This is, unsurprisingly, a little late for the February Carnival of Aros and Carnival of Aces. But it should be examined by myself either way.
When someone asks how I identify the answer will vary depending on how I know this person or what platform we met through, but it will usually be some form of “bi” or “ace.” It almost never includes the words “grayromantic,” no matter how fitting that term may be. Why is this? Well, I’m not certain, but it probably has to do with not feeling comfortable with the term or with being on the aromantic spectrum at all.
My relationship with romantic attraction is complicated. It gets strung up with sensual and aesthetic attraction all too easily and untangling them is a nightmare. I know I feel it actively with my boyfriend, I know I developed it over time with my ex-queerplatonic partner (something which eventually helped to tear us apart). I know I’ve had a few of what seemed to be completely amatonormative crushes on people. But there was something that felt forced about some of them, developing out of a general desire to be close to someone in a tactile way. I refrain from saying physical due to the general assumptions behind that word, because until very recently I was very uncomfortable with sexual situations and would avoid them at all costs. But I’ve always wanted to be touched, petted, and caressed. Even if it is a simple pat on the head to let me know someone is near.
I was touch starved, and it shows in my incessant need for cuddles and pets with my significant other any time I’ve had one. And I would be happy to sidle right up to any of my friends and put myself in their personal space, except I managed to find a group of people who only romantically touch another person to call my friends. I remember being a teen and reading stories where friends would cuddle or hold hands and wishing that would be my friends and I. A few times I even jumped into a relationship for that only to break a heart when I was scared of kissing someone I only saw as a friend. That was when I learned the difference between liking someone and like liking someone.
What took me a long time to figure out was that my celebrity crushes weren’t inherently romantic and were certainly not sexual. They were like beautiful paintings. I want to look at it, touch it if security lets me, but I don’t want to wine and dine it. Have I wanted to stab myself with James Marsters’ cheek bones from the time I was seven watching him in Buffy the Vampire Slayer? Sure. Would I kill if Scarlett Johannsson in a leather jumpsuit asked me to? Probably. Would I rather die than meet Taylor Swift and say something stupid? Most definitely. But would I want to date these people? Never. Have sex with them? Not a chance.
Well, maybe Scarlett. My feelings about her are conflicted and confusing.
So yeah, romantic attraction is just weird for me and thinking about it is hard. But I feel it on occasion and often enough in the last 5 years that it didn’t seem like something worth talking about. It felt as if I would have nothing in common with other aro spec bloggers and that they would have nothing in common with me. It always felt as if the aro community, or the handful of bloggers which I perceived as making up the community, didn’t have a place for people who were okay with romantic relationships and romance in general. Unfortunately these to remain unnamed bloggers colored my impression of the community to the point where I pushed my experiences to the side and reveled in the asexual community where I felt understood. I made a point of not thinking about all the people I wished I felt something more than friendship towards because then my life would be simpler (Lookin’ at you Matt H.). And then I met James. And felt romantic attraction stronger than ever before, while simultaneously feeling more alienated than ever from the aro community.
But that’s changing.
In a well timed message from luvtheheaven I was told that we need people talking about their aromanticism even if they are in alloromantic relationships. Everyone has something to add to the discussion. Everyone is relevant and welcome in the growing community that is being built in part by the new Carnival of Aros. So what can I say now, at the end of this post other than that I will try. I will stay up to date and I will try to talk about it because I shouldn’t be partitioning off part of my identity to fit in a neat box that I’ve built for myself.
So I’ll say it now: I, Mara, do pronounce myself to be a gray-biromantic asexual. And I am valid.