Dating has never been my forte. I’m bad at makeup, don’t like going to restaurants, and rarely have the money to spend on dinner and drinks. Not to mention, I obsess over the multiple ways a date can go wrong, always ending on worst-case scenarios ― like how the date will inevitably turn Warheads-levels of sour the moment I confess I’m asexual.
Asexual or “ace” people like me experience limited to zero sexual attraction. They might still want relationships or experience aesthetic attraction, admiring people the way an art aficionado appreciates a statue. In my case, I want to hold hands, cuddle, whisper secrets, and do all the mushy walk-along-the-beach, look-at-Christmas-lights stuff. But I have no interest in P-in-V, cunnilingus or blowjobs. Nothing sexual at all.
I’m not even big on kissing; it’s far too much spit and teeth for my taste. I’ve felt this way for as long as I can remember: When I received the HPV shot in grade school, I wanted to tell the nurse, “I don’t need it.”
I’ve dated a handful of men but no relationship has ever reached a happily ever after. I always worried that something was missing, or I assumed from the start that a date was doomed to fail. And perhaps because that’s what I feared, that’s exactly what happened: My asexuality fucked me over.
It’s my second year of college, and I’m trying to sign up for a dating site. I don’t remember which one, but that’s irrelevant, because I’ve never found a dating site meant for me. There are asexual dating sites, but options are limited by the small number of people who use them.
I hit snag after snag signing up, all red flags that I choose to ignore.
The first snag: “What are you interested in?” Do I put down men, women, or both? “Neither” isn’t an option. But it’s not just asking, “Who do you want to date?” It’s asking, “Who are you sexually attracted to?”
Since high school, I’ve felt romantic attraction toward several people, including my friend M, who would often stay over in my dorm and sleep beside me. A few years from now, I would feel the same about a girl in my graduate program, whom I would purposely avoid, knowing it wouldn’t work out.
It’s my third year of college and I’m interested in a guy named Z. He’s funny, cute, and friendly, and I feel absolutely nothing sexual toward him. The feeling is in my chest, best expressed through my smile and slowed reaction time around him. I tell my friend J, who knows I’m ace, and she asks me, “Would you sleep with him?”
I tell her, “I don’t know, I might,” and I want that maybeness to be true. But even imagining that scenario makes me cringe. I’ve tried to force myself to imagine sleeping with people I want to date. At most, I can think of fictional people sleeping together — the thought doesn’t make me uncomfortable, but it’s not like I feel aroused either. I simply think, “Ah, that’s what they’re doing. Well, good for them, I guess.”
Later in college, I’m still asexual, and still unsure of how ace dating can work. I’ve been hanging out with a new guy, L. He’s also funny, with playful eyes and an eternal smile. But one day, he starts sexting me. No pictures, nothing crude, but lines in the vein of, “What are you wearing?”
I respond with memes; he tries to make those sexual too. I don’t tell him to stop; I continue swerving. Eventually, I stop responding entirely. After that, we don’t hang out much.
I know I might have told him, “Hey, I’m ace, let’s not do that, OK?” But I also know that I couldn’t actually have said that. The second I sent that text, I would have eliminated any possibility of us going on a date — or “us” going anywhere.
Then again, not telling him led to the same outcome.
Sometimes I think I use my asexuality as an excuse for why I can’t date someone, why a relationship won’t work. Still, dating as an ace person is hard; every date begins with a lie by omission and leads to an awkward, uncomfortable truth. You have to know when and how to come out. You have to be clear about your limits with a person before even getting to know them. You have to hope they’re not lying when they say, “It’s fine,” and hope you’re not lying about your own comfort if you choose to experiment.
People break up over far smaller things, like whether the other person is a cat person or a dog person (the correct answer is dog person). And asking someone to give up something so important to them feels cruel.
Like I’m doing something wrong.
It’s high school, and I’ve just been on a date with a boy. He’s dropping me off at my parents’ house. Just before he leaves, I kiss him ― not because I want to, but because the movies have all told me, “This comes next.”
It’s a terrible, terrible kiss. Not because he’s a bad kisser (at least, I assume), but because it confirms just how much I dislike kissing, how much I don’t want anything past it. I feel something between numb and just wanting to get the kiss over with.
The next day, he tells me he loves me. I tell him thanks.
I explain that I still like him, I still want to be friends.
Even now, I realize that I don’t want to be just friends with that boy. I had wanted to stop the kissing, but I also want to continue dating him. I have no way to say that, though, because in my mind, people kiss when they date. And if people kiss when they date, how can I ever date anyone?
I’ve never dated another asexual. It’s not that I’m against the idea, it’s just that there aren’t a whole lot of us, and we’ve yet to develop a universal code of frantic eye blinking to spot each other. Of course, just because someone is asexual doesn’t mean they’ll be a good match. What if they love cats more than dogs? What if they voted for Trump?
I’ve just finished graduate school, and I’m no closer to having this whole dating thing figured out. But honestly, who the hell does? As an asexual person, I might have a few more “What ifs?” to nail down, but the “What if?” game is just a part of relationships. And the one thing I know after so many failed dates is that relationships can only move forward if you’re upfront about those “What ifs.”
I can’t be afraid of asking them.
Currently, I’m working on a new dating profile. I still don’t know what I’ll put for “interested in,” but I know my bio is going to mention what I love: books, burritos, video games; what I hate: onions, smoking, country music; and what I am: writer. Dog person. Asexual.
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