I Love Myself Series #6: Aromantic, Asexual Me
It's been five years since I met my best friend.
We met in the dorm, where we lived during our first year of college, and hit it off since we were both majoring in the science field. We’d study at the library together until late at night or stay up late watching movies. We share the same sense of humor, enjoy each other's company in silence, and don't find it hard to spend time together… that's the kind of relationship we have.
Whenever I say that my best friend, described above, is a man, people always say, "Isn't that your boyfriend, not your best friend?" I can't tell you how many times I’ve denied this to my classmates, dormmates, friends, and people from clubs.
"Boyfriend? I don't have one."
I’ve repeated this phrase again and again as a high schooler, a college student, and even now as an adult. One of the reasons for this is my personality: I’m not very sociable, and I don’t attend social gatherings. I’ve had many friends and acquaintances since I was in high school, but I’ve never once had a romantic relationship with anyone.
My mother, who would laugh and say, "Tell me when you don't need a boyfriend when you’re actually able to get one, okay?" is positive about this lifestyle of mine. But whenever I contacted my relatives, I was always asked without fail if I was seeing anyone. I, myself, never really minded the question, nor did I think anything of it when they would say, "You're the same as ever!" It's because I wasn't interested in having a partner.
My sudden thought of "I want a boyfriend" was so shallow and weightless that even if I’d think that after watching dramas or movies, that feeling would completely disappear when I did things I enjoyed or hung out with my friends.
Is my thinking perverse?
Am I subconsciously ashamed of myself for not being able to get a boyfriend?
Do I actually envy those who have partners?
I’d ask myself over and over again, but from the bottom of my heart, I was neither ashamed nor envious and felt an indescribable feeling. On the contrary, I sometimes wondered if my emotions were somehow lacking because I didn't feel any embarrassment or jealousy about this.
Even so, I get excited watching romantic dramas. In fact, I've experienced this many times. Even if I think a passerby, an influencer, or a celebrity is attractive, my feelings stop there. Since I was a teenager, I've asked my mother, friends, close friends, and various other people, "What does it feel like to like someone?" countless times. That's how much of a mystery "romantic feelings" are to me. I don't understand the difference between liking someone as a friend and being interested in somebody romantically.
One day, my mother saw a drama called A Couple Without Falling in Love and asked me, "Could it be that you’re aromantic/asexual?"
Although I was familiar with this term thanks to being an active member of the Blossom team, I didn't know much about it. However, while watching the drama, there was an actual explanation of what it means with many scenes where the people around the heroine like her family and work colleagues didn’t understand her. Among the scenes I watched, two lines left an impression on me:
"There's no human who doesn't love."
"How can people understand sex without love, but not love without sex?"
The first line was told to the heroine by her junior colleague at work. She looked uncomfortable while she listened. The way she remained silent while everyone around her sympathized with the junior college saying, "Yeah, that's right!" was as if I was watching myself. I fully understand that these people don’t have bad intentions when they say these things, but it still makes me feel that I may be inadequate, that maybe there’s something wrong with me because I can’t fall in love nor have I felt the need to.
The second line was said by a man the heroine met, who is also aromantic and asexual. He was addressing the heroine’s ex, who told him that it was strange that they were living together without romantic feelings for one another. Indeed, I remember thinking that society might be more understanding of "friends with benefits" type of relationships more so than aromantic/asexual relationships.
When I heard the above lines, I felt somewhat relieved. It’s not that I’m strange or unusual, but rather this feeling is also "normal." I, myself, am not averse to hugging or physical contact: I’d actually want to with my friends, which is why it’s so complicated. I’m not averse to kissing, holding hands, or hugging, but when it comes to sexual interaction, it somehow makes me feel uncomfortable.
Some people feel happy to be in a relationship or to be liked by someone else, and I'm in no way trying to negate that idea. But similarly, I don't want my happiness to be determined by whether or not I have a partner. I want to decide what happiness looks like for myself. Even if I don't have a partner, I have people I care about, and that alone makes me happy. I can confidently say that.
I felt like the category of "aromantic/asexual" gave a name to this feeling I was having. I'm comfortable with this sexuality now, but it may change in the future. And I'm also okay with that. If I've changed after deeply thinking about it to myself and gaining knowledge, I think it's not because I was mistaken before, but rather, I've grown.
I don't know the difference between liking a friend and having romantic feelings for someone, nor do I know if I communicate it the same way everyone else does. But I know how to express my feelings and emotions for people I care about.
So I’ll keep loving them. In the way I know.
In hopes that beauty standards in Japan become more inclusive, to the point of extinction.
In hopes that everyone will be able to live the way they want to.
And most importantly, in hopes that people will be able to love themselves the way they are.
I am writing this series, “I Love Myself” with these hopes in mind.
Written by Emiru Okada
Translated by Savannah Sutton
Graphics by Maya Kubota