No Romance


When I left for college, I dreamed of finding the perfect boyfriend. My future husband. My missing piece. I wanted nothing more than to escape the conservative mindset that saturated my southern hometown. None of the boys from my high school seemed suitable candidates to date, none of them inspired that spark of a true love that everyone spoke about. I was baffled at the impossibly low standards my peers seemed to have. How were they all falling in love so easily? Couldn’t they see that they were going to get hurt?

My high standards were to my benefit, I decided. When my coworkers pressed me about my love life, I would force a smile and tell them that I was focusing on my education. They were bewildered that I was eighteen years old and had never dated. Maybe they were expecting the common answers—that I was waiting for marriage or that I wasn’t allowed to date. The fact that I was the one keeping myself from dating seemed all the more shocking. Not God. Not my parents.

It was all me.

I was sure there wasn’t anything wrong with me. It was obvious to me that the boys from my hometown were vulgar. I could find flaws in all of them. I was also certain I wasn’t a lesbian. Most of my female friends were attracted to girls and I found few similarities between us. All I needed to do was find someone I was interested in and then I would hit all the milestones that everyone around me had flown past.

First crush. First date. First kiss. 

When I came to college, I waited for a crush. I wasn’t sure what a crush was, despite the poor explanations I’d ferreted out of my middle school friends. Maybe I was being too idle about it? Everyone seemed insistent that crushes just happened whether you wanted them or not. How could I fail at something that was supposed to be involuntary? I couldn’t seem to find any of the college boys attractive, despite them being everything I convinced myself I wanted. The northern boys were just as unappealing to me as the ones who wore camo and posted fishing photos on social media.

Maybe I was being too impatient. All the movies said true love took time and effort, except the ones that said it was instant and effortless.

(I wasn’t sure if I even believed in love. It seemed everyone was faking it. Hell, my parents’ marriage didn’t even last after I turned ten.)

It wasn’t a sudden realization, nor was it a gradual one which fell into the palm of my hands. It was something I’d known all along and yet I deceived myself, raging against the truth inside me and grasping for the heteronormative life I’d been promised.

I remember wearing toilet paper in my hair on the playground where my husband-to-be and I exchanged vows under the slide, just as we’d seen adults do. I remember watching movies where the princess was saved by the prince. None could compare to Princess Merida—my childhood idol who fought for her own hand in marriage.

I used to complain about the girls in middle school who’d go with boys to school dances. I didn’t understand why one would date without intent for marriage, because that must be the only reason thirteen-year-old girls desired such unappealing partners. I called them misogynists without understanding the word, dreading my own pubescent transformation that would send me into the arms of a stupid, careless boy.

I remember the weeks before my father died, he told me with a wan expression that he wished to be there for me when I walked down the aisle. It dawned on me later that he’d known he wasn’t going to make it much longer—that he would never live to see that milestone of mine.

It doesn’t matter now. Because if he were alive, I fear that he would be disappointed in me. 

What’s to stop my living family from growing disappointed when they realize ten years from now that this aversion to romance isn’t just a phase; that aromanticism isn’t just something I can switch off in my brain, but an integral part of my being?

I have always been aromantic and asexual, but I’ve been taught I have no place. That I am mistaken, that one day I will wake up normal and feel romantic feelings that come naturally to everyone else.

I don’t hate love. It’s something that I don’t understand, I’ll admit, but most people don’t seem to understand romance even when they can experience it.

People who experience romantic and sexual attraction don’t want to hear about people like me. When I was twelve, a friend I’d known for seven years came out to me as bisexual. We were on the school bus, and she seemed nervous. I listened, admitting I’d never heard of bisexuality, but it made sense that you could like anyone of either gender. It didn’t seem like that big of a deal to me.

Last fall when I told her that I might be asexual she said it was a stupid label. That I would find someone eventually, that everyone did. It didn’t seem to matter that I’d never had a childhood crush. She insisted I would become normal. 

In hindsight, I don’t believe her orientation is why she feels that way about me. I have other queer friends who understand me, and their acceptance means the world. I think she just didn’t care to see the world through my eyes as I’d done for her. That betrayal hurt more than anything else.

I’ve stopped talking to her now. She seems just as keen on ignoring me—a mutual ghosting. We didn’t have a big fight that ended it all, I just complacently told her that she must be right. A small part of me stills fears it’s true, that I am stupid and childish and wrong.

I tore down all the pictures of her in my room. It didn’t help much.

While her photos have vanished, the faces of my family still watch me from my wall. I often wonder if they’d tell me the same thing if I came out to them. That it’s a stupid label, that I need to stop being a child.

I don’t think I could stand that rejection. The pressure of it all.

Living in a world that seems to prioritize romance over everything else is frustrating. I’m left feeling like something was taken from me and that I will never meet the life milestones expected of me. But milestones aren’t a guide to life. There is no perfect version of the human experience.

This is my experience, and I am human. Is that not enough?

I want to enjoy the company of my friends and sleep in a bed without a partner on the other side of it. I want to adopt dogs. I want to travel and oversee my finances. I want to go thrift shopping in the city and play piano late at night and I want to spend weeks reading by a large windowsill. I want to learn how to bind my own books and learn how to cook and cultivate a living space that’s all my own.

That sort of life would make me happy, no romance needed. Or wanted.