t really mean “no”. ffs, writer’s rooms, you’re not Harrison Ford and this ain’t the ’80s. Stop it. (On a side note: Check out this video essay on “Predatory Romance in Harrison Ford Movies” and ruin your childhood forever).

There’s only one thing that I will admit I don’t understand about romance. Why do people always stop the story at “and they lived happily ever after” or “and the rest was history”? Because in real life that’s not how it goes based on what I’ve seen. My family is probably not the best examples because we have a history of alcoholism on both sides and the forever, long lasting marriage ends with both parties in a hospital dying of dementia (probably because of the alcoholism). My friend’s parents aren’t the best examples either with their third and forth marriage falling apart. Seriously, guys. Romance is the “forever”? You should read more middle age Irish literature with the epic levels of foster brother bromance happening. True love at last.