just a heads up that i’ve made a dragon blog, because i can’t resist the urge to shout about pretty dragons somewhere (there’s nothing there yet though)
so a) that’s me and b) now i can promise not to talk about internet dragons on this blog you’re welcome u_u
PSA: inevitable ensuing quiet is because i too have fallen into the pit of internet dragons (ssshh don’t look at me)
username is Airis if any of you guys play 8D
I loved books growing up. Reading was my absolute favorite thing to do, but I was bad at venturing out into unfamiliar territory, so would read the same books over and over and over.
But there were a few where, no matter how many dozens of times I went to read them, I’d sputter out about halfway through. A few movies, as well—half a dozen VHS tapes were left at the same spot whenever I forgot to rewind them.
Always at the same parts: when childhood is left behind and the exciting world of romance opens up.
This was never about the romance itself—I adored love stories and, to a lesser extent, still do, but it was what these stories had to tell about what growing up meant to relationships that made my stomach curl up and prompted me to fumble for a bookmark and find something else to do.
For a specific example: Anne of Green Gables was in particular both a sanctuary and a source of discomfort so strong I could barely acknowledge it. Anne and Diane’s friendship was everything I ever wanted and a hundred times more compelling to me than any romance stories I’d read at the time. It was so perfect it was almost painful to kidlet!me because that was something that belonged to a character in a book and not to me. But it legitimized that sort of intense love in friendship, and even had its own name for what we might call queerplatonic* friendships today.
And then the books continue and Diane fades away. She gets married and grows distant, Anne gets wrapped up in assorted romantic plotlines (I do note: not just romantic plotlines, other types of relationships are still important to her) and that relationship between Anne and Diane that meant the world to me was just a fond memory of the past. They grew out of it. They moved on. This is what being an adult means. This is Coming of Age.
And no matter how strong a friendship might be, friendships are made to fade out. That’s just how Real Life works.
It was things like that told a hundred times over that made the process of accepting my aromanticism so difficult. I wanted lifelong love. I didn’t want to be left behind. So, I obviously wanted a romantic relationship, because that’s the only way to get that. I didn’t want to be the unmarried friend who lost touch with those people she cared about before, or who meets up with them every few years to catch up and listen to stories about their new families. I had plenty of evidence IRL that this is how things actually work, too—so many stories from adults about their best friends growing up, but where were they now? When was the last time they talked to them? I wanted to be the most important person (or an extremely important person) to someone and the only path set out for me to obtain that was to find a romantic partner. So I spent a good twenty years forcing myself down that path because the loneliness of the alternative was too terrifying.
I don’t know if I would have ever stopped on my own. I didn’t learn about aromanticism until already after I had been in a super close friendship for a couple years—it was a matter of realizing I was already as happy as I could want to be (except for geographical distance, grumble grumble) and didn’t need to keep pushing myself down that path towards a goal I never wanted in the first place.
But just because I got lucky there doesn’t mean that I’m ready to dismiss how harmful the pattern of these stories were to me, and how harmful they might be to other aromantic people, especially those still growing up. Over half of the discussions I’ve had/read about how people came to realize they were aromantic describe feeling fear and even despair upon realizing it describes them. I can’t count how many times I’ve read about aro people clinging to the hope that they’re alloromantic because they don’t want that life of lifelong love and acceptance—one that we’re taught belongs to romance—to be sealed off from them. Aromantic advice blogs are flooded with messages like these. We’re afraid, and it’s a fear of the loneliness and abandonment that an amatonormative society has promised will be our birthright.
That’s why I get so excited about stories where people in romantic relationships still have strong, intimate friendships with other people, or stories where childhood best friends grow up and stay just as close, or with alloromantic people whose most important relationships are platonic—even if there aren’t any canonically aromantic characters in them. It’s a far cry from representation, sure, but they’re life rafts in an ocean of amatonormativity.
And it’s nice to be able to read a story all the way through.
(Note: This post is not about asexuality; I plan to make another someday about YA coming of age stories and asexuality. Please, please don’t reblog this with “but asexual people can want romantic relationships too!” like happens to every post I make about aromanticism.)
*Not a term I’m fond of and don’t use myself, but still find a need for a term describing that type of relationship.