Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Culture of Lonliness

Last night, I saw "God Grew Tired of Us", the less ponderous documentary on the Lost Boys of Sudan. The film followed a few of these boys, now young men, who were orphaned in the Sudanese civil war. After living in refugee camps for over 10 years, they were relocated to the US, where they suddenly needed to figure out everything from how to use an alarm clock to what potato chips are. You might think this has bugger-all to do with asexuality, or even pop culture for that matter. But, I'm not so sure. Once the Boys got to America, and for the rest of the film after that, I just couldn't stop thinking back to Women Who May Never Marry. Sure, maybe a small object got lodged in my brain, messing up the usual neural paths. But, "God Grew Tired" just seemed to be giving further insight into why forming the relationships we want can be so hard. And that's fair game for me, I think.
Once the Boys were living in their American apartments, their different work schedules meant that they could go weeks without seeing each other. One of them said something like, "I'm so lonely, but that's just a part of American culture I need to get used to." I've never thought about this before, but when seen through the eyes of an outsider, our urban American culture seems absolutely demented. To wake up at dawn, go to an office to perform meaningless tasks with near-strangers, then go back to your apartment to distract yourself from the unpleasantness of having to go back and do it all again tomorrow? How many of us live like this, and how healthy is it? Is herding cattle all day with your entire family (a viable enterprise in Sudan) a vast improvement? At the risk of sounding like Belle from "Beauty and the Beast" (although, that is my favorite Disney movie), there must be something more!

I wish someone had told me that being asexual doesn't mean you'll be alone (although, I can do the next best thing-- tell you). That actually, it's the fault of studio apartments, commuting, Netflix and I think that people on the margins-- be they queer folks or refugees-- are in a good position to poke around and think about new options for our culture. Maybe I'm just extremely, stubbornly communal, and this stuff doesn't bother anyone else. I was the only person I knew that preferred living in college dorms to our off-campus house. I'd say it was some sort of A thing, but there are certainly As who have little or no desire for community. All I know is that the longer I live alone, the more I miss living with a group, whether family or friends. Herding cattle is, however, optional.

Less serious post next time; Scout's honor.


Anonymous said...

I know exactly what you mean! I've lived with a roommate for the past four years, and no matter how annoying it gets and how much I do want to at least have my own room, I couldn't imagine living completely on my own. Any vision I have for the future - my aspirations, dreams of getting my own apartment, etc - always involve some unspecific other person or social group that I can interact with.
That's one of the reasons a Boston Marriage sounds so appealing to me.

The Impossible K said...

Great post. I have to ask though- why do you think being asexual doesn't mean being alone? Communal living sounds nice in theory, but it seems like everyone eventually pairs off and leaves. At least, that's what my experience tells me... Or do you suggest we give up Netflix for a more social alternative? Any suggestions?

Ily said...

Ah yes, virtuekitty, you share my undying love for the Boston Marriage. Good to see you again! And impossible_k, thanks for the very good, very hard question. I think society does us a huge disservice by telling asexuals that we'll always be alone-- as if all sexual people are necessarily in happy, fulfilling relationships. Plenty of sexual people are alone, too; what I take issue with is the assumption (not yours, but many peoples') that our sexuality alone creates our situation. I'd like to think that As have the same chance of finding love (in whatever form) as anyone else, we just might have to work harder at it. Of course, that's one of those assumptions that I need to soldier on, as it were. If I assume now that I'll just end up alone eventually anyway, what's the point? And of course, I suggest we give up Netflix for AVEN meetups! I think nothing is a better antidote to our potential isolation. I know I'm a little biased, since it's my pet project and all, but the power of meeting fellow asexual people face to face can't be underestimated.

Anne said...

No offense to the impossible k, but I think people are sometimes a bit too pessimistic when it comes to relationships - at least I've noticed it on AVEN. I understand the fear of getting left behind because everyone might pair off & leave you, but not everyone's (asexual or sexual) aiming to be in a completely isolated relationship. Some people might be assholes, but others really care about *all* of their relationships, not just the sexual one(s). And anyway, we can always come up with some alternative ways of structuring our relationships, right?

Heidi said...

I loved my college dorms - we HAD to swap roomies (and rooms) every quarter, so every 10 weeks and there was a new friend to room with, thankfully we were able to pick our own roomies at least. Still, knowing that shared space meant other people = more incentive for me to share my space. I always chalked it up to having shared a room growing up, but now that I'm "on my own" I rent a room with a family. See how far I got? No way would I live *alone* by any means! Add a relationship, though, and I can see how communal living is less appealing... until then, Boston Marriage all the way! (What about polygamous Boston Marriages? hm..)

Ily said...

Swapping rooms every quarter (!), that sounds like musical chairs! Ah well, that was always fun. And I agree Anne, even more important than people who share your orientation, are people who share your views on relationships. Thanks for the comments, y'all!