Once upon a time, I experienced love at first sight, except it wasn’t romantic love and we couldn’t actually see each other because we met online. I am drawn to people who are good at spelling and use punctuation in instant messages; it’s the internet equivalent of a great smile. And if that great internet smile is accompanied by kindness and openness and shameless dorkiness— oh, be still my heart. I wanted to learn everything about this person and I felt like I could share my scary secrets and I just knew that we could talk for hours and hours about anything and everything and I wanted to start right that second.
The intensity of this freaked me out. First, this was my friend’s girlfriend, so I had to tread carefully. (I failed at that.) Second, I’m aromantic, so I was all confused. What do you do with a strong attraction that isn’t romantic? And what if it actually was romantic and I just didn’t know that? What is romantic attraction? What is romance?
Oh, lord, not this again.
Fortunately, I was completely right: we could talk for hours and hours about anything and everything and share our scary secrets, and we did. Four years later we say we are “together”, in some undefinable, undeniable way, and I still don’t know what romance is.
I’ve got this relationship… Am I still aromantic?
That should be enough, because what is identity if not our own deep down feelings about who and what we are? If a description of myself feels right to me, that’s about as well-justified as it’s going to get. (Telling people they are wrong about their own identities is obnoxious and oppressive, by the way. I see it happening way too often. Please don’t do it.) Still, analyzing things is fun, am I right?
A while ago on Hot Pieces of Ace, a YouTube channel about asexuality, one of the members was an aromantic in a romantic relationship. She’s the only person I’ve come across who has talked about being in this situation. She defined her aromanticism as a lack of romantic drive, but not a lack of romantic attraction, which is interesting because I have usually seen aromanticism defined as a lack of romantic attraction, and I don’t know what a lack of romantic drive is called. Quirkyalone?
Whatever it’s called, I’m completely certain that I am it. Romantic drive is a free-floating desire for romance, analagous to the free-floating desire for sex that is called a sex drive, and it causes people to do such things as go on dates with strangers and complain about being lonely when they’re single. This is not me; I am the opposite of this. Dating is a bizarre ritual that perplexes and repels me, and I love being single. I’ve never gone looking for romance — in fact, I have often gone to great lengths to avoid it.
Romantic attraction is the tricky one for me. It’s when you’re drawn to a particular person or type of people in a romantic way, but to me this makes very little sense. I’m only drawn to people in one way. If I think a person is interesting, I am drawn to them. The only difference is in degree. I was drawn to my person (I call her my partner or my person) more than anyone else I’ve ever met; does the extreme degree make it romantic? It seems like there should be some qualitative difference in the feeling, but I don’t know what that might be.
My person suggested that romance might be something that is completely up to the individual, and if the individual doesn’t find it a useful concept to describe their attractions, they are free to ignore it. Wise suggestion. This is how I deal with gender, too.
In conclusion: I ignore romance because I don’t find it a useful concept. I think the best word for this is aromantic, so that is what I am.
Is my relationship romantic?
I don’t know. Neither does my person. It looks a lot like other relationships that people call romantic. So maybe? If it looks like a duck…
I already talked about how I build relationships, but since I’ve spent some more time in public with my person I’ve begun to wonder how we look to other people. We sometimes hold hands or do other small physical things to show affection in public, and we talk about each other in a very matter-of-fact way that sounds like an established romantic couple. We still talk about anything and everything and share our scary secrets, though there aren’t really any scary secrets left to share at this point. We have every intention of staying together longterm. From the outside, it looks like romance.
From the inside, I’m not sure. My person is a panromantic demisexual, so our relationship is quite mixed since I’m an aromantic asexual (see my definitions here). She has her own idea of what romance is and it can’t easily be put into words. With that in mind, her feelings for me are romantic, but that doesn’t mean that our relationship has to be romantic. We both like subverting social norms and we are interested in getting away from the strange fairytale drama of romance.
I’ve toyed with the idea of calling it queerplatonic, but I don’t feel comfortable saying that it’s definitively non-romantic in nature, since I don’t know what that means. I’d rather leave that label to those who are more certain. Instead I call it close. A close relationship. My closest relationship. There’s no confusion in that.
Sometimes, though, it’s easiest to let people think that we’re romantic. That word gives a relationship a certain social status; people treat it as something important, something almost sacred. And, most of the time, we just don’t feel like explaining ourselves to anyone. Let them think what they will. I’m sure they’ll get the basic idea.
In conclusion: Whatever you want to call it, my relationship with my person is awesome. It gets me thinking, which I love, but it never demands that I be anything other than 100% unadulterated me. Who could ask for more?