SF Unconference 2017 — Session #1: Planning for the Future as an Aromantic.

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?

What I’ve Missed Out On Being Single

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?


Living Alone

Although this is for the Carnival of Aces theme about age and asexuality, it’s not really about age or asexuality.  At least not directly.  Instead, it’s about something that comes up over and over when younger aces talk about growing up:  The fear of living alone.

I’m in my thirties.  I live alone.  I’ve lived alone for almost nine years now and let me tell you a secret:  It’s not scary.  Know why?  Because it’s awesome, that’s why.

Know what’s in my closet?  My clothes. Know who gets the blankets at night?  Me. Know what’s on TV?  Whatever I want to watch. Know who uses all the hot water in the shower in the morning?  I do. Know who gets to use the car tomorrow?  No one, because it’s Sunday and I don’t feel like going anywhere.

I live alone in a four bedroom house.  Know what’s in one of the bedrooms in this house?  It’s not a guest bedroom that has to be maintained for the in-laws.  It’s not a playroom for a rabble of rugrats.  It’s full of video games.  Nothing but video games.  I have video games from systems you’ve never heard of.  Do you know why?  Because it’s my house and I want a room full of video games.

I didn’t have to get permission when I decided to staple a hundred plastic plates to my wall to make a gigantic Tetris hallway.  I didn’t have to convince anyone when I decided to replace some lightswitches or put up some shelves.  I didn’t have to form a selection committee when I decided to put waterfall pictures on my stairs.  I don’t have to ask for forgiveness when I take over the dining room table for an art and/or science project that has no rational explanation.

(And speaking of the dining room table:  It’s cheap.  It’s actually a folding table.  But no one complains about it, because there’s no one here to complain.)

It’s wonderful that there’s no one here to stop me.  If I want to buy a copy of The Trouble With Tribbles on CED VideoDisc, even though I don’t have a VideoDisc player and no one even has any idea what a VideoDisc is, no one will tell me no.  If I think that it’s a good idea to try to build an air conditioner to draw up cool air from my crawlspace using a fan, a cardboard sheet, some ventilation tubing, and a whole lotta duct tape, no one will tell me no.  If I want Froot Loops for lunch, no one will tell me no.  If I want to lock myself away for five days while I build a fully autonomous real world implementation of “Robot Finds Kitten”, no one will tell me no. If I want to put pink flamingos, a garden gnome, and a random survey benchmark in my backyard, no one will tell me no.  If I want to replace the bulbs in the bathroom fixture with red, green, and blue bulbs so that I get white light, but awesome colored shadows, no one will tell me no. If I want to hang out in my PJs until 1 PM, then go naked for the rest of the day, no one will tell me no.  (But I don’t want to do that, because I’d probably just get cold.)

You know what I had for dinner last night?  Pepperoni pizza.  Know what I’ll have for dinner tonight?  Pepperoni pizza.  Know what I’ll have for dinner tomorrow night?  Pepperoni pizza.  Know why?  I like pepperoni pizza.  There’s no negotiating about menu variety or freezer space, and there’s no demands that I go to an overpriced restaurant that I hate.

And it’s not just inside the house where being single comes in handy.  I like to go on vacation.  So far, I’ve been to two decommissioned nuclear reactors and one atomic bomb detonation site.  I’ve seen the world’s largest frying pan, a life-sized statue of Yoda, and the landfill in the desert where Atari buried thousands of copies of the ET game.  I’ve stood on a corner in Winslow, Arizona, I’ve gone where the streets have no name in Joshua Tree, and I’ve climbed underneath the bridge on the muddy banks of the Wishkah.  And I haven’t had to justify any of it.  I go where I want and stay as long as I like.  I don’t complain if I have to have spray cheese and crackers for dinner because I’m camping someplace that’s a hundred miles from a restaurant.  I don’t have to deal with anyone getting hungry or getting bored or getting tired or needing a pit stop ten minutes after I just bought gas.  Know how many outlet malls or art museums or roadside fruit stands I’ve had to stop at?  None.

Of course, it’s not all sunshine and lollipops in this world.

All the chores around the house are mine to do.  I can’t weasel out of doing the dishes or the laundry, and the overgrown jungle of a backyard is silently mocking me for failing to keep it under control.  There’s no one else around who I can get to kill the spiders for me, either.

As much as I like going on vacation, let’s face it, places like the Willamette Valley are much better if you sleep the whole way through them, and it’s really hard to do that if you’re driving. (Although, it would be a lot easier to do if it weren’t for that slight curve near Eugene…)  Also, there was that one cave in California where I decided that it was dangerous to go alone, so I didn’t go inside, even though it’s supposed to have an amazing wall of ice in it.

If I get sick, I can’t lay in bed all day while someone waits on me.

If someone has to call the mortgage company or make reservations or otherwise use that terrifying contraption known as a telephone, it has to be me.

If I go into a store, there’s no one else who can deflect the pushy salespeople.

And if I somehow get trapped in the crawlspace when trying to rig up that air conditioner I was talking about, there’s no one who’ll rescue me and I’ll die down there and no one will ever find my body.

Perhaps the worst part about living alone is that I don’t have anyone to help me load Ikea furniture into my car.  Have you ever tried to fill a Prius with flat pack bookcases all by yourself?  Let me tell you, it ain’t easy.

So basically, I guess what I’m saying is that you shouldn’t be so worried about ending up alone, because being alone is what you make of it.  Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to go mount a giant pixel-art mural of a level from Super Mario Bros. on my wall.

(And no one will tell me no.)