Writing From Factor X

May 22, 2011

Writhing in the Throes of Unrequited Like

I’ve been thinking a lot in terms of my romantic orientation lately. I keep seeing things that invite me to discuss them based on whether I identify as romantic or aromantic, for one thing.

The trouble is, I’m not always entirely sure what my romantic orientation is, or even how to define romantic attraction to begin with. I have asked a lot of people to explain how the difference in feeling is so I can tell, and I haven’t really gotten anywhere. I don’t actually expect to any more at this point, to be honest. I usually put myself in the category “aromantic” under the theory that if I was experiencing something that felt like romantic attraction which was qualitatively different from desire for friendship that I definitely experience I would almost certainly notice. Maybe.

It would probably help if I subscribed to a binary understanding of friendship/romance, wherein you have a bunch of friends who you’re rather fond of and like to hang out with sometimes and, basically, like, and then you have your romantic partners who get to cuddle with you and matter more than everyone else and whom you love. Except I don’t, because that trivializes friendships and also would mean that I am dating about ten people by now, some of whom are in monogamous romantic relationships with other people. And I don’t think I am anyone’s secret hidden love affair.

So okay, I tend to identify as aromantic when I’m feeling easily categorizable and wtfromantic when I’m feeling frustrated and cranky. (I don’t actually like greyromantic because it’s not a matter of experiencing romantic attraction rarely or only in certain situations or whatever, it’s a matter of not being sure I even know what romantic attraction or, for that matter, a romantic relationship even is. I can only rely on what other people tell me and a lot of it is contradictory or feels very, very weird.) I can live with that, even if it’s a little unusual. Besides, I know several other people who feel pretty similarly to me, and talking to them helps a lot. (Hi, guys!)

Except I keep running into things where people say they wish they were aromantic and asexual because that seems like it would be so much emotionally easier, and it must be really nice not to have to ever deal with unrequited love, and aromantic people are so lucky to be able to avoid that! And then I have to laugh, and laugh, and laugh, and then sometimes go hit something.

For those people who are allergic to tales of personal woe, you may wish to turn back now.

Background information: the kind of relationship I actually want involves a bunch of things, but it boils down to having a friend who is close enough to me that I get to see them all the time and either live very close to them indeed or live in the same home. I don’t really want to share a room or a bed, just live in close proximity and do things like cook dinner and bicker over terrible television and shove books at one another and, you know. Share my life with someone. In short, I would like to have a zucchini one day. I really don’t care if said zucchini dates anyone else or gets married or anything like that, as long as they don’t either leave or make me leave. Most of what I want can be found under the TV Trope Nakama, which makes it really awesome that the trope description includes this sentence:

This sort of group dynamic appeals to younger audiences who are unfamiliar with romance, and appeals to older audiences who live in a world of complex relationships and convenience masqueraded as false friendship, who are feeling nostalgic about the times when friendship meant a lifelong bond.

Yeah, either I’m an immature child who doesn’t know what real romance is yet or else I’m… nostalgic for oversimplified, easy relationships from a time in my life I haven’t actually experienced. Ever. It really gets you coming and going–either you love this trope because you’re too naive to understand it’s not real, or you love it because you’re too cynical and embittered to like romance the way it is! Wow, I love reading that sentence, it makes me feel invisible and insulted all over again every time I see it. That’s quality erasure right there.

Anyway, I am unfortunately no more logical and in control of my emotions than any romantic person is, and I have been fixating on a friend of mine and wanting her to be my zucchini for a depressingly long time. (Because I like puns and neither “crush” or “squish” seem to work–I don’t want to date her and we’re already friends–I think of this as an unrequited squash.) This is almost certainly not going to happen, which does not prevent my friend from giving me the mother of all mixed signals every time we have a discussion about our relationship. It is very painful.

In a lot of ways, I actually would rather that I had an unrequited crush on my friend, because then (assuming I could get the courage up), I could say “I have a crush on you, and I need you to know this so that I can take some time to avoid you for a little while until I get over it.” And then I could flee until the waves of embarrassment subsided and eventually we might have been able to be friends again properly. At the very least, in that situation I could say that sentence and the mixed signals would probably go away.

In the situation I have now, before I could say that sentence I would need to have a protracted and extremely painful discussion of romantic orientation in general, mine in particular, several months’ worth of conversation with other like minds, my own personal dreams for the future and depressing certainty that they are unlikely to come to pass, and also my complicated and apparently one-sided feelings for her. And then I would need to gamble that she a) understood and b) believed me and also c) did not take this as an opportunity to send me even more mixed signals and then not actually follow up on them.

Things are not exactly going well. So, you know, if I hear one more romantic person say they want to be in my shoes because my emotional life must be so much easier than theirs I might have to scream. After all, from where I’m standing at least romantic people can expect everyone to understand what they’re talking about when they complain about their personal problems.

14 Comments »

  1. Amen. It drives me nuts when people say that aromantics have it easier emotionally. I show them examples of my depressing poetry as evidence that this is not the case 😉 (I don’t identify as aromantic, but I’m functionally aromantic I guess.)

    I keep seeing things that invite me to discuss them based on whether I identify as romantic or aromantic, for one thing.

    That’s aggravating. One thing I like about meetups is that you bypass this type of “sorting” in the conversation.

    Anyway, I am unfortunately no more logical and in control of my emotions than any romantic person is, and I have been fixating on a friend of mine and wanting her to be my zucchini for a depressingly long time. (Because I like puns and neither “crush” or “squish” seem to work–I don’t want to date her and we’re already friends–I think of this as an unrequited squash.)

    I get the same thing. Maybe not to exactly the same degree as you describe, but I’ve definitely had friends who I wanted to platonically spend my life with. It’s really tough. Because it’s not like they brush you off…they’re still you’re friend, and they care. But your visions of the relationship just diverge too much. I feel like I’m in a strange netherworld because I don’t want to date these people, and yet I’m tired of being “just the friend” to everyone.

    Sorry if you don’t want to discuss this (no pressure to answer), but when you and your friend talk about your relationship, what kinds of things do you discuss? I ask because I’ve rarely had these kinds of talks with friends. Is is the sort of, “Oh yeah, we should all move into a house together” stuff, where you never know if the other person is serious or not?

    Comment by Ily — May 22, 2011 @ 1:01 am | Reply

    • Oh yeah, it’s really frustrating. Especially because it’s really difficult to talk about the ways in which your visions of the relationship diverge and you can’t even take a step back and hide (which is difficult in itself) without hurting your friend most of the time. It’s a very weird place to be in because it seems like people never acknowledge being in that place.

      Generally when I’ve had these kinds of talks, it’s clear that everyone involved is absolutely serious. They tend to happen because someone (often me) is either bothered by a dynamic in the relationship or confused about something and wants to talk it out. I don’t always catch sarcasm and tend to interpret things a bit literally, so sometimes they grow out of me taking something at face value and expanding on it.

      Comment by Sciatrix — May 22, 2011 @ 9:36 am | Reply

      • It is frustrating, but I think it’s good that you’re willing to bring up your concerns with people. A lot of times I don’t, because I get the feeling that the other person is not open to talking about it. I tend to have a hard time knowing how close I really am with someone, so I feel hesitant to overstep my bounds.

        Comment by Ily — May 22, 2011 @ 3:41 pm | Reply

  2. I also find it odd that people ascribe this desire to childhood as a time before the knowledge of romance. I’ve been falling in love with people since I was very young, and have always realised the distinction between that and the friendships I felt for others.

    In general it’s really rude and possibly offensive when people say “I wish I were [x]” where they oversimplify the troubles an [x] has, can have, or assume they never experience these troubles or a related type of troubles at all. Also like “I wish I were autistic so I wouldn’t have to feel grief when my parents die”. (I have seen that one or variants of it before). (I hope it’s ok if I compare these things).

    There’s also people who aren’t actually just sighing about it when they go through a rough patch in their personal life or when they’re tired of dating, but who really mean it and then go try to find ways to become asexual or at least eliminate their libido, so they can be what they think is more pure, or more logical, or more focused on ‘important stuff instead of relationships to other people’.

    I hope your relationship troubles will be resolved soon, I never know how to frame that without it just looking awkward or odd, but there it is.

    Comment by Norah — May 22, 2011 @ 10:17 am | Reply

    • That actually is really interesting! I hadn’t known that it was possible to identify feelings like that quite that young. On the other hand, I have been dealing with “you must have a crush on your male friend!” from adults from about age eight or nine on, so…

      I would agree with you on that “I wish I were…” thing being rude, and find it fairly horrifying that that was said to you. (I’ve seen variants of that, too, without the “I wish I was autistic because” modifier, and it generally hurts a lot.)

      Actually, I think I find the people who actually try to become asexual (or in one person I met, aromantic) even more irritating than the ones who are just whining about it. The ones who are trying to change themselves feel extremely appropriative and creepy to me, because I think they see me as an ideal, not a person who has her own problems and complicated relationship to her identities.

      And thanks for the well wishes; they didn’t seem awkward at all to me. I hope they will, too.

      Comment by Sciatrix — May 22, 2011 @ 7:35 pm | Reply

      • I don’t think it was said to me specifically, but I’ve seen it said in general by people, sort of to the world on their blogs, or to autistic people on forums.

        Comment by Norah — May 23, 2011 @ 6:11 am | Reply

  3. Except I keep running into things where people say they wish they were aromantic and asexual because that seems like it would be so much emotionally easier, and it must be really nice not to have to ever deal with unrequited love, and aromantic people are so lucky to be able to avoid that! And then I have to laugh, and laugh, and laugh, and then sometimes go hit something.

    A-ha ha. Aha.

    … yeah.

    I don’t know what my romantic orientation is, but my most popular options are “grey-aromantic,” “aromantic,” and “… what?” I’m with you in thinking that not being able to grok the concept is kind of an indicator of being aromantic (or maybe you said that in kaz’s comments, I can’t remember).

    It’s even weirder to grow up thinking you want the same things everyone else does and then realize that not everyone’s like you and you want them for completely different reasons. I kind of want to get married some day, I kind of want to have sex some day, but my views on marriage and sex are orthogonal to most other people’s.

    Also, your squash pun is horrible. :p

    Comment by Aydan — May 22, 2011 @ 10:50 am | Reply

    • I love the “…what?” option.

      And yeah, the coming from a different place about almost everything is weird. I would try sex out of curiosity–in very specific circumstances, which seem to be very different to the way most people around me would try sex. (For instance, I’d want to make sure that no one was in love with anyone else to start with in case it all went sour.)

      I said I liked puns, I didn’t say I always liked good ones! 🙂

      Comment by Sciatrix — May 22, 2011 @ 7:37 pm | Reply

  4. A recent Queer Secret where someone wished they were asexual (appearing to mean aromantic, though there wasn’t really enough information in the secret for me to tell for sure) set off a similar annoyance in me. I typed up a long angry post about it, but since I’m not good at being angry it’ll probably never see the light of day.

    It just makes me so angry that anyone assumes that being asexual or aromantic could make things easier. And I’m doubly angry if any of that, around the being aromantic part, is coming from within the asexual community. I’d expect us to know better.

    Also, I’m sorry about the situation you’re in now being so complicated and painful. I hope you can get to a better position there. (Though I for one loved your pun. :))

    Comment by ace eccentric — May 23, 2011 @ 12:14 am | Reply

    • I, on the other hand, am pretty good at being angry. Heh.

      I’ve definitely seen that sentiment made by asexuals on occasion, although waaaaay less often than sexual people do. It’s especially aggravating.

      Yeah, I hope so too. (And yay! I have to admit, I was ridiculously pleased when I thought of it a while back, even if the situation kind of sucks. Having funny words to apply to it makes me feel slightly better.)

      Comment by Sciatrix — May 23, 2011 @ 9:52 pm | Reply

  5. I have nothing productive to add, just wanted to say thank you for writing this. It is very painful and so exhausting to try to explain to anyone so I really appreciate you sharing. I feel a little better thinking, yes! that’s exactly it, at least someone understands. Also, ‘unrequited squash’ = clever, useful, and amusing terminology!

    Comment by tomatl — May 24, 2011 @ 1:55 am | Reply

    • I’m really glad it resonated with you. And you know, that’s true for me, too–it makes a crappy situation feel better when I hear that other people are going through it, too. There’s a lot of comfort to be had in community, I think. Anyway, thanks for the compliment!

      Comment by Sciatrix — May 24, 2011 @ 8:15 pm | Reply

  6. […] The thing is, this is actually a phrase I find really insulting and fairly hurtful to hear. For one thing, it’s telling me I don’t have any issues that stem from my own love life. Which… often, isn’t actually true. Long distance relationships, for example, have their own stresses, and sometimes I want to vent about that. And god knows I’ve written enough about my frustration and confusion with romantic relationships and the expectations thereof over at Writing From Factor X. […]

    Pingback by It Turns Out Asexual People Have Problems, Too | The Asexual Agenda — May 23, 2013 @ 11:21 pm | Reply

  7. I just stumbled across the concept of asexuality (which I knew but somehow never connected with actual people) and aromanticism, and I really can relate to this post and most of the comments. I don`t get how people see a difference, I don`t even know if there is one, but aromantic seems fairly fitting.
    But I have to ask – as I understand it, most people identify via attraction (romantic, aesthetic, sexual, platonic..) – and I`m having trouble understanding what those terms mean.I know the dictionary definition, I simply don`t know whether I actually get it. Can somebody please help me out?

    I liked your pun. Very much. 🙂

    Comment by Phoeba — June 8, 2013 @ 5:55 am | Reply


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