I was 18, just graduated from high school and yet to enter college, and I had never dated anyone. The thought of being in a relationship with anyone made me feel giddy, yet the person I liked seemed far away, uninterested in me because, I thought, I was ugly. I hated looking at myself in the mirror. I hated my glasses. I hated my crooked teeth.
“It’s okay,” my mother would say, “You’d find the right person in college. There must be a reason why you got accepted to that college.
I had just been rejected by the university I wanted, so I went to another one, majoring in my second choice. I was devastated, but I held onto what my mother said.
I turned 22, just graduated from university, where I had done pretty well. I got my first job in another town, about an hour away from my hometown. The place was like a village where everybody knew everyone; my neighborhood was full of people who worked in the same factory.
“What if you find your husband there?” my grandmother asked. Then you’ll settle down and live there with him for the rest of your life.
Something in those four years of college had changed me and opened my eyes, so I smiled at her and didn’t think much of her remark. Still, inside, I had some hopes, a certain longing, a curiosity that, maybe, I would someday feel and experience romantic attraction.
Throughout my school years, I had liked some people: my classmate in high school, my lab assistant and my lab partner in college. But it was different.
I liked talking with them and I wanted to get closer to them, but in a platonic way. I wanted to be someone important for them. But I never felt the urge to touch or be touched by them; to hold hands or to give a peck on the cheek. I wanted them to trust me as a person they could talk about anything, but I didn’t want to be their girlfriend.
I just wanted to be their friend.
But I kept confusing my feelings for them as romantic. It was probably because the media I consumed and the people around me like to shame single people. In reality, once I got closer to the person I liked, the curious feeling I had before would disappear.
Also Read: Being Asexual in a Sex-Saturated Society
I was scrolling through my Tumblr dashboard back before it was blocked by the government and you didn’t have to use a VPN to access it, when I discovered the word “aromantic.” It was like something clicked in my head, and suddenly everything made sense.
Aromantic, I am an aromantic. I’m an aro.
I held onto the word, my newly discovered identity.
Still, there were nights when I’d cry and ask myself whether I was even normal, if I never developed a romantic feelings for anyone. Am I even a human for never having experienced butterflies in my stomach every time I see my crush? Do I even have a crush that I long to be my lover, instead of my friend?
And there were days when I would have an immense yearning for having someone special by my side. There were times when I wished all the love songs I heard was something I could relate to. There were books I’d read and wished I wasn’t so clueless about the romance described between two main characters.
It was then that I discovered fanfiction. Fanfiction also made me discover that I am an asexual as well. Fanfiction was a place where I could see the subtle romance between two characters I knew and would love to see together (or “ship” in fanfiction’s lingo).
There was no right or wrong in fanfiction; we could write anything we want. So I do it; I write about anything that I expect or thought of when it comes to romantic relationships. I write about couples being in an established relationship, because they said a partner should also be the bestest of friend, and I love my friends. I write about what I know and what I think I know.
There was no right or wrong.
I rarely write about the beginning phase, the meeting and the process of realizing oh shit I like this person, because I don’t know how to be subtle.
Shipping two fictional characters (or more) helped me experience what I never thought I would have through them. I’d listen to any love songs and would immediately think of fictional characters in a setting I made up. I’d feel giddy with happiness when I read them holding hands for the first time. I’d feel the pain the characters experienced when they parted.
Of course, real life will never be as easy as that. Now I’m 24, almost all of my friends are ready to start a family. I’m still not sure about being in a relationship, when I can’t reciprocate the romantic feeling. And I still feel lonely, sometimes.
But I have friends who accept me for not wanting to date, for being unable to like, like someone. And I have many new books, movies, or TV series to help me become a better writer. Hopefully, I can write that slow-burn romance I always like to read. Or, maybe, I can start something new, something original, about an aroace (an aromantic and asexual person) as the main character.
There will be days when I feel lonely, when I silently cry and yearn for something I never have, but there will be more days when I hold onto the words, I’m an aromantic. I’m an aro. I’m aroace, as a part of me, my identity.