Not being able to experience romantic attraction doesn’t mean a person is broken, but the stigma around such identities shows that society is damaged.
I miss waiting rooms. The feel of the metal solid chair beneath you. Being able to sit back and take a sigh, waiting with boredom. The privilege of that persistent boredom at all, and the silence of strangers who have taken a vow not to speak in case it appears rude. The structure of it all, knowing that everyone has their time and place. The worst waits of my life have always been the unscheduled ones, and always at night, waiting in the dark for the blue lights to start flashing in the distance.
An ambulance rolling up is the greatest tonic to panic for about a second until all the questions start hitting about what comes next. However, when people in green barge through your house, knowing what to do then there is a freedom in that. The worries stop about what you’re supposed to do. Before then though the questions about what to do never stop. If the ambulance is taking too long, do I just throw caution to the wind and get the car? Do I chase them up? What can be done when there is nothing to be done but remain? Everything feels wrong, and every choice feels like it’s risking someone’s health. It seems like a simple process to wait for an ambulance but the complexity of emotion that comes with it is terrifying. If only it ever was simple.
I am always the strong one. I am always the one who makes decisions, makes them with a clear head, quickly and then acts on them. I am always the one my mother looks to, pleading, when they ask if she should be taken to hospital, and I’m always the one who has to say, yes, despite how much everyone in the whole family now hates them, it has to be done. I’m always the one she tells to make the tough choices because she doesn’t want to say the words. I’m always the one to carry the responsibility and the guilt.
In 2010, my mother was diagnosed with a brain tumour and then followed surgeries and radiotherapy for a tumour that should have been controlled with medication, never have grown back and spotted a decade before it was so that it wouldn’t have caused the damage to vision that it did. Few can understand the trauma of living in the shadows of a latent illness. People think the worst of it is the diagnosis, but that early period is driven by adrenaline and the desire to ensure that everyone is okay and working together to manage everything that needs doing. Not once during those days was there a tear. The hard part comes every day after.
The anxiety prickles away each day, sometimes unnoticed but visible and bold as soon as a new crisis arises. Whether it’s a cold or the threat of another MRI, it gets harder to be strong. When everything, that which should be innocuous and that which should be stressful but no more than that, suddenly feels like facing down a monster it becomes exhausting. Yet, the world has moved along. The initial diagnosis was a shock, but interest in the subject has long since waned and people are more concerned with saying the wrong thing than even trying to offer comfort at all.
There’s wanting to scream at the world while this is going on and yet wanting to be left alone. About the only constant feeling is of trying to hold onto some stoicism. To some extent, it is pride but in the main, it’s just not wanting to see your mother recognise you’re fearful she will die.
In the end, the hospital said that it was not suspected meningitis and that the tumour had not regrown. It was a bad case of tonsillitis due to family visiting earlier, and my mam’s immune system was “shot”. Yet, something else to live with and manage through.
There are few times in my life I wish I wasn’t demiromantic. In fact, I’m not sure I ever had up until then, but the days that followed the health scare were exhausting, trying to make sure she was okay and trying to be strong because it is the worst thing in the world to see someone in pain. The fear it leaves lingers, and just once I was utterly tired of being the strong one. I didn’t want to have to manage it all, and I was scared for the future with two ageing parents who had parents of their own with health problems. It felt like an endless series of problems that stopped and ended at my door; for it would always be me who would have to find some answer to them in some way, whether by offering support or doing all the little practical things. Maybe it would be easier to love, I thought, and to have one person along with me for the whole damn thing. But then on a day trip less than a week before, my mother had laughed openly at the idea of me settling and being with anyone less than who could challenge me. We’d come a long way from when I’d first come out.
The question of love seems nonsensical to me and, at times, suffocating. I long for independence. I don’t want to be anyone’s other half. My concern is my story.
“The question of love seems nonsensical to me and, at times, suffocating”
But why should the choice be being alone or being in a partnership? Why is that the default that when something goes wrong we look to a partner to support us, even an imaginary one? It seems absurd but I think society has made relationships too powerful and friendships too weak. Our friends are there often for the easier times, and our partners are there for times that should be ours alone. It’s not always the case by any means, but the emphasis on each role has been skewed when they should blend. That’s not to mention the need there is to recognise queerplatonic relationships and polyamory. The campaigns around recognising different relationships aren’t about the insta photos and this idea about millennials trying to out-liberal everyone. It’s making sure families are recognised. It’s ensuring aromantic people don’t feel scared of the future, that they will be alone and have to shoulder the responsibility alone when only romantic relationships are given any kind of validation.
The chance of me ever falling in love is slim. It’s not just because I’m demiromantic, which means I have to have a close bond with someone before I experience romantic attraction or because I’m also greyromantic, which means my romantic feelings may be weaker than other people’s (but not less valid). I won’t accept less than I deserve, and I won’t accept less than what I want either. Compromise isn’t easy for me. I’m a very supportive person but I want people in my life who recognise my drive and match it with their own in some way, whether that’s for life, a career or their favourite videogame, I really don’t care. But I like people who are restless like me, trying always to find something good in this world, even if it most often results in failure.
Yet, I think, at the end of the day, it’s not really romantic love that I want. It’s an end to the isolation that comes with aromanticism. I don’t need a romantic partner, but I do need the wall to come down between me and the rest of the world. I am tired of being the strong woman (although genderfluid and bisexual, and queer, and disabled myself). Almost every connection feels forced away as either friendship or a weird forced romance when all I did was check in to see if a guy friend was okay but somehow that equals leading someone on. Alterous, queerplatonic and polyamorous relationships have always come with their silence. The awkwardness, the lack of recognition and the inevitable prejudice. It can feel easier to just not try but nobody should feel cut off from the world and forced to say goodbye to people.
We have an ageing population and the duty to care for that population will fall to millennials. The stresses and strains of that can be huge, but so many people feel unable to pursue their own relationships or reach out because of who they are. There’s nothing wrong with being aromantic but society tries to squeeze it out of you so there’s nothing left but a shell. It’s ironic when aro identities are so often called empty and heartless. We have hearts, and we’re drowning under the weight of them. Why should we be lonely just because we cannot, and will not, love?
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