Carnival of Aces February 2022

It has been a ridiculously long time since I updated my blog because wave upon wave of covid variants tanked my mental health. As a frontline healthcare worker I needed time and help to recover from burnout. Recently I’ve been doing a lot better oddly enough because of my class load. Working on my master’s degree gives me something outside of work to focus on and the coursework is challenging, enlightening, and restorative. I really lucked out with my program and I’m excited to change careers. Anywho! We’re not here today to talk about my identity as a student (or are we??? oooo foreshadowing). We’re here to see if I understood the assignment. I didn’t have the time to look through scholarly articles to see if someone’s already thought about this take or something similar (they probably have), but I at the very least wanted to get a new post up and actually finish a CoA. For the past few months I’d start a post and then give up after a paragraph because, honestly, if I’m staring blankly at an open word doc, it might as well be my class writing assignment. So without further ado-

This month’s Carnival of Aces is being hosted by sildarmillion on the topic of “Can you conceptualize your identity and/or orientation in terms other than attraction?”

The half thought that’s been cooking in my head for a while now is, “No, seriously, what if gender attraction wasn’t a main factor in forming and maintaining interpersonal relationships?” As an aroace this is easy to imagine because that is the reality that I live with 24/7. Since I’m not actually sexually or romantically attracted to any gender, it is now an even more level playing field than if I was pansexual. Now that the possibilities are virtually endless, what are the determining factors I’m paying attention to when I form and maintain interpersonal relationships?

Firstly, I’m romanced repulsed. There are specific behaviors and western cultural norms in specific contexts that trigger my flight/freeze response. Someone giving me a rose and asking if I have any weekend plans is a totally different experience than a coworker giving me a bouquet of sunflowers saying, “thank you for all your hard work and being a team player”. One of those things is more culturally normalized than the other. Secondly, the first step to forming any interpersonal relationship is actually going out and meeting people. Whooo boy, that is a struggle. I could totally blame covid, but this is a major barrier that already existed for me because there have been very few points in my life where I haven’t been working full-time and in school. I am a cat person and liking cats is pretty much nonnegotiable. I have a bucket list vacation that would require putting my life on hold for a month and I would be specifically looking for someone willing to share that with me. The popular narrative is that even if a person is perfect for you in every way -willing to meet you where you’re at, similar life goals, similar tastes in pets, and so on- if the relationship doesn’t have “that spark” it’s not going to work out. However, whenever you ask, they can’t tell you what “that spark” actually is.

Here’s my hot take: The only reason I even describe my identity/orientation in terms of attraction in the first place is because that’s the only way to get other people to conceptualize my experience as an aroace. It’s actually kind of weird if you think about it because I’m basically using someone else’s reality to describe my experiences.

I see all relationships as an emotional energy exchange. You put time and energy into the relationship and get an emotional boost out of it. It’s not tit-for-tat, it’s more like the algebra formulas you had to do for math class because every person is running on a different emotional exchange rate. I like that metaphor more than the “love languages”.

My two favorite examples of relationships that deserve more press are the favorite teacher and reliable coworker. Hopefully everyone has had a favorite teacher who acted as a pivotal point in their life. What effort did you have to put in to maintain that relationship vs the emotional satisfaction that you got out of it? Is there a coworker that you know you can always count on? How did you maintain that relationship? Sometimes it’s as simple as the “Harvest Moon” method.

In the Harvest Moon games in order to build friendship points with the towns people you have to talk to them everyday and for extra points you can give them gifts. Failing to consistently talk to the town’s folk drops their friendship score into the negative and they dislike you. It’s shocking how real that is. If you fail to greet a coworker everyday they will notice and people will call you out on it. I have a “lunch buddy” who works a different department but we somehow manage to regularly see each other in the breakroom and say “hi”. I can just imagine the friendship meter going up one point everyday xD. In contrast on Saturday mornings the pharmacy intern walks in 30 minutes after me as I’m putting orders away with my headphones on blasting my angsty pirate music and so I end up “ignoring” her when she says “good morning”. It takes her a minute to realize I’m not intentionally being rude. Zero friendship points there.

Alright, so in a perfect world where I don’t have to whip out the Asexuality 101 PowerPoint every five minutes, how would I actually describe my orientation? I’d describe it by the relationships where I get the maximum emotional payout. For me specifically my biggest emotional payout has come from teacher/student relationships. The emotional high I get from learning is comparable to the feeling (I assume) people get from a blossoming romance. The second biggest emotional payout has come from family. Our family game nights are just pure energy and chaos, I love it. The third biggest emotional payout comes from myself. When I was in middle school I got really lucky and made serious effort to have a positive internal monologue through daily practice. The meanest thing my internal monologue has said all year was “fun fact, the KJV is still a bestseller and has never been out of print unlike your favorite Steven Chow film” Ouch, xD. Other than that my internal monologue is as fluffy as I need it to be or is the voice of reason that I need it to be. From what little I’ve seen about internal monologues, it’s apparently really rare to have a fully positive one and most are a string of negative thoughts and put downs.

So, to the rest of the ace community: When you map out all the interpersonal relationships in your life, which ones stand out as giving you the biggest emotional payout? What if it was normal not to define ourselves by what genders we’re most attracted to, but instead by the relationships we find the most emotionally fulfilling? What if we found ways to talk about and celebrate those relationships with the same energy that we talk about and celebrate romantic relationships? How pissed off would the “behavior = orientation” crowd be?

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Carnival of Aces: Briefly Comparing My Communities Online

[This is my submission for the Carnival of Aces for February 2021 hosted this Month by Ace Film Reviews on the Topic of “Comparing Ace Spaces“]

My first introduction to the Ace Community was through the WordPress community in 2014. I was 25 and had just come back home to Texas after working out of state for two years and had finally ran out of excuses for why I had literally never dated. Well, obviously the answer is my interpersonal skills leave much to be desired BUT I had also come to the conclusion that if dating had been a priority in any way for me, I would have found a way to do it. So, the real question was, why wasn’t dating even on my list of of priorities? With that in mind I finally sat down and literally Googled “25 and never dated”. After skipping over a bunch of pop-psy articles that amounted to “don’t worry, your prince will come” I finally came to a wordpress blog by an asexual man.

I kick myself everyday for not bookmarking the page because I have never been able to find it again nor thank him. Part of the reason I keep this blog going is as a way to pay that moment forward. That man’s blog post means a lot to me because it set me on the right path to finding out that not only am I asexual, but I’m aromantic and agender too. Before that I was living and believing the lie that I was cis and straight “by default”. It’s scary to think it’s like I didn’t even know myself before that. Because of that the WordPress community will always have a special place in my heart as a place of learning and personal growth.

The next community that meant a lot to me was Tumblr. Specifically the chat created by The Asexuality Blog. I’m missing a huge chunk of history and discourse knowledge because I tended to avoid drama. I mostly used tumblr as a resource for writers. Every single job title you can think of was putting out lists of common bad tropes and mistakes writers make. Doctors, EMTs, MEs, nurses, lawyers, firefighters, *literally every professional* you might have as a background character had wishlists of tropes they wanted writers to stop using. Historians and scientists putting out debunk lists. Every minority group you could think of was putting out dos and donts and how to lists as well as answering plot specific asks. It was a magical time to be a would-be writer. I eventually left tumblr because the nsfw ban also nuked my *collection of writer’s resources*, but before that the ace chats gave me a chance to talk to real humans in real time and that was an important step in not only accepting that I was aromantic, but also an important step in figuring out I was agender.

One major difference that was kind of alienating between wordpress and the TAB chats was the age difference. Most of the aces in the chats were in their teens and I very much wasn’t. It just felt weird for most of the chat to be talking about figuring and setting into their ace identity on top of highschool problems (by which I mean absolutely zero judgment because high school problems are serious, serious business) and then I was off in the corner figuring and settling into my ace identity while complaining about paying rent, the ethicacy of tax returns, and debating the pros and cons of coming out to coworkers. Granted the chat mods were older and wiser, but they were there to moderate rather than counsel. I still owe a huge debt to the chats for helping me figure out I was nonbinary.

Another alienating thing about the chats is how amatonormative they were. Even the aro chats! I now know that I’m a romance-repulsed aro trying to figure out life and stuff, but people are constantly wanting to talk about how cute/amazing their partner/gf/bf is. I’m not anti-romance; absolutely gush about your five year anniversary, but sometimes I *just want a break* that doesn’t involve isolating myself from other humans.

Last, but not least, I’m now mostly involved with the Twitter community. It’s kind of a mix of both info dump and real time interaction. I’ve tried discord, but that gets too overwhelming. Twitter offers a lot of control over what content you want to interact with because you can save searches and mute words as well as accounts. Since the pandemic started I haven’t actually been doing the most “healthy” of searches since most of the time I’m snooping for content for @AphobeHottakes like a sleezy mag reporter. There ain’t no drama like Twitter drama. If you missed the tumblr discourse era, don’t worry, it plays out every week like it’s on syndicate in the Twitter stream.

I can’t attest much to the conversation about RL meet ups because the only other ace I’ve met in RL is my high school friend who stopped talking to me for other (and I’m prerry sure are perfectly valid) reasons. Even at 25 I still had a LOT of growing to do as a person and while I mourn the loss of a friendship even after five years, the only thing I can control is trying to maintain what I only hope an upward trend of personal growth. For now RL meetups are on hold because of Covid, but I maintain the hope that they’ll happen some day in the future.

Thinking About Being Aro and Ace while being “older”

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.

Carnival of Aces February 2018: Mental Health First Aid

[This is my submission for the Carnival of Aces for February 2018 hosted this month by Sophia on the topic of “Mental Health“. You can find out more about the Carnival of Aces, read previous topics, or sign up to become a host by visiting the Carnival of Aces master post: https://asexualagenda.wordpress.com/a-carnival-of-aces-masterpost/ ]

I’ve actually been really lucky when it comes to my mental health. I was struggling to come up with a topic that was ace-related, so I’ll just talk about this really cool certification you can get.

Lots of people have taken a first aid class so you probably know what to do if someone has a broken arm or if someone is choking and you might even know CPR, but do you know what to do if someone is having a panic-attack? A PTSD flashback? What if someone you know is showing signs of depression or one of your friends has an eating disorder? Do you know what to do then?

I had to be certified in Mental Health First aid for one of my previous jobs and I felt it was a valuable experience. Just reading this post isn’t a substitute for the certification so if you’re interested please check out their website and find an instructor near you.

ALGEE.png

I’ll be going over the 5-step action plan. The course uses the acronym A.L.G.E.E. to help students remember the steps. Unlike with regular First Aid courses these steps don’t have to happen in order, the ALGEE acronym is used primarily as a memory tool

Step A: Assess for risk of suicide or harm.
This step is very important. If you think someone is going to hurt themself or someone else, drop everything and dial 911 (or your country’s emergency number). You only proceed to the next steps if you don’t think there is an immediate threat to life or safety and you can always come back to this step if you need to.

Step L: Listen nonjudgmentally.
This is the hardest step so I’m going to go into more depth. Whenever someone has a problem we have this knee-jerk reaction to a) want to help and b) give advice. There is a time and a place for that, but you might actually do the most good just being an attentive listener. Sometimes people just need to vent and they need someone to understand.

Say, for example, your friend just randomly says, “ugh, I feel fat.” Your first instinct is to be like “No! You’re not fat!” and “You’re prefect the way you are!” because they are your friend and they are wonderful, but by doing that you just completely discounted/dismissed their feelings and shut down any hope of a conversation.

A better response would be, “Why do you feel that way?” or “Why do you think that?” Asking open-ended questions continues the conversation and allows you to probe for warning signs. Maybe your friend ate two donuts for breakfast because traffic was hell and they were late to class. Maybe they have deep anxiety about their body image or an eating disorder. The only way you’ll know for sure is if you hold back on the advice for a minute and really actively listen.

I was watching a really good video on YouTube about Mental Health resources. It’s an hour long, but it covers some really good general information. One of the speakers was talking about “Remember to be human”. Ask probing questions like, “How are you doing?” “Are you getting enough sleep?” “Hey, do you need me to stop by with some breakfast tacos before your exam?” This is an easy way to check up on somebody’s mental health. Eating too much or too little, sleeping too much or too little, body aches, headaches, heart palpitations, and feeling out of breath are all physical signs that could point to a mental health problem that people could miss or dismiss if they aren’t actively listening.

Step G- Give reassurance and information.
This is different from giving advice. You’re assuring the person that you care about them, that you support them, and that you’re there if they need it. Don’t give advice, give information like:
The Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
The Trevor Project Lifeline: 1-866-488-7386
National Domestic Violence Hotline : 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)
National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-HOPE (4673)
https://www.mentalhealthfirstaid.org/mental-health-resources/

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) has a really good website to check out for information and links to resources.

Sometimes it takes a long time before people are ready to seek out help. That’s okay. It’s not a race to get better. The important thing is to be there for them and be ready with information when they are ready to seek out professional help. Keep referring back to steps A and L.

Step E: Encourage appropriate professional help.
Step E: Encourage self-help and other support strategies.

Whenever someone thinks “mental health” they automatically think “shrink”. Psychologists and psychiatrists are few and far between, very specialized, and can be very expensive. What a lot of people don’t know is they can go to their primary doctor for antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications. There are even some specialized nurses who can write prescriptions for medication.

What ends up happening is people wait weeks or even months to see a specialist when they could have gotten the same service faster from a primary care or family doctor. Social workers are another community resource that have special Mental Health related certifications. These folks will probably be your first point of contact and if you or your loved one needs a specialist they can help you find a good and affordable fit.

You can be proactive and look for resources in your community that might easily be overlooked. https://www.nami.org/Find-Your-Local-NAMI

Maybe now you’ll want convince your work or school to host a Mental Health First Aid course, but for the moment take some time to become better prepared to support someone else or your own mental health by checking out and exploring the NAMI website. Write down or save some of those important numbers for someone who might need them and check out these resource pages:
https://www.nami.org/Find-Support/LGBTQ
https://www.mentalhealthfirstaid.org/mental-health-resources/

I’ve been super lucky when it comes to my mental health, but it’s still a load off my mind to know that there are some places I can go to or numbers I can call if something ever comes up.

Carnival of Aces February 2017: Resistance, Activism, & Self-Care

[This is my submission for the Carnival of Aces February 2017 on the topic of “Resistance, Activism, & Self-Care” hosted this month by The Asexual Agenda (click link for more info on what a “blogging carnival” is and to see previous topics)]

Frustrated by recent political actions and inspired by the Women’s March, a wonderful group of folks came together to hold an 8 hour conference this past weekend called the Rise Up – Texas Action Event in Austin, TX to talk about current issues, ways to take action, and to exchanged some ideas and best practices for resistance and activism. I was able to attend this event so I’ll be sharing my 6 take-aways from this conference for my Carnival of Aces submission.

Continue reading “Carnival of Aces February 2017: Resistance, Activism, & Self-Care”

Platitudes of Friendship (are best avoided)

plat·i·tude
ˈpladəˌt(y)o͞od/
noun
-a remark or statement, especially one with a moral content, that has been used too often to be interesting or thoughtful; a cliché

In a lot of ways the idea of friendship has been over romanticized the same way romance has. When I think of the “ideal” friendship the first thing that comes to mind is the scene from the Lord of the Rings, The Return of the King. As Sam carries Frodo up the mountain rewatchers of the film probably mouth the words, “But I can carry you!” For the second runner up I think of the preview for Captain America: Civil War. Steve, Captain America, asks his best friend, Bucky Barns, (after barns has been brain washed for 70 years) if Bucky remembers him. Bucky replies, “Your mother’s name was Sarah,” which in bestfriend speak is “I remember ur mom“; A line only a “true” friend can get away with obviously.

I mention friendship first because I don’t see platonic attraction as the same thing exactly. I definitely feel platonic attraction towards my friends, but that pull isn’t the same thing as friendship. To say platonic attraction is the same thing as friendship is like saying that romantic attraction is the same thing as romance. They’re connected, but not the same. I blame Hollywood for manipulating my view of platonic attraction the same way it paints unrealistic romantic situations. Hollywood’s biggest mistake is suggesting that platonic attraction is inferior to romantic and sexual attraction or that platonic attraction is one step on the way to a possible romance; Both views are just simply not true.

For me when I feel platonic attraction I feel like I want to let that person into my bubble. I’m an introvert and the bubble should be respected at all times, but for some people I’m willing to make an exception. I want to invite them into my special circle of people. Friendship isn’t necessarily the end goal. I like them and I feel something for them so I care about them. I care about how their day is going. I’m curious how their wives and families are doing. They make my day better by proximity so I want to do a little something in return. They’re not going to be the Sam to my Frodo or Steve to my Bucky; That’s not realistic at all.

It’s quite possible that because I’m aromantic I feel platonic attraction more strongly and thus notice it. To the naysayers that might suggest I “don’t know what I’m talking about” because I’ve “never been in love” because I “haven’t met the right one” I must point out that feelings are subjective. I know what I feel because it’s the way I feel. It just so happens that I feel that a preexisting label is suitable to describe what I’m feeling. Beyond that feelings aren’t inherently indescribable. Poets, writers, and scientist may try, but there are no perfect words to describe feelings so we just have to make due. So, when it comes to platonic attraction, I think platitudes of Friendship are best avoided.

(Submission for February 2016 Carnival of Aces: Prompt- Platonic Attraction hosted by It’s An Ace Thing)