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I have no idea what to call myself...


FaerySilverwings
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So, I am finally at the point in my life where I've begun my (slightly obsessive) quest to figure out the words that describe me so I can both talk to other people when the occasion arises and just... know, for myself. (I hope that makes sense). I posted a version of this on AVEN earlier and someone recommended I could get more advice/information here, so apologies if this is too long...

Realizing I'm asexual was pretty easy. I finally found enough information to recognize myself and the word just fits

The other half of my orientation-or-lack-thereof is a lot harder to figure out because I've never had anyone I could comfortably talk to about it. My current research hasn't turned up any words that feel entirely right yet, although I feel like I'm probably some flavor of aromantic. (Also, I spent way too much of this year completely alone in an apartment with very little communication with the outside world, so I've hit the "I am overwhelmed with my own introspection and need other people's insight" stage...)

This is what I know about myself:

  • I've never been in any sort of romantic relationship.
  • I've never really dated anyone (although I had one guy friend who I think I went on what might have been four dates with, but whether the outings were actual dates or not I'm not really sure... long story.)
  • I have, however, turned down a number of guys who openly expressed some form of interest in me. (awkwardly. so very awkwardly. Social anxiety makes explaining to people why I don't feel that way toward them very, very awkward.)
  • I'm deeply uncomfortable with the idea of me being in a committed relationship with anyone. Aside from the I'm-asexual-and-most-people-would-expect-eventual-sexual-contact thing, I've always been repulsed by the idea of me being someone's wife/girlfriend. That's partly because of the loss of autonomy, partly because I never want children and there is sooooo much social pressure surrounding reproduction/childrearing as a function of relationships, and partly because deep-set social anxiety and ptsd make it very hard for me to let myself get close to people and open up to them in the first place... 
  • I'm somehow the friend people tell all of their relationship stuff to, and I always have to preface any advice I give them when asked with "Well, I have no personal experience with these things, but from what I've observed in my studies of humanity..." (and at the same time, I observe and study because I'm just baffled by relationships in general, especially with how a lot of women give up on their own goals/dreams based on their partner's wants/needs... and with the constant need a lot of my friends have to be in relationships to the point that they don't know who they are at all as a single person)
  • I do get what I think are squishes on people sometimes? As in "this person is wonderful and I want to be around them as much as they'll let me and get to know them better and have them want to be around me too" combined with "holding this person's hand would be neat if they offered". (This feeling is then the subject of a war among the various instinct/emotion lizards in my brain, because once recognized as existing it is at serious odds with the "I don't want to be in a relationship with anyone" side) To date, I've never really been open about this with any of the people themselves, and I usually avoid telling anyone else because the few times I have things have gone... not well. 
    • My most notable squishes to date:
      • nice boy from summer youth choir who I had practically nothing in common with and was really intensely involved with one of the other sopranos (granted, this was the first time I'd ever been around other people my age for an extended period of time and he was one of the first people in the group to be friendly towards me, so... yeah.)
      • guy from archaeology camp I had an inexplicable fascination for who let me hang out with him because we were both writers (and I think the rest of the camp considered us "a couple"? I don't know how I feel about that)
      • other nice boy from summer youth choir who was initially somewhat involved with another girl, but then hung out with me and was great to talk to but I only saw maybe twice a year because we lived hours away from each other. (aka, the one I may have gone on dates with. Kept in contact off and on for ages, always kind of considered him "the one I might have said yes to if he had ever openly expressed interest in being more than friends". I'm told he had a crush on me? Recently let me know he'd "found someone" and I still don't know how I feel about that aside from being happy he's happy.)
      • girl I randomly met in the library at my university and ended up friends with; openly gay and involved in all sorts of activist and awareness stuff. My "let's go on a long walk in the park now that lockdown restrictions have lessened and talk for hours about stuff while we wander" buddy; actually listens to me and makes me feel like a valuable person. Made a point of hanging out with me as much as possible the last couple of weeks before I had to fly home (because yay transatlantic moves 😞) and coming to say goodbye in person when I left for the airport. We still get to talk online sometimes.
  • I'm not touch-adverse, but it does take me ages to get comfortable enough with people as friends in general that I'd consider initiating platonic physical contact of any kind (... this may have to do with most of my friends being guys and not wanting to "send the wrong message"). I like hugs most of the time if I'm comfortable with the person and they initiate. When I have opportunities, I really enjoy old-fashioned partner-type dancing, because there's touch involved but there are protocols to it and it's fun.
  • I like the idea of potentially having a person (people?) in my life at some point who would be interested in doing things like wandering around parks and holding hands or cuddling while watching movies. Plus I get chilled really easily and people are warm. (Non-sexual cuddling while sleeping sounds really nice, too, potentially?)
    • I also deal with really severe anxiety episodes and panic attacks, and although I had recently started being able to talk to my irl friends about that even being a thing, I know that physical-contact-reassurance would really help me specifically if I had someone who I was able to be open with about that aspect of myself. (Like, just writing all of this out makes me wish I had someone here for that. Is it selfish to want to be able to ask people for cuddles so my anxiety-lizards remember the world outside my brain exists and I don't have to feel alone?)
  • Even though I don't want them for myself, as a writer I love crafting healthy romances and relationships with depth for my characters if it suits them; I only enjoy "love stories" in most media if they're very well written and the characters have lives outside their relationship and the romance isn't the only focus of the narrative. (I hate it when a perfectly good character is ruined by being forced into a romance just because it's expected that everyone should "find someone")

I hope that's not too much information? What it all boils down to is that I can't figure out if there's a specific word I should be using for "I don't want and am not interested in a traditional romantic relationship, but I would be very happy to have someone to do friend things with and cuddle if such a person existed". I also have no idea how to explain any of this to the friends I do have if it ever comes up in conversation, although most of them are aware of the "Katie is asexual and likes being single" thing to some degree or other. (Weirdly, I also really want to be able to discuss this with my mother, because we're super close but this is the one thing I'm not ready to talk to her about because I don't have a grip on it yet. My best friend, too, because she's a married mother-of-two and even though I want to talk to her about stuff she rarely has time for me at all anymore... and this is the sort of thing she doesn't really relate to as far as I know.)

Any thoughts? I will happily accept links to further reading on the subject. 

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First of all, welcome to Arocalypse!! 💚

I personally am not aro, but i hear so many aromantics who say really really similar things. I think it's true that when you're aro, the most important relationships in your life are platonic ones (not for everyone, but i've seen that as a common theme). Also, although the concept of a queerplatonic relationship originated in the asexual community, it's definitely a huge part of the aromantic community too. You're not alone in this.

In terms of what to call yourself: This may be pretty obv and i don't need to say it, but labels are made to describe feelings. If you're feeling romance-indifferent or romance-repulsed, then any of those can be your label. If your past experiences with romance has been "nada," you can call yourself aromantic, or you may be on the aromantic spectrum. I get why you want to combine how you feel about romantic vs platonic relationships when you describe your identity, especially in fewer words than "I'm aromantic and asexual and don't want a romantic relationship but I do want a very close platonic relationship." That's a mouthful. 

I'm wondering, what is the main reason you want a label/labels? Is it to explain to others why you don't want a romantic relationship? Is it to understand your feelings from the past? Is it to understand your own feelings in the future? Is it to clarify to your friends that you want close friendships? Is it to communicate how you feel to your squishes? (these are just a few guesses. only you can answer this question :) ) 

Please remember that labels are for you and only you. It makes sense to want a simple or clearer way to communicate it, but you are allowed to call yourself anything that fits you, no matter what. (E.g. i tell people I'm on the aro spectrum to avoid having to explain my microlabel. But i still identify with that microlabel.)

 

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10 hours ago, hermi1e said:

I'm wondering, what is the main reason you want a label/labels?

This would be my first question too. In my experience the main advantages of using labels are (a) to use a shortcut to convey information about yourself to others, and/or (b) to find a community of people with similar experiences to yours. How important are these things to you? Is there some other reason having a specific label would be important to you?

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Welcome to Arocalypse 💚

You could be aromantic now or somewhere on a less romantic spectrum. You can only tell if you check your feelings today and your past squishes.

A useful way I found was questionning how and why the attraction began. Social or intellectual admiration (charismatic or successful people) and lonelyness (stuck with someone/interest) may play a major role in squishes. I mistook these for romantic attraction more than once...

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16 hours ago, hermi1e said:

First of all, welcome to Arocalypse!! 💚

I personally am not aro, but i hear so many aromantics who say really really similar things. I think it's true that when you're aro, the most important relationships in your life are platonic ones (not for everyone, but i've seen that as a common theme). Also, although the concept of a queerplatonic relationship originated in the asexual community, it's definitely a huge part of the aromantic community too. You're not alone in this.

In terms of what to call yourself: This may be pretty obv and i don't need to say it, but labels are made to describe feelings. If you're feeling romance-indifferent or romance-repulsed, then any of those can be your label. If your past experiences with romance has been "nada," you can call yourself aromantic, or you may be on the aromantic spectrum. I get why you want to combine how you feel about romantic vs platonic relationships when you describe your identity, especially in fewer words than "I'm aromantic and asexual and don't want a romantic relationship but I do want a very close platonic relationship." That's a mouthful. 

I'm wondering, what is the main reason you want a label/labels? Is it to explain to others why you don't want a romantic relationship? Is it to understand your feelings from the past? Is it to understand your own feelings in the future? Is it to clarify to your friends that you want close friendships? Is it to communicate how you feel to your squishes? (these are just a few guesses. only you can answer this question :) ) 

Please remember that labels are for you and only you. It makes sense to want a simple or clearer way to communicate it, but you are allowed to call yourself anything that fits you, no matter what. (E.g. i tell people I'm on the aro spectrum to avoid having to explain my microlabel. But i still identify with that microlabel.)

 

 

6 hours ago, eatingcroutons said:

This would be my first question too. In my experience the main advantages of using labels are (a) to use a shortcut to convey information about yourself to others, and/or (b) to find a community of people with similar experiences to yours. How important are these things to you? Is there some other reason having a specific label would be important to you?

Thank you both so much for the welcoming and the insight!

As far as the questions you've listed as examples, I think it's a combination of all of those things?

I think there's also a lot of it that's to do with having always felt like I was alone and different and really... I don't know how to put this. Broken somehow? Alienated from most of my identity as a person, for a whole host of different reasons? 

It's only recently that the metaphorical lightbulb moment of "wait, these aspects of who I am are important even if I'm not actively seeking a mate??? And there are other people like me???" really hit me. It's kind of like there's been a Rube Goldberg machine set up in my brain all this time made up of all these little moments and signs I should have noticed, and the squish on my friend-who-is-a-girl along with my one of my friends from Uni #1 (who's also ace) inviting me into a LGBT+ craft group twice during lockdown were kind of the last two pieces that needed to be set up so that my brain lizards could trip over them and set of the "wait! You're not actually a "broken straight girl", you're something else and you need to explore that and find your people!" fireworks. 

I'm essentially, at 29 and in near-total social isolation, going through the sort of intense questioning-and-figuring-out-my-identity phase that I'm told most people "normally" go through in high school, and it's overwhelming. (And this is somehow despite the fact that I've been aware of the words being things for a while, but for some reason never fully thought through the implications for me as a person.) I guess one of my priorities at the moment is finding out how to describe in brief labels who/what I am so that I can finally talk to people about things and be openly me with them instead of feeling like I'm not allowed to really claim or share anything. 

I have no idea if that makes sense.

2 hours ago, Ch0c0 said:

Welcome to Arocalypse 💚

You could be aromantic now or somewhere on a less romantic spectrum. You can only tell if you check your feelings today and your past squishes.

A useful way I found was questionning how and why the attraction began. Social or intellectual admiration (charismatic or successful people) and lonelyness (stuck with someone/interest) may play a major role in squishes. I mistook these for romantic attraction more than once...

That is actually really useful. For me it seems like most of my squishes, the few times it's happened, are rooted in that social/intellectual sphere to some degree or because that person was nice to me in a way that made me feel like I actually mattered to them and they weren't just humoring me being around as a misfit of the group (and this sounds so... sad? to realize that I get so perplexed by people being that sort of nice that it sometimes sparks squish-ness).

I guess what confuses me with the way I experience squishes is that it happens so infrequently that I don't have much of a sample to draw on. I know it's different from the way I feel about most of the friends I make, even the ones I've been closest to, but at the same time it doesn't feel like an "I want to date this person or be in a relationship with them" sort of thing, just... "I really want this person to like me and let me keep being around them" and with the most intense ones that eventually extends to "if they were to initiate hand-holding/hugs/cuddles I would happily let them" And since my social anxiety makes it practically impossible to tell any particular person how I feel to begin with and I keep getting uprooted from people to the point where we lose contact...I've never found out what happens after that.

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2 hours ago, Holmbo said:

What about just Aromantic plain and simple? 🙂

Is there some reason you feel aromantic doesn't fit you?

Now that I've had more time to read through the forums here and actually meet other people "like me"? I think it does!

I think what was confusing me in part is my own tendency to overthink things? (And... I guess I was worried that I'd be rejected generally if I didn't find the correct word? Being part of any sort of community is really, really new to me.)

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On 8/17/2020 at 3:04 AM, FaerySilverwings said:

For me it seems like most of my squishes, the few times it's happened, are rooted in that social/intellectual sphere to some degree or because that person was nice to me in a way that made me feel like I actually mattered to them and they weren't just humoring me being around as a misfit of the group (and this sounds so... sad? to realize that I get so perplexed by people being that sort of nice that it sometimes sparks squish-ness).

I'm in a similar situation. There aren't only negative aspects about it. You are not 'jaded' by relationships/friendships and so you can cherish each one and invest yourself in it. It makes you a valuable friend/partner on the long term. And you have time to enjoy them to the fullest.

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2 hours ago, FaerySilverwings said:

I guess I was worried that I'd be rejected generally if I didn't find the correct word?

Glad I'm not alone in getting that worry.

I guess one side affect of having a community with a focus on finding labels is that if you aren't sure which one fits you it can make you feel like you might be cast out.

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