Have you ever thought that what our movement is lacking was a tune to sing along to about our predicament? Some kind of aromantic song?
Well, if you have, it’s here.
Thanks to Fonzarelli!
There are many misconceptions that aro folk have to deal with when they come out. Some people think we’re incapable of loving anybody, while others think our lives are this way because we are desperately damaged.
In this post, we will look at some of the common misconceptions about aromanticism. Add any others in the comments or on our social media feeds.
Are aromantics heartless? Are we incapable of love? Are we some kind of psychopath who just can’t feel the love that everybody else enjoys in their lives?
Thankfully, the answer to each of those questions is a big, juicy NO. We are capable of so much deep love, we just don’t point it in a romantic direction. But our friends? Our families (including chosen families)? Our favourite artists and writers and scientists? Our beloved pets?
We. Love. Them.
We love deeply, where it is deserved. We may find no appeal in the one kind of love that typifies romance, but there are many different types of love and nowhere near enough words for them in the English language!
Collins suggests the following, and it still feels inadequate:
They had hundreds more suggestions, check them out here. Maybe meditate on a few and consider which words you would use to describe your feelings for different people in your life.
If somebody has made you feel like being aromantic must mean you have no love inside you, you will see that it is not the case. You are not heartless.
Many aromantic people also have things called squishes, which are like crushes, but not for romantic partners. Instead, they might describe the feelings you have for – or the relationship you want with – somebody you’d love to have as a best friend or sleepover buddy. This can include cuddles, meals out and cosy Netflix nights in. There will be more on squishes on this site soon. (If you have anything you’d like to say about them, or anything else related to aromanticism, contact me about a guest blog spot).
Something else that can make aromantic people feel heartless is if they have to turn someone down who asks them on a date. It’s never an enjoyable task and, if you have to do it repeatedly (because you resolutely don’t want to be dating), it can have an impact on your self-esteem as well as being a bummer for the dumpee.
Remind yourself that you are taking care of yourself, and that you are entitled to turn as many people down as you want to. No means no, and it doesn’t even require an explanation.
Some people like to talk about every detail of their personal lives, while others keep quiet about everything that isn’t absolutely necessary to say out loud. But having the ability to tell our stories, as members of the aromantic community (as well as possibly other intersected communities, for instance that I am a lesbian and a woman and disabled – these are all intersecting identities) can help to validate our experiences and, additionally, ease the passage of someone else who has not yet discovered their aromanticism, or who have not yet dared to tell anybody.
A lot of people have never heard of the word ‘aromantic’, and even more believe they have never met an aromantic person. (They probably have, they just don’t know it.)
By talking about your aromanticism, you have the opportunity to educate people. You are not obliged to do so – the internet allows everyone to educate themselves if they want to – but, if you find it gratifying to teach people about something new, it can be a great way to validate your aromantic identity.
Plus, it is empowering to turn something (that started off perhaps terrifying and shameful in your mind) around and make it something you are open and honest about. That will give you pride and strength in a way that pre-out you couldn’t have ever imagined.
When you speak out, you might well inspire those who feel timid to the point where they consider speaking out themselves. You are paving the way for so many to follow you and, in these relatively early days when aromanticism and other states such as asexuality are being first spoken about, there are a lot of aros and aces who have never heard their situations being discussed by people experiencing the same thing as they are.
So, when you speak out, you can encourage others to follow your lead.
When somebody gets their voice out there and talks about issues relating to minority communities, all members of those communities can benefit. Some people don’t want to speak out, and others do not dare to; there should never be any pressure to come out about, or talk about, anything that is just too difficult for the individual to discuss.
But if you – a real-life aro yourself – are speaking out, those aros who are in intolerable or unsustainable situations can both feel and be heard, through your words.
If you are feeling inspired to speak out, one way to do it is to write a guest post for this blog. You can do so anonymously or using your real name or a pseudonym. If there are words you want the world to see on the topic of aromanticism, contact me here.
Do you feel completely bewildered when your friends and family talk excitedly about falling in love? Do you shudder at the thought of reading a romance book or watching a romantic comedy? Does the thought of going on a blind date, or having a partner move into your home, fill you with more horror than you would like to admit to?
If so, there’s a chance you may be aromantic, or aro.
If you are questioning whether or not you are aro, it’s probably sensible to start with a definition. One website describes it like this:
An aromantic person is an individual who does not experience romantic love or attraction, although this does not preclude them from feeling other forms of love or attraction, such as platonic love. Keep in mind, aromanticisim is a spectrum, so people may experience different forms of attraction, but still consider themselves to be aromantic.
Aromantics may be interested in relationships without romance involved, such as platonic life partnerships. Platonic, for lack of better definition, is like friendship.
Aromantics may feel sexual attraction or be on the asexuality spectrum. Being aromantic does not determine sexuality but can impact a person’s ability to act on their sexuality.
Aromantic is sometimes abbreviated as “aro”. And aromanticism is the noun that refers to aromantics.
If that resonates with you, you need to start finding out more. There are many sub-categories of aromanticism so, if the broad definition doesn’t feel quite right, read descriptions of those, which are more specific, to see if any of those click with you.
Read, read, read. Find out everything you can and see whether it seems to fit your life.
It could also be really useful to talk with someone, especially someone who has an understanding of what being aromantic means. You could even break the ice by giving them an article to read first, then explain that you think this is affecting you.
The prospect of this conversation might feel awful to you, but having people on side is vital to our self-esteem and self-acceptance. Like with most ‘comings out’, there will be fear and anxiety, but it might well feel important to you to know that there are people who know who you truly are.
Of course, you don’t need to tell anybody yet – or tell anybody at all. It’s entirely up to you to work out what feels safest.
If, after reading and talking and reading and talking some more, you decide that you are aromantic, you can start to explore what this means for you. You will be able to start to make decisions about how you want your future and your relationships (platonic or romantic or sexual) to look, and this is empowering, wherever you are in your process of self-discovery.
The thing that put my self-acceptance into motion was an email I sent to the podcast The Struggle Bus. It’s a kind of intersectional audio problem page with two women answering listener questions in a way that is sensitive about sexuality and all of the ‘isms’, and I was desperate to get an answer to a question.
But I didn’t dare say it in real life.
What I wanted to know was whether aromanticism was something I should be trying to fix in myself, or whether it was just who I was and nothing to worry about.
The email I sent to them, which was read out on the show, said this:
Subject line: Help! Aromantic – do I need to be fixed?
Hi Sally and Kate!
God, I hate a romantic comedy. The two people who argue a lot at the beginning are going to be together by the end of the film, with lots of pointless shenanigans having taken place in the meantime. More arguments, increasing amounts of flirting, and attempted (and failed) misdirection of the audience all take place in the middle third of the movie.
I can’t stand it.
In the days when I would still agree to watch them, I would will the director to take it a different way. To subvert the genre and give me a genuinely shocking ending where the ‘couple’ agree with each other that they’ve done so much disagreeing that getting together at that point would be misguided at best. Or where one of them would join a polyamorous commune, leaving the other weeping and heartbroken.
Enough sickly happiness!
Yet the wild success of romcoms mean that I am very much in a minority, and I imagine that this can only be because of my own aromanticism. If I cannot comprehend the attraction of romantic relationships, then dedicating 90 minutes of my life to watching a hapless couple seek one is always going to be a disaster. I only wish I had known about the existence of aromantic people years ago, and put two and two together before yet another friend suggested a trip to the cinema to go and see the latest beautiful woman fall embarrassingly in love with an inept but somehow charming leading man.
But if you know of any brilliantly subversive rom coms, however, let me know in the comments below or on Twitter.
As an aromantic person, I have never understood the appeal of romance. Sure, chocolates and flowers are nice enough but feeling obliged to be with one person predominantly is a bit tiresome. The feelings that accompany the gifts can feel suffocating and oppressive, and the rituals and rules around romance are completely mystifying.
So it’s safe to say that I often cannot relate to my friends and family when they are excited about a wedding or a proposal or a new relationship. And I often worry that I pull a face when they talk about these things but, if I do, it is mostly because I am confused.
I try to hide those bewildered reactions but I suspect they sneak through, and I don’t want those I love to think that I disapprove of their plans or that I don’t care that they are happy and in love.
The way I think of it is to imagine a friend telling me that they have decided to go to university to study particle physics. I know nothing about particle physics, I can’t think of much that sounds more boring, and I have no idea what they are getting themselves into. I might even pull a shocked-and-confused face when I hear their news.
BUT I trust that they have made the right decision for themselves, I am excited that they are going to do something they really feel passionate about, and I am ready and keen to support them on the inevitable difficult days.
It’s the same with relationships. If you’re getting married, I don’t understand it and it doesn’t appeal to me at all. But if I love you, I want you to do what you want to do, and how it would feel for me to do that thing is entirely irrelevant.
I’m happy that you’re happy, so bring out some champagne.