I think being an aromantic asexual is kind of like growing up in a world where people randomly burst into song, as if they were in a musical, and I’m that one person who doesn’t get involved in the musical numbers, and is wondering what the heck is going on. After a while I got used to it, so it doesn’t surprise me or weird me out anymore. I’ve accepted it as a Thing That Happens. But accepting it doesn’t mean that I understand it, or feel it, or participate in it, so I’ve learned to just wait it out and quietly do my own thing when other people get invested in it.
Most of the time, I’m fine with this. I don’t think I’m better or worse than people who take part in the “songs” (i.e. romantic and sexual feelings). I don’t feel like I am less happy, or that my life is less beautiful, meaningful or valuable. I don’t mind being the odd one out. Most of the time.
But sometimes, it hurts. I grew up always expecting that I would eventually “hear the music” that other people hear, and feel the same passion and enthusiasm they do, and that it would make me happy. I thought it was just a matter of finding the “right person.” Accepting that I was aro-ace meant giving up on that. In some ways it was a relief, but it also made me feel lost, empty and disappointed. Especially the aromanticism—being able to love someone romantically is so heavily tied to our idea of what makes us human, that when I realized I was aromantic, it almost felt like I wasn’t human anymore. A huge part of my future and my self-image had suddenly been overturned, and no one had warned me that this was even possible, nevermind how to cope with it.
But I couldn’t deny it. I couldn’t just keep pretending to myself that I could hear the music everyone else heard. I couldn’t deny that the world made more sense if I assumed other people were feeling something I didn’t. And I started trying to recover, to rebuild an image of what my relationships and future would be like, and to accept and love myself the way I was. To throw out the old romantic/sexual script and and write my own.
And that now means that things that once reassured me, have become strange and hurtful and alienating. “Don’t worry, you’ll find the right person eventually,” just means that the other person doesn’t believe me when I try to tell them about myself. “You’re young, give it time,” now means that my experiences are dismissed because of my age. “I just want you to be happy [by finding romantic love],” means that someone believes I can never be happy by being myself.
Yes, I want to recover, but I don’t want to recover from being aromantic and asexual. I want to recover from a lifetime of being told that people like me do not exist, are inhuman, are evil, have something wrong with us, or must be lonely and miserable. I don’t want a cure that will help me “hear the music”; I want people to believe me when I say that I don’t hear it, and to stop trying to make me be part of it.
And I want other people who don’t hear the music to know that they’re not alone, that they’re fine the way they are, and that they don’t have to keep trying to feel what most people feel.