My first and only relationship, if you want to call it that, was in the end more of a situational comedy than anything else, and a rather dated and subpar one at that.
We “dated” online for about a year before “he” came to Australia to meet in person. We both thought we were in love. But more or less the instant we met face to face, things started to go sour. We attempted to get intimate, but though I was willing to try it, it didn’t feel the way I thought it was supposed to feel. I wasn’t excited, just nervous and uncomfortable. I derived absolutely no pleasure from the experience and soon went home. Despite agreeing to try again, I think even then I knew I didn’t want to.
Either way, we never did. Within a day I had told “him” I didn’t want “him” touching me. No kissing, and no hand holding either. “He” clearly wasn’t happy about it, but respectfully agreed.
A day or two after that, I said I didn’t feel as if we were ever in a relationship and I wanted to stop pretending.
We parted ways, seemingly on good terms, only to start bitterly fighting over the internet once that had become our only means of contact again. After yet another spat, I left that particular forum and broke off communication altogether. I was angry with “him”, but probably couldn’t have said why.
Some years later a guy asked me out and I said sure, why not? He was nice. We had fun together, but the moment he wanted to do anything that wasn’t “just friends”, I panicked and said no. He eventually realised this wasn’t going anywhere and left.
At around that time I found out what asexuality and aromanticism were, and suddenly it all fell into place. I had thought my dislike of intimacy and lack of interest in romantic companionship were because of my Asperger’s, but now I learned that there were other people who were like me. And most importantly of all, I learned that it was perfectly normal not to want or need those things in your life.
It was the most wonderful feeling of relief. I didn’t have to keep trying to be something I wasn’t. I was okay. My only regret was that I had hurt two perfectly nice people before learning the truth.
This is why it’s so important that people learn about these things from an early age. If only I had known sooner, all that pain could have been avoided. Under different circumstances I might never have found out at all, and spent the rest of my life feeling like a freak – or worse, trapped in an unhappy marriage to some guy who couldn’t understand why his wife treated sex like a disgusting and unpleasant duty rather than something done for mutual pleasure and affection. No doubt exactly that has happened to hundreds before me.
I eventually came out via a simple matter-of-fact Facebook post on National Coming Out Day. My immediate family had reacted with shrugs of the sort that indicate something isn’t a big deal, and I didn’t view it as a big deal either. It was just a fact of life. The only reason I formally came out was as a show of support to some friends of mine who were like me but not yet ready to say so.
I’d never faced discrimination for being aro ace, but I still knew what it was like not to fit in with the heterosexual community, and what that moment of revelation felt like, which was more than enough to awaken a deep sense of empathy inside me. I started making new friends in the queer community, marched in support of marriage equality (with a hand-painted sign which said “ASEXUALS FOR MARRIAGE EQUALITY”), and became an outspoken advocate for gay and trans rights. Yes, “Australian Christian Lobby” – it was me who mailed you those envelopes full of glitter, and I’d do it again. This weekend, some of my new friends are taking me to my first ever Mardi Gras!
But you’re probably still wondering… just how was my first and only relationship like a bad situational comedy?
Well, years after the disaster that was our attempted romance, we re-connected. I apologised and said that if “he” was still sore about what had happened, well, I had rejected “him” because I was asexual. “He” said yeah, “he” pretty much saw that coming. Then “he” (...and now the inverted commas make sense) said “by the way, I realised I’m trans”.
After a pause I said “...yeah, I saw that coming too”.
So there you have it. The creaky old sitcom setup where the unwitting heroine doesn’t realise she’s dating another girl. And double twist, the other girl doesn’t realise it either! Cue laugh track. She is now out and proud, and seems a lot happier these days. As for me, I’ve settled into a comfortably single life, free from the dramas of dating and sex, both of which seem overrated to me in hindsight. I guess in some ways it just goes to show that people will strive to get what they think they’re supposed to want long before they realise the far more sensible option is to work at getting what you actually need.
Of course, before you can do that you have to figure out what it is that you need. But if you ask me, the way to make it become clear is by understanding who you are. Once you do, the rest follows.
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