If there’s one thing I’m mostly disappointed with myself about, during what I’ll call The Absence of 2013, it’s that I missed Asexual Awareness Week. It’s something that I never wanted to miss, even if I had nothing new to add, because spreading awareness and understanding is that important. But I did miss it, and now I want to fix that.
Better late than never, as I say.
As it happens, I don’t really have anything new to say about what being asexual means or what asexuality is, that I didn’t already say in 2012, or in 2011. From what I know about the asexual community, in all it’s little coves that it’s found in, it’s unfortunately just the same as it was when I last spoke about it. There’s civil unrest and quite a few short tempers. Asexuality is not being helped by those people who have this wacky idea of what acceptance is, as long as you accept what they say and belittle others who disagree with them until they either go away, or agree.
Why yes, I am talking about Tumblr.
Anyway! What I want to talk about today, is friendship.
There’s nothing much more important to me than my friends. Whether that’s because that’s just the sort of person I am, or because I’m disabled, or because I’m asexual, a sum of all those things, I don’t know. But it’s a fact.
My friendships make my life worth living.
To me, my friends are my first port of call. I imagine my life’s priorities to be in a rucksack with as many pockets as I need, and everything I need fits into this rucksack, and only things that fit into this rucksack are what I need. There is an order to this rucksack, and they are ordered by priority.
Sometimes my priorities change a bit. Sometimes my friends do go from being in the main big chamber to being in the smaller chamber of the bag, like for when my health gets too bad and dealing with it swallows up all my time and energy by no choice of my own.
But these things that are in my rucksack, they might move around a bit, but they remain in my rucksack. Hell, even education, which I’ve not attended since I dropped out of university and became a failed journalist, remains a priority. It’s placed in the little scratchy Velcro pocket at the very front of the rucksack. It hurts to put my hand in there, it usually takes more effort than what I get out of it deserves, but it’s in there.
Are we all following my rucksack metaphor for life?
To sum up: I’m asexual, I have friends in my rucksack, and I don’t have a boyfriend pocket, because my friends are mostly all I need in life. As well as food, sleep and good medication.
So. Now that I’ve made myself sound like a wierdo…
These days, there has been a slip of how important friendships are for people. There is something out there teaching our society that, at some point in life, friendships should be put on the back burner for romantic and sexual relationships. Trying to keep a friendship exactly the same as it was before at least one party enters into a relationship is seen as, at best noble but unsustainable, and at worst pointless and childish. Having a third wheel at the side of a romantic relationship is not good for the relationship, but let me tell you, it’s no fun being that third wheel either.
The solution is almost always for the party who doesn’t have a romantic other half to get a romantic other half. Or other friends. Other friends hardly bode well for the friendship, if they care at that point, where as an other half at least evens the score.
Or that’s what my observations and partial experience has taught me.
But when you’re asexual, or when you’re an asexual who doesn’t want sex or a romantic relationship, or like me, an asexual who wouldn’t mind a falling into a non-sexual relationship but don’t plan to go looking for one because there’s a minefield of sex out there and really, I don’t need anything extra in my life than the friends I have… (rucksack is full) That solution is not a solution. It’s like asking me to grow an extra spleen. Why? To make it easier for everyone else?
But very recently, as understanding as my friends are, one of my friends – the friend behind the idea of me signing up to a dating website, even – who is very happy in her relationship and, I consider myself very lucky here, isn’t one of those people to put aside friendships for romantic relationships, said something which upset me regardless of how she meant it.
Happy in her relationship, she asked me if I had any news about anything romantic in my life, and I told her my usual answer. No, and I doubt there will be, and that’s fine.
And she said “I don’t want you to end up alone, though, do you?”.
Now, let’s ignore the fact that we’re in our twenties and have plenty of time to not be alone before we’re both old and grey, and hopefully sometime after that too, and focus on how those words hurt. What I think she meant was, “We’re young and we’re lively people, you need to get out there now and meet people. I’m happy, I want to make sure that you’re happy too.”
But unfortunately, I can’t help but take those words differently. To me, those words said “Friendships only go so far and last so long. When we’re older, you won’t be able to depend on mere friendship to get you through life. We’ll all have something more and more is better.”
It gave me this mental image of something like the ballroom scene from Labyrinth, except everyone is dancing with everyone else, there’s no David Bowie, and I can’t cut in because in this weird world I’ve imagined, nobody dances with friends anymore.
I’m aware that sounds more bizarre than the rucksack metaphor, but that’s what came to mind.
What my friend said, which so many other people think and automatically say as well, it makes me feel like everyone who isn’t asexual imagines that being asexual is what leaves you lonely and alone. Where as, from my point of view, it’s other people who don’t see how important friendship can be that can make me feel lonely and alone. Other people deciding for me that not having a romantic relationship will make me lonely, upsets me.
This isn’t universal for asexuals. Many asexuals have romantic relationships, some have sexual relationships and they’re happy.
But for those of us who need friendships in our lives, this is how a modern hyper-sexualised society, where two is a couple and three is a crowd, can make us lonely and alone.
Friendships are enough for me, if my friends can be around to be in them.