This is a summary of some of the topics discussed in the “Planning for the Future as an Aromantic” session at the 2017 SF Asexuality Unconference.
One of the first topics was the decision of whether or not to live alone, and how to live with others, if that’s what’s wanted. The traditional progression of a romantic relationship often involves moving in with a romantic partner, but aromantic people don’t follow that script.
Many of the people did not want did not want to live with others. They’d done the roommate thing in the past and didn’t like it, preferring to be on their own. Others wanted roommates or living with friends. Economic considerations also came into play, with some people unable to afford to live alone, despite their preferences.
There was a question about whether or not it would be worth disclosing your aroness/aceness to prospective roommates. Some might prefer that you “won’t be bringing people home all the time”, or it might be a way to weed out incompatible roommates.
Some people talked about becoming the Single Aunt or Uncle, and what that would mean. Primarily, that would be the expectation that because you’re not “tied down” by a partner or children, that you’re able to drop everything to take care of your parents as they age. There was also a comment about becoming an ATM for nieces and nephews. On the flipside, the Single Aunt or Uncle did provide a template for living alone for some of us, and some people like the idea of being the cool single uncle or aunt.
Things like emergency contacts, insurance beneficiaries, and medical decision makers came up. For many people, that would be their current long-term partner. But who is it for a permanently single aro? Many in the session mentioned listing their parents, but were aware that was not a permanent long term solution. There was talk about health care directives and living wills and other things like that, but there was a concern about how to let people know that you have such a thing. Do you awkwardly blast out a Google Docs link to everyone you know? Do you keep it in a lockbox in your closet where it will be discovered long after your wishes have already been ignored? It was also brought up that it might not even matter, as things like living wills and healthcare directives are often ignored, even when they’re known. The concept of a “Designated Person” was mentioned. A Designated Person would be a person who can make decisions on your behalf and who will act according to your interest.
Parenting was discussed. Some of the aros in the group expressed an interest in potentially becoming parents, but acknowledged difficulties. Adopting can be challenging when single. There were concerns about raising a child alone. Coparenting arrangements were brought up, but finding a suitable coparent can be difficult.
Dying alone was a concern. Whether that’s actually dying alone and wondering how long it’ll be before someone notices, or just going through the aging process. One person mentioned that they’re planning to choose a good retirement home while they’re still healthy, so they’ll be where they want to be, instead of ending up where they’re sent when they no longer have a choice.
Becoming a partner in a poly group was suggested. It could be more stable than random roommates, and can fill many of the holes mentioned above. However, it’s not for everyone.
Intentional ace/aro housing communities were talked about. There can be a house or an apartment building or something where we can live alone, together.
And on a final note, and less serious than some of the topics above, what’s the deal with a +1 at a work party? In theory, it’s just a “+1”, so why is it so discouraged to bring a friend or a relative? Why are +1s exclusively expected to be romantic partners?
[This has been crossposted from a submission to AsexualActitives.com.]
A couple of years ago, a coworker began flirting with me. Because it went on for a while (I saw them every day and we would spend hours together due to work), I was able to determine that flirting was indeed happening, which meant I was able to start preparing for a response if a move was made.
“Well, you see… You’re fun to talk to. And I like you, just not that way. I’m sorry. I’m what’s called asexual, so I just don’t work like that.”
Then the move came.
One day, I left a book of ViewMaster reels of dissected cadavers on their desk. (Yes, that is a thing. I own it because I’m into stereophotography and that’s an odd stereophotographic collectible item, not because I’m into anatomy or cadavers or anything like that. They, on the other hand, were into vintage things with a morbid twist, so I figured they’d be interested.) And that started the process.
We were in the office, so it’s not like we could just have a straight up conversation about anything like this without everyone else noticing or overhearing, so it began on the company’s internal chat program. While they were pouring their heart out, I kept getting interrupted by people coming up to ask questions (which happens to me all the time at work), so it wasn’t ideal. Among the words they typed were “I’m asexual too”.
Well, there goes my counter plan.
The conversation continued throughout the day. We went to lunch (which I later discovered was considered a “date”), where they told me that they loved me and that they already had a boyfriend and that they’d never done anything like this before. After work, we sat in a hallway talking about things for several hours as they inched closer and started touching my arm. As we parted that night, they gave me a hug and a kiss on the cheek.
For some people, this would be a dream scenario, but for me, it was extremely awkward. I don’t know what to do with this sort of situation.
Should I give a clear no, ain’t gonna happen? But how do I do that without losing them as a friend?
Should I make something up about “I don’t date coworkers”? Well, no, they were thinking of leaving the place anyway, so they probably would just for the chance to be with me, at which point I would have ruined both their professional and personal lives.
Should I go for it and see what happens? But there’s nothing appealing about being in a relationship with this person. Specifically, there’s nothing appealing about being in a relationship period. I don’t know how to do that and I don’t really want to do that. I wouldn’t be good at it. Going this route would lead to me being uncomfortably pulled into things I don’t want to do pretty much all the time, and it would lead to disappointment for them, and the combination of that would probably lead to the destruction of what had the chance to turn into a long friendship.
After agonizing over it for a day and a half, I told them the truth. That it wasn’t anything against them. That I just didn’t see a way that a relationship with me would work, because I’m incapable of doing the things that a relationship would require. That I’d probably feel compelled to act like I was into it, even when I wasn’t, which would be stressful. That I couldn’t be what they’d need me to be.
It was hard to do, but it had to be said.
After this, we remained friends until the end. Ultimately, they transformed my life, both in silly ways (The adventures of the mountain goat!) and profound (Inspiring me to go to NAAC15). No romantic relationship required.
If you’re waiting to find out what it’s like to find someone hot, waiting, waiting, waiting, and it’s just not happening, you’re not alone. I’ve been there too.
If you find yourself retreating into your shell when the conversation turns to dating or sex, you’re not alone. I’ve been there too.
If you wanted a relationship because that’s what you’re supposed to do, not because that’s what you want to do, you’re not alone. I’ve been there too.
If you end up in a relationship and nothing feels natural and everything feels like you’re acting in a play but have never read the script, you’re not alone. I’ve been there too.
If you’ve had sex and found it boring, you’re not alone. I’ve been there too.
If you went through high school without going on a single date, you’re not alone. I’ve been there, too.
If you went through college without going on a single date, you’re not alone. I’ve been there, too.
If you’re desperately searching for something that will turn you on, and constantly come up empty, you’re not alone. I’ve been there, too.
If you looked at someone’s naked body in a sexual situation with more scientific curiosity than erotic desire, you’re not alone. I’ve been there, too.
If you’ve ever been baffled by why a sex scene was included in something, you’re not alone. I’ve been there, too.
If you’ve sat on the stairs alone, for hours, staring at the wall and wondering just what in the hell is wrong with you, why can’t you be normal, why aren’t you interested like everyone else is, you’re not alone. I’ve been there, too.
If you suddenly realized, hours after someone talked to you, that the person was trying to flirt with you, you’re not alone. I’ve been there, too.
If you’ve felt that you’re masturbating wrong, because everyone says you have to think of someone while doing it, and you never have, you’re not alone. I’ve been there, too.
If you find the entire concept of sexting completely baffling, you’re not alone. I’ve been there, too.
If you find the entire concept of fantasizing completely baffling and impossible to do, you’re not alone. I’ve been there, too.
If you’ve ever told someone who’s trying to give you an erotic webcam show to “Go upstairs and put on a more comfortable shirt if you don’t like the one you’re wearing”, you’re not alone. I’ve been there, too.
If you hear people talk about how horrible it is that they haven’t had sex for a month, and you wonder what’s so hard about it, because it’s been far longer for you and you don’t care, you’re not alone. I’ve been there, too.
If you’ve ever completely frozen when someone starts hugging or kissing you, because you simply do not know how to respond, you’re not alone. I’ve been there, too.
If you tried kissing and couldn’t figure out what’s supposed to be so appealing about it, you’re not alone. I’ve been there, too.
If you’ve felt that people around you are just faking their interest in sex to seem cool, you’re not alone. I’ve been there, too.
If you sometimes feel like you’re a failed man because your parts work, but you don’t want to use them with someone else like everyone says you’re supposed to be doing, you’re not alone. I’ve been there, too.
If you’ve been in a conversation with a group of other people, when suddenly it turns to which celebrity is the hottest, and the only thought that comes to your mind is “Please don’t ask me because I can’t answer that”, you’re not alone. I’ve been there, too.
I eventually discovered that I’m asexual. Maybe that’s what you are. Maybe not. I’m not going to pretend to have all the answers. I just want you to know that you’re not alone. I’ve been there too. Really, I have. Sometimes I’m still there, lost and confused. But I’ve kept going, and you can keep going, too.
If you’re there now, you can talk to me. If you want me to say more about any of these things, just to hear what I went through, I can do that. (I’ve already written about many of these experiences, either here in the archives, or on my site: http://www.asexualityarchive.com/)
And if you’re someone who’s been somewhere, feel free to reblog and share where you’ve been, so others know they’re not alone. Let’s keep going together.
A lot of times, people will say that single people are “Missing Out” on the partner experience. What they generally mean by that is that I do not experience some of the things that have brought them joy. They assume because they want these things, that I must want them too, and must be suffering from their absence.
They think that I’m missing out on having children.
They think that I’m missing out on waking up next to someone in the morning.
They think that I’m missing out on sex.
They think that I’m missing out on someone to share the pain with.
They think that I’m missing out on laughter and love and those hundred little intangibles they couldn’t live without.
I’m not. I’m not missing out on any of those things. I’m not really interested in any of those things. I have to assume that the people who think I’m missing out were driven to obtain those things, and feel that a hole in their life was filled by them. But I feel no such hole.
However, there is one that I have missed out on because I’m perpetually single. It’s stuck with me over the years, and it stands out as the only thing I can honestly say I’ve missed out on because I was alone.
The Jot Dean Ice Cave.
I should point out that I travel. Not travel, as in the globetrotting fly to Europe and take a cruise around the world kind of travel, but travel as in pack up the car and go driving kind of travel. I’ve been to places you’ve never heard of that are down roads you’d be reluctant to drive. I routinely find myself in places that are untouched by cell phone signals. I’ve seen some amazing things and been to places that will stay with me forever. Control room of a nuclear reactor from the Manhattan Project? Been there. Watch the sun rise on the Equinox in Chaco Canyon? Done that.
But the Jot Dean Ice Cave?
No. I turned around because I was alone.
The Jot Dean Ice Cave lies in the backwoods of Northern California, among the lava fields of the Medicine Lake Volcano. It’s halfway between Lava Beds National Monument and nowhere in particular. The partially paved road that passes it is empty. In one section, I drove for an hour and didn’t see another car. If it’s solitude you’re after, this is probably a good place to go looking for it.
There are many lava tubes in Northern California. That’s what Jot Dean is. In many cases, the thrill of exploring a lava tube is enough of a reason to break out the flashlights and put on the bike helmet. But Jot Dean has an attraction beyond simply going underground. Jot Dean is an “Ice Cave”, which means that there’s ice in the cave year-round. Normally, this means that there’s a slightly puddled ice sheet at the far reaches of the cave, but not here. Here, in Jot Dean, there’s a massive ice wall. Six inches thick and eight feet high.
And I didn’t see it.
I didn’t see it because I didn’t go in the cave.
Because I was alone.
I missed out because I was alone.
See, the Jot Dean Ice Cave is not a developed cave, where there’s a nice lighted trail and steel stairs leading from the surface into the depths. There are no tours, there’s no interpretive signs, there’s no gift shops, there’s no elevator back to the surface. The entrance is a hole in the ground, filled with massive boulders, the jumbled remnants of the collapsed ceiling. It’s friendlier than some caves, sure, but I’m an uncoordinated city dweller, not a mountain goat or a seasoned caver. To get to the cave, you have to scramble down into this pit of loose rocks. I started down, reaching about halfway, before I realized where I was.
I was in the mouth of a cave. A bee-infested cave. On a loose pile of sharp boulders. In the middle of nowhere. With no one else around.
Certainly, the likelihood of something going wrong was low. But if something did go wrong, that would not be a good situation.
I could get attacked by the swarm of bees. I could get bit by a rattlesnake. I could twist my ankle or break my leg on the rocks. I could fall and hit my head. I could slip on the ice and dislocate something.
And no one would find me.
There was no one else there. I think I’d passed one car on the road to the place. There was a very good chance that no one else would stop at the cave that day.
I pictured myself lying badly injured in the cave. In the dark. In the cold. Screaming. No one would hear me. Not a chance. Maybe -just maybe- a ranger would drive by, see my car in the parking lot, and check the cave. But would they get there in time? I might have been there for hours.
Even if it’s a less serious injury, and I’m able to crawl back to the road, no one’s driving past to be able to help. And it’s probably a two hour drive to the nearest hospital.
And so I said no. I’m not going in there. Yes, there’s an amazing ice wall. Yes, I’m only a hundred feet away. Yes, I’m probably overreacting. But no, I’m not going to do it.
Because I’m alone.
What’s especially important to notice is that I missed out because I was alone, not because I was alone. I didn’t say, “I’m not going to do this because I’m not in a relationship”. I said, “I’m not going to do this because I’m probably the only person for miles and I don’t feel like dying in a cave while I’m on vacation”. It really wouldn’t have mattered who was there, as long as someone had been. Strangers on the trail would’ve sufficed.
People in relationships have an automatic buddy system. You slip and fall and break your leg in a remote ice cave in Northern California, your relationship buddy will drag you to the surface and race you to the nearest hospital. I am missing out on that aspect of a relationship. Thing is, that’s one of the few aspects of a relationship that I actually find appealing. Other people want to get paired up for the love or the companionship or the sex, but I look at getting paired up as a Fairy in a Bottle or a Second Chance perk.
Here’s the other thing that most people don’t mention. By “Missing Out” on one thing, you often open a window on something else. Had I actually gone all the way into the Ice Cave that day, everything the rest of the day would have been shifted back by about half an hour. That means I wouldn’t have made it to Fleener Chimneys for the sunset. I probably would have been someplace far less spectacular. So, in the end, did I actually miss out at all?