This was actually supposed to be my CoA post for last month, but I didn’t manage to finish it on time or do any additional writing because I sorta went into a funk and haven’t done anything productive since Valentine’s Day. Coincidence? probably not. And I missed out on Aro Awarenes week too. Anywho, I’m still going to post what I wrote since it’s still very relevant to my blog.
Because of where I live my participation in the Aro and Ace communities is primarily online and the majority of my participation is now dedicated to the WordPress blogs. Previously I did participate in chat groups for both aros and aces, but I ran into a slight problem; my age. The majority of the chat groups I could find were dominated by younger folks who were still in the “I’m still figuring out what I am”, “My parents don’t understand”, “My friends don’t understand” phase of settling into their orientation and that’s not what I needed emotionally from my “community”. There also wasn’t much I could contribute to a younger audience either because the truth is…age matters.
Being an adult doesn’t solve all your problems, but it certainly gives you more options on how you deal with problems and there’s a sense of liberation that comes with that. If I’m having a bad day I can be like “Screw it, I’m treating myself and going to Panera!” or use up my emergency giftcard stash and treat myself. I spent two hours browsing in a used bookstore yesterday just because I could. As long as the rent’s on time, I show up to work on time, and text my mom back- I can pretty much do what I want without worrying about being judged for it. How am I supposed to explain to a teenager, who actually does need to worry about what their friends and family think about them for survival reasons, that it really does get better, but it takes a little while to get there?
My parents still don’t understand that I’m aro-ace, but I’m 30 years old so I care far, far less about my parents’ approval and I’m much more concerned about making the rent each month. It’s tax-return season baby! I need to pay off some bills! Instead of the chocolate milk and cookies I ate as a kid, today I ate coffee-milk and cookies on my break like the functioning adult that I am and I had zero regrets, so I would say mastering adulthood is mostly about figuring out priorities.
Speaking of the priorities, I’ve lost touch with literally all of my high school friends because my core values are different now compared to what they were when I was 18, 21, heck even 25. I feel like I’ve gone through more transformations in the last five years than I did all through high school. When I was 25 I literally thought, “Oh, great. This is it. This is who I am.” and I was wrong. I still had room to learn and grow. Figuring out I was asexual and aromantic was just a step in that process, not the process itself. I struggled with connecting with folks in the chat groups because I needed insight into that next step after accepting that being aromantic and asexual was my normal. I feel like following the WordPress community gave me the “support” I needed because the bloggers here were like me, a little older, a little more settled and figuring out the next steps in growing up that nobody wants to talk about because there’s the misconception that there’s no life after 30.
The feeling of isolation I felt in the chats unfortunate does carry over into the real world because for some reason being single is considered weird. When meeting somebody new at work or in a social setting one of the very first questions I get asked is about my “other half”, am I seeing anyone, talking to anyone, crushing one anyone, and so on because apparently being single is like being “between jobs at the moment”. One time my supervisor said in frustration that you can’t get anywhere in life unless you’re married. If that’s true, it definitely shouldn’t be and that’s something worth advocating because that type social standard is preventing me from being able to just “hang out” with people without being weird about it because apparently “hang out” has romantic connotations now, ugh.
Would coming out as aromantic-asexual help? The short answer is “no” because people still ask me out despite knowing I’m asexual because they either don’t know what that entails exactly or they have this other asexual friend who “uses dating apps all the time”. I dread giving asexuality 101 with every fiber of my being, but I absolutely will not give aromanticism 101 because for some inexplicable reason, ain’t nobody can wrap their head around the fact that I. don’t. date. Romance is not my thing.
Another thing that was very isolating in the ace and aro group chats was all the talk about relationships and dating. This happened in both the ace and aro chats. One particularly memorable example was a lithromantic was talking about their girlfriend and I remember thinking, “I’m in an aro chat. Why are we talking about girlfriends and wanting relationships?” One of the hardest things I’ve had to overcome emotionally is facing the reality that there isn’t “someone” and there very likely will never be “someone out there for me”. It doesn’t matter how many cutesy QPP stories I read, the truth is that I struggle with forming and maintaining relationships. All the optimism in the world isn’t going to fix that, but cracking down and dealing with that reality has been hugely beneficial.
So, what would it actually mean for me to be a life-long single person? Actually, once I put it into words it wasn’t as horrible as I thought it would be. It’s not a case that I’ll be “forever alone” or “unloved”. It’s a case of what does it mean to be single? Well, for starters, I’m not the only one. There’s actually a lot of people in the world who are single. Are they happy? Well, that depends.
I watched a video presentation by a researcher who was looking at levels of happiness at the different stages of relationships. Long story short, there definitely was a “honeymoon period” where happiness levels spiked in a relationship, but then the reported happiness leveled out to what they were while the individuals were single. The only major change was for people who later broke up; their happiness levels dropped after the honeymoon period to below their reported levels from when the persons were single. Once the honeymoon period wore off they were actually worse off than when they were single, yikes! So, being in a relationship doesn’t actually make you any happier on average than being single does and there are obvious pros and cons to both, but most of it’s worth remembering that a relationship is not a magic fix-it-all.
Knowing that being in a relationship wouldn’t actually make me happier helps, because in all honesty if being in a relationship was important to me I would have found a way by now. I’ve literally never dated so it obviously was never a priority or I would have found some way, any way to make dates happen. If I can justify dunking cookies in coffee-milk in public and still loudly claim to be an adult to my supervisor’s face during such activity, I’m fully capable asking somebody out to an awkward party of two in public, but that second one isn’t going to happen. I’m pretty convinced that attempting any sort of non-platonic relationship would just be a miserable experience for me and be disappointing to my potential partner.
That last bit only sounds depressing because relationships are considered the gold standard of normal. Dunking sugar cookies in coffee-flavored milk might not be “normal”, but it’s seriously the best thing to ever happen to me. So, if both the aro and ace communities could not only celebrate relationships in all their many forms, but shine a little light on how great and normal it is to not be in a relationship too, that would be pretty awesome too. There’s a long healthy single life for this aro-ace after 30 and I’m definitely looking forward to it.
Soooo, can we make Single’s Awareness Day an actual thing where we celebrate how healthy and normal it is to be single instead of just a thing people say on Valentine’s day when they don’t have a date? Please? Pretty please? It could be on Feb 15th that way we can chow down on all the left over chocolates.