I’m not a person who is touched often. I never was. My mother loved me more than anything, but we didn’t hug often until I was an adult, coming to my childhood home for a visit. My relationship with my sisters is much the same. My father is emotionally stunted, and I think he loves as best he can, but I rarely saw him when I was a child, and when I did, he was not pleasant. I don’t remember ever genuinely embracing him. In college, I had a group of female friends, and I always thought about how natural it seemed for them to hug, to touch one another in perfectly platonic ways. They showed this affection to me as well. It was difficult for me to physically reciprocate.
It still is.
You can imagine what my love life was like. I went through so many years, feeling attracted to men, sometimes women, but not wanting them to come near me, fearful of what they might expect from me. Because being touched on the shoulder was enough of a novelty for me. The thought of being touched in those places we’re taught to be shameful of…well, it’s not hyperbolic of me to say it induces dry heaving. My high school and college years were spent lamenting why I couldn’t be like other girls, other people.
Unsurprisingly, I didn’t have my first boyfriend until I was twenty-two years old. He was the kindest person I could have asked for as a first boyfriend. He was patient, never pushy, and he is still someone I consider a friend. But I couldn’t be honest with him because I was ashamed of so much of myself. I was ashamed that I was a virgin, that I’d never even been kissed before him, that I didn’t really enjoy kissing, that sex was something I could barely handle on a conceptual level, much less a practical one. And so I let him go before forcing myself to lay myself bare in more ways than one.
It’s been three years since then, and in those three years, I’ve continued to wonder why I am the way I am. I found my answer on Tumblr, oddly enough. Someone reblogged a post about asexuality, and it reminded me a lot of myself. I dug a little more, looking through the asexuality tag and found that–though asexual people are wildly diverse in my ways–the stories people shared all resonated with me. Just finding out that there were so many people who were like me, who weren’t sexuality attracted to others, who didn’t look for sexual relationships, changed everything. It felt good to have a word and a community of people who knew what it was like.
Lately though, I’ve been struggling with what this means for my life. I know even as an asexual person, romance and marriage and all those other things are not completely out of the picture. I don’t know if I want them to be. Most days, I love being alone. I just moved into a one bedroom apartment that I have all to myself and I love it. But some days, like today, when my mood is low, I wish there was someone who would hug me or rub my back or touch me in those intimate ways that are not sexual but loving in a way that isn’t from a parent or a sibling or even a friend. Lately it feels like I’m volleying back and forth between reviling the touch of others and yearning for some kind of physical verification that I’m loved and back to needing to be completely alone. It’s exhausting.
I fear that sometimes I come off as cold. Or frigid. Because on top of being averse to being touched by most people, I’m also socially challenged on the very best of days. Today, someone came up to me on 14th Street as I was walking back to work from Party City–I was purchasing tablecloths for an event we’re hosting tomorrow–when I saw a man look at me and pass me before running back to place himself in my path. “I just want to say…Ithinkyou’recuteandIwanttodateyou.” He said it so fast, I couldn’t understand what he was saying. I asked him to repeat himself. “You’re cute and I want to date you.”
All I could think to say back was, “Thank you, but I have to go.” And I walked away. To be fair, I had good reason for this. I’m not going to date some random person I meet on the street who doesn’t know a single thing about me, someone whose first sentence to me contains the word “date”. Because I worry about the expectation people who don’t really know me will have. I worry that they will expect sex. And despite knowing that I can say no, I let this bar me from seeking out relationships, because I fear feeling like I’ll owe someone sex.
I know what I want though. I want intimacy on a level that isn’t sexual. I want romance that doesn’t obligate me to have sex. I want someone to understand that this isn’t a choice or something wrong with me, some memory that scarred me for life. This is me. And I want to be brave enough to be unapologetically me.