Aro through the Heart

So Aromantic Awareness Week started back on Monday and I’d been kicking around the idea of writing something for it. Even did a Twitter poll, which got way more attention then I thought it would, and then my brain wouldn’t shut up about it, so here brain, I’m doing the thing, okay? Let me sleep tonight.

Note: I’m only talking about myself and my experiences. They don’t reflect anybody else’s experiences nor are they intended to. My views don’t represent anything or anybody but me.

If you’ve never heard of the term aromantic or aromantism, I don’t blame you, I never heard them either until a couple of years ago. I’m not going to re-create the wheel in trying to define them, since AUREA’s website does a plenty good job on its own:

Aromantic (aro)

  1. Commonly describes someone who experiences little to no romantic attraction, abbreviated to aro. It also describes someone whose experience of romance is disconnected from normative societal expectations, due to feeling repulsed by romance, or being uninterested in romantic relationships.
  2. Commonly used as a specific identity term by people who experience no romantic attraction.

In theory, simple, but in practice Aromantism is considered a spectrum that contains more nuanced labels and descriptions. I recommend reading about those through the links at the bottom of the post since I’m not going to go into them here.

Simply put, I was never interested in being in a relationship. I distinctly remember being a little kid, sitting on a bench at the sad little concrete “park” outside my building and telling my mom that I didn’t ever want to get married or have kids. I was 8, that was basically what the point of romance was to me at that age. But when I got older, I still wasn’t really interested; I didn’t have much in the way of crushes and I didn’t date.

Now I’m torn about going into more detail because, as an adolescent I was picked on, my family life was kinda messy and I was this disgustingly tender little doughball of raw emotions and a sucking black void that wanted to be liked, so mulling it all over now, I wonder if even the childish “crushes” I had were more about “oh my god, someone likes me!” then “wow I like this person”. And I’ve seen people on asexual/aromantic message boards question themselves similarly: am I still aro if it’s linked to some past trauma or because of some other reason? My Mom often said the same thing to me; that I “didn’t like” romance because of her messy divorce from my father, to which I usually rolled my eyes and reminded her that they were so miserable together that me and my little brother were cheering the divorce on. Does it matter?

I see it like I see my having lupus. What may or may not have contributed to it (me having lupus or being aromantic) doesn’t fucking matter. Where I am now is the reality, so telling me that I might have been romantically attracted to anyone if my parents had a better marriage is like telling me that if I had eaten better as a toddler I wouldn’t have lupus. This is me, not as a hypothetical, but as I am, now sit down and shut up.

That aside, even once I was in high school, dating wasn’t something that interested me. Were there people I liked and found attractive? Yeah, but then I made friends with them and we hung out and told shitty jokes and played blackjack in the cafeteria and life was good. There was nothing in me that wanted anything more intense with them, that wanted to spend every waking minute with them or haul them into the stairwell to suck face, stare adoringly at each other or whatever people in love do. All questions and prodding about why I had no desire to date or have a boy/girlfriend just resulted in me shrugging and going “meh”.

I suppose the closest thing to “clincher” moment was meeting P.S. Thinking it over in my head it sounds like something out of some hokey romance; we got thrown at each other by friends who were dating and the first night we met we ditched the couple that introduced us to wander around the city, talking for hours. When it rained, we sat in some building’s alcove eating pizza. I was…delighted with him in a way I hadn’t quite experienced before. And after a bit, “your brain is delightful” went on to “I want to make out with your face” and later on to…you can guess. All my friends could not stop crowing about my “romance”….

…except for the fact that I didn’t want to be his girlfriend, and said as much on that first night. I wasn’t looking for a romantic relationship, but I was happy to be friends and fool around until he found someone he was serious about. And yes, that is how I phrased it. I didn’t want to meet his parents at some point, didn’t want to maybe move in eventually, didn’t want to talk on the phone every single day, still didn’t want to get married, didn’t want to be called some cutesy pet name… I liked him a lot; I totally saw myself being in this dude’s life forever – telling embarrassing stories at his wedding (to someone else) and corrupting the kids he might have (with someone else) with a questionable taste in clothing and putting temp dye in their hair. I just never saw myself as the someone else that he’d be attached to. It seemed like a novel-perfect setup, but I just never felt that drive for more. We’re still friends and he’s got a girlfriend and I feel no regrets over how things went. My friends on the other hand still love to speculate on the epic-ness of my one brush with “romance”. Probably because there have been no more.

Now I know that how I described romantic relationships here isn’t how other people might think of them. I tend to see relationships as a series of escalating purposeful actions, some of my friends have described it to me as more of flow of emotions where the actions don’t have to correspond. I’m sure at some point someone’s going to point at my post and comment about how everything I laid out here really means something else and I got the whole thing (“thing” being my experiences and emotions) all wrong. The idea of what “romance” means is likely different to everyone and that’s okay.

It was nice finding a term for what I’d felt (more accurately, didn’t feel) my whole life. Usually I chalked it all up to being weird (or unnatural, as I’ve sometimes been called), that maybe my chronic illness just didn’t leave me enough bandwidth to even imagine the possibility of a romantic connection with somebody or something. I’ve also seen in aro groups people talk about how they really struggled with the idea of not feeling the mythical butterflies in the stomach, but…I never felt that struggle despite all the “romance is everything” messaging we tend to be bombarded with from infancy.

Honestly…I don’t feel like I’m missing anything. I don’t feel like I’m lacking something in life. I have a fantastic cluster of the most supportive, loving friends a cranky bastard like me could ever ask for and I keep meeting new and fascinating people online all the time. I don’t feel lonely or alone (mostly because my head is a Greek choir of chaos and who could possibly feel alone in that?). My life is pretty full and active and I’ve got no regrets about not pursuing some “special someone” out of pressure or obligation.

And if my feelings change in the future? This is another topic I see people in groups really stressing themselves about. Change happens. Over my life and having a chronic illness there isn’t a literal inch of me that hasn’t changed. If my feelings change, then they change – that isn’t here and that isn’t now. Maybe I’ll never change – that isn’t here and that isn’t now. I don’t make it a point to worry about things that haven’t happened and I’m too goddamned old to worry myself about living up to anyone else’s expectations.

So yeah, I’m Ro and I’m Aromantic. NBD.

Got any questions? Put them in the comments below!

Want to know more?

Aro Spec Awareness Week Tumblr

Aromantic-spectrum Union for Recognition, Education, and Advocacy (AUREA)


Published by Apocalypse Grrl

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4 thoughts on “Aro through the Heart

  1. I find that I relate more to Aro experiences than asexual ones. Like, I don’t think I was willing to call a boy “cute” until senior year of high school cuz it seemed like that word came with baggage and I didn’t want people to think I was actually interested in anyone. Now I’m willing to say people are hot but it still feels weird because then people think I’m lying about being being aro/ace and it’s like no man I have eyes.

    I also don’t like the “born this way” narrative being attached to ace people, because I think there’s a substantial number of people who WEREN’T born this way but have been carved by culture and experiences to be so. It doesn’t actually matter, like you said. It’s just a thing that we are and analyzing it doesn’t really do much.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Oof, I know that feeling – in middle school, calling someone “cute” was basically the green light for your friends to corner them and tell them you had a crush on them and try to arrange dates. Or maybe that was just my experience. Mostly in high school my sexuality was “artist” mostly because it was an art school, I was in the visual art program and aesthetically I like the looks of damn near everybody. Noticing aesthetics is my training. But people assume liking someone’s looks=wanting to bone and/or date them, and it’s annoying as fuck. Even just this month I was telling a friend about this pretty awful romance book I’d been reading and she’s like “I thought you were aromantic!”. I’m not romance-repulsed, but telling her that involves a nuanced conversation with lots of definitions and I don’t do that kind of work on my birthday month, so I just ignored it.

      I totally agree with you about the “born this way” narrative. To me though, I think whether it’s a result of experience, genetics or choice – it shouldn’t matter. If the person’s mostly healthy, mostly happy, brushing their teeth, paying their rent on time and not hurting anybody, then why does the fact they’re anything else matter? This is just me talking out of my ass, but arguing for legitimacy because “I can’t help the way I’m born” just seems admitting a person thinks there’s something wrong- does that make sense? There’s nothing wrong about being ace and/or aro.

      Over analyzing such things only helps so much – when I first got my lupus diagnosis, my mom went on a rampage of finding a cause, something she could point at and say “that’s what’s to blame”. Too much sun, not enough exercise, trauma, me repressing my emotions…she had a whole list of things that could have caused my lupus. But coming up with a “cause” didn’t change the present or make any of us feel better (certainly not me), so I just think of such things as a big ol’ waste of mental energy.

      Thanks for commenting!


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